How one company is using artificial intelligence to combat slow play

February 25, 2020
Tagmarshal

From the PGA Tour to your local municipal course, pace of play is one of golf’s most pressing issues. The European Tour felt strongly enough about it to implement new rules to combat slow play, while the PGA Tour recently updated its pace of play policy.

It’s great that the pro ranks are doing their part to speed up the action, but changes at the top are hardly affecting weekend warriors like myself. Far too often my Saturday round takes up the majority of my day off. Sure, when I’m free from the office, the course is where I want to be. But for five-to-six hours? No thank you. In terms of enjoyment, waiting on every single shot is up there with my boss assigning me something at four o’clock on a Friday.

Days on the course are precious. Free time is precious. Neither is meant to be wasted due to slow play and now, neither has to be thanks to the Tagmarshal golf course intelligence system.

Tagmarshal offers an app that improves pace of play and provides golf course operation teams with real-time oversight and historical data. Its software uses data from more than 10 million rounds to provide tailored information to 250 partner courses. A whos-who logo collection—Carnoustie, Whistling Straits, Baltusrol, Kiawah Island, Bandon Dunes, Pinehurst and Erin Hills—are just a handful of the GOLF Top 100 Courses that currently use Tagmarshal.

Once a course implements Tagmarshal, transmitters which track every golfer are placed on carts or given to caddies. Information is then collected in the cloud and real-time data is available to course management. Should a problem arise, you won’t need to flag down a marshal to alert them, they’ll already know. For example, if a golfer were to fall behind on the third hole, the situation can be handled immediately, rather than waiting for a prolonged backup to reach back to the first tee.

No one likes being yelled at by a ranger, and truth be told, no good really comes from it. Targmarshal’s system isn’t all AI. It also has features that train staff to remain positive and encouraging. It’s all part of improving the overall experience to keep golfers happier and more willing to do their part to help pace of play efforts. If a ranger opts for a conversational approach with data points rather than a confrontational scolding, Tagmarshal feels a course will be better suited for success.

Additionally, once the Tagmarshal system is in place, courses can use data to better understand cause and effect. A course may use this information to recognize trends of specific locations that consistently become problem areas, or find routing or design flaws contributing pace of play issues. If there’s a private club member who’s regularly a slow-play issue, Tagmarshal will give course management factual data to present to the member.

Tagmarshal information is related through a cloud management system to a course operations team.
Tagmarshal information is related through a cloud management system to a course operations team.
Tagmarshal

Several private courses using Tagmarshal reward golfers who abide by pace of play rules with ideal tee times, keeping regular offenders from clogging play during busy hours. Baltusrol went as far as to install real-time monitors throughout their facility for staff and members to keep close tabs on the course. The management team, outside services and locker room attendants know what’s happening at any given time. How’s that for transparency?

“There’s nothing better than walking into the office and knowing exactly what’s happening on your golf course,” said Ryan Fountaine, Director of Golf at Baltusrol. “It’s fantastic knowledge and peace of mind.”

If a course can get more groups playing rounds in reasonable times, there’s more leeway for additional groups to get on the course, which opens up revenue potential. Instead of rushing to get home after a long round, your members might be able to spend time in the clubhouse with their golf buddies over food and drinks.

Just like Tagmarshal’s slow play data, it’s hard to argue with results. In only a month, Carnoustie claims that rounds played within their desired timeframe rose from 29 percent to 53 percent. Erin Hills says it brought in an additional $140,000 in revenue from greens fees in a season and credits Tagmarshal’s tee sheet optimization and live management system.

“It paid for itself a hundred times over,” Jim Lombardo, Head Golf Professional at Erin Hills, said.

There’s no way of knowing if Tagmarshal is the silver bullet to the slow-play dilemma, but Tagmarshal has stepped up to the plate to speed up the game. That’s a start, and it appears to be a strong start. Now all I need are my local courses to make similar efforts to keep things moving. It’s good for the game and more importantly, my Saturdays.

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