Salish Cliffs GC gives rave reviews to its GPS golf and fleet management system.
Most golfers can use a little direction when it comes to their games, and a global positioning system (GPS) can help provide guidance for aspects ranging from distance to the green to communicating with the golf shop or clubhouse. At some golf course facilities, particularly high-end resort properties, the technology has now evolved to become an expected amenity, rather than a novelty bonus.
Behind the scenes, GPS technology is also evolving as an essential tool, to help properties track and control their golf car fleets. The 72-car E-Z-GO fleet at Salish Cliffs Golf Club in Shelton, Wash., for example, has been equipped with TKV GPS since October 2015. TKV, based in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, formed a partnership with the golf car manufacturer to become its exclusive GPS provider worldwide in 2015, after winning an E-Z-GO competition.
Salish Cliffs’ Head Golf Professional, David Kass, PGA, and First Assistant Golf Professional, Chris Koch, PGA, first saw the TKV GPS/fleet management system at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. Salish Cliffs, which opened five years ago (“Getting In On the Ground Floor,” C&RB, July 2011), leased golf cars equipped with a different GPS system from another manufacturer for its first four years. “Being a resort, we liked the concept of having a GPS system,” explains Kass. “We have a lot of hilly terrain, so we need to give golfers some direction.”
When the lease for the original fleet expired, however, Salish Cliffs decided to purchase the E-Z-GO fleet equipped with TKV GPS. The transition between the two GPS systems has been seamless, Kass reports, while providing added benefits. “We looked at other systems, but they didn’t integrate as smoothly with the E-Z-GO car we were looking at,” he notes. “The TKV system has a larger screen and better graphics [than the previous system], and gives us more control.”
The TKV system offers three display options—a seven-inch touchscreen with a text-based golfer display; a 10-inch touchscreen with customized, high-definition graphics and enhanced golfer-experience features; and a seven-inch version of the enhanced model.
With a golf course covering more than 320 acres, Salish Cliffs opted for the 10-inch screen model, to offer as much detailed information as possible. Enhanced features on the Salish Cliffs system include: high-definition hole graphics; on-screen pro tips; a digital scorecard; pin-placement rotation schedules; yardage to the pin; the distance to marked hazards; interactive touchscreen distances to golfer-selected points; narrated 3-D hole flyovers; food-and-beverage menus and ordering; and tournament management.
“Some courses want [GPS] to be a subtle addition,” Kass says. “We wanted it front-and-center, to remind golfers of other things that are going on at the resort.”
Situated in the rainy Pacific Northwest, Salish Cliffs also needed a system that would keep golf cars out of some areas during and after inclement weather. Because the system lets the pro shop know where the golf cars are at all times, the staff can stop a car from going into an unauthorized area and direct it back onto the golf course. “We can’t have eyes and ears on the course all the time,” says Kass.
The system can direct golfers back onto cart paths with a message that pops up on the screen, and the screen can send advance warnings as well. The messages pop up in certain zones and disappear when the golfer leaves those areas.
As an added safety feature, an audible beep goes off in the golf shop if a car crosses a boundary it should not break. The staff can also send golfers a message if lightning is in the area.
In addition, the GPS display can show promotional messages about activities at the on-site Little Creek Casino Resort, or send a message to see if players want to order food. “Golfers can place their food order at the eighth or ninth hole,” explains Kass, “and it is ready for them when they make the turn.”
Another safety feature includes the ability to lock the golf cars down once they have been stored in the cart barn. The system gives the property the ability to keep golf cars—and golfers—moving as well.
“The pace-of-play feature is huge for us,” says Kass. “We’re able to see where cars are. They change color from yellow to red as they get behind time. We can see if there are certain holes that are causing problems.”
Kass and Koch can control and adjust the screens and pull them up on their desktop computers, tablets, or smartphones. The two have log-in credentials to create content, but anyone in the golf shop can send customized messages to golfers through the system. And while Salish Cliffs’ previous GPS system required the manufacturer to add new images, Kass or Koch can now load them onto the TKV system and have the changes up and running in half an hour.
Setting the Map
To install a geofence around the Salish Cliffs property, the golf pros worked with TKV to outline fairways. This required physically driving the golf course for several days, but Kass believes it was time well-spent.
