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The Latest from The Index

Stone Creek Golf Club, Oregon City, Ore.

All upside as Oregon course adopts dynamic pricing

Feb 20, 2019

Online bookings increase, and golfers have no complaints

Back in the day, customary thinking was that the best golf spikes were metal. Even with the advent of plastic spikes, many golfers vowed to stick with steel until realizing the equal, if not better, gripping power of soft spikes – not to mention the fringe benefit of ending the destruction of pro shop carpets and hardwood floors! In short order, the market flipped to all-plastic (and flooring costs at clubs and courses went down for good).

Which brings us to dynamic pricing and the success story written last year by Stone Creek Golf Club, a Clackamas County-owned gem in the Portland suburb of Oregon City, which is managed by Total Golf Management Services.

The facility’s long-time head professional, Doug Suse, reports that Stone Creek had an extremely positive experience using this tool. Bearing in mind how change can be hard, Suse had braced himself for protests from his golfers. “There was no pushback from customers at all,” he says. “I was surprised. We prepared ourselves for negative comments, and literally there were none.”

The change also helped boost business. Stone Creek’s online revenue for tee times in 2018 increased 30 percent over the previous year – an all-time best. The problem of unsold times going to waste also seemed to ease. Suse saw more new faces than usual and didn’t notice any of his regulars dropping away or playing less.

It’s often said that hotel and airline reservation systems have trained the golfing population to view dynamically priced tee times as natural and logical. Makes sense, and yet the golf course is a place of beauty and site of countless fun experiences with friends – something that Seat 22A on a Delta flight or a room in some chain motel can’t boast. And yet to Suse, the moment of wide acceptance appears to have arrived.

“It’s a better way of pricing, for both sides,” he states. “If demand at a certain time on a certain day is light, the golfer pays less, and they realize that. When demand is strong, they pay a little more, and they’re okay with it. People want to book their golf quickly and they want to do it with their phone.”

The telephone as we used to define it is not part of Stone Creek’s new policy. If you call their shop to book a time, you’ll speak with a staff member and be quoted rack prices. Key point: Entering the world of dynamic pricing is something a golf course can do in stages. For Stone Creek, the likely next step is to go dynamic with phone bookings, as well.

“The dynamic price matrix as you view it online can be quickly scanned,” explains Suse. “Over the phone it might be a lot to explain—that’s what held us back. But we’ve discussed it and obviously there are ways you can direct the conversation and guide the customer along.”

Transitioning to this approach was fairly simple, according to Suse. He sat down with his GOLFNOW rep to go through the basics and hear a set of recommendations appropriate for the course and its market. “He came up with some parameters,” says Suse, referring to how far up or down the software would allow prices to move, “and we settled on the caps we would use.”

Currently the entire calendar year is organized under one matrix, but Suse and GOLFNOW are looking at seasonal variations to their pricing parameters. “The goal is to reduce the amount of unsold inventory and make life easy for customers,” he says. “We’re having success on both those fronts and we think we can use dynamic pricing to achieve even greater success in the future.”

Golf Course Operator Holding Ipad

Boosting efficiency and profits, G1 is a system in high demand for 2019

Jan 08, 2019

Widespread acceptance of the G1 Platform

Early adopters of GolfNow One, better known as G1, have given the course management platform high marks. To hear them tell it, G1 has solved problems, streamlined customer purchases across the board and made it easier to manage golf facilities effectively. That positive feedback has circulated through the market and produced a long list of new signups requesting the technology. More than 300 golf courses have switched to G1, including the entire portfolio managed by industry leader Billy Casper Golf.

With enthusiasm for this innovative cloud-based solution heating up, installations of G1 will be occurring at a rapid rate as 2018 winds down and the new year commences. The relative quiet of the off season at northern facilities allows decision-makers some distraction-free time to evaluate their tech situation and see about making a system change. Ideally, that could be done soon enough in order to train staff prior to opening day next spring.

