New Jersey Courses Optimize Pace of Play
A recent USGA survey reported that 74% of golfers believe pace is “critical” to their enjoyment of a round. That statistic shouldn’t come as a surprise, as nearly every golfer has a story about slow play sullying an otherwise great experience.
For too long, pace of play has been loosely measured by instinct, feel and other subjective methods. But in today’s age of big data and advanced analytics in sports, golf is finally turning a corner. Stalled play is in the crosshairs.
At the forefront of innovation are two New Jersey courses: Crystal Springs Resort in Sussex County, and Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster Township. Both golf destinations recently brought on Tagmarshal – a pace management platform that is rapidly gaining traction. They are among the first Northeast courses to utilize the technology.
The system, which uses small tracking tags clipped to golfers’ bags or installed on carts, measures all player movement and preemptively offers solutions to alleviate bottlenecks and other pace obstacles. After 2017 U.S. Open host Erin Hills became an early adopter of Tagmarshal two years ago, others jumped on the bandwagon. Whistling Straits, Kiawah and Valhalla are now customers as well.
“We believe in providing the best experience possible for our members and guests,” says Fiddler’s Elbow Director of Golf Mat Kent, PGA. “We pride ourselves on staying ahead of the curve on any issue or trend and like to integrate state of the art technology to do so. Our goal is to deliver consistent round times and minimize interruptions.”
Faster play and happier golfers are just the tip of the iceberg for managers taking a more analytical look at pace of play. There’s a serious revenue benefit as well. On the busiest peak-season days, a facility can actually add capacity to the course by limiting bottlenecks and their resulting domino effect. One extra foursome per day really adds up when you close the books on a season.
Crystal Springs and Fiddler’s Elbow will look to mimic the success that Erin Hills has had with pace measurement. Years before hosting their U.S. Open host date, Erin Hills Head Pro Jim Lombardo sought to streamline pace of play by enlisting Tagmarshal. Management was able to quickly remedy identified pressure points, without resorting to expensive renovations to course layout design.
“Pace of play is strongly tied to customer service,” says Crystal Springs Director of Golf Adam Donlin, PGA. “We want to make sure we have systems in place for our guests to worry about nothing more than the golf in front of them.”
The New Jersey State Golf Association is one of the most proactive governing bodies when it comes to pace of play, recognizing members who commit to a standard of best practices. Now we may see the makings of a new trend; one where courses use objective decisionmaking to create the best experience possible and use pace as an asset. Whatever the next major effort in faster play may be, New Jersey seems poised to lead the innovation.