Pace of Play has been, and continues to be, a widely discussed issue in golf for at least the past 25 years.
A USGA Survey highlights that 74% of players say pace of play is critical to their golf experience.
Asking people if they care about pace of play is like asking how important price is to your buying decision — nearly everyone would like a product to be cheaper!
In an American society where the average amount of leisure time per weekend day is 1 hour 57 minutes, any time waiting for anything would be viewed as an issue.
The Average Wait Time for Space Mountain is 32.1 Minutes
Disney World is the most visited vacation resort in the world, with an average annual attendance of more than 52 million people!
Yes, 52 million people a year visit Disney knowing they will wait an average of 79.8 minutes for the “Avatar Flight of Passage” ride or 32.8 minutes for the “Jungle Cruise.” After all of these years, people still wait 11.9 minutes for “It’s a Small World” — yes, 11.9 minutes! And, all for rides that last only a few minutes.
The Magic of Disney
There are no scare stories about declining attendance at vacation theme parks like those about the decline in golf! Why?
Well, Disney is good at many things that relate to the experience created for park guests, but a few items stick out specifically for wait time management.
First, they have made waiting interactive. For example, in the line for the “Haunted Mansion”, guests can touch gravestones that play music and squirt water.
Second, they are excellent at setting expectations. They measure the wait time for every ride, every day of the year. There are dozens of websites that publish this information. Disney even has an app that will tell you how long you should expect to wait. Studies have proven that people are more inclined to wait if expectations are set up front.
Third, they allow people to pay more if they don’t want to wait. Disney’s FastPass+ allows guests to skip lines and plan time windows for rides they’d like to experience. They have developed multiple offerings that allow guests to select their threshold for waiting.
OK, but How Does This Apply To Golf?
Unfortunately, for the game of golf, the pace of play conversation is focused on the WRONG metric.
Elapsed time is not the only metric that should be managed. Many of us have played rounds that have taken 4 hours 45 minutes and had a great experience spending time with friends. And, we have played a round of golf played in 3 hours 15 minutes only to feel the experience was terrible.
What is the factor that determines an exceptional experience? The amount of time we waited for groups ahead of us.
In golf, there are no interactive waiting experiences, expectations are not set on wait times, and the average golfer cannot pay for a better experience.
This is one of the reasons there are 14.7 million golfers who are interested in golf but are not playing. Overlay this with the fact that there were only 2.6 million beginners last year. This leaves 12 million who would play but don’t.
You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure and Golf Courses
Imagine if Disney didn’t measure everything about how guests experience the park. Well, this is exactly the situation on golf courses.
Imagine a world where every round of golf is monitored in real-time and measured so that the golf course can deliver the best experience possible and offer unique innovative pricing based upon a desired experience?
By measuring the amount of time golfers are waiting, a golf operations team knows how the golf course is flowing at all times — who is waiting, where, who are the slow players — all so action can be taken in real-time. The historical data collected drives future predictions so that player expectations are proactively managed and greens fees are offered based upon expected wait times.
None of this can be easily done without technology which Disney has lots of by the way! And, all in the background so the guest, or player, the experience is not disrupted.