Digital Caddies has not figured out how to track golfers’ errant shots into the desert to help them find their lost golf balls. That is not a viable technology yet.
But the Phoenix-based company does have a cart-mounted, tablet-based GPS product that gives golfers distances to the green and a bird’s-eye view of the course.
Digital Caddies calls its next-generation system the Players Network. It uses a global positioning system and is Wi-Fi connected to bring the latest mobile technology to the fairways.
“Really, the promise the tablet holds is the ability to connect the golfer to the contemporary world while they’re on the golf course for 41⁄2 hours,” said Mike Loustalot, Digital Caddies president.
Digital Caddies launched its Players Network system in June at the Raven, Longbow and Lone Tree golf clubs, plus three resort courses at the Wigwam and two at the Arizona Biltmore.
In August, National Golf Management Co. signed an agreementto install the Players Network at its 22 courses in and around Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The system, using an Android tablet with a heavy-duty case and Sprint’s high-speed wireless network, opens up a lot of options. Golfers can order food and beverages, and the course operator can track cart locations to help improve the pace of play.
Digital Caddies’ system also gives golfers some weather information: temperature and humidity. It is against USGA rules for golfers to use a wind sock or other device to get the wind speed or elevation.
The Players Network uses a 7-inch screen mounted vertically on the underside of the cart roof; a newer, 10-inch screen will be installed horizontally.
Akey component of the Digital Caddies system is its potential as an advertising platform. National brands will be able to reach a desirable demographic of golfers while they are playing a round of golf, Loustalot
“There are billions of ad dollars flowing every year into this mobile, digital, out-of-home advertising
bucket,” he said.
The advertising pays for the system, Loustalot said. Digital Caddies is temporarily offering to install the Players Network at qualifying golf courses for free, with its revenue coming from advertisers.
Previously, courses paid about $50 per golf cart per month, or $48,000 annually, to lease a GPS app for an 80-cart fleet.
Phil Green, OB Sports chief operating officer, said his Phoenix-based golf course-management company hopes to install the Players Network system at its 50 courses in 15 states. That includes the local Raven, Longbow
and Lone Tree courses.
“It’s a no-brainer,” he said, noting that the systems can be a no-cost profit center for the courses.
Early systems subpar Cart-mounted GPS products have been in use for more than 15 years. Plus, smartphone apps are commonly used on golf courses to give players a bird’seye view of the course and shot distances.
The older or legacy systems on golf carts were often expensive, unreliable and hard to maintain. That led to a lot of financial trouble and consolidation for companies in this niche golf technology.
“It’s a hard business,” said David Saslow, GPS Industries executive vice president. “If it was easy, we’d be rich.”
GPS Industries LLC of Sarasota, Fla., picked up the remnants of some of the companies that previously installed GPS. That included ParView,UpLink Corp. and ProLink, which was based in Chandler, Saslow said.
Investors in GPS Industries include the Leisure Corp. of Dubai and Great White Shark Enterprises,
headed by golfer Greg Norman. GPS Industries has a tablet GPS program called Visage.
It operates on a 10-inch touchscreen and is used at about 700 courses nationwide, Saslow said. That includes the Country Club at DC Ranch in Scottsdale and the Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix. There are about 15,000 public and private golf courses nationwide.
Saslow said the latest technology is cheaper and more reliable, but many golf-course operators are leery of GPS programs because of past failures.
“There were so many companies that came and went and made all sorts or promises that they couldn’t meet,” he said.
Tom McCahan, director of golf at the Boulders Resort, said his northeast Valley club did not invest in the earlier GPS products because they were too expensive and had too many gadgets, which had the potential of slowing down play.
The Boulders has tried the new Digital Caddies system but has not installed it on its carts. The Players Network system has accurate readings of yardage, good connectivity and the Google Maps present a realistic
overview of the course,McCahan said.
“It’s almost like a larger version of your cellphone app,” he added.