It is one of the most daunting challenges the golf industry faces: how to attract younger players, the generation that has never known life without the internet, telephones that dangle from cords or nights out without an Uber to get home.
Add to that the difficulty of many golfers in finding time for a round of golf, even if just nine holes, and it's enough to cause course operators to tear out their remaining white hairs.
On both counts, maybe the "Uber of golf" can help.
The eGULL Pay App, introduced at the recent PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, allows golfers at participating courses to play and pay by the hole, whether three holes early in the morning, four or five holes at dusk or whenever a bit of golf can be squeezed in. The eGULL Pay App uses GPS technology to track exactly the number of holes played and bills the golfer's credit card accordingly.
"Boom, right to your credit card," said Mo Moore, the eGULL rep for Midwest states including Wisconsin. "You never even have to go into the pro shop. We're not kidding when we say Uber golf. It's Uber."
Moore said his company recently completed deals with the Southern California PGA and the Chicago District Golf Association. Most of the courses currently on board are in California and Florida, but Moore said courses in Michigan and Illinois have recently committed to using the eGull app concept when they open this season and he is hopeful that golfers in other areas, such as Wisconsin, will urge their courses to explore the concept via the eGull Website and give them the option of paying as they go.
The company's pitch is simple, even if it goes directly in the face of golf's traditional 18-holes in four-plus hours structure. As eGULL CEO Pascal Stolz has noted, "Golf is the only sport that one can't play for one hour."
So why not give golfers the flexibility to fit golf into their schedule, if only for an hour, while also helping course operators get additional revenue from off-peak hours. Tech-savvy millennials might be intrigued by the idea of an app that lets them try golf, Moore said, but the pay for play model might also be attractive for seniors who don't play 18 all the time, for beginners and junior golfers.
The app is free to both golfers and course operators. Each course sets hours open for play and sets the price per hole.
If a regular 18-hole green fee was $90, the course might divide that by 18 and charge $5 per hole played, Moore said. As with Uber, golfers make a request to play at a participating course, are issued an authorization code and instructed where to start, whether the first hole, 10th or somewhere else. The technology tracks how many holes are played and even has "anti-cheat" features built in. If a golfer tried to turn off the app, turn it to airplane mode if if their battery dies they will be charged the full 18-hole rate.
Of course, the golf population — on the course and in the clubhouse — is generally older and tradition-bound. Are course operators tech-savvy enough to see the merit of pay-for-play technology? Moore laughed, acknowledging some might be put off at first.
"But they do all say in unison, we need the kids, and the new revenue system," he said. "In the end it is indeed a new revenue stream, revenue generator, for the public access golf course. There is a need, this is a solution and it's free. I'm the first to admit it's not for everyone, but it is for most."
For more information, visit www.egull.golf.