By David Hutton, Contributing Editor
When storm clouds bear down on a golf course or resort, time is of the essence to ensure that guests and staff are safe.
Horns and strobes strategically located across a course used to be the only warning device for lightning and other issues. Today, courses can gain precious time by arming themselves with a full arsenal of the latest technology, from computers to GPS systems to smart phones.
Technology can greatly increase warning time, according to William Wagner, General Manager of Shadow Wood Country Club, a member-owned facility in Bonita Springs, Fla.
Shadow Wood now has a weather-planning system in place that features GPS technology on all golf carts. Rather than warn members that a lightning strike has occurred, the system helps to forecast the probability of an impending strike.
“It doesn’t respond after the fact,” Wagner says. “That’s one of the advantages of the technology that is available. It tells you the likelihood of lightning occurring.”
As a result, the staff at Shadow Wood can be proactive rather than reactive when threatening weather approaches.
“When the system [issues an alert], a message goes to all of the carts and warns golfers to get off the course,” Wagner explains. “They have time to get to the cart barn.”
Such weather warnings apply across the board, and not just to golfers out on the course. Similar messages are dispatched to computers inside the club, which warn staff responsible for other facilities, including the pool and tennis courts.
“When you evacuate the course, you also evacuate the pool, tennis courts and other outdoor activities,” Wagner explains. “It also applies to all of our employees, too.”
In Florida, diligent attention to hurricane planning is also an annual necessity. At Shadow Wood, the golf course maintenance department takes the lead in that effort.
“They are in charge of shutters and getting any items and equipment off the course,” Wagner notes. “They also oversee any evacuation plan.”
But when it comes to hurricane planning, no department is left out. “It is something we are used to in Florida,” Wagner says. “Everyone has a job to do, and we go about it. Everybody knows just what to do.”
Aside from hurricanes, Shadow Wood is fortunate to be free of many of the other weather issues that can plague courses across the country. Some facilities have to brace for potential flooding, extreme heat or even a tornado.
Another technology that has enhanced weather planning for these dangers is the proliferation of smart phones. Everyone on the Shadow Wood staff now has one, Wagner says, as do many members.
The GPS systems installed on golf carts can also be a lifesaving tool in case of a medical emergency, when precious minutes can mean the difference between life and death.
“The units enable first responders to know just where the person is on the course, and they can get directly to them,”
From the business aspect of club management, Wagner says some courses and resorts might balk at employing all aspects of available technology for weather planning and other emergency purposes. “I’ve heard of places that are hesitant to have this kind of technology because of the cost,” he notes. “It is a little different when you are talking about member-owned clubs. Regardless of the cost, we have to do the right thing.”
While the comprehensive weather-planning system that Shadow Wood now has in place is less than a year old, Wagner says the system will be reviewed every year, and upgrades and adjustments will be made as needed. “I think the technology exists, so we should all use it,” he says.
Everyone’s A Star
By Joe Barks, Editor
You can learn a lot about someone when you point a camera at them—especially when it’s a video camera that captures their every movement and sound. You can also learn a lot about people from how they react to filmed messages. And in the case of The Briar Club in Houston, everything that’s been learned about the club’s staff, and members, after it launched its own YouTube video channel last September has yielded nothing but positive lessons.
Noting that the ever-evolving world of technology keeps presenting clubs with an unlimited supply of new, cost-effective resources for engaging and building relationships with members, The Briar Club set out to fully embrace one of those resources: the ability to post videos through a free YouTube account. And as part of that, it was also determined to maximize the fun that could come from the embrace.
Using a handheld video camera, the club began to prepare a series of short filmed messages that capture memorable happenings or promote future events. The videos are posted to a free YouTube account—http://www.youtube.co /user/Briar- ClubComm—and links are also shared in weekly e-blasts and posted on the club’s website.
Casey Newman, the club’s Director of Communications & Marketing, says the “process” of making the videos boils down to three simple steps:
Step One: Get your camera ready for action!
Step Two: Pick your promotion, and involve club staff!
Step Three: Create a free YouTube account, upload and share with members.
Newman also adds a “helpful hint” for a fourth important key to success: Have fun with it! And certainly, that’s been the case for many of the “stars” who have emerged from the videos that have been made to date. “The club staff has embraced their creative side in skits to promote upcoming events or other exciting happenings around the club,” Newman reports.
As a result, Briar Club members have “enjoyed a laugh or two” from the filmed messages, Newman adds. Even better, the videos have helped to make staff more familiar to members, by putting “a name to the face” and further strengthening relationships around the club.
Best of all, the messages in the videos are clearly getting through and having the desired effect. The club’s first video, of its chef introducing Hatch Chiles as a promotion for upcoming seasonal specials he would be featuring, is credited with generating enough viewership to cause the club’s adult dining room, The Lounge, to be sold out for two solid weeks.