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Slow Play Technology Feature: GREENi
Posted by: Nick Bonfield on Fri 17 Feb 2012
Over the past month or so, our weekly slow play features have focused upon the human aspect. Suggestions and efforts to speed up pace of play have centred around social and cultural factors. This week, in the first part of a sub sectional mini- series, we investigate the prospective role of new technologies to see if they can help promote the desired outcome: quicker play.
In recent months, and indeed years, many products have come to market professing their inherent capability to speed up play. Many of these products are interesting and inventive, but none more so than a creation by Finnish company Viherio. Their GREENi application enables golf courses to remotely track, via global positioning satellite, exactly how long every group is taking, and exactly what is happening on the golf course. I spoke to managing director, Timo Pärkkä, who is currently promoting his product in England.
What exactly is GREENi and how does it work?
The only prerequisite for a golf club is to have a map of the course or courses, digitalised where possible. The next step is for members of the Viherio team to come to the golf club to implement the system and transfer all the relevant information to an online portal. This portal can be access by laptop or computer from the golf club, or wirelessly, through ipads and smart phones.
The golf club only need decide how many GPS transmitters they need, which are subsequently given to all, or a selection of groups that are about to embark on their round. From this point, the person or persons in control can sit back and monitor what is happening on the golf course, through a variety of differed mediums.
Once you log into the home portal, the first thing that you will see is a complete map of the course, showing how many groups are playing, how many are on each hole, how long they have taken for the round and how long they have taken on the hole they are currently playing. Timings for each hole are even split up into categories, being tee box, fairway and green.
Each individual club decides on an acceptable time for each hole to be played, with GREENi showing which groups are behind schedule. The great thing is that collated data from GREENi informs this adaptable figure, in turn used as the barometer against which pace of play is measured: “estimates on how long it takes to complete a round are based on real, numerical data,” said Mr Pärkkä.
From the home screen, you can navigate to other parts of the portal that provide specific information and statistics on different holes, groups and players.
What are the benefits of GREENi?
According to Mr Pärkkä., GREENi can “measure, monitor and manage.” The advantages come for both the player and the golf club. The application, despite being so comprehensive, is very easy to use and operate. So much so, in fact, that just one person can take control. In both general play and competitions, there will no longer be a need for multiple marshals to patrol the course, at a significant cost to the golf club. As we have seen from previous discussion, it is simply untenable to use manpower as an effective way to combat slow play.
What’s more, GREENi creates tangible evidence. Excuses like ‘we were being held up by the group in front’ can be dispelled by a simple glace at a screen.
GREENi can also pinpoint areas of a golf course that need to be modified to ensure a more fluid flow of golfers. One of the main suggestions on combating slow play is to make changes to a golf course to prevent hold ups in certain areas. GREENi produces accurate data on timings that should not only be brought to the attention of golfers, but used to adapt a certain hole or stretch of holes that see regular congestion. The knock-on benefit to the golfing public needs to further discussion.
Over time, a sizeable body of quantifiable data will be built up, which can be used to identify consistent perpetrators, for example. Some golf clubs that use GREENi have purchased wireless handheld devices and the website add-on, bringing course information into the public domain. Before heading out, you can identify exactly how long a round of golf will take, eliminating some of those vagaries in conversation, such as: ‘I’m not sure when I’ll be home, somewhere between four and six hours.”
Several golf courses in Finland have also decided to project information onto a large screen placed in the professional shop or clubhouse. Not only is course information readily available, but slow golfers will being to realise that they will no longer be able to make excuses. It signals an increasing prioritisation to tackle slow play; an attempt to take a stand. Rectifying slow play is mostly down to increased awareness translating to concerted efforts to improve.
Implementation and feedback?
In the last two years, GREENi has spread from Finland to other parts of Scandinavia and Ireland. A third of all golf clubs in Finland use GREENi, and recent trials in South Africa were a great success.
According to Anna Kemppainen, Director of Golf Services at Vierumaki Golf Club, Finland: “We can see tangible monetary savings to our golf course and happier golfers. We’re able to offer more enjoyable golf for our players because we’re able to quickly tackle any hiccups that sometimes occur on the course.”
In addition, Emmet Staunton, Head Professional at Castleknock Golf Club, Ireland cites GREENi as “an incredibly interactive tool for monitoring pace of play. Giving the devices out has given us added interaction with our customers and increased their awareness of pace of play, which has already reduced our average round time.”
It isn’t difficult to see why GREENi has attracted plaudits. It is an invaluable tool, and one that fits in with a game that is increasingly centred around technology. The initial costs are fairly sizeable, but you can’t put a price on the many immeasurable benefits that it provides, such as golfer satisfaction and customer retention. Widespread implementation can only be a good thing for the game as a whole.
More Slow play features:
- Read the part 1 introduction and analysis of the Pro Tours
- Read part 2 focused on Amateur Golf
- Club perspective - Westport Golf Club
- Kwik Golf
- Slow play, golf rules and rules legislation
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