G1 checks a lot of boxes, even before you factor in its cloud-based advantages. The golf management software combines all software and operating systems into one technology platform, including tee sheet, point-of-sale, social media, employee schedules, inventory, payroll, vendor relations, and more. The cloud part means that all these functions can be controlled via G1 by a golf course operator from an internet-connected smartphone or tablet, any time and from any location.

G1 user Tom Beeler was in Florida last winter playing golf when some freak warmth sent Pittsburgh golfers to his electronic tee sheet, hoping to tee it up. Beeler, who is PGA director of golf and general manager of Grand View Golf Club in the Steel City suburb of North Braddock, Pa., booked a couple dozen players from his location 1,000 miles away.

“I had an employee pull out some carts and tuck the keys out of sight,” says Beeler, “then I instructed the golfers to text me so I could tell them where to look.” He has taken inquiries from banquet groups while out of town during the off-season and leveraged G1 to get those events on the calendar. “I’ve booked some big parties from down South as easily as if I was home,” he says.

Beeler stays in conversation with his GolfNow Plus specialist to keep apprised of updates and additions to the G1 features and functionality. At the current time he has not yet chosen to have a credit-card swipe added to the tablets used by his first-tee staff, though in 2019 that option will probably be exercised. “If I added that, it would mean on slower days I could move all payments out to my starter on the tee, and not have to open the golf shop. My starter could swipe the payment and I’d could trim payroll to fit my revenue level,” says Beeler.

Even as he keeps a lookout for upgrades, Beeler remains highly satisfied with the way the G1 system’s design makes it an easy learning curve for front-line workers, even if they’ve worked for decades using pre-digital tools. “G1 is set up so that the basics can be done easily, even by people who haven’t been using computers all their lives,” Beeler says. Grand View has full liquor license for the entire facility and can sell six-packs of beer straight out of the shop with purchase of a green fee, not to mention breakfast or lunch snacks, and sodas or coffee. “These are quick add-ons to their payment for golf and our people have a streamlined digital means of quickly getting it processed,” he says.

Asked about problem-solving by G1 at Grand View, Beeler goes straight to the pain point of green-fee receipts that are somehow lost between the shop and No. 1 tee. “Everybody loses that slip,” he says, “all the honest people who actually paid, as well as the people who are trying to beat the system by saying they lost it when, in fact, they hadn’t paid. Now we have most players’ credit card numbers on file and they just pop their heads in and say they’ve arrived—the starter can see the payment recorded on his tablet.” And any pilfering at Grand View is steadily going away as a result. “It is very hard to beat us at this point,” Beeler said, “we have every possible excuse covered with G1.”

Per the request of his GolfNow rep, Beeler speaks up readily when he hits upon a potential improvement to the software. “I’ve mentioned to our guy at GolfNow that there are some functions they could probably improve by eliminating keystrokes and mouse clicks—making it more streamlined,” says Beeler. “They always thank me and tell if or when the fix could go in. Other systems I’ve had aren’t so amenable to that—the rep starts defending his product. You never get that with GolfNow.”

Different facilities have different upgrades and efficiencies they hope to achieve—a superior tech package that’s built to serve all needs will readily provide exactly what’s needed or something very close. Word on the street is that G1 is delivering solutions across the board.

 

G1 platform means a new golfer experience

G1 platform means a new golfer experience

Nov 27, 2018

Cloud-based, but that’s just the starting point

Innovations marketed to luxury hotels in the 1920s included the NCR motorized cash register, the Sloan tankless toilet and Hoover’s first upright vacuum cleaner. Overall efficiency was boosted by these inventions, though none of them offered a way to improve customer service.

When room service debuted in 1931 at New York’s Waldorf Astoria, you had back-office efficiency combined with a compelling upgrade to the guest experience … now we’re talking!

That kind of talk these days within golf course management circles is all about G1.

You devise a digital management platform that can deliver these benefits only if you start out with customer-centric focus—that’s indeed how it was in the planning and development of GolfNow One – or G1 for short. G1 is next-generation cloud-based technology for golf facility management that holds itself to high standards where efficiency and integration are concerned, but seeks to set itself apart by delivering a “frictionless experience,” as Kelvin Wierks describes it, for golfers.

