The premise of this article is to explore the dynamics that seemingly prevent Golf from adopting technologies at a faster rate than a vast majority of industries. A majority of industries will spend roughly 3%-5% of revenue back into technological infrastructure while Golf spends less than 1%. Much of the evidence gathered has come directly from talking with Superintendents, Golf Pros, and General Managers who admit Golf’s slow adoption to technology that could otherwise help course productivity and efficiency if applied correctly.
In Part 1 last month we explored 6 needs that serve all humans and we made the connection that these needs are also how businesses/groups make decisions as well on a macro level. What is becoming more and more evident is that there is a small pocket of these groups–e.g. Superintendents, Pros, and GMs—that are eager to embrace and champion useful technologies. The adoption of technology on the golf course represents change, and I’ve heard in meetings with various growth-minded Superintendents, Pros, and GMs how technology is already bringing about changes in process, in culture, in attitudes, in vision, in leadership, and so on, and so on. It begins with a growth-minded approach and a willingness to embrace risk, trust in ourselves to make the right calls, and, ultimately, execution on the future we want to create.
So why does talking about technology and sharing this viewpoint matter? Well, it only matters if there are practical instances of positive change being seen in the market. And, in fact, there is—which is what we’d like to share. A course that is fully embracing the need of Uncertainty in parallel with a need for Growth.
Out of respect for the course and our contact, they have asked us to not use their names but are okay with us sharing their story and how they are approaching technology integration at their course—so we’ll call it ‘Maverick Time Golf Club’ told by Jim.
Maverick Time Golf Club (MTGC) is a private, seasonal course located in New England. As a premiere golf course, it attracts some of the world’s largest golf enthusiasts and plays host to a number of competitive tournaments throughout its season. But like every course, MTGC has been struggling to find the right operational process to integrate the proper technology at its facility.
Jim, now retired, was asked by the facility to join the Board of Directors for various reasons. One of these reasons was Jim’s background in technology infrastructure setup from his previous career. MTGC’s Board understood that they wanted to grow and be able to make better use of their existing technologies, while also auditing and phasing in better technologies for the course. Jim brought this general level of expertise to the Board.
Take away #1:
Find a ‘Jim’—meaning someone either on staff or a club member with technology integration knowledge that can take on a 1 or 2-year course-wide project. Why? This is important because, according to Jim, a course needs a single point-of-contact to keep the ball rolling. Throughout the day-to-day operations of running a course, these technology integration projects will likely fall by the waste-side. The course needs a “technology champion”.
Jim’s first order of business was to create a ‘Technology Committee’. The Tech Committee ultimately consisted of Jim, the Head Golf Professional, the Head Superintendent, and the Clubhouse Manager. Jim’s goal was to keep the committee lean but have a group of authoritative people that could affect real change on the course. It was Jim’s impression that these 3 individuals needed to have more communication in order to solve real course problems and guide them toward technology applications as the solution to the identified issues. With help from Jim, the Tech Committee put together a 5-year plan for MTGC.
Inside the 5-year plan, there was an audit on the existing technologies—mainly to identify mature applications versus the non-mature applications. What they concluded was the in-house club technologies, for example the POS systems, were closer to a 10 (on a 1 to 10 scale), and the on-course technologies used by the Superintendents were closer to a 1. Furthermore, and even more challenging, was that the Golf Professional and Superintendent had never worked together in this capacity before. Because there was such a range of technological maturations and very little, previously developed teamwork, Jim needed to help steer the questions and provide structure to the Tech Committee’s thought process.
In order for real change to be recognized, there needed to be a shift in mentality among the Tech Committee. Which leads us to take away #2.
Take away #2:
The mindset on overall course efficiency must be a driving force and not simply a passive interest. This sets the culture, this sets the tone for everyone working at the course.
A mindset shift is certainly not something that happens overnight. But with continuous effort from the team, productivity began resulting in positive change. Jim began structuring that change with framework of questions. The 3 major questions identified were:
- How does the course leverage and maximize its existing technologies?
- Are there opportunities to integrate technologies to help automate some of the work?
- How do we develop an eco-system of applying future technologies at the course?
Next month, we’ll explore Jim’s solutions to these questions and how the Tech Committee tackled these challenges.