Weather…Or Not?

By | June 6th, 2017

Weather-prediction confidence may get high enough at The Legends that golfers will be encouraged to ignore pessimistic forecasts with the promise of free golf balls and other incentives if conditions cause them to have to quit playing.

To prevent lost rounds due to questionable forecasts, Ted Bishop, owner/operator of The Legends Golf Club, now produces an in-depth, more accurate weather blog of his own that is posted on the club’s website.

Global warming issues aside, there’s not much that golf course operators can do about the weather. There is, however, something they can do about the impact of a less-than-promising weather forecast, according to Ted Bishop, owner/operator of The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Ind.

THE GOAL: Increase play at The Legends GC on days when there is a threat of inclement weather, by communicating to would-be golfers more accurately about actual conditions at the course.

THE PLAN: Educate potential players on what published forecasts actually mean and produce a site-specific “weather bulletin” for display on the course website and Facebook page, and through e-mail blasts, if more accurate weather data indicates that weather may be more favorable than forecasted.

THE PAYOFF: As potential players become more educated about what “probability of precipitation” really means, and are reminded via the course’s weather bulletins that they may miss a chance to play in favorable weather, they will be less likely to write off golf based on long-range forecasts that are of questionable reliability.

Few things empty a golf course parking lot faster than a thunderstorm or the onset of a steady downpour. But a weather forecast predicting that such a thing might happen can often be even worse, producing a parking lot that never had any occupants to begin with. After experiencing that on numerous occasions, Bishop, a former President of the PGA of America, decided to try to do something about it. He now produces a regular weather blog of his own that is posted on the club’s website and Facebook page and is also e-mailed to the course’s database of players when appropriate.

By delving deeper into weather forecast indicators and giving a more accurate and hopeful message to potential customers than they may have gleaned elsewhere, Bishop hopes to see a significant uptick in play on threatening weather days. He was moved to try to find a better solution as he looked out over his own largely vacant lot at The Legends on an unexpectedly mild day in early March of this year, after the previous days’ forecasts had called for a “60 percent chance of rain”—none of which arrived.

Exasperated, Bishop then placed a call to an Emmy Award-winning TV meteorologist, Angela Buchman, in nearby Indianapolis, to see if he could find out what those forecasts were based on—and why they had once again sent, as so often happens, business-killing messages to potential golfers.

The call proved fortuitous on several levels. It turned out that Buchman’s husband was an avid golfer who also had frequently made his golf plans based on a misguided reliance on future weather forecasts. Buchman told Bishop that she had helped her husband by clarifying what information snippets like “a 60 percent chance of precipitation” actually mean, and why reliance on long-range forecasts can be misleading.

With the help of insights from local television meteorologist Angela Buchman, Ted Bishop has started to provide golfers who want to come to his course with more timely, accurate and site-specific information on actual and expected weather conditions.

If, for instance, a forecaster thinks there is a 50 percent chance of measurable precipitation over 80 percent of a given area, Buchman explained to Bishop that the likelihood of precipitation is actually 40 percent (.5 x .8). For those reasons, Buchman confided, she doesn’t use percentages when predicting precipitation in her forecasts, relying instead on more accurate scientific models such as GFS (global forecast system) and HRRR (high-resolution rapid refresh). “She also told me how irrelevant a seven-day forecast is, and how even anything over two days is a crap-shoot,” Bishop relates.

Fortified with this expert insight, Bishop decided to start to produce his own weather blog, using some of the tools Buchman suggested, to put a more positive spin on the likely golfing weather at The Legends. He now consults with his head pro and superintendent to get additional input on course conditions or renovation work, and then, on occasions when it appears the published forecasts may be overly pessimistic, produces his “weather bulletin” message for online display and as possible e-mail blasts.

Ted Bishop, owner/operator, The Legends Golf Club

Bishop took particular delight when one of his earliest bulletins pooh-poohed the forecasts of inclement weather—and sure enough, the weekend turned out to be dry and perfectly playable for March.

Additional incentives to encourage players to ignore the forecasts and put their faith in Bishop’s more optimistic predictions are also being planned. “I’m going to talk to my suppliers and see if we can get some promo balls,” he says. “Golfers would get a free sleeve of balls if they come out and it rains and they have to quit.

“For public golf courses in particular, the weather is the most confounding thing we deal with,” Bishop adds. “But this is one way we can do something about it.”

 

 

INSTANT IDEA

To help relieve the winter doldrums, The Country Club of Virginia, Richmond, Va., holds an annual Indoor Putting Championship with a “putt-putt” course that is set up through the main clubhouse. For the 2016 competition, the club’s golf professionals were each challenged to “design” a hole, and members voted for their favorite. The pros’ competitive spirit took the course layout to an exciting new level, and as soon as it was over, members already started asking about the next year’s event.

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