County to Offer Smart Golf Carts

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

July 15, 2020

Local greens will soon feature Club Car Smart golf carts.

County Parks is turning its rental golf carts into smart cars, and changing the sport of chasing a white ball around into a more modern, high tech experience designed to appeal to younger golfers.

County Supervisors were expected to approve a staff recommendation to contract for “Club Car Connect Visage Software,” and golf cart technology modules for some $53,000 over 48 months (4 years).

The County has three municipal golf courses — Morro Bay, Dairy Creek and Chalk Mountain — with an emphasis on Dairy Creek, which is being transformed into a more robust resort with 10 rental cabins, a miniature golf course, a go-cart track, and more, turning the park and golf course into a facility for entertaining the whole family. This includes making Dairy Creek a 9-hole course.

According to a staff report, the new carts will “allow customers to use the system to view 3-D hole flyovers, find distances to pins and points of interest on the golf course, determine the length of their tee shots, order food and beverage while on the course, and use electronic scoreboards for tournaments and events.”

On the other hand, golf course staff “will be able to use the modules to track pace of play, provide and receive messages to and from players on course, see real time position of vehicles on the course, and monitor the ‘health’ of the fleet, with on board diagnostics such as battery life, service notifications, and odometer readings.”

The golf carts will also play a part with Dairy Creek’s new rental cabins, as one will be included with a rental and the managers will be able to track their whereabouts.

“The system will allow staff to disable each golf car overnight to eliminate possible mischievous activity,” the report said, “as well as provide the ability to track the cars, thus helping to reduce liability throughout the park.”

Supervisors recently approved a lease for a fleet of golf carts at Dairy Creek as, “68% of Dairy Creek’s golfers ride a golf cart while playing the course,” according to the report. “Golf carts, therefore, are an important element to the overall customer experience. Golf cart rentals account for 21% of course revenue.”

The County is trying to attract younger golfers. “This technology package will provide Dairy Creek with a unique marketing position to attract younger golfers to the course, along with the Toptracer Range project which is under construction.”

Larry Iaquinto, the assistant director of County Parks and Recreation previously said, “Toptracer” technology is a virtual driving range. Toptracer uses computers to “track” the flight of golf balls. Iaquinto said it’s really fun as players hit out of a building with 10 “bays” and can play against each other, in essence playing golf without leaving the building.

A new restaurant is also planned.

As County golf courses are so-called “enterprise funds,” run more like businesses, the expense of the new software will be offset by revenues; in this case providing a bit of profit.

The contract will cost some $13,300 a year and the County plans to raise the cost of a cart rental by $1, from $9 to $10. County Parks projects revenues of $16,800 a year.

The County expects cart rentals to increase “by at least 3% in the first year due to this enhanced technology, which is not found anywhere else in our region.”

With the coronavirus pandemic response shutting down the golf courses, County Parks wasn’t very optimistic, but the drop-off hasn’t been as bad as anticipated.

According to County Parks Director, Nick Franco’s report, “County Golf anticipated decreased rounds and revenues as we prepared for effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty regarding the reopening of Dairy Creek Golf Course. Golf projected total revenue for May and June 2020 to be $250,000 during the pandemic.

“Dairy Creek was able to re-open on May 18 and the total actual revenue was over $220,000 for May alone,” Franco added. “Golf is experiencing a 24% increase in rounds of golf played, which is resulting in a 15% increase in revenue.”

He’s now anticipating golf to make a comeback and possibly be able to forego a bridge loan from the County’s general fund. “As the County re-opens to tourism, golf anticipates normal to slightly higher than normal numbers for rounds played,” Franco said, “with slightly increased revenues as other recreational options become available for our local residents and we see an increase in average $/round played from tourists.

“If this trend continues, golf does not anticipate needing the full General Fund loan to maintain payroll expenses as previously requested and approved by the Board. It is possible that the loan may not be needed at all.”

If readers want more information on the smart carts, see:

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