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May 2020

USGA tracker shows new promise for cost savings

By Scott Kauffman

In the 100-year history of the United States Golf Association’s Green Section, the research arm of the USGA has been a national leader in course-related science and data. Now, the USGA is looking to monetize some of its valuable data while maintaining its overarching mission to “fuel a healthy and sustainable game for the future.”

The USGA’s latest efforts to achieve both of these goals are through the nonprofit organization’s new GPS Service and Facility App products being marketed to course owners/operators.

Initially, when the USGA launched its GPS Service six years ago, it was simply an industry initiative to create a better golf experience by helping courses track golfer movements in order to improve pace of play. It wasn’t designed as a business venture per se.

But during the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, golf course architect John Sanford approached the USGA trade show booth and realized the GPS service/technology could actually serve a far greater value to courses — and ultimately help owners and operators reduce significant costs in course maintenance. At the time, Sanford was working on a preliminary plan to redesign publicly owned 18-hole Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, Florida, with the mission to reduce some of the 130 acres of maintained turf and help the municipality save money.

After the business opportunity was broached that day at the PGA Merchandise Show, Crandon Park implemented the innovative new USGA products and identified an extra 40 acres of turf removal that will save Miami-Dade County approximately $350,000 per year or about 30 percent of the current irrigation budget. The turf reduction also will result in a 10 percent cut in water usage without any capital expense.

That’s when the USGA knew its data could have an even greater impact on the industry’s future and director of product development Scott, Mingay started introducing the organizations new suite of services at last year’s 2019 Golf Innovation Symposium. A year later, the USGA reports some 30 courses used the service as part of a pilot program, according to Hunki Yun, director of partnerships, outreach and education for the USGA’s newly-formed Research, Science and Innovation group.

Yun said more courses showed interest after this year’s PGA Merchandise Show for a yearly service that ranges from $1,499 to $1,999, depending on whether the course decides to rent the estimated 200 GPS logger devices handed out to golfers on the first tee and returned to the USGA for data collection after several days of usage.

Within thirty days of the completion of data collection, course clients will receive access to the heat map and golfer tracks generated by the data of their players that they can view in the USGA Facility App.

“Improving the financial health of golf facilities is one of the USGA’s strategic missions,” Yun said. “The USGA GPS Service and the Facility App allow more courses access to data about course maintenance and golfer traffic that can help course owners and managers make better decision that can improve their efficiency and allocation of valuable resources, improve their overall sustainability, and also offer a product that provides a better experience for



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May 2020 Issue

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