It's all made possible by ProLink, which makes a golf course management system installed in golf carts by E-Z-GO, the market leader. GPS radio systems in the carts tell the clubhouse where the carts are, and their condition. The radios can be used to speed-up slow players, and identify batteries that need charging.
Screens and six buttons on the carts act as a user interface. The local pro can give tips on each hole and the players can keep score.
There is also space on each screen for advertising, and the buttons can make the ads interactive. Larry Grossman, president of Media Encounters Inc. in Northbrook Ill. is representing the system to national advertisers.
"We've got an installed base of 280 golf courses. Your average course does 2,500-3,500 rounds per month. Multiply the low end by 280, you're talking about an audience of 700,000 golfers a month. That's half the size of Golf Magazine, and we're continuing to grow, adding anywhere from 15-20 courses per month," he said.
The best prospects are among the best courses. "Our target course is either a resort or a premium public course. It's a course you don't play every week. These are special occasion courses with high green fees" where players often need guidance on traps, distances, trees, and pin placements. "It's an electronic caddy."
The system can cost $300,000 per course, but E-Z-GO builds it into the cost of cart leases. Courses may charge $5 per player for using the system, but it's easily built into the $150 green fee of a premium course.
Course managers also "own" advertising on three holes per round, and can sell ads to local car dealers, sporting goods stores, and restaurants. At a few hundred dollars per hole per month, that works out to a CP/M of about $100, said Grossman. National campaigns cost $30-35 per month, "half what the golf magazines charge," he said.
The first national advertiser is Famous Grouse Scotch. Stephen Master, vice president for marketing at TSE Sports & Entertainment, an agency for Remy Amerique, which owns Famous Grouse, made the buy.
Master's campaign is a contest, "Shoot For Birdie," with trips to play at St. Andrew's offered to both distributors and players. Course managers will take players' e-mail addresses, send them their scorecards. The e-mails contain a banner with an entry-point to the contest. The ad will play for one hole per round.
Grossman is also helping make certain each clubhouse in the campaign stocks Famous Grouse. "They're #1 in Scotland," said Master, but trail in the U.S. Bar tabs and e-mail addresses will help measure the campaign, but a lot of it is brand building, Master said. "You know you're reaching golfers, you're reaching drinkers."
With a business model that doesn't depend on advertising, and with interactive tools to measure campaigns, it seems very likely that ads will soon be coming to an upscale golf course near you.