Technology Review 2001

Editorial Release
April 16, 2001

Contact: Stuart C. Lindsay
Edgehill Consulting Group, Inc.
E-mail: edgehillgolf@aol.com or edgehillgolf@msn.com
Web Site: edgehillgolfadvisors.com


Golf Course Computer Technology Revisited
2001 Update on Cyberhype

In late 1999, we distilled some presentations and letters into an article that is also available on our web site. When we went back and re-read our work, a couple of things stood out:

1. Our crystal ball was pretty good about the dot.com collapse.
2. Many of the companies in the article are no longer around.
3. Internet reservations are still a small % of overall reservations.

In the 18 months since we wrote the first article, a lot of things have happened and a lot of things haven’t. Mostly, it appears that a lot of $$$ have been spent by all concerned with very little tangible result in terms of Internet tee time reservations.

We should probably start by admitting that we didn’t get everything right. We really liked GolfSwitch, which did not realize its full potential and has been sold. After an attempt to affiliate with the PGA of America under the e2e Golf Solutions banner, GolfSwitch is back to its original form of providing connectivity to tee sheet software vendors for “convenience fee” based reservations. We don’t know how many courses are actually using the GolfSwitch technology, but two of our client courses are successfully using the system. One of the courses appears to be generating about 100 players per month from about 30 reservations.

Fairway Systems elected not to offer a lower priced Tee Sheet and POS system indicated in our article. Fairway has, however, continued to offer their higher end software and has added new customers on a worldwide basis. Fore Reservations has continued to offer its products and is currently in use on over 600 courses.

Book4Golf also continues in business. It is also hard to determine the number of courses using the Book4Golf system, but a review of their financial statements indicates that revenues are below projections. Book4Golf has also made some acquisitions and has made strategic alliances with American Golf and others.

Most of the other companies such as Golf Gateway, OnTee and TeeMaster have basically disappeared or been acquired. How many golf courses were affected by these transitions is hard to estimate, but it is safe to say that a lot of time and $$$ was invested for very little result.

So where does technology go from here? With the meltdown in the technology sector of the general economy and many golf courses burned by orphan software, is it time to put technology on the back burner?

The answer is that this “breather period” has helped sort out the “cyberhype” and free promises of 1999 and determined what technology is actually helpful. It should also be noted that technology has not been standing still. There are several things that have been developed and others that have fallen by the wayside and this evolution will eventually lead to meaningful progress in helping golf courses adopt technology.

1. The “hype” associated with ISDN and DSL has largely been dispelled.
2. Broadband Cable access is a clear winner in metropolitan areas.
3. DirecPC Satellite service is now available in rural areas without a dedicated phone line.
4. The healthy software companies have survived.

We also neglected to note in our 1999 article, that every golf course is already on the Internet in one or more directories available on golf.com, PGA.com and others. If you search these directories for your course, you will find some of the information is more current on some, but the fact remains that your course is already on the Internet.

Some of these directories offer spaces for golfers to review your course and a good golf course operator should check these comment areas. If we were still managing Country Club of Wisconsin, I would be reprimanding (or terminating) the member of the grounds crew that posted a smart-mouthed comment on one of these sites.

It also should be noted that more golf courses appear to have web sites up on the Internet. We have posted an Internet Q & A blurb on this site that addresses some pointers for making sure you do everything to promote your URL. That article also discusses some cost issues relating to creation and hosting.

A well constructed, yet inexpensive, web site that gives course information, weather info and directions can be easily created. Even if only 10 golfers use the web site for information per month, that is over a 100 phone calls that will either be shorter or eliminated. Plus, your golfer customer can get that information at his/her convenience. One of the great benefits of this “shakeout” has been to make affordable web development available to any golf course that wants it.

This shakeout period has also helped to determine what software companies will be around for the long haul. As the next generation of connectivity technology surfaces, these software vendors will only get stronger. The new purveyors of connectivity would be well advised to form alliances with the software vendors that have weathered the storm. We still like both Fore Reservations and Fairway Systems. One of our recent clients has also used ProphetLine with some success, although we are not convinced that ProphetLine is as dedicated to further golf development as Fore and Fairway.

For courses in rural areas, the availability of DirecPC is a really big development. This means that “broadband” Internet access is now available virtually anywhere in the US. We have done some preliminary investigation into DirecPC and believe that it has tremendous potential to provide service to most golf courses. The pricing we have seen indicates that “broadband” service, including ISP charges, will be around $70 per month. With the average dedicated phone line charges of about $40 per month and ISP charges of $10 - $25 per month, DirecPC is a bargain. You must remember that DirecPC is offering “broadband”(400k) speed for about the same price as conventional 56k phone line speed.

With the increased bandwidth on the two-way satellite communication of DirecPC, there are a lot of possibilities.

1. Interactive secure reservations for multiple users.
2. On-line merchandise ordering on a kiosk type basis.
3. Multiple member event notifications.
4. Wireless on-course services

There are many other potential applications. We will be researching this potential further and will report those findings as they develop.

In the final analysis, golf courses continue to be faced with confusing technology options. The shakeout of the last 18 months has been an expensive lesson for many of the companies involved and quite a few of the golf courses that adopted the technology. The silver lining is that better answers are now available and costs have moderated for web site development. The increased availability of affordable “broadband” services in rural areas is also a huge step forward.

The fact remains that the Internet is still a great supplemental marketing tool and is actually getting better with age. The need for making wise cost/benefit decisions regarding a golf course’s choice of technology options remains of paramount importance; but at least the choices are now a lot clearer.