BEHIND THE SCENES
Golfer Experience is Target of USGA-Led Pace and Innovation Forum January 12, 2016 | FAR HILLS, N.J. By David Chmiel, USGA

Matt Pringle will share news about a special flagstick tool that will help golf facilities track players' progress on the greens. (USGA/John O'Boyle)

After the USGA hosted partners from across the industry in the second Pace of Play Symposium in 2014, it became clear that all in attendance shared a sense of urgency about more than simply getting players around the golf course in four hours. They all agreed it was time to find – and support – new initiatives aimed at improving the golfer experience.

Innovation is not always the first word that one thinks of when thinking of golf,” said Rand Jerris, senior managing director of public services for the USGA. “But if you think about it in a more objective way, golf has been in a constant state of evolution since the 15th century. Innovation is one of the game’s traditions. There is another tradition of the game, a certain generosity of spirit, where people say ‘I want to share.’ People are interested in contributing value to the golf community. They want to tell their stories, share their data and present their innovations for others to learn from and collectively lift the industry.”

With that, the 2016 USGA Pace and Innovation Symposium was born. The event, to be held Jan. 19-20, at Brookside Golf Club in Pasadena, Calif., will bring together experts and leaders from throughout the industry to share tools, insights, ideas and solutions to help golf facilities enhance their operations.

The symposium, expected to include 150 attendees, will focus on research, technology and case studies in areas such as course design, resource management and pace of play. These innovations are expected to help facilities become more efficient while also providing an enjoyable, sustainable experience for their customers.

“While the USGA has a lot of expertise in the game, we are by no means the only experts in golf, Jerris said. “You hear the word symposium and you may think it’s some type of an academic exercise with a lot of industry insiders who are sitting around and ruminating over big abstract concepts, but it very intentionally is the opposite. We want to provide a place for the industry to meet and turn ideas into action. That is why it is important for us to take the symposium on the road to see what is going on across the country.”

The first day will focus on “Tools and Solutions” and be broken into two sessions covering everything from the USGA’s sustainability model, resource management tool and flagstick tool to a presentation by The R&A on pace of play around the world and a report from Christophe Muniesa of the French Golf Federation on urban development.

“The federation has partnered with the French government in this amazing initiative to make the game more fun, more accessible, more affordable and welcoming,” said Jerris. “This is global, looking around the world for the best practices and figuring out what we can learn and integrate into the facilities that our Members play at every day.”

Hunki Yun, director of strategic projects for the USGA, is excited about the flagstick tool, which will collect data on the time golfers spend on the greens. “We will put it in a lot people’s hands and get feedback on what works, what doesn’t and to collect useful data. The industry has anecdotal evidence about what happens on the course, but when you are trying to make business decisions, that isn’t good enough. We are looking forward to the findings from this tool.”

The second day of the symposium will feature the American Society of Golf Course Architects, whose is already working closely with the USGA on a new program targeting public and municipal facilities. Topics will include the impact of design on pace of play and how turf removal can mitigate the cost of maintaining underutilized parts of the golf course. Additionally, officials from Arlington Lakes Golf Club in Arlington Heights, Ill., will share results from a project where they created three- and six-hole loops as accessible alternatives for newcomers or golfers pressed for time. 

Jim Moore, director of Green Section education for the USGA, said he is looking forward to sharing the resource management tool with attendees – as well as hearing from architects, superintendents and others in attendance.

“We want to help golf courses recognize the value in resource management in order to help them put money into work on their courses where golf is played,” he said. “We can help them be regionally specific and golf-course specific and see that they don’t have just one golf course, they have 365 living, breathing courses that change every day.”

Jerris stressed the importance of turning the findings from the symposium into actionable next steps for the golf community.

“The National Golf Foundation’s research shows a tremendous amount of churn in golf, with people coming in and leaving in a short period of time,” said Jerris. “We are relying on our attendees to share the innovations that can make golf ‘sticky.’ We want golfers to say, ‘That was really fun’ and come back repeatedly to enjoy the game.”

David Chmiel is manager of Members content for the USGA. Please contact him at dchmiel@usga.org.

 

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