5 key learnings from the USGA Golf Innovation Symposium – Reducing resource input

5 key learnings from the USGA Golf Innovation Symposium – Reducing resource input

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In the series of 5 Key Learnings from the 5th USGA Golf Innovation Symposium, at which the USGA set a challenge to the golf industry of reducing resource consumption and increasing golfer satisfaction, here is the 3rd key learning:

  1. Cost reduction, efficiencies, optimization – countering rising costs with smarter operations and set-ups

Rising labor cost has been marked as a key concern. It is obvious that technology provides a major opportunity in this space.

While course conditioning ranks very high on the players satisfaction metric list, it is also the single biggest consumer of budget and resources at a facility. Research shows that US facility spend on course conditioning ranges between $500 000 and $3,2 million a year and there is no set percentage of budget trend, but rather clubs spend what they can afford – in other words affordability (choice) rather than efficiency drives golf course maintenance spending.

“You already have robots vacuuming your home, how long until autonomous mowers get to work on your fairways?” asks Dana Lonn an engineer, 40+ year golf industry veteran and former head of research and development for Toro in his “Investing in Innovation” presentation. Playability over appearance, being consumer-led in investing in high impact dollars that really matter is smart business strategy. Efficient resource management makes budgets go further, technology brings precision, automation, optimization and savings.  

The USGA has shown that golfer traffic and heat map GPS tools can help clubs reduce turf and make smart adjustments to materially reduce rising irrigation and maintenance costs. Course Architect John Stanford, together with the USGA GPS heatmap tool headed up by Scott Mingay, USGA Director of Product Development and the Tagmarshal data gathering system helped Miami’s Crandon Golf Club reduce turf and adjust the course to save an estimated $400 000 in water usage cost annually, excluding maintenance labor hours, fertilizer and machinery savings.

“The Crandon Golf project’s includes a 42-acre turf conversion and reduction which equals a 35% reduction in the use of water, fertilizer, herbicides and related inputs. With the help of GPS heatmap and traffic patterns it was already possible to realize a 10% irrigation saving just by using in-house staff to adjust and remove sprinkler heads, in line with actual course usage patterns,” explained Sanford.

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Golf needs to evolve further. Its willingness to do so will determine its future. While tradition is part of the undoubted character and charm of the game, golf has shown that it can adopt change successfully. The stakeholders who shape the game of tomorrow are the players of the future, who demand flexibility, fun, high service-delivery levels, accessibility, inclusivity and for the game to fit with their available spend budgets, and importantly pace and flow experience and time budgets.

The future of golf delights its players, existing and new, it is quicker, mindful of time and a high value experience. Time to get to work!

About the author:

Bodo Sieber is the CEO of golf course optimization and pace of play management system Tagmarshal.
An experienced solutions architect for software systems focusing on business intelligence, GIS and process optimization, he has been recognized for innovation in golf and has spoken at Golf Business Tech Con, as well as being quoted in Forbes, Golf Digest, USA Today, Compleat Golfer and PGA Magazine.

With Tagmarshal, Bodo and his team have been bringing extensive data and geomatics experience into golf operations for five years. The company’s focus is on creating the best possible way to manage the on-course experience and flow of golf for improved player satisfaction and increased profitability. The concept behind what is now a ‘golf course intelligence’ data platform, perhaps unsurprisingly started on a 15th hole that had three playing groups backed up, at the end of a long, frustrating round of golf.

Having collected almost 1 billion data-points, by tracking over 7 million rounds of golf, Tagmarshal add value to 8 of the top 10 US Public courses, a number of US and international top 100 private clubs with rapid adoption in the mid tier of the market.


Tagmarshal, the market leader in on-course optimization technology, provides courses with full, real-time operational oversight and reporting, giving golf operators the tools to manage pace and flow of play effectively, resulting in enhanced player experiences, increased efficiency through automation, and additional revenue generation.

Tagmarshal’s technology has collected over 1 billion data points from more than 75 million rounds of golf and has relationships with in excess of 600 partners, including Hazeltine, Whistling Straits, Baltusrol, Fieldstone, Bandon Dunes, Serenoa and Erin Hills.

Tagmarshal partners with several golf management groups, private, daily fee, public and resort courses, including 40 of the Top 100 US courses, as well as many $40-$60 green fee courses, which are seeing excellent results using the system.