Top Takeaways on Club Technology from the HFTP 2022 Annual Convention: Part 1

At this year’s HFTP Annual Convention, we were especially excited for the technology sessions.

The first was titled “Technology That Will Change the Club Industry”, presented by Jonathon Goodman, CFO at Lost Tree Club, on Thursday, September 15th, 2022. Jeremy Hoch, president of Anchor Consulting Services, also contributed.

Mr. Goodman covered the past, present, and future approaches to various aspects of the club experience, from golf course maintenance, to budgeting, and even everyone’s favorite, burger-flipping robots.

For some of these areas, clubs are still using the technology of the past. In some of these areas, the future is now. Or rather, the next wave of technology is available if clubs choose to pursue them.

Here are our top takeaways from this session.

1. Club leaders are wary of member-facing robotics but are more receptive to robotics for back-of-house.
Robots exist for security, serving food to tables, flipping burgers, and using the deep frier in the kitchen. There are automated golf course mowers, automated vacuum cleaners, and automated range pickers. The range pickers are in use at some clubs in the US, such as Ibis Country Club in Florida. Automatic range mowers are less common in the US currently, while they are more popular in Europe and will likely make their way to the US in the coming years. Lost Tree Club has used automatic vacuum cleaners, which can vacuum an entire ballroom in 20 minutes, and even navigate around chairs. The attendees at the conference were very wary of using robots in member-facing applications such as delivering food in a restaurant but were much more receptive to back of house functions such as cleaning and mowing.

2. When it comes to the member experience, personal service is still preferred, though certain advanced technology is being embraced.
The attendees at the conference noted that robotic or automated service could sacrifice the personalized service private clubs strive to deliver. But some technology is now mainstream enough to be appealing additions to the member experience. One example is artificial reality, popularized through the Meta Oculus headset. More clubs may come to offer Oculus stations in their clubhouses or game rooms. Another example would be the use of drones, which have become relatively commonplace. Drone delivery of food and beverage items on the golf course, which is being done now at Michael Jordan’s Grove XXIII club in Florida, could be embraced by more clubs. Automated beverage servers, which we see for soft drinks, are being made for alcoholic beverages. These are appreciated as a novelty at some clubs. But Mr. Goodman noted that the high-tech amenity most likely to make it to more clubs soon would be advanced teaching centers for golf and tennis, along with technology-enabled next-generation golf ranges. A great example is the newly renovated Mr. D’s 19th Hole Drive Suites at Boca West Country Club, which features Inrange sensors and swing analytics combined with food and beverage service to provide a Top Golf-style experience.

3. Advanced budgeting tools are being used today, and the future is analytics.
Most of the finance folks at the conference expressed awe reviewing Jonathon’s example budgeting program. Many club finance leaders are still using spreadsheets to handle budgeting, but these are prone to error and bulky to maintain and update. Automating budgeting allows clubs to keep their same budget but make illustrations using various variable scenarios. Mr. Goodman also showed many different examples of his analytics dashboard which is built using Microsoft Power BI, a flexible analytics platform that can connect various sources of data together to visualize data and help make better decisions about the club’s operations. Feedback from the audience suggests clubs are ready for automated budgeting tools now, whereas analytics might still be considered a “future” initiative for most clubs.

4. A technology committee is essential to selecting and implementing new technologies.
This last takeaway is an actionable step clubs can take today to make better technology decisions: designate a technology committee. The committee should be made up of younger staff members and people who will be using the technology daily. Older staff or department heads, or others resistant to change, should not be included in these decisions. The key is to get buy-in from the users, so the technology you choose to implement will be sure to be used. Jonathon recounted multiple stories of technology his club has purchased only to be found years later collecting dust in a storage cabinet. The technology committee would be instrumental in the selection process, and getting them engaged early will increase the odds of success.

We enjoyed Jonathon’s presentation, and we hope that you found this summary valuable.
Keep an eye out for our next post, where we will be sharing our takeaways from the second technology session at the HFTP 2022 Annual Convention, presented by Bill Boothe on Friday, September 16th, 2022.
If you’d like to discuss club technology in more detail, contact us today.

Stephanie Castro
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