By resuming its relationship with a trusted company, The Patterson Club streamlined communications —and made making reservations easier— through a new application that fits any device.
Of all the traits an effective leader needs, perhaps none is more important than the ability to listen—and then to act on what you hear. And when John A. Brisson took the reins in 2014 as the new General Manager and Chief Operating Officer of The Patterson Club in Fairfield, Conn., he heard his staff telling him loud and clear that they wanted to go back to using ForeTees, which offers online reservation services for private clubs. The property had used ForeTees’ online tee sheets from 2007 to 2013, but had then switched to another service prior to Brisson’s arrival.
Head Golf Professional Chris Kenney—“speaking on behalf of the membership,” he says—led the “Bring Back ForeTees” movement. “Members said they found ForeTees to be intuitive and easy to navigate,” Kenney says. They also liked the “buddy list” feature, which keeps track of frequent golf partners, and how the system handled registering for tournaments.
The culture of The Patterson Club, which traces its own history to when it was organized as a dining and social club in 1929 by employees of the General Electric Co., values long-standing relationships. And when Brisson met with Tom McManus, ForeTees’ Director of Sales, to explore working together again, he quickly learned that ForeTees was developing the capability to become even more of an asset to the club.
“Tom said they were creating an app,” Brisson recalls. “My eyes just lit up, because that was something I was interested in, thinking about [how much I use] my banking app.”
Brisson’s interest wasn’t surprising to McManus. “Mobile usage is skyrocketing,” he notes. “More searches are done on mobile devices now than on laptops or PCs.”
The new ForeTees app, ClubCentral, was designed to help properties market events and centralize communications with members. “It’s a real app,” says ForeTees President Bob Parise. “Members download it from the app store. It’s not a mobile website that looks like an app. When they download and install it, they have to register for it, to make sure they are private-club members.” Members then log into their property’s website to get the credentials that allow them to use the app for their particular club.
Back at the Forefront
The Patterson Club has had ForeTees back in place since the spring of 2015, and now ranks as one of the first properties to use all of ForeTees’ member-facing products. In addition to ClubCentral, The Patterson Club’s ForeTees Premier website also provides capabilities to make online reservations for tee times, tennis and paddle courts, and dining and social events.
“The switch back has been even better than what we had before,” notes Kenney. “We have the web page, we have the app, and everything is integrated. Most of our reservations—whether it’s golf, tennis or dining—are made through the app.”
Momentum has been regained, Brisson adds, to the point where “This membership has been conditioned to make their reservations through online scenarios.” So far, he says more than 50 percent of The Patterson Club’s members have been using the app. “I’d like to see 100 percent of the members use it,” he adds—even if that means downloading the app himself for some members, which Brisson has been known to do.
Once members have the app, Brisson says, it is easy for them to use. And that’s just what ForeTees had in mind. “If it’s not easy to use,” McManus says, “members don’t use it.”
In addition, ForeTees’ Responsive Web Design software adapts to any device that a visitor to the site is using, so it produces separate versions of ClubCentral for mobile phones, tablets and computer screens. A responsive website, which is mobile and search-engine friendly, re-sizes its content and imagery for a variety of screen sizes, to ensure that the website is effective on any device.
“In the past, members would have to go to a desktop and log in on the website,” explains Brisson. “Now, on whatever device you have, you hit golf tee times, the times come up, and you just type in your name. It has certainly streamlined the experience to get people on the course in efficient fashion.”
Adds McManus: “It can be used anytime, anywhere.” And that’s especially important for club members who like having the ability to make reservations and get updates about upcoming events, even when they’re riding a train home from New York City or are otherwise on the go.
Renewed Comfort Level
Use of the system, Kenney reports, has picked up right where it left off. “When we left ForeTees, 84 percent of the tee times were made through ForeTees by the members,” he says. “Now, it is at least that high, if not higher. With the app, it’s just a click away on the phone.”
ForeTees has also been responsive, Kenney says, to suggestions for how the system can be modified to reflect operational preferences—for example, by listing upcoming tournaments by the sponsoring association, rather than chronologically. The system also allows clubs to track information such as who’s on the golf course, if they’re playing nine or 18 holes, if they’re members or guests, and if they’re using a cart or a caddie.
“They can run reports and see exactly which parts of the app the members are using, and know why they are using it,” says Parise. “They have full access to everything their members are doing, so they can continue to fine-tune it.”
Brisson also appreciates the simplicity of the reporting system. “It’s color-coded and makes it easy to look at the screen and see who’s doing what,” he explains. “ForeTees has been able to give us rock-solid information that we can bank on.”
The ClubCentral app can be customized to give clubs complete control over the content, ranging from text and images to upcoming events and special offers. A property can include up to 15 events at a time on its homepage. “Clubs need to make sure members have access to all information about [their activities], 24 hours a day,” McManus says.
The app allows properties to communicate through Push Notifications that alert members to important news and upcoming events. “We designed the app first and foremost to be a marketing tool for the club,” Parise says. Information also can be targeted to specific groups, so Kenney can send a message, for example, to golfers about frost delays. In addition, properties can set their own parameters, such as for how far in advance they want people to be able to sign up for events.
When The Patterson Club uses the app to send members reminders about events, it includes contact information, including phone numbers and photos, for staff members.
Earlier this fall, ForeTees rolled out an update that added several new enhancements, and Parise says the company is working on a new version of the app that will add even more features. As new benefits become available, The Patterson Club will now be eager to embrace them.
“The transition [back to ForeTees] was as seamless as a transition can be,” Brisson says. And he has had no qualms about advancing the relationship to now be one of the first to use all of ForeTees’ products. “We were the right customer at the right time, because of our eagerness,” he says.