GPS technology installed on golf carts allows Shadow Wood Country Club in Bonita Springs, Fla., to see storms coming before they hit, giving golfers and staff ample time to prepare.
When storm clouds bear down on a golf course or resort, time is of the essence to ensure that guests and staff are safe.
Horns and strobes strategically located across a course used to be the only warning device for lightning and other issues. Today, courses can gain precious time by arming themselves with a full arsenal of the latest technology, from computers to GPS systems to smart phones.
Technology can greatly increase warning time, according to William Wagner, General Manager of Shadow Wood Country Club, a member-owned facility in Bonita Springs, Fla.
Shadow Wood now has a weather-planning system in place that features GPS technology on all golf carts. Rather than warn members that a lightning strike has occurred, the system helps to forecast the probability of an impending strike.
“It doesn’t respond after the fact,” Wagner says. “That’s one of the advantages of the technology that is available. It tells you the likelihood of lightning occurring.”
As a result, the staff at Shadow Wood can be proactive rather than reactive when threatening weather approaches.
“When the system [issues an alert], a message goes to all of the carts and warns golfers to get off the course,” Wagner explains. “They have time to get to the cart barn.”
Such weather warnings apply across the board, and not just to golfers out on the course. Similar messages are dispatched to computers inside the club, which warn staff responsible for other facilities, including the pool and tennis courts.
“When you evacuate the course, you also evacuate the pool, tennis courts and other outdoor activities,” Wagner explains. “It also applies to all of our employees, too.”
|THE GOAL: Shadow Wood Country Club is using all available technology to get advance warnings of approaching weather issues, including lightning.
THE PLAN: The club utilizes smart phones and GPS technology to alert golfers and others involved in outdoor activities of dangerous weather. When necessary, all outdoor activities are halted and members and employees are evacuated out of harm’s way.
THE PAYOFF: Members at Shadow Wood can enjoy their activities with assurance that should dangerous weather arise, they will get ample notice and be properly protected.
In Florida, diligent attention to hurricane planning is also an annual necessity. At Shadow Wood, the golf course maintenance department takes the lead in that effort.
“They are in charge of shutters and getting any items and equipment off the course,” Wagner notes. “They also oversee any evacuation plan.”
But when it comes to hurricane planning, no department is left out. “It is something we are used to in Florida,” Wagner says.
“Everyone has a job to do, and we go about it. Everybody knows just what to do.”
Aside from hurricanes, Shadow Wood is fortunate to be free of many of the other weather issues that can plague courses across the country. Some facilities have to brace for potential flooding, extreme heat or even a tornado.
Another technology that has enhanced weather planning for these dangers is the proliferation of smart phones. Everyone on the Shadow Wood staff now has one, Wagner says, as do many members.
The GPS systems installed on golf carts can also be a lifesaving tool in case of a medical emergency, when precious minutes can mean the difference between life and death.
“The units enable first responders to know just where the person is on the course, and they can get directly to them,” Wagner notes.
From the business aspect of club management, Wagner says some courses and resorts might balk at employing all aspects of available technology for weather planning and other emergency purposes. “I’ve heard of places that are hesitant to have this kind of technology because of the cost,” he notes. “It is a little different when you are talking about member-owned clubs. Regardless of the cost, we have to do the right thing.”
While the comprehensive weather-planning system that Shadow Wood now has in place is less than a year old, Wagner says the system will be reviewed every year, and upgrades and adjustments will be made as needed. “I think the technology exists, so we should all use it,” he says.