Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

Golf and the Information Age
By Art McCafferty

San Jose,CA June 22-People from over 100 countries attended the 9th Annual Internet Society Conference in San Jose, California, the heart of Silicon Valley Speakers included Dr. Irving Wiadawsky-Berger, General Manager, Internet Division, IBM, Vint Cerf, Vice President of MCIWorldCom and the "Father of the Internet", Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay, Eric Benhamou, Chairman & CEO of the Board/CEO, 3Com and Debra Chrapaty, President and COO of E*Trade Technologies, E*Trade. . One of the better attended tracks during the conference was on E-Commerce and E-Business This emerging field, literally invented by Americans, has caught the imagination of the world.

At GLSP, we can't say that we are surprised. On March 10, 1995 the Michigan Golfer became the first golf publication in the world to be on the Internet. And by the way, this year from July of 1998 through August of 1999, the Michigan Golfer will have had over one million hits and 100,000 user sessions will have been recorded.

We had a feeling that we were on to something, but like so many businesses, we did not realize the extraordinary changes that were yet too come. As Meg Whitman, from eBay said, "It is the biggest change in the world since the Industrial Revolution." (You might want to visit www.ebay.com and take a look at the golf auctions, pretty interesting stuff)

Fortunately, the State of Michigan has not been asleep at the tee. Engler, and his administrative team, after a slow start, has come on strong. They launched an online golf site four years ago, one of the first in the country. They've also invited in AT, IBM and other techno savvy companies to address participants at past Governor's Conferences on Tourism. Kudos in this area, need to go to Jeff Mason, Melinda Remmer and Don Wyckoff for their heads up play.

As an aside, the State is using the same tourism model used in the golf industry to market Michigan's Information Technology movement. Engler has brought together a number of Michigan Industry Roundtables to discuss both the problems and opportunities of the Information Technology area. Last October, they sponsored the first Internet Summit; a second is scheduled for this coming March.

Certainly, the rise of Information Technology has had a tremendous impact on the golf consumer. And, just as importantly, it has had similar impact on golf management. This past May, members of the Michigan Golf Course Owners Association gathered at The Natural in Gaylord, with their main agenda item being Information Technology and Golf.

Richard Funk, the GM at Fenton Farms mirrored the mood of the group, by conceding that he was now convinced that this was a direction in which their organization would move. He is one of many, who have watched the early development of the Internet and are now convinced that they need to get involved to keep their competitive edge.

Early adopters in the golf industry have included, Larry Bowden of The Natural, the management at Treetops and Crystal Mountain, Steve Kircher and crew at Boyne USA, Jack Mathias of Thunder Bay Resort, Audrey Disapato of Sparrow Hawk to name but a few.

Keith Gornick of the Otsego Club, was an early adopter, but got very serious about their web site this year and had Knorr Marketing do a total revamp. According to Jim McIntyre of Knorr, "the power of the Internet is dramatically changing the ways companies conduct their business."

Web sites that use to be put up for hundreds of dollars and generally represented online brochures in their design, now cost thousands of dollars and are highly interactive with their customers. With the advent of A/V/V (audio, voice and video) on the sites, web page prices will continue to rise.

As you take a look at our online directory, you will note that not only courses have gone on line, but, lodging, golf architects, golf destinations, equipment and now golf tee times have joined in. The question to a golf business is not are you going on line, but when are you going online.

When Neilson came out with their Internet ratings www.neilson-netratings.com, it moved this new medium into the big leagues with marketers. As cited in a New York Times article of March 22, "Nielsen Media Research and NetRatings, Inc., launched their new Internet measurement service - Nielsen//NetRatings - and began providing customers with the most comprehensive and reliable web site and advertising measurements available." The Neilson move validated the seriousness of the online advertising market, and put it in the same league as radio, television and print in its effectiveness and attractiveness to advertisers and marketers.

The June 21, issue of the Wall Street Journal indicated that the average number of messages received a day by an office worker was 201. Of that, number, email sent and received rose to 36 in 1999, up from nine a year earlier. They also mentioned the following statistics on sales and marketing executives who use information technology in their jobs:

78% gather information on their competition
73% send or receive email
63% read business news
50% conduct customer research
28% arrange business travel

Truly "Times, they are a changing."

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