Aerial images, video and 3D mapping are revolutionizing the way Texas golf courses are conducting maintenance and marketing.for an industry with declining membership and climbing overhead costs.
And that’s great news for an industry with a decade of declining membership and climbing overhead costs under its belt.
“There are two ways you make more money – you either cut costs or boost profits,” says Wayne Franks, owner of Professional Drone Services of Texas. “With drone technology, golf courses are quickly realizing they’re able to do both.”
It’s a trend playing out across the country, says Mike Davis, CEO of the U.S. Golf Association:
“Golf course owners are working smarter to manage resources like water and labor more efficiently,” said Davis in an interview with Forbes. “We are innovating at a rapid pace, and using technology and data as never before to make smart decisions.”
Better Maintenance for Less
“Aerial photos, video, data and mapping are certainly helping golf courses boost profits via maintenance, in that they’re helping to retain and build new membership,” explains Franks. “In today’s increasingly competitive market for new members, with 25 to 30 percent of club costs eaten up by maintenance, it helps management more easily maintain their course to high standards – for less.”
For instance, color-coded elevation (topography) maps show low-lying areas, which are more prone to flooding and fungal disease and the highest areas, which are most prone to drought and burning). “By only watering and treating the areas that are most likely to need it, you’re saving significantly over time when it comes to irrigation and chemicals.”
The drones used by Professional Drone Services of Texas can also generate maps with color-coded NDVI data. The red areas indicate plants under the most stress (then orange, then yellow, then green, respectively). “By doing this on a regular basis, you’re not only preventing plants from reducing watering to only the most stressed areas.
With enterprise software like Turf Solutions, meanwhile, improvement plans can be set up, shared with maintenance teams and management and tracked and reported over time.
Proven cost savings over time via such reports, can be presented as part of financial projections to a bank for a business loan (for equipment, real estate, renovations or other capital projects to attract new members).
“Banks typically shy away from loaning to golf courses because they’re considered high-risk,” notes Franks.
The other half of using drones for golf course maintenance, of course, is boosting profit.
With aerial imaging and data from drones, golf courses can retain membership & attract new members (thus, more membership fees) by maintaining the course to a high standard.
And that’s significant, considering that according to the U.S. National Golf Foundation, the number of players has almost steadily declined from over 30 million in 2005 (pre-recession), to 24.7 million today. 680 courses have closed. This means greater competition for members among those left.
Getting More out of Marketing
The other side of the coin is using drones for marketing.Promotional videos/online marketing can capture immense beauty of the course.
Promotional videos taken by drones can capture the immense beauty of a golf course, clubhouse and surrounding countryside.
Hole-by-hole elevation maps, meanwhile, can give prospective members feeling of familiarity with the course.
And 3D models of each hole give prospective members familiarity with the course and help current members improve their game.
“And of course, you’re also saving money by hiring a drone for hundreds of dollars a project versus thousands for a helicopter – not including the camera, the production team or editing,” says Franks. “Drones are so affordable and can turn around the information and images for golf courses so much more accurately and quickly, they’re going to be the rule, not the exception.”