When is the show going to be on?
When I assisted with the production of the Golfing the Great Lakes television show in the 1990s, that was always the toughest question posed by clients. They had given us their hard earned golf dollars and simply wanted to know when the show would air. Easy question, hard answer. The show was on in 34 Midwest PBS markets and the schedule was all over the remote. Some markets would start the show in January, others in May. Frankly, we did not know 30 percent of the stations that carried the show. We usually found that out after they were shown. Even stranger, we had stations in Huntington Beach, Calif. and Spokane, Wash. carrying the show. Go figure. It was crazy. Still, the show did have a nice eight-year run. However, one of the reasons for its demise was the inability for us to answer that simple question.
The 24/7 era of golf and Internet television has made answering questions like that, much easier. When the question is posed, I simply tell the client, "The show is on now."
Last year, Great Lakes Sports Publications and its partners put up 33 original golf shows, 10 ski shows and over a dozen shows on running. All this occurred on our GLSP Internet Television Network. Our golf show has the call letters http://michigangolfer.tv. Once the show is up, it is on 24 hours per day, seven days per week. We get viewers at all times of the day and from all over the world.
We are one of the dreamers. Another is Dave Gunderson, the CEO of the new Livonia-based Golf ConneX company. Dave is betting that this new, 24/7 world will support his new online tee time registration company. Three years ago, Jim Neff did an article on online tee time companies, which totaled 34 at the time (http://webgolfer.com/june00/commerce.html). Today that number has been scaled back by the dotcom bust, inferior technology, shallow pockets and company mergers. The field has been narrowed down to a couple of foursomes. The top players are Book4Golf and GolfSwitch, with others further back in the pack. Gunderson's strategy for Golf ConneX, is to be a clearinghouse or gateway for all of these successful online companies. For $12, or the money it takes to buy two beers and hotdogs at the turn, you can join Golf ConneX for a year. The site currently has 60 courses that are available for online bookings with the chance for 40 more late this spring. Check it out at http://golfconnnex.com.
Carl LaRonda, of Golfroundz.com is another 24/7 dreamer. His CarkOnline Golf Tracker can help you keep track of all those pars and birdies you make on the golf course. You can access your online golf software anywhere. LaRonda indicates that the software is easy to use in a golf scorecard format. You can add your favorite golf course to the database too! You can use your online golf stats and graphs to help improve your overall play. It features easy to use fast and simple round input. You can even instantly send that low round scorecard to a friend with a click. That part caught my attention. In 40 years of golf, I only shot one par round and that was for nine holes. It was my only time in the 30s, but I have the card and if was easier to share, I would have shared this mighty triumph with a lot more of my friends.
While it is nice to have dreamers, there are many who also have to face the cold realities of running a business these days. John Brehm, co-owner of the Pohlcat, has long been a proponent of online tee times and has had some success through Book4 Golf. There are many features that John and his brother, Mike, like about the software, but mainly it allows for money to be made 24/7.
At the latest Michigan Golf Task Force meeting held in Lansing, the verdict was still out. The state has warmly embraced both Book4 Golf and GolfSwitch on its site. However, Task Force members mention that the technology has not yet lived up to its early promise. Gunderson understands that, but is betting that the time has come for the idea and he is positioning his company for the growth that he feels will come. George Zimmermann, the new vice-president of Travel Michigan, is a firm believer in the power of the Internet. His mission this year is to make the state's website simpler. He feels that http://travel.michigan.org should attract outstate clients, but once at the site, they should be readily routed to where they want to go.
Since there are no major golf manufacturers in the state, the leadership of the 24/7 golf world in Michigan comes primarily from golf resorts, golf courses, lodging websites and the media. Websites for golf properties are commonplace today. Michigan has a few interactive sites, but most are static. The Boyne site (http://boyne.com) designed by Sagient, an Ann Arbor-based company; and the Garland and Otsego Club websites, which were designed by Traverse City Internet powerhouse, Knorr Interactive, are among the state's best. There is also an Indiana firm, Golf US (http://golfus.com) that has been designing some interesting pages for what they bill as the world's largest online golf auction. Such companies are pushing the bandwidth envelope with the use of flash, video and surround photography.
While some are using splashy and flashy websites, many are aggressively using e-mail. The State of Michigan, Crystal Mountain, The Majestic, The Natural, Fox Hills, Mulberry Hills, Gull Lake View, Treetops, Hidden River and the Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau are all entities that utilize e-mail to alert their clients to upcoming events or golf bargains on their property. Darin Philport, of Hidden River, had to get a more robust connection for his e-mail, because his local ISP could not provide enough bandwidth to get all of his e-mail out on a timely basis.
At the PGA Merchandise Show, the major news this year was how sophisticated golf cars are becoming. They are joining online technology and GPS systems and giving golf cars Internet access. Right, you say, that is all we need is for someone to try and get a stock quote while he is up on the tee. True, but look at how cell phones have invaded the game. While there may detract from the game, they still allow round-starved courses to attract those clients that can spend more time away from the office golfing, if they bring the office with them, In addition, the technology is making the administration of a golf course or courses more efficient. Prolink, for example, has the technology in its system that will allow a golf course administrator the ability to monitor their golf carts from the club house, not only at the base location, but other locations as well. Gull Lake View, for example, could monitor all of its cars on one computer screen, even though they are separated by distance.
Do we really need all of that communication? People need to remember that one of the reasons there was no loss of life during the Majestic tornado, was that the clubhouse was able to alert its fleet of cars and tell everybody to seek immediate cover and that a tornado was eminent.
The biggest clock watchers in this 24/7 world are the golf administrators that have to allocate revenue for the new technologies. Nick Aune, of Treetops, is well aware of the challenges that face his resort. He indicated that a conference they were looking to book, wanted to have at the least DSL connections available for its members. While Treetops does not have a pure site for lodging and registration, it does allow e-mail and faxes from its website. Aune indicated that customers who want to buy tickets to the Par-3 Shootout, will be able to do that online this year.
Barry Owens, GM of Garland, indicates in an article in the Gaylord Herald Times, that the "new" Garland Southwing and conference center has been built with an eye toward the technology that is needed by today's corporate traveler. Shanty Creek currently offers its guests Internet access.
Scott Chesley of the Otsego Club, indicates that the club has used an available radio tower to create a wireless Internet network that has better than T-1 power. His own cable connection pales in comparison.
Michigan has pockets of superb bandwidth throughout the state, but its ranking as 24th in bandwidth growth is a little frightening. It is the last in capital investment per capita in the U.S. and has but four percent of the population connected to high speed internet. Governor John Engler has made broadband one of the priorities in his last budget.
At the end of 2001, 12.2 million households had broadband, up from six million the year before. Truly, help is on the way. In 1995, Michigan Golfer was the first golf publication to go on the Internet. In 2001, we were the first golf publication to have its own Internet television show. We found out that our readers and viewers like the opportunity to get their golf news when they want it. This year our online magazine will average 695 readers per day and they will average just under 10 minutes during their online stay. On the Internet Television side, we don't know what to expect. Last year, almost 30,000 viewers spent an average stay of 17 minutes and 31 seconds on the site. They visited our sites at all times and from around the world. We know we have a diverse reading and viewing audience, and many of those readers get their golf news on Internet Television, because they want it now.
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