KEEPING PACE AT CONWAY FARMS: ADOPTING TECHNOLOGY FOR A TRADITIONAL GAME
Conway Farms Golf Club (CFGC) in Lake Forest, Ill., features a 7,288-yard, 18 hole Tom Fazio course that opened in 1991. The mission to which the club has remained steadfast—to continuously advance the traditions of golf, including fast play, no tee times, walking the course with a caddie, respecting fellow participants, and supporting championship golf—is a prominent facet of the club’s culture and success.
According to a 2016 USGA Survey, 74 percent of golfers believe that pace is crucial to the enjoyment of their round, and Conway Farms fully agrees. To support their mission, while ensuring an enjoyable, seamless golf experience for members and guests during the 18,000 rounds played each year, Conway Farms recently began using Tagmarshal’s golf intelligence technology to monitor pace of play, enhance player experience, and maximize staff efficiency.
Initially, Head Golf Professional Andrew Adamsick, PGA, wasn’t convinced that the course really “needed” pace-of-play technology, but, seeking to stay ahead of the curve in providing members with the best golf experience, he set his skepticism aside and researched some of the products in the market. Ultimately, they decided to go with Tagmarshal, and the unobtrusive GPS tracking tags and easy-to-use data analytics have made adopting the technology into their operations a simple, gratifying process.
HOW IT WORKS
The Tagmarshal technology applies algorithms that are based on findings and trends from 900 million data points tracked across the more than 200 courses partnered with the company. The entire CFGC course was mapped during a weeklong “calibration period,” whereby data was collected for approximately 70 zones, and the course flow and player movement on the course was identified. This calibration also checked per-hole times and zone times against set-up information provided by CFGC staff, and corrected any assumptions based on the data reality. Within 30 days of signing with Tagmarshal, the set-up, training and calibration were complete, and the full system went live.
CFGC has 40 Tagmarshal tags, which are GPS trackers that are clipped onto the caddies’ bibs before the round begins. Members know that rounds are expected to be completed in about four hours, with an official course goal time set as four hours and six minutes. Conway Farms staff can access the live map from computers, tablets and phones and track caddies as they walk the course. Based on course algorithms, on-screen icons will change colors to inform the group and the marshal of their pace. A green indicator means on-pace, orange indicates delayed play due to a group ahead, and a red tag indicates a slow pace.
“Our staff is now armed with real, objective data about the pace for each round, which eliminates subjectivity from the equation when caddies or marshals need to encourage golfers to speed up. It’s easy to show the player real-time data on the course map,” said Adamsick.
“Our members actually are pleased to be accountable and the tags encourage self-regulation and self-awareness,” Adamsick explains. “It’s not a policing mechanism, but an investment we’re making to ensure our members are having a successful golf experience.”
The Tagmarshal mapping allows staff to see where bottlenecks occur, what holes are the slowest, what times of day see the quickest or slowest rounds, and how long people spend in the halfway house. All of this data can be used to improve operations, staffing and overall course management..
The data is broken out into a report containing data points and corresponding action points for any given time period. For example, Conway Farms ran a report tracking rounds from April 22 through July 31. The 1,274 rounds showed information on 3,949 players and yielded an average round time of three hours and 56 minutes and 51 seconds, which is below the target goal time.
Among other things, the analysis looks at daily distribution by breaking down a week’s play by performance clusters compared to goal performance as well as tee time distribution by breaking down each day’s performance. Sunday is the slowest pace day (30% materially slow) and Monday was the fastest pace day (11% materially slow). Additionally, on any given day, tee times between 11 a.m.-12 p.m. are the slowest (43% more than 10 minutes behind) and tee times before 8 a.m. are the fastest. The recommended action for Conway Farms is to consider optimizing staff efficiency by reallocating marshaling hours from faster, less busy days/tee times to where slow play is evident to ensure an improved experience at equal or reduced cost.
“The data and statistics collected from Tagmarshall on pace of play prepares you for your board meeting,” said Todd Marsh, CCE, COO at Conway Farms Golf Club, noting the value of having a complete understanding of play on the course.
PEACE OF MIND
Optimizing staff at peak hours, confirming operational efficiencies, and giving staff the data to manage the pace of play in a professional and objective manner are immediate benefits of using pace-of-play technology. Adamsick points out that there is also an element of security that comes with being able to track every group on the course. Within the first month of adopting Tagmarshal, he was away from the course at a family party when his weather alarm went off indicating lightning strikes were quickly closing in on the course. From the party, he was able to remotely locate golfers on the course map and monitor the carts as they swiftly brought all golfers to safety. “That peace of mind and the ability to quickly get members to safety in an emergency situation like that has been an immeasurable benefit of the Tagmarshal technology,” he noted.
Tagmarshal is a golf course intelligence and pace-of-play management solution that turns pace into an asset. The system uses small “tags” clipped onto golf bags or installed on carts which transmit geolocation data. Industry-leading algorithms identify risk groups with accurate, objective support to alleviate pace challenges before they arise. Public, private and resort courses using Tagmarshal realize substantial returns on investments through improved on-course experiences achieved with less staff as well as increases in daily rounds. Impactful and easy-to-use data analytics, weather data integration and geo-fencing complete the offering.