“They mapped the golf course with satellite images,” he explains. “They sent us what they did, and then we tweaked it. We didn’t like the original trees on the screen, because they didn’t look like Pacific Northwest trees, so they changed those graphics. We had to figure out the GPS mapping to make sure that the images the golfers see on the golf course are accurate and as realistic as possible.”
The GPS-equipped fleet was delivered to Salish Cliffs in the winter of 2015, and E-Z-GO and TKV personnel worked together at the course for two days to implement the system. “When the cars came in, they were already assembled and pre-wired to accept the GPS screens, and E-Z-GO and TKV then installed the screens on-site,” says Kass.
TKV representatives also asked the golf pros about their wish lists and added more features, such as a clock on the screen. The Salish Cliffs staff also requested and received the capability to internally edit hole locations that may have been moved because of damage to a green.
Kass appreciates how responsive E-Z-GO and TKV have since been to the needs of Salish Cliffs, noting that personnel from both companies have visited the golf course several times in the past year to make sure everything is running smoothly. “It’s been a great partnership,” he says. “They have asked us about the functionality of the units and what we want on the screen. They’ve asked for our opinions and bounced ideas off of us.”
As a result, Kass says, the property has had few issues with the system other than normal wear and tear, even though golfers are driving the golf cars seven or eight miles over hills during their rounds. Because the TKV system runs off its own internal battery, Koch notes, it prolongs the life of the electric golf cars.
The information on the display screens and ability to send messages and communicate with golfers has also increased food-and-beverage sales at Salish Cliffs, Kass reports. “People are ordering more substantial foods,” he says. “Instead of hot dogs and chips, they’re ordering burgers and fries.”
Koch also credits the system with improving customer relations. “We have an outside service staff that greets guests at the turn and when they finish,” he explains. “The system helps us anticipate when we need to be out and present for those guests.”
Kass has one more item on his wish list that has yet to be granted, however. “I wish we could figure out a way to pipe in the [National Football League] or [Major League Baseball],” he laughs, “but I think that might be a licensing issue.”
As users like Salish Cliffs continue to gain experience with how GPS-equipped golf cars can provide benefits not only for their golfing customers but also their own operations, the scope of available features only promises to expand. At the 2017 PGA Show, reports Mark Price, Chief Executive Officer of TKV GPS, his company will launch a new fleet management product, to provide geofencing controls without a screen. These kinds of advancements, Price notes, reflect how his company constantly seeks to launch new features and then makes them available to user properties through automatic upgrades.
“One of the advantages of our product is that it is the latest and greatest technology,” he explains. “Every 90 days we release new features and updates. To do that, we need feedback from the field—and input and requirements from [users like] Salish Cliffs are showing up on our product roadmap.”
For example, TKV GPS redesigned its website specifically based on input from Salish Cliffs, and the company also developed a speed-enforcement feature based on test results and feedback from Salish Cliffs’ experience with the system.
The system also can help to drive additional revenue by selling tournament sponsorship holes or by selling advertising spots to local companies, Price notes. “Each customer will have a slightly different view of how to use it and how to get the most out of the system,” he says.
TKV currently has its GPS technology at more than 60 golf courses worldwide, Price says. To date, the vast majority of customers are high-end, public resort golf courses such as Salish Cliffs. But he says there is also growing interest among private clubs. “Members have played [their clubs’] golf courses many, many times, so private courses don’t really need flyovers of the golf holes,” he notes. “But the GPS system can still help the staff keep members on cart paths in bad weather, and communicate to them about pace of play.”
TKV expects its new partnership with E-Z-GO to help it continue to broaden its customer base. That partnership, formed in 2015, “is key for us to have access to the market,” Price says. “The first level of support and service for the product comes from E-Z-GO. They give us guidance on product development and features that they’re looking for.”
The partnership is also important for E-Z-GO, says Michael Parkhurst, Vice President, Golf. “GPS and fleet management systems have become increasingly more important to our customers and their ability to protect their courses while offering an enhanced experience for members and guests,” he says. “Our desire was to align with a partner whose technology and system fulfilled current customer needs.
“The TKV GPS management system has been specifically developed to provide effective, real-time vehicle management, multi-media communications and state-of-the-art conveniences,” Parkhurst adds. “Unlike other systems, TKV has a unique ‘open platform’ configuration that can evolve and grow, based on the course’s need for future integrated, value-added applications. And it can be viewed on any current technology—including PC, laptop, tablet and smartphone— providing a fully mobile management system that can be monitored and controlled from any location.”