“People didn’t know they needed Uber until Uber came along,” observes Wierks, who is Senior Director, Business Platforms, for GolfNow Technology. “Streamlining everything the consumer does throughout the economy is a sweeping trend, and we know golf courses will benefit from it immensely.”

As a business management platform, G1 combines all software and operating systems used at a golf facility into one platform. So that’s tee sheet, point-of-sale, social media, employee schedules, inventory, payroll, vendor relations, and more—all controllable by an Internet-connected device, from anywhere.

Explaining the mindset and mission behind G1 development, Wierks differentiated between a vendor that can improve an operation at the margins versus one determined to bring game-changing differences in how a course serves its customer. “We’re about helping an operator grow their business, not just run their business.” he explains. “A course partner of ours should measure G1 on whether it brings in more customers and influences customers to return more often and spend more on each visit.”

On the “spend more” question, some early evidence is in, namely beverage-cart revenue at Peoria Pines Golf Course in the Phoenix suburbs. Scott Richmond, GM of Peoria Pines, is just finishing his second month as a G1-powered facility and already has made an upward forecast for beverage-cart sales. Actual revenue for that category in the fiscal year now closing is $50,000—but he’s projecting a 25 percent increase for the 12 months upcoming.

“This industry has 99 percent of beverage carts out on the fairways using cash, which absolutely holds down spending compared to what we’d get if payments could be made by credit card,” Richmond says. “In one month using G1, I saw that proven out. As a result that revenue line on our 2018-19 budget went up.”

Chase McGowin, GM at Twelve Stones Golf Club outside of Nashville, Tenn., also touts the efficiency of G1 with his course’s beverage cart operation. “Everything we sell automatically gets pulled out of our inventory, so we know where we are at any given moment,” he said.

McGowin doesn’t stop there, saying G1 also has improved his check-in process. “We now have a much more efficient system,” he said. “Our starter used to have to walk back to the pro shop to resolve any situation – causing us to fall a tee time or two behind. Now, with a tablet in hand and the G1 platform, he can solve those types of situations right there on the tee.

“It just makes things more efficient. Golfers are playing in a more appropriate time frames and they don’t complain about slow play.”

Other dynamic shifts and upgrades in customer experience with G1 will be welcomed on the golf side of his business as they develop—but for now, Richmond says he also loves the changes he’s seeing in his restaurant operation. Servers at Peoria Pines are taking meal and drink orders by tablet and staying on the floor to continue serving customers instead of heading toward a point-of-sale terminal at the bar to make entries.

“Incorrect orders, missed items and delays in getting the orders in front of the cooks—that all happens when you’re using paper and pen then getting interrupted on your way to the terminal,” says Richmond. “That’s not happening anymore, which has produced a lot of positive results. Customers get a better experience, the servers are less stressed and we can turn tables faster.” One unintended positive is better tip money, which further adds to employee morale. “A digital restaurant check has gratuity options automatically generated, and what we’ve found is that patrons all seem to choose the middle option, 20 percent,” Richmond says. “That’s increased the average gratuity from 15 percent to 21.5 percent.”

Josh Brunet, general manager of Eagle Lakes Golf Club in Naples. Fla., is another early adopter. “The G1 product has been an excellent asset to our company and we’re excited about its potential to take us to the next level,” says Brunet. “We’ve been able to use G1 to seamlessly integrate our tee sheet, give our staff the mobility of a tablet to operate more efficiently, and the marketing tools also are integrated, so it’s extremely valuable to us.”

Brunet is expecting his G1 experience to only improve, based on GolfNow’s strategy of building it with a feature package that’s foundational, not maxed-out, and directing its team of 15 dedicated engineers to make upgrades quickly and regularly based on partner feedback. “You can always find new technology out there, but a lot of companies provide it to you and disappear,” he says. “With GolfNow and G1, we’re in constant communication. Their support is best in the business by far.”

That’s a nice compliment, but only fitting when a course partner commits to a new management platform. They should expect its provider to makes things so easy and satisfying for them that it feels just like room service.