July 2023 | The Technology Troops are Marching

   As seen in Golf Business July/August 2023   

jk.jpgBy Jay Karen, NGCOA CEO

One of the unique aspects of my job is that people reach out to me. A lot of people. All the time. Every day. Many of them want to pick my brain about their ideas, concepts, products, technology, you name it. They are usually seeking a way to successfully enter – and make it in – the golf business, and they want my two cents. Because I get to interface with so many golf course owners and operators, and intimately understand their businesses and needs, I am seen as a bit of a shortcut to this knowledge. “Will my idea resonate with golf course owners and operators?” is usually what they want me to answer. And the question oftentimes leads to many more questions and perhaps hours of discussions.

It would be easy for someone in my position to see these solicitations for knowledge as distractions. After all, I have a pretty complex business to run. And I admit, I don’t engage with every one of these outreaches. I simply can’t, because they do take a lot of time. But here’s the reason I try to be responsive: It’s important for your industry’s association to encourage problem solving and innovation that leads to economic growth for golf  and specifically for you, the reader. And where is innovation and problem solving going to come from? The answer is: the private sector of entrepreneurs who bring forth ideas, money and a little luck. And nearly all of these entrepreneurs are in the technology business.

And in these discussions I look for and encourage some things, and I warn against others. While there’s nothing wrong with someone creating another mousetrap that competes with the mousetraps already in our space (competition is good), I get excited about those who have found unique ways to solve problems or stimulate more demand and spending by customers. Primarily, I’m looking for and will encourage those who are adding to the golf economy, not just looking to get a piece of it (even though there’s nothing wrong with trying to simply get a piece of the $102B golf economy). I will keep talking with those who are building a product or service that is not just meeting demand for golf where it stands in the road, but generating and harnessing interest that oftentimes remains latent.

Some companies, in my humble opinion, are looking for too much share of loyalty from the customer to make their business work. Or they may have found clever ways to get more out of each transaction from the golfers without really adding commensurate value back to the course owner. I believe the center of gravity of customer engagement needs to be between the course and the customer, and you (the reader) need to be able to sniff out who is trying to get part of the transaction without making the transaction bigger or more new transactions to happen. Any technology or party that gets in between supply and demand usually has to try to serve both masters: the course and the golfer. And it’s possible for an entrepreneur to be successful in that space, but I’m looking for the success to be shared generously with the course owners and operators in that little party.

Nearly every public course in America could use an assist from great technology partners: I ardently champion this. And I’m sensing a rise in tech companies entering the golf space, which I love to see. The exuberance for golf feels a bit like the late 90s, when every home builder wanted to add a golf course to their development. A high-demand environment is fertile ground for entrepreneurs. NGCOA is a place where many tech companies go for knowledge and an assist. I believe it’s an important role we play. As you evaluate the growing number of technology solutions entering the marketplace, be sure you really understand which will bring you business you would not have captured on your own, which platforms are built to increase the size of transactions and your profit margins, and which are trying to bring customers closer to you, not just closer to them because of you. They are out there. I’ve been talking to them. And I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing.

Want to see for yourself? Be sure to attend the upcoming Golf Business TechCon in Las Vegas, October 10 and 11. Seating will be limited, and NGCOA members get priority registration up until July 24. Members: look for the registration link in your emails. All others? Join NGCOA today and start benefiting from association with all those course owners and operators working to improve their businesses. Visit golfbusinesstechcon.com to learn more. We will be adding speakers and content weekly.


See you in Vegas!




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