The golf industry leads the way when it comes to innovation and the latest tech. But has that trickled down to golf clubs, and are we missing a trick?

“I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you don’t need anything from Amazon today” – internet, circa. 2020.

Never has a meme resonated quite so deeply as I ashamedly make my millionth Amazon purchase of the year.

But it did make me think: why haven’t golf clubs adopted this oh-so-easy-to-purchase type of automation?

The golf industry leads the way when it comes to innovation in equipment, with manufacturers spending millions on the latest tech to help us hit it further, putt better and shoot lower.

It may not be quite as simple as the big brands want us to believe, but investing in the newest gear can help you make real strides in your game. Think custom fitting, better aerodynamics, lighter shafts and bigger heads, distance measuring devices with pinpoint accuracy and remote-control trolleys. Even clothes, shoes and gloves are made with smart materials to improve ventilation and keep you comfy on the course.

But as impressive as that all is, that rate of innovation doesn’t seem to have trickled down to golf clubs.

So, are we missing a trick? If golf clubs were willing to think in a more agile and more tech-focused way, would we attract more people to the game?

The Amazon analogy

I’m unapologetically addicted to Amazon because it’s so easy; in literally a couple of clicks, I’ve ordered what I need, safe in the knowledge it will be on my doorstep the next day – or by 10pm if I’m feeling particularly impatient.

I don’t need to add my card details or enter my address, Amazon has remembered. It’s also remembered what I like and don’t like, giving me handy little suggestions to make my online shopping experience even more seamless.

What if we could apply that same level of automation and personalisation to booking and playing golf?

Here’s what I mean …

  1. I want to book a tee time so I pick up my phone, open an app and log in (using my face or thumb, of course).
  2. The app sees where I’ve played and what courses I’ve liked recently, serving me up suggestions of similar courses nearby to try next.
  3. I find one I like the look of, check availability and book. My card details are already saved in the app, so booking is quick and easy.
  4. At the same time, I’ve pre-booked my buggy and ordered a bacon roll to be ready when I get there.
  5. I arrive and check in for my tee time on my phone, collect my buggy and grab my bacon sarny. And because the app has a digital scorecard and pin positions for the course, I don’t need to worry about picking up a card. Life’s good.

More millennials please

We know that participation in golf has boomed since the pandemic, with more millennials and younger people taking to the fairways than ever.

Could a bit more of a focus on tech and innovation help turn those younger golfers into long-term members? To bring the average age of golf club members down and protect the future of the game?

We might not know what the answer is yet, but what we do know is that clubs need to get smarter to cope with its post-lockdown popularity; to become more agile and adapt to change quickly. To maximise revenue without compromising on service like we may have seen in the past (cue shorter tee time intervals and skeleton staff).

Dynamic pricing, flexible memberships and clever marketing are just the start.

Online systems and apps need to become smarter, and they need to be quick, accessible and easy to use. Clubs need to focus on using data to create personalised digital solutions that improve the customer experience and help them keep up with the inevitable contact-less demands of the future.

There are, of course, lots of positive examples of golf clubs effectively adopting technology, and COVID-19 has a been huge catalyst. The pandemic forced clubs to adapt. Now more club websites than ever feature some sort of chatbot assistant and online booking platform, and lots of clubs offer their own apps with digital scorecards and built-in GPS systems.

On the other end of the spectrum though, some golf clubs don’t even use a tee sheet. That may sound like the dream for some golfers – rock up when you like and take your chance on getting a tee time whenever you’re ready – but it means that clubs are missing out on a huge amount of data about their business and their customers.

Start leveraging data

Data is invaluable. By better understanding the business and people buying from it, data empowers organisations to make informed decisions. Ultimately, it lets businesses understand what’s working, what isn’t and how to fix it.

And the use of data and analytics is no longer limited to big organisations with even bigger budgets.

Every time someone books a tee time online, every time they log in to the app, every time they order a drink through that QR code – that’s all data that can be used to:

  • Improve customer retention
  • Find new customers
  • Improve customer service
  • Make marketing more efficient
  • Predict and react to sales trends more efficiently

What do you think?

Do golf clubs need to get smarter or are they doing just fine without quite so much tech? I’d love to know what you think! Share your thoughts and ideas with me by emailing [email protected]