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BRS Golf brings clarity to Fairwood Park

Still the only parkland golf course in South-West Wales to be selected as the venue for the Welsh PGA Championships, Fairwood Park is something of an innovator, being the first in South-West Wales to get a website, put a Facebook page up, and run an online tee time booking system. In fact, this is the second time Fairwood Park has installed and run an online booking system....Initially installed some four years ago, the club’s first online booking installation was under developed and didn't work properly. The visitor bookings didn’t materialise and the net result was to put Fairwood Park’s managers right off the idea of an online booking system, and carry on instead with paper-based tee sheets for it's weekend tee times.

Getting the right tool to exploit the online opportunity

While the scepticism hadn’t reduced much by the beginning of 2011, club manager Erol Golbas knew that online tee time booking was growing and the time was right to find another system. This time he did it with BRS Golf’s online system, and the club has never looked back. What made the difference between the first installation and the second one? In Erol Golbas’s opinion it was primarily the massive shift in consumer behaviour to doing things online: “I could see that compared to four years ago when we first tried online booking, golfing consumers’ habits were changing. The degree to which people were going online to find tee times and book their golf was growing rapidly year-on-year. Like airline tickets and hotel rooms, people were now expecting to find their choice of tee times online.” “But second time around we needed to get it right, and convince the committee and the membership that it wasn't going to be like the last time. The BRS Golf system soon changed everyone’s ideas about online booking.”

Getting the members on board

The decision to go with BRS Golf had been announced in the New Year, but as Erol admitted, “That meant we had to put up with a lot of flak during January and February, but it all helped to take the steam out things! We had also done a membership survey that showed 9 out of 10 respondents – and it was a pretty large number that responded - were in favour of the system. So we knew it would be a good move, but we had to take all the ‘againsts’ on board as well as the ‘fors’!” Installed at the beginning of March, all the members that registered were able to book their tee times. Erol quickly found that by comparison to the old paper-based 4-ball only tee sheets that were operated at the weekends via the Pro Shop, the BRS system was delivering absolute clarity 7 days a week for the members, for the Pro Shop staff and for the club’s management.

Building up the visitor numbers

By early April Erol was starting to see a reliable stream of visitor bookings coming in online, and through the summer of 2011 enough green fee bookings and payments came in to more than justify the original investment in the BRSsystem. Erol was delighted that the club had got this decision right: “After all the problems the old system had raised and all the doubts it had created, it was just great to see things going so right with the BRS system. We’ve been able to replace the old and error-prone tee sheets that we only used at the weekends, with a 24/7 system the members clearly liked using. ”The BRS system also made things much easier both for the Pro Shop where all bookings were being made, and for the members because there was an absolute certainty of their playing with no waiting for the tee to clear or queuing for their turn to play. For Erol, the BRS system was a revelation: “On top of all that, as the club manager I had finally achieved for the first time real clarity 7 days a week as to what was happening on the course. The tee sheet is king in terms of getting to play, and it’s fair to every one of our members who wants to play. It’s great to be able to manage the course this way.”

Preserving the club’s traditions

Erol also found that the club’s older members were more switched on than many people had expected. “One of the early surprises for a lot of people at the club was to realise how many of the older – by which I mean members aged 60+ - had online access. The few that didn’t soon found all they had to do was to come to the club whenever they wanted to, and make a booking on the club’s system in the Pro Shop.” “Alternatively, for those who like simply to roll up, in the way they have done traditionally for many years on certain days, can still do so. We block out times on a Monday morning, their usual day, from 7 to 9am and they can just turn up, find a partner and play. But at 9.08 the priority goes back to the booking system.”

A hit with all the members

For Erol, getting the members on board with the new booking system has been one of the biggest wins: “The members love the system. It’s very convenient for them, as they can book from the comfort of their home or their office.” However, Erol has also found the BRS tool useful in some unanticipated ways: “BRS is also rather convenient for me in ways I hadn’t at first appreciated. Like the bar card system, we can track the number of times someone has played and occasionally I’ve found this very handy. The playing records are all there in black and white. One chap reckoned the subscription wasn’t worth it, until I showed him he’d played no less than 52 times in the past year!”

30% of visitor bookings are now online

Erol’s decision to get back into the online booking market has proven spot on: “More and more visitors are booking online now. The reports tell me that about 30% of the casual green fees are now online. That’s not increasing the amount we’re doing, but going online has meant we’ve maintained a vital income stream. We couldn’t have afforded to watch it drop by 30% simply because the club wasn’t prepared to adapt to the changing market situation.” “I like the fact that with the way the BRS system works, we take their card details – not the payments, those are made at the Pro Shop when they come to play – and that really cuts down the ‘no shows’. There are always exceptions especially when it is raining, and we simply offer them another round if they really don’t want to play. That’s fair to everyone, and gives us all a greater degree of security. And the system is selling 24/7. It’s always nice to come in to the office in the morning, log on, check your e-mails and see that there are some booking confirmations via the BRS Golf system.”

All departments singing from the same BRS hymn sheet

One of the best aspects and benefits of the BRS system is that all of Erol’s key departments can now all see the diary and bookings, as he explains: “The main beneficiary is the Head Greenkeeper; he checks the system for certain days when he’s planning to do some work like top dressing the greens. He simply blocks off a number of tee times, and then he knows he and his team will be clear to do what they need to do without interrupting the members golf, or being interrupted by it.” “The Pro Shop is the club’s first port of call, and there’s a PC there for all the visitor bookings and members’ competition registrations. Their job is much more straightforward with BRS Golf. Then there’s the clubhouse manager who can record and check and compare all the notes about catering requirements, and get them spot on, on the right day for the right people. He can also see how many people there are likely to be at any time, so the staffing can be adjusted accordingly and if there’s a last booking at eg. 1pm, he knows he doesn’t need someone manning the bar until 7pm.” “For me, I like the fact I can even see the system on my smartphone, and that my Assistant Manager and all the other key people can also see the same page in real time. It enables much better communication and understanding between my team and myself to the benefit of the club, the members and especially our guests and visitors.”

Fantastic reporting

“In terms of reports, the BRS system is fantastic. The one I use most at the moment is the playing statistics report, as the system allows me to flag up those members who aren't playing a lot of golf. I can then check up with them to see if they’re OK and that they’re happy with everything, so BRS is a good tool from the perspective of customer relations.” “Then the revenue and advance booking reports are really useful. One that is making a lot of difference is the Tour operators report; it tells me in a click exactly how much we need to invoice according to the number that came and so on, and that really helps to keep things under control, as there are always one or two who would otherwise be late payers.”

Once a sceptic, now a convert to online booking

“All in all, I can highly recommend the BRS system to any of my peer managers. We needed convincing after our first experience with another system, but with the way things have changed for online booking and the robustness, and with the all round capability and versatility of the BRS system, all our members have come on board with online booking.” “We’re seeing a growing number of visitor bookings which is great, and as the club’s manager, I have got real clarity at last about the way we’re running the club and our main asset, the course. Getting BRS Golf has made all the difference for Fairwood Park.”