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Arklow’s online booking system makes sure everyone gets a game

A busy golf club presents challenges of its own, chiefly making sure that everyone can get to play. The problem with paper-based booking systems is that they work to the advantage of the regular members who can easily book and make sure they get all the golf they want, with the result that other members coming less often and looking for the occasional casual round find they can’t get on the course at all. That’s when complaints start coming in to the office thick and fast…

So what does the club manager do to keep all the members – and for that matter, the visitors - happy?

Arklow: overcoming the problems caused by the paper-based approach to tee time booking

This was precisely the situation that one of Ireland’s loveliest links courses, Arklow GC, found itself in back in 2007. Club Manager Des Roche takes up the story: “With the old manual tee sheet, names were being carried forward and the result was that other members were finding it very difficult to get a casual game. While it’s good for a club to have its regular members, they were dominating the available tee times, and our other members were finding that they were unable to get what they felt they were paying for – ie. casual golf. The first tee could often see as many as 20 people just waiting to get on the course and play!”

So Arklow decided that it was high time to invest in an online tee booking system. Having asked around about their potential choices, the club chose the well proven offering from BRS Golf. The introduction of this innovation at Arklow was in fact quite straightforward, as the members generally agreed that with Arklow’s membership growing at a healthy rate, something had to be done to make the booking situation more equitable for everyone.

Conversely, not taking action was likely to result in the club losing its newer members, or simply becoming an unattractive proposition to those who were thinking about joining. Des Roche: “The bottom line is that Arklow’s membership are very happy with the system, as it’s easy to book your tee time whether you’re at the club, at home or in the office.”

Making your Open competitions much easier to manage

Arklow is the sort of links golf experience that is highly attractive to golfers in the area, and one of the major benefits of their BRS system has been to help increase and maintain the popularity of the Open competitions that the club runs.

A common custom to clubs in this region, these Open competitions are run every week on Tuesdays and Fridays and bring a significant amount of income into the club: a typical Open competition will see between 80 and 100 people entering and paying fees worth a total of around 900 euros, with entry fees of 6 euros for members and 25 euros for visitors.

With the new booking system, golfers from other clubs can now book their tee time by logging on to the club’s website and booking and paying online. This in turn generates an e-mail confirming the tee time and amount paid, and lessens the workload for Arklow’s administration team. This is much easier than trying to call the club, and players can be 100% certain of their booking. It also involves a minimum of time for the office team spent setting managing the competition and tee times.

‘Incredible…very user-friendly…’

Des Roche has been highly impressed with the BRS system, and the way it helps him as a manager to do his job of managing the club, especially in spreading out the opportunities for all members to get their games of golf. “It’s incredibly effective, and it’s helped transform the situation here at Arklow in terms of the tee times.”

“One of the best features is the system’s user-friendliness. Because it’s so easy for anyone to learn how to use, even those who come across it for the first time can book a tee time quite easily. This capability made sure that online booking became a big hit with the members, and it’s also encouraged our visitors to enter our weekly Open competitions and to keep on doing so.”

Lots of useful reports

As the Club Manager, management information is invaluable: “The reports you can get from the BRS system are amazingly comprehensive. I find the reports that tell me about tee time usage, telling me who is playing, what time and so on means I can see that the level of casual golf is very healthy, and that our original goal of making sure everyone could get a casual game is being achieved.”

“The tracking of the footfall, and how many rounds are being played by who is another very useful report, as is the tee time usage as this lets us work out when the prime times are, and how best to charge differential green fees so that for example, we can encourage visitors to book times that are more available more of the time, like the afternoons.”

Competition Purse feature

Arklow will soon have the Competition Purse feature enabled in its BRS system, as Des sees this to be another major benefit for the members: “We will soon allow all our members to use the Competition Purse facility, and encourage them to top up their accounts accordingly. This will soon help maintain the club’s healthy cash flow, besides making it simpler for our members to enter online and ‘pay’ when they get to the club. It also means we become increasingly a cashless golf club, which means less time spent by the office handling and accounting for all the cash.”

“We also operate a Merchant account, and while our members have the option of paying online, all our visitors have to pay this way when booking casual golf or Open competitions via our website. Again, this helps with the management of the club, as we only need to check the reports for the visitor bookings and the green fees are accounted for automatically.”

Text Messaging feature

Another unique BRS feature is the text messaging facility, and Des rates this one very highly: “I’m very impressed with this service, because it makes it so easy to communicate with your members, or simply those who have entered a particular competition, and so on. You just put in your message, click on the group you want it to go to, and that’s it!”

“I’ll use it to communicate with society organisers as well, as an online way of sending an after-sales service letter, asking them how their day went, and to rate the service they got from the club. With two societies every week, it’s really important to retain their business, and to keep trying to maintain and improve the service standards we can deliver to them.”

Last word

If your club is one that gets very busy at certain times, and is finding that it needs to try harder to make sure all your members have a fair chance of getting the games of golf they want, Arklow is a good example to follow. Their BRS online booking system has achieved all their original goals, and completely changed a difficult situation around, helping the club achieve fair shares for all its members when it comes to casual golf.