Tagmarshal, the global leader in golf course optimisation, flow of play and distancing management, hosted a capacity webinar attended by PGA professionals, course, club and resort operators.
‘Adapting Golf Operations for Success During COVID-19 and Beyond,’ was led by an expert panel of three distinguished PGA professionals – Matt Barksdale, PGA, head professional at Pinehurst Resort; Drew Dunn, director of golf, at East Lake Golf Club; and Dennis Rye, the director of golf at Mizner Country Club – and moderated by Tagmarshal’s CEO Bodo Sieber, a data and optimisation expert.
The webinar recording is now available to share with the golf community on tagmarshal.com.
With over-capacity registrations from 10 countries, attendees included senior management from courses such as Erin Hills, Pebble Beach, Hazeltine, Valhalla, Carnoustie, The Grove, Royal Portrush, Lahinch, Le Golf National, Praia D’El Rey and many more.
“This webinar brought together the leadership of golf facilities to share insights, strategies and initiatives utilised during this challenging period. One of the most impactful outcomes from a survey conducted at the conclusion of the session was that 90 per cent of attendees being in lock-down at the time of the event, 80 per cent felt positive about the future of golf and 43 per cent anticipated that golf will see more than regular play, once restrictions are lifted,” said Bodo Sieber.
Drew Dunn, director of golf, East Lake, added: “I think there is going to be a high demand for a while. I don’t think there needs to be a reduction in guest (player) fees – it’s simple supply and demand.
This sentiment was echoed by Dennis Rye, director of golf, Mizner Country Club, who said: “Once people are allowed to play golf, there is going to be a big surge in people wanting to play.”
Moreover, despite adapting to the challenges brought about by the pandemic, the panel, along with a vast majority of attendees, agreed that golf is resilient and overall successful in developing innovative plans to adapt to the post COVID-19 era.
Topics receiving strong attention by the panel and attendees, who presented questions to them during the session, included the need to provide a safe playing environment by ensuring the practice of six-foot social distancing, having fewer touch points on and off the course, and ensuring the availability of hand sanitisers as well as implementing cashless procedures.
Another key survey, named ‘How your course will adapt to a new and different world, post COVID-19, found that the top three priorities were providing a safer environment for players (89 per cent), followed by finding ways to work with fewer touch points and resources (73 per cent). More than 55 per cent acknowledged the importance of technology at their courses and will consider using technology formats to achieve greater efficiencies at their facility in the future.
With safety and the ability to do more, with fewer touch points and resources being key priorities – it made sense that technology was a top-three priority, due to its ability to improve safety and efficiency, within golf operations. Other lower priorities were the promotion of walking golf (32 per cent) and decreasing green fees/membership fees (5 per cent) and increasing tee-time intervals (32 per cent).
This last item led to a hotly debated discussion of whether to increase gap interval times between groups of players. Commenting on this, Bodo Sieber noted the recommended safe distance between playing groups is the six-foot social distance marker – while most courses maintain a comfortable 10-minute interval (equating to approximately 300 yards).
“This constitutes a far greater distance than what leading experts have suggested. We caution that while player safety is paramount, adding any additional time over and above this, would have little to no impact on safety, yet would have a very negative impact on course capacity, and therefore, revenue. Courses looking to increase gap intervals should reconsider, and, instead, focus on maintaining and proactively managing effective intervals to ensure both a safe environment and commercial success.”
“We’ve remained constant at 10-minute intervals and feel that that is appropriate,” said Matt Barksdale, PGA head professional at Pinehurst. “The most important thing is adhering to that 10 minutes at the start of each round.”
Sieber added: “Efficiency is the key to the survival and success of golf courses in the future. Many managers have recognised they can do more with less and that technology materially aids this objective.”
The panel members strongly endorsed this and cited various protocols they have been implementing, including requiring golfers to self-park rather than providing valet service, having players responsible for sanitising their carts, and providing take away meals after the round. Sieber also noted that courses with closed ranges and clubhouses should provide each group with Tagmarshal’s “Park and Play” roadmap ahead of time, to visually detail the route golfers need to adhere to from their auto to the mobile check-in area to the first or 10th tees.
At the conclusion of the webinar, attendees were offered a specially designed program with a six-months, no-payment start, enabling their courses, whether private, daily-fee access, resort or municipal facilities, to benefit from the advantages of Tagmarshal’s optimisation system during this critical time.
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