The Loop

Golf courses take note: Use GPS to curb slow play

August 28, 2013

A news release for a product that "aims to curb slow pace of play," according to its headline, gets one's attention in these times when slow play is the scourge that it is.

The company is Tagmarshal, a South African concern, and the product is a small GPS device that accompanies each foursome and communicates with the clubhouse or pro shop, enabling a course to identify bottlenecks on the course or groups not keeping pace.

"It's a very simple concept," Steven Preston, managing director for Tagmarshal, said. "Essentially each four-ball that goes out is tagged with a matchbox-size GPS tracker. It sends a signal every 20 to 30 seconds back to the clubhouse where the main system sits. It ends up with the location of all the four-balls on the course. It provides a very accurate overview of where everybody is on the course.

"The core of the system that receives all these signals...takes all the data from the players and essentially learns the course layout and what a good speed for the course is and uses that as a bench mark. Then it tracks each four-ball, and if someone is behind where it should be the system generates a notification."

If, say, a foursome is on the 12th hole, Preston said, and is three minutes behind schedule, a marshal can be dispatched to the hole to request that they speed up.

"A golf course is such big space that it's very difficult to manage players on the course, to identify who is causing an issue," Preston said. "So why not use technology to solve that problem?"

The product already was introduced in South Africa in March and already is in use at a few courses there. It will become available in the U.S. on Oct. 1.