By Adam Stanley
It’s likely you’re thinking about pace of play every time you prepare for a round of golf.
Tagmarshal—a golf course intelligence system installed at some of the world’s finest courses including Erin Hills, Carnoustie, Whistling Straits, Bandon Dunes, Pebble Beach, National Golf Links of America, and more—is a true gamechanger. It’s helping golfers enjoy their rounds more, because they’re playing quicker.
Bodo Sieber, Tagmarshal’s CEO, says 300 clubs around the world, including 30 of the top 100 courses in the U.S., are members and many have signed on for multi-year agreements. So far Tagmarshal, whose American office is in Atlanta nearby East Lake Golf Club, has tracked close to 20 million rounds, equating to roughly over one billion data points, and it has helped some of the best golf courses on the planet become better at moving golfers around and driving revenue.
The system is straightforward enough—transmitters are placed on carts or given to caddies or golfers themselves and pace-of-play information is collected, stored in a cloud-based system, and shown on the operators’ dashboard to allow them to see what’s happening on the course in real time. Clubs then know exactly where rounds are slowing down on the course and can go directly to a problem group to encourage them to pick up the pace.
Occasionally, the problem isn’t the players, but the course—in a piece for PGA Magazine, Jim Morris, PGA Head Professional at National Golf Links, wrote of how Tagmarshal helped them identify a problem area during a tournament for members. Walking around a pond at the 13th and 14th holes caused delays; seeing this on Tagmarshal, the club added shuttles for players on the holes which accelerated the pace of play and allowed National Golf Links to increase its field size at future tournaments.
With Tagmarshal, pace-of-play situations can be handled in real time with data-based feedback, not just speculation.
National Golf Links of America, 13th hole (photo by L.C. Lambrecht)
“We train the marshals on the best practice of telling golfers they are ‘out of position.’ Golfers have a better time computing that without being offended and when they are shown the data, it’s easy to have a fact-based conversation versus an opinion-based conversation,” says Sieber.
Sieber laughs when asked how easy Tagmarshal is because it’s color coded to show where those bunch-ups happen.
“Even my 8-year-old would say, ‘well that looks bad,’” he says.
So, what does this mean to some of the best golf courses in the world?
For one, it means a more enjoyable experience for golfers—many of whom are paying hundreds of dollars to play. But the increased efficiencies also mean a better-run business overall.
According to data provided by Sieber, Destination Kohler’s Whistling Straits increased its number of rounds by nearly 800 from 2016 to 2019. The percentage of rounds that were deemed “on pace” also improved from 58 percent to 71 percent.
Congrats to this week’s #PaceSetter @kiawahresort! Find out how the 2021 PGA Championship hosts use Tagmarshal’s 2Way technology to optimize the pace and flow of play, providing their golfers with the best on-course experience: https://t.co/GvQesqgaXZ #kiawahisland #pgachamps pic.twitter.com/vaU31N8Zgo
— Tagmarshal (@tagmarshal) February 19, 2021
Sieber, who lives in South Africa, has been in business intelligence solutions for more than a decade. About six years ago, some friends came to him after a frustratingly slow round of golf. There had to be a way to create some sort of technology to make the experience better.
“To me, it’s just a business and traffic problem. It’s something you could use data visualization to make sense of. It’s a traffic space, like what Google Maps does,” says Sieber. “We can do that, of course.”
Tagmarshal sought to showcase their idea as a new exhibitor at the 2015 PGA Merchandise Show. There was some interest, but most everyone was still asking the key questions: “You guys are new, are you even going to be around next year? Does this actually work?”
But then the group got a call from Erin Hills. The Wisconsin club was getting ready to host the U.S. Open in 2017 and Sieber says his partners—the true golf guys—were “jumping up and down.”
Erin Hills gave the system a test run after telling Tagmarshal it was exactly the kind of thing they wanted to install. The product now, Sieber says, is 100-times better.
“We’re very good at systems and smart software, but we weren’t specialists in the space—that was the golf managers,” says Sieber. “The tables have since turned.”
Tagmarshal has tracked over 10 million rounds of golf. Real-time data collected by the system using small “tags” clipped onto golf bags, installed in buggies or offered on handheld or cart-installed proprietary 2Way screen devices, transmits information to on-course staff or personnel in the pro shop identifying groups that are out of position before issues arise. Player assistants can then support in a proactive, objective, non-confrontational manner resulting in improved player experience, consistent round times and player time freed up to enjoy on-site food and beverage items as well as opportunities for additional tee sheet capacity.
More than 30 of the top 100 US courses partner with Tagmarshal including over 300 leading courses globally.