As part of celebrating its 90th anniversary with a newly renovated golf course, Midland Country Club also rolled out a new golf car fleet and GPS system that can help to deliver a permanent “wow” factor.
Midland (Texas) Country Club is celebrating its past with its 90th anniversary this year—but at the same time, the property is embracing its future, by introducing a number of state-of-the-art amenities. The new bells and whistles include a $9 million renovation of its practice facility and 18-hole golf course—and to help members get around the property with maximum enjoyment of the experience, Midland CC also rolled out a new fleet of 65 Yamaha Drive2 golf cars last October, each equipped with the new YamaTrack GPS system.
Adding the YamaTrack system (which was introduced in January 2016, with Midland CC becoming the first property in the U.S. to use it) was part of the Midland staff’s desire to find as many ways as possible to give the club’s golfers an experience that could not be found anywhere else in West Texas. “We wanted to deliver the ‘wow’ factor on a daily basis, from day one to day 1,000,” says General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Donald E. Beaver, Jr., CCM, CCE.
Stepping Up Their Game
Providing that impression started with the two-phase renovation of Midland’s golf course and practice facilities. The project’s first phase, which totaled $2.5 million and got underway in May 2015, included the construction of a new practice facility that features a driving range, chipping area, and putting green.
The club also added two new features to its practice area –—a three-bay, state-of-the-art Learning Center, and a nine-hole, par-3 short course, named “The Judy,” in honor of LPGA Hall of Famer and honorary Midland CC member Judy Rankin. “We think it’s the first golf course named after a female golfer,” Beaver says.
“The Judy,” a walk-only layout where three greens replicate the putting surfaces from a trio of Rankin’s all-time favorite golf holes, offers experienced golfers a place to sharpen their short-game skills. The nine-hole course also provides a comfortable venue to introduce the game to junior golfers and the largest-growing segment of the golf population—women.
Once the practice facility re-opened in October 2015, Midland CC closed its 18-hole golf course to begin a $6.5 million, year-long restoration of its original 1951 design. (The property had nine holes when it opened in 1927.) “We completed the practice area renovation first, to soften the blow of the course closure,” Beaver says.
The golf course renovation included the installation of bentgrass greens built to United States Golf Association specifications; hybrid Bermudagrass on the tees, fairways, and greens surrounds; new cart paths; new water features; new bunkers; additional trees; the restoration of natural areas; and an improved irrigation system.
“We didn’t change the layout, but every other aspect of the golf course was redone,” Beaver says. “We needed to step up our game, if we wanted to continue having the recognition of being a top-flight golf course.”
Finding Their Way
When Midland’s course reopened a week ahead of schedule on October 22, 2016, including the new YamaTrack system in the new Drive2 golf cars was actually more than just another extra perk for golfers; it was a practical addition to help everyone navigate the renovated property as well.
“The golfers had not played the golf course in 12 months,” explains Beaver. “The length of the holes was similar, but it was a lot different.”
For example, the greens had been elevated and constructed differently, and bunkers had been moved. The new layout also forced golfers to play different golf shots from the ones they played on the previous course.
With the new YamaTrack system, however, golfers did not feel like they were playing a foreign course, because they could see the layout on the screen and use its features to help them with club selection.
“By redoing the golf course, we thought the membership might need some help with the yardage,” notes Head Golf Professional Greg Beran.
YamaTrack offers accurate yardage from the tee boxes to the greens, bunkers, and water features. Other features that benefit golfers include fly-by overviews of the holes, tips from golf pros, the ability to send messages such as weather warnings to golfers, and the location of restricted areas.
“If a car goes into a restricted area, it can beep, slow down, or stop altogether,” says Michael Ellis, District Manager for Yamaha Golf-Car Company. “The carts can also be slowed down to navigate tricky terrain, such as a quick turn or a steep downhill.”
The YamaTrack system also includes a free app to help golfers navigate the layout and manage their game anywhere on the course. The app, which is available for download on smartphones and has the same information about the course as the golf car screen, is particularly useful for those who walk the course, notes Beran, which is the case with about 30%of Midland’s golfers.
The web-based YamaTrack system, which is controlled from the pro shop, is just as beneficial to the Midland staff. In addition to offering GPS and security, the system allows a property to manage its entire operation and set up geofencing, to safeguard eco-sensitive zones and other areas.
