Data-driven design

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  • Data

    Harry Cloke explains why data analytics is the future of golf course management and design

  • Data

    In the case of this par four, difficulty indexing revealed that the case of playing from right to left was devaluing the hole’s intended strategy

By Harry Cloke

This article first appeared in the January 2019 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.

The field of data analytics has grown extensively over the past two decades, using new technologies to streamline services and analyse customer satisfaction; it is key to modern business success and undoubtedly the future of golf course management.

At Shorehill, we have developed a system which allows golf clubs to track every single shot played on their golf course in relation to handicap, age, gender, weather conditions, pace of play, tee usage and pin locations. Measuring this information allows for the detailed understanding of how golfers of all standards interact with each and every feature on a golf course, from which precisely considered recommendations can be made.

It is an infinitely complex equation to efficiently design, maintain and manage vast areas of land to fairly challenge and enthral players of all abilities. This data provides an opportunity to make fact-based decisions to most efficiently improve the golfer experience while reducing maintenance costs.

Our data collection process is simple; we provide facilities with smartwatches which can be worn by any member or guest and can automatically recognise when a shot has been hit. The location of each shot is wirelessly fed into our system where golfers may view their own statistics whilst club management gains access to a platform allowing analysis of player data on a larger scale. Statistical evidence is used to create questionnaires and tests to examine golfer opinions and perceptions surrounding points of interest in more depth before a full review of findings is presented to the client.

We provide data-based solutions to best enable any intention of club management or architects; whether that be increasing playability, course strategy or difficulty, environmental impact or pace of play.

The most immediate and measurable advantage to this information is its impact in eliminating maintenance wastage. By evaluating the usage of every square inch of a golf course, areas of unnecessary expenditure can be highlighted and costs reduced. Savings can be made through reductions in water, chemical and fertiliser usage, green/fairway/tee sizes and bunker volume and size. These reductions also allow for an improvement in environmental land management without significant further investment.

By tracking the shot patterns of beginners and juniors we can understand how to cater for them to maximise enjoyment and keep them playing for years to come. As an extension of this concept, the interests of specific groups such as women and seniors can also be better understood, and their needs most efficiently addressed. These target markets present a significant earning potential for any club; data allows simple changes to be made to promote diversity and grow these sections.

The architectural implications for this technology are significant. We can test how effectively an architect’s strategic vision is upheld and explore how the integrity of the design can be best experienced by all, in all conditions, for the minimal cost. When reviewing how every golfer interacts with each feature of a course, questions are raised over intended strategy and architecture. Architects and club managers must determine what the intended purpose of each feature should be. A ‘purpose’ may include more than strategy (such as visual, structural or historic reasons), but these questions must be asked to allow the golf course to be presented exactly how it is supposed to be, as the answers to those questions are measurable through data analysis.

This data may also be used to analyse historic courses, and to better understand how modern equipment has changed the way players engage with traditional architecture. Architects and managers frequently lament the overpowering of historic golf courses by the modern player; lengthening these courses becomes the only way to protect against low scoring because of a lack of real data on the capabilities of those players. Better information on player shot patterns enables a better understanding of what can be done to prevent strategic golf courses being overpowered. The fine balancing act between risk, reward, punishment and opportunity is best negotiated with accurate and detailed information.

Our data analytics system will become available across the UK and Ireland in May, with an international launch later in the year. Product testing will commence at The Rosapenna Resort and Knole Park GC; interested parties are invited to view our analytics platform at these facilities from March. We are excited to provide invaluable information to architects, consultants, managers and club committees in order to ensure the aims for any course are met with complete efficiency.

Harry Cloke is the founder of Shorehill Golf Course Analytics. More information can be found at www.shorehillgolf.com or upon request via harry@shorehillgolf.com

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