For six weeks Weston (Massachusetts) Golf Club Superintendent Matt DeAvila watched as two men worked out of a room on the second floor of his maintenance facility, spending their time around a computer screen.
He knew one of the men, Dave Vanslette, a Walpole member. DeAvila had no idea what they were up to.
Vanslette and his partner, James Nunn, are founders of FAIRWAYiQ, a system designed to connect what they thought were all aspects of golf operations, from the pro shop to the cart barn to the caddy yard, in real time.
It was while working in DeAvila’s space that Vanslette and Nunn came to realize there was an application for FAIRWAYiQ that had not crossed their mind – golf maintenance.
FAIRWAYiQ works like this: It’s a closed system with an antenna router and Smart-Tags used to track everything that moves on a golf course in real time without the use of GPS. Put the antenna a few stories up and coverage is in miles.
The product is in the testing stage but could be on the market this fall.
Potentially, every golf cart, every walking player, every cart person and every maintenance vehicle would be equipped with a tag, described on the company’s website as a “multichannel encrypted communication device with e-ink display.”
In real time, golf professionals, starters and superintendents can not only monitor activity, but also predict activity.
Imagine a busy Saturday afternoon in the middle of a heat wave and greens need syringing. FAIRWAYiQ, which can be accessed via computer, tablet or smartphone, will show where the gaps are in play so hose handlers know where to deploy. It will also show how long it will be before the next group of golfers gets to the hole. Workers would receive text messages via the screen on the Smart-Tags keeping them up to date on developments.
DeAvila freely admits he is not a proponent of technology when it comes to golf. He says range finders and GPS units take away from the essence of the game. However, he is a fan of FAIRWAYiQ after seeing it in action.
“It’s a hell of an app,” he says. “The real time is phenomenal.”
FAIRWAYiQ allows facilities to chart pace of play for a group but not in the standard sense of how long they are into a given round. The system keeps tabs in real time and also measures how long golfers spend waiting. So, for instance, the pro shop will be able to see that a group on the eighth hole is 10 minutes behind, and that they have been waiting for six minutes over the span of play – meaning the problem is elsewhere.
The technology already dispelled the notion that woman play slower than men. “It’s not true,” Vanslette says.
The capabilities approach the realm of unbelievable. The software can compare the pace of play throughout a year on a course and on individual holes, and it can compare the pace of play on a 400-yard hole at Weston to every 400-yard hole on other facilities with the system.
This might be a version of Big Brother watching, but the observations might be helpful.
Monitoring pace of play could have beneficial impact on course maintenance when it comes to tree issues. When a facility finds that it takes five minutes longer to play its 400-yarder than holes of exact or similar lengths, the technology will allow superintendents to show that the other holes, where play is quicker, are not tree-lined hallways.
If the club chooses to remove the trees, FAIRWAYiQ could show how the speed of play was altered, comparing the time it takes to play the hole in the current year to pace of play for every year for which data was accumulated. If the speed increases, perhaps more trees will be removed.
Fewer trees are almost always going to mean quicker rounds, and that’s good. It’s invariably going to mean healthier grass, which is great. If the arguments for tree removal, including hardier turf and architectural integrity, fall on deaf ears, but the topic of pace of play leads to removal, than so be it, the goal is achieved.
Maybe FAIRWAYiQ will make golfers and operators just a little smarter when it comes to course maintenance.