From golf carts to smart phones, global positioning systems technology continues to find, and expand, its place at club and resort properties.
The Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system, maintained by the U.S. government, has been fully operational since 1994. Since then, it has been expanded from being primarily a military and space technology into being a useful tool for everyday life, from online banking to cell phone use. Today, many people associate the term with mapping capabilities, whether it’s the device they use in their cars to get them to their destination quickly and efficiently, or the app on their smart phone that can discern their precise location at any given time.
GPS has been particularly beneficial to clubs and resorts. Not only has the widespread use of GPS cut down on the number of desperate “We need directions to your building!” phone calls from lost motorists, but its precise coordinates for golf courses has given golfers (at least those who want it) a leg up on playing strategies.
|Summing It Up
Then there are the practical perks for properties and their return on investment in a GPS system or smart phone app development.
GPS, a la golf cart
Many clubs find it makes sense to have a GPS system installed on their golf cart fleet. As Jay Miller, President of Hidden Valley Golf Club, Norco, Calif., notes, “It is way more than just a system to give the player yardage information. It is a golf cart management tool.”
Hidden Valley’s course has 600 ft. of elevation change, and with that comes many areas “that we do not want our carts to go,” Miller points out. “The system has a Red Zone feature, where from our computer we can assign the areas that their cart will not go into or shut down when these areas have been trespassed; when this happens, the carts must be put into reverse and backed up into a safe area before it will go forward. The system also shows us where the cart has been for the last 5 hours, and any damage done to our cart will be shown on the computer and where it happened.”
While Mark Laviano, General Manager of Quail Ridge Country Club, Acton, Mass., notes that his current property doesn’t have GPS on its golf carts, his previous employers did make use of them.
“To me, the best value of GPS when I was at those courses was the ability to monitor pace to play,” he says. “We could monitor where people were driving and if they were going somewhere that was restricted, we could send them a message from the pro shop to ‘please go back to the cart path.’”
Another benefit, Laviano says, was while he couldn’t see the ninth or tenth hole from the shop, if someone wanted to start at either of those holes, he could simply look on-screen to see whether it was occupied.
Miller says Hidden Valley has had the system for about three years, with frequent updates. In fact, they were the first property west of the Mississippi to have their particular system. He says there has never been a problem with its maintenance or operation.
“Our golf cart provider is responsible and runs checks every week from their computers to our system,” he says. “And the Red Zones, we can change from our computer any given day if we chose to do so.”
Miller says he believes the investment in the system has paid off, as it has deterred players from driving the carts in restricted areas or in a careless manner.
“I’d estimate that it has saved us more than $5,000 of damage done to the carts, by proving simply that the driver actually did the damage,” he says.
Apt App Advice
Still, Miller estimates that about 75% of Hidden Valley’s golfers have their own GPS-enabled device. That’s why earlier this year, the club developed its own GPS app that can be downloaded from its website right onto the user’s smart phone.
“There’s an app for that”
In 2008, the Ravisloe Country Club in Homewood, Ill., went from being a private country club to a public one. As part of this sea change for the facility, says General Manager & Banquet Sales Director Ashley Smith, the club decided to create an app to get its name out to a new, younger audience.
The process took about three to four months, Smith recalls. “We developed the pages within the app, what the content would be and how they would read,” she says, noting that the majority of the work was done through an online file sharing system, as the developers were off-site. “We tried to mimic the website.”
Similarly, Grand Traverse Resort & Spa near Traverse City, Mich., took about six months from drawing board to deployment for its smart phone app. Director of Marketing Steve Timmer notes that the goal was to have a tool to improve both communication and cross-promotion with the guest.
From the start, Timmer says, the guest’s point of view was the most important. “We had to think about what they want to know. Because ultimately, if they don’t use the app, it’s not useful to us.”
Timmer says that just about every staffer had a hand in the look and feel of the app. “We brought in the key revenue departments into the process early on.”
Smith says Ravisloe’s free app includes GPS of the golf course, and allows call-in orders to the Halfway House and Clubhouse, so that drinks and appetizers can be enjoyed right on the greens. Another popular feature is the wedding planning guide, which features a free checklist for brides.
“We heard from lots of brides saying how helpful it was,” says Smith, adding that wedding business has increased 80% since the app debuted. “At a bridal shower, for example, a bride could just show her friends and family photos and information about our club, right there from the app on her phone, instead of going online to the website.”
Once the app was ready to go, Smith says, Ravisloe embarked on a marketing campaign that included spreading the word on its website, local advertising, email blasts and a looped Powerpoint presentation on monitors stationed in the lobby. Timmer says that Grand Traverse also promoted its app through several venues, including a QR code built into all the advertising so that the audience could capture the code with their smart phone and get more information about the app.
The results, both properties say, have been overwhelmingly positive.
“We’ve done exclusive promotions on the app, as an incentive to download,” Timmer says. “We’ve received great response, especially with spa customers. They simply show the app at the spa reception desk, and they receive special offers that others don’t.”
What’s really caught fire with Ravisloe’s members, Smith says, is the ability to book a last-minute tee time through the app.
“We have a very challenging golf course with lots of trees — it’s a challenge to amateurs and a treat for the more experienced golfer,” she says, noting that the option to book an outing on a whim has been popular.
What does the future hold for Ravisloe’s app? For now, Smith says, the content is slated for another update next month for the 2012 golf season: “It’s sustained itself with the business we do daily.”
GPS is an important component of Grand Traverse’s app, but perhaps not in the manner one might think. “We’re using GPS so we can target by market,” Timmer says. “A certain promotion may only appear to users who are in Chicago, for example. Alternatively, if you’re in Traverse City, we’ll send an invite for users to come dine with us tonight.”
Mapping error? Here’s how to fix it.
Imagine the following scenario: A front desk employee bursts into your office and informs you that “the GPS is wrong” about where your newly renovated clubhouse resides. “Guests are getting angry that they’re being routed right past the entrance,” he says.
Is it really a GPS error? Nope, says GPS.gov, the official online presence of the U.S. GPS system. But it could be an error with the mapping software provider. Outdated maps and approximations with where a location might be are two common errors that can lead to user frustration. While common sense should prevail — after all, the public seemed to find their destination 10 years ago, before in-vehicle GPS systems became common, by simply following signage and circling around until they found what they were looking for — you can report the problem to digital content suppliers to make sure the problem doesn’t continue.
“The websites of two of the largest map providers, NavTeq and Tele Atlas, allow the public to submit map corrections,” notes GPS.gov on its “How to Fix Map Errors” page.
Some navigation devices allow users to enter map fixes directly on screen, then upload them to the manufacturer and/or other users when connected to the Internet. Once you submit a map or route correction, the content providers typically verify and implement it through a map update. This can take weeks, months, or years, depending on the provider. The change won’t show up in your device until you download and install the update. Likewise, it won’t show up on anyone else’s device unless they also apply the update or buy a brand-new device.