“When you invest $6.5 million in redoing a golf course, you want to do everything you possibly can to protect it,” Beaver notes.
Along with controlling drivers’ speed, the system tracks car locations and the number of cars on the course. YamaTrack also automatically monitors amp hours and car battery conditions, to improve fleet rotation and battery life.
The Midland staff also wanted to ensure that no one could take a car any closer than about 30 yards to the green, so YamaTrack will shut down any that get any nearer. (Exceptions can be made, Beaver notes, for cars being used by people with medical conditions, or for other reasons or needs.)
The club also put geofencing around its cart barn, to slow the cars to 3 mph in that area. “Most of the damage that happens to golf cars is usually caused by employees in the cart barn,” Ellis says.
A lockdown feature bolsters overnight security, and golf cars can be tracked across state lines. “Midland set up a reverse geofence outside of the club,” Ellis notes. “Once you leave the club, the car will not operate.”
The system can also run reports to keep track of individual-car data, such as the number of rounds for which it’s been used, the routes it’s taken, and battery capacity and voltage. “You can track [a car’s] history from day one,” says Ellis.
Midland CC had Yamaha golf cars before the golf course was renovated, and Beaver says the company was easy to work with during the transition from the old to the new course.
“Yamaha stepped up immediately and worked with us very closely, because we still had a year on our old lease when we closed the golf course,” he explains. Yamaha took back the golf cars during construction and excused Midland from its lease while the course was closed. All the company asked for in return, notes Beaver, was for Midland CC to consider Yamaha when it looked for a new fleet.
Yamaha delivered the YamaTrack-equipped golf cars to Midland about three weeks before the grand opening of the new golf course. Two Yamaha representatives and one person from iGolf, which set up the GPS database, came to the site to train the administrative and pro shop staff for several days on the care of the golf cars and use of the GPS system.
“We talked to our superintendent and golf committee to find out where they wanted us to keep people out, and [the Yamaha/iGolf personnel] showed us how to set the geofencing parameters,” says Beran. The original boundaries were set up about a week before the renovated golf course opened, and have been tweaked since then to become even more precise.
Midland’s members went through a learning curve as well, but Beaver says they have been thrilled with the system as they’ve gained familiarity with it. And while the club’s staff was initially concerned that the “new toy” might slow down golfers, Beaver reports that in many ways, the information generated by YamaTrack, both on the course for golfers and behind the scenes for staff, has helped to speed up play.
Midland also got a new range picker, utility cart, and hauler from Yamaha as part of its new fleet. That equipment helps the staff pick up golf balls, transport balls to the range, and move furniture for special events without damaging any turf.
“My employees are extremely pleased that they have equipment that is dedicated for [those uses],” says Beaver. “The range is an especially busy place.”
And while the golf course was closed, Beaver adds, Yamaha even provided Midland with “people movers” that allowed the staff to take prospective members onto the construction site, so they could see the changes that were being made to the golf course.
Don Beaver has been in club and resort management for 40 years, but when he came to Midland in 2014, it was the first property in his career that had Yamaha golf cars. While it was then an unknown brand to him, he quickly learned from Beran and others on the Midland staff who had experience with the company that they had not only been very happy with the golf cars themselves, but also with the people behind the scenes at Yamaha who provided needed support.
That gave Beaver confidence about not only continuing the relationship, but also in adding the YamaTrack technology, “to help us maintain the conditions the membership wants in the golf course.”
Now that the new fleet is in service, Ellis reports, Yamaha is being diligent in maintaining day-to-day contact with Beran and his staff, and in being proactive by having a factory service technician go to the club every six weeks, in addition to monitoring the fleet remotely. “The [YamaTrack] system will tell him about issues with the cars,” Ellis notes.
Just a few months since the new fleet and system were rolled out, both parties already expect this latest stage of their relationship to last for many years, as the club and its members enjoy their golf course’s long new life.
“We’re proud to have partnered with Midland Country Club,” says Ellis. “They’re known as the jewel of West Texas, and we’re proud to have their business.”
Adds Don Beaver: “Yamaha is a company that has long been known for offering a variety of quality products, and it’s now clearly an up-and-coming player in the golf car market. We’ve been exceptionally pleased with the quality of their cars. ”