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September 2020

Technology’s sway on golf from 2000 to 2020

By Doug McPherson

The cover story for Golf Business in September 2000 was “Getting Comfortable with E-Commerce” and today you could say golf has moved from getting comfortable with e-commerce and technology to a full-blown, committed relationship.

Is it a love-hate relationship? Definitely, at times. And the relationship has needed its share of counseling. But they’re still together, and that’s a good thing, says Dave Wasenda, who’s watched the courtship’s breakups and makeups since 1988.

He agrees with what many say about technology in golf: that it has gone from ‘check it out’ to ‘you can’t survive without it.’

“If you’re not using technology, you’re falling behind because ultimately the ability to market, manage and sell today depends on technology,” says Wasenda, who is president of Applied Golf, a golf management company in New Jersey.
Still, he admits adapting to technology hasn’t always been easy. “We’ve learned that we have had to be patient, it hasn’t been a quick process and we’ve all seen the growing pains with point-of-sale, online tee times, reservations systems and the rest. We know whatever technology comes along it won’t be perfect from day one.”

But for Wasenda, it’s been worth both the imperfections and the headaches. Take online tee times. Wasenda believes it wins the most-important-tech award since 2000 for golf. “To our company and to many, online tee times have added convenience. They’re so important to everybody’s day and to revenue generation.”

He also likes the point-of-sale systems. “They’ve evolved and now they do more with tracking of billing and there’s been some flexibility, but there hasn’t been a lot of integration with point-of-sale systems, at least the kind you’d expect.”
On the con side, Wasenda says technology has sparked rate wars. “Because people can see all the rates, they’re able to get more discounts. In the last 10 years, we’ve seen more competition where one course drops their rate and then you see a snowball effect.”

Another area of some concern is e-commerce. “That’s probably where, as an industry, we’re the most behind. It’s the highest hanging fruit because it’s more challenging. No one has made e-commerce super simple. Clients ask, ‘Is it really going to impact my business?’ And our answer has been ‘kind of not.’ The golf management industry has had bigger fish to fry related to technology with online tee times, etc. When you compare to what we’re really selling in pro shops, that part of the business, for the most part, isn’t a high-profit center. I see e-commerce as the next step, but right now it’s a little clunky.”

Another next step course owners should consider, Wasenda says, is technology systems management.

In fact, he predicts a trend of courses hiring technology managers, skilled experts who’ll ensure technology is being used to its fullest potential. “Larger resorts are already thinking about this or they’re doing it. When courses are doing say $3 to $4 million, they can invest in a tech manager. It’s about return on the investment to increase services, profitability and efficiency.

“Just because you have technology doesn’t mean you can manage technology,” he says. “You have to manage it every day. If you can’t, you will fail. If you can, it will move you forward. Don’t rely on it to do everything for you. It’s not a magic wand. It’s just a tool to better manage your operation. You still have to do the work. It’s impossible for technology to think the way you do. That is, until a robot armed with artificial intelligence shows up to fire you. But that’s an article for 2040. Or, could it be sooner?

 

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