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Kansas Golf Associaition

“Golf’s Emergence from the Dark Ages”


The National Golf Foundation was founded in 1936 and serves an important role for the golf industry by tracking trends, course opening and closing and golfer habits and preferences.  A recent blog published by the NGF caught our attention and is offered for your better understanding of our game today.   NGF staffer Greg Nathan posted the following:

Greeting Crazy Town Citizens –

When most golfers think about latest technology, their minds generally gravitate to the implements of play . . . clubs and balls.  That’s natural… as these are the sexy products in golf that get the most visible and edgy consumer marketing support.  Please forgive me for the derivative yet gender-neutral expression; Dudes and chicks, do indeed, love the long ball!

What was once a cottage industry went big time when Wall Street and private capital infusions allowed the top equipment companies to invest heavily in R&D, materials, testing and manufacturing capabilities.  During a relative “blip” on the golf timeline, we moved from a “modern” era of wound balata balls, “oil-hardened” persimmon drivers and forged muscle-back irons into a $4 billion+ consumer products category deeply incorporating technology that is nothing short of space age.  The bats and balls of our pastime in 2015 are designed and shaped by world-class Ph.D.’s using super-computers, use aerospace-grade materials, and are manufactured using robots and other multi-million dollar machines to achieve razor-thin tolerances that would make both Porsche and NASA proud.  Putting these highly engineered products into the hands of American’s hackers is a little bit like putting a chimpanzee in the cockpit of a Mercury rocket (for context, I highly recommend the film, The Right Stuff).

Even with only a 15 year “term” served thus far in the golf business, this mayor (writer) would say that golf has a well-earned reputation as being somewhat unsophisticated and behind the times.  One case-in-point is how recently most courses were still using a paper and pencil tee sheet (whisper…some still do).  Golf isn’t exactly becoming an envelope-pushing exemplar of cutting-edge business practices, but golf has slowly emerged from the dark ages.

I write this entry as I prepare to leave for the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio, a place where thousands of discussions of golf’s evolution will take place.  For those unfamiliar, the GIS, as it is known, is golf’s business-to-business trade show… the NGCOA (Owners) and GCSAA (Superintendents) present this conference to facilitate member education and communication between their constituents and the suppliers who serve them.  The National Golf Foundation has long been a participating sponsor and advocate of this show, an extension of the NGF co-founder Herb Graffis’s legacy.  Herb (a member of the World Golf HOF) was an industry pioneer who helped create the GCSAA and was one the most vocal supporters of elevating the title of “Greenskeeper” to “Superintendent”.  In my previous golf industry position with GOLF Magazine/Golf.com, I had very little contact with the course side of the golf business.  Soon after my start at NGF, CEO Joe Beditz explained to me that the Super was typically the most highly-educated and valued employee at the golf course.  After all, this was the person responsible for the care, feeding and protection of the owner’s “physical plant.”  I really took this to heart and now better understand how important science is to the business of golf.

I’d like to take a moment to highlight some of the most impactful example of how technology has been integrated into golf operations as well as the consumer’s golf experience.  We are living in a very exciting time for the golf business.  As with all industries, innovation is what drives progress, and these are examples of golf’s evolution and a bright future of more sophisticated management and golfer enjoyment.

I apologize in advance for leaving entire product categories or any specific brands out of the following… these are offered as a collective illustration of how far we’ve come… accompanied by an incomplete list of providers simply as my handful of readers know what I/m talking about (sometimes a challenge in itself!).

A golf technology baker’s dozen:

  1. Course operation software available from companies such as Jonas, IBS and EZ-Links.
  2. Launch monitors, simulators and ball-blight optimization/clubfitting present by Trackman, Flightscope, Foresight, Ernest Sports, GolfTEC, About Golf, HD Golf, Dead Solid, Full Swing and OptiShot.
  3. Game tracking hardware/software systems from ShotLink, GameGolf and Arccos.
  4. Distance measurement (Laser and GPS) from Bushnell, Leupold, Nikon, LaserLink, SkyGolf, Garmin and more.
  5. Mobile APPS including Golfshot, GolfLogis, Swing by Swing, MobiTee, WPAR, Hole19, GHIN, Golfnet, Diablo Golf, etc.
  6. Gaming – WorldGolfTour and of course the EA Sports PGA Tour franchise.
  7. On-board golf car GPS/monitor systems from Visage/GHSi and Digital Caddies.
  8. Tee time booking engines like Golfnow, TeeOff, OpenTee, TeeSnap.
  9. Moisture Sensors and GPS irrigation systems improving water use efficiency.
  10. The Golfboard
  11. TopGolf and SpotGolf
  12. The science, chemistry and state of the art machinery that keeps our courses playing and looking great.
  13. Clubs and balls to help us hit longer, straighter and closer to the hole!

Keep innovating and please sell this great game of ours.  Cheers to a favorable spring for golf!

(this feature appeared in “The Dashboard”, Market Intelligence for Golf’s Stakeholders¸ a publication of the National Golf Foundation – www.ngf.org)