Golf’s new-found popularity makes the numbers add up for Club Systems International

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick August 20, 2021 12:47

Club Systems International, which provides software and hardware to more than 1,600 golf clubs across the UK and Ireland, was already the undisputed market leader in golf club management solutions before the pandemic, but since it started its products, such as HowDidiDo, have seen unprecedented growth. As a result, it is recruiting more staff and offering more benefits to customers than ever before, including new software features.

There’s no getting away from it, since the turn of last year and the outbreak of the pandemic, we are a nation that has become increasingly obsessed with numbers.

From daily government briefings, regular updates on the latest Covid-19 cases and vaccination figures to the dates for the gradual move away from lockdown, they have become an integral part of life over the last 18 months.

The numbers have not been all bad, though, with golf one of the notable success stories to have emerged from the pandemic.

Having been given an initial head start on team sports when restrictions were first lifted and with the benefits of taking exercise in an outdoor environment being widely promoted, the game’s popularity soared and it has not looked back since.

The recently published ‘2020 Great Britain Golf Participation Report’ revealed that the number of adults playing golf in the UK and Ireland last year rose by 2.3m, despite disruption from the pandemic, with 2.1m new people playing on a nine or 18-hole course – the highest recorded this century.

With the momentum continuing to build in the first six months of 2021, many golf businesses now find themselves in the happy position that, rather than having to consolidate, furlough and downsize, they can look ahead to a period of sustained growth with genuine optimism.

Club Systems International is a perfect case in point. With the huge surge in golf participation, the company has not only helped to secure a path for golfers and golf clubs to return to golf safely – but is also looking to the future to make the most of the recent unlikely chain of events.

The undisputed market leader in golf club management solutions, Club Systems International currently provides both software and hardware for more than 1,600 golf clubs across the UK and Ireland.

Dumbarnie Links

Having spent the best part of 18 months devoted to developing solutions to allow for the smooth reopening of golf clubs and courses, Club Systems managing director Richard Peabody is relishing the chance to embrace the new opportunities that have presented themselves and create technology to cater for the huge waves of golfers who are new or returning to the game.

Peabody said “Nobody could have predicted that golf would see such a marked upturn in participation levels, but it soon became obvious that the numbers playing the game – and joining golf clubs too – were going to substantially increase. That has been borne out in the traffic we have seen across the HowDidiDo platforms, and we have seen an unprecedented number of golfers engage with our technology.”

One of Club Systems’ best-known products is the online golfing platform – HowDidiDo. Europe’s largest online golfing community, it is used by club golfers to track and initiate their tee bookings, competition scores and handicap index.

The appetite for golf since courses reopened last summer has been huge, as indicated by the surge in traffic on both the website and mobile app.

So far in 2021, HowDidiDo has experienced a staggering 145 per cent increase in page views compared to the same time period pre-pandemic in 2019, with in excess of 140 million views despite the fact that many golf courses across the UK and Ireland were closed for much of the start of the year.

This increase is also reflected by the fact that the total number of users who have visited HowDidiDo in this period grew by 57 per cent, demonstrating that golf clubs are enjoying increased membership numbers and golfers are getting more and more accustomed to using technology hand-in-hand with their golf.

One of the key factors to this has been the development of the Mobile Score Input functionality on the HowDidiDo app. Since its launch in the summer of 2020, it has allowed golfers to enter competition scores safely and quickly via their own mobile device and has been integral to bringing about the return of competition golf once courses reopened post-lockdown.

Working in accordance with the new World Handicap System, it allows golfers to sign in to competitions, add scores for each hole as they play and view leaderboards to see their position once they have finished.

The Mobile Score Input page alone has achieved more than 2.5 million hits so far this year, with plenty more competitive golf still to be played this summer. Latest figures for Today’s Golf – the new home for competition sign in, score entry and live leaderboards on HowDidiDo – are close to nine million page views and represents a huge success for the use of this technology in competition golf.

Through HowDidiDo, club members are able to achieve more from their club membership, such as competing in several tournaments with top prizes

All in all, Club Systems has seen 333,000 more handicap qualifying rounds played in 2021 compared to 2019, another impressive number considering courses only reopened in England at the end of March following the latest lockdown, and not until the end of April in Ireland.

The impressive growth and interaction doesn’t stop there either. Downloads of HowDidiDo’s mobile app are up 240,000 in the last 12 months with 754,600 golfers having now downloaded the app, a dramatic increase of 140,000 since the turn of the year.

In order to cope with all of this extra demand and provide further services to continue to take their products to the next level, Club Systems is currently in the process of expanding their staff with the recruitment of four new developers beginning work on new products and features for both Club Systems and HowDidiDo products.

Along with the recruitment of new support staff, a specialised product owner and further emphasis going into quality assurance and the testing of products, the company has developed a clear strategy for the future with the aim on capitalising on their success, rather than consolidating.

To help ensure that all members of staff have a decent knowledge of golf and in an attempt to inspire even more staff to take up the game, Club Systems has also taken the opportunity to offer a free golf lesson to every single employee, with tuition being given by former Ladies European Tour professional and HowDidiDo media presenter Sophie Walker.

As well as being able to manage competition booking, entry and scoring on HowDidiDo, golfers have added incentive to get ‘more from their club membership’ by benefiting from the range of virtual competitions available on the platform, which have gone from strength to strength, despite the obvious difficulties posed by the pandemic.

With site traffic higher than ever before, the annual Titleist Order of Merit – thought to be the largest online golf competition in Europe – has reached an amazing record number of 50,000 sign-ups for the 2020-21 edition, with the Grand Final also set to be held at the Home of Golf in St Andrews at Dumbarnie Golf Links and Dukes St Andrews.

Ping Pairs, the innovative pairs competition whereby two HowDidiDo members from anywhere in the world can pair up and play together as a team, has returned after a year’s absence and has achieved almost 10,000 signups. The Grand Final is set to be played at the end of August, co-costed between Ping’s Europe Headquarters and Thonock Park Golf Club in Gainsborough.

And golf’s rise in popularity is also helping HowDidiDo to play an important fundraising role with the work it does raising awareness for prostate cancer through its nationwide campaign and eclectic competition How Do We Beat It.

Costing £5 per person to enter, the partnership with Prostate Cancer UK has so far raised more than £160,000 over the past five years. The 2020 Grand Final was recently played at JCB Golf & Country Club and was won by Jethro Wilson of Shipley Golf Club in West Yorkshire.

“We’re immensely proud of our association with Prostate Cancer UK over the past five years, and it’s been incredible to see how enthusiastic the HowDidiDo members have been in supporting the charity,” said Peabody.

“We believe that we can continue to make a difference, and I’m confident our partnership will continue to grow – raising both awareness and funding to accelerate research and care provision for the disease.”

Despite Club Systems and HowDidiDo holding a reputation as being pioneers of club management and handicap systems, they are keen to ensure that they continue to provide innovative new features within their solutions and this has led to a number of recent developments.

When golf courses reopened following the first lockdown in 2020, a free version of the ClubV1 members’ app was made available to allow golfers to book into golf safely from the comfort of their own home, removing the need for any face-to-face contact and minimising the strain placed upon staff at golf clubs.

This feature is now available to all customers and has enjoyed positive feedback from golf clubs since its inception. Taking the decision to increase server capacity during golf’s busiest period last summer meant that the platform was able to cope with unprecedented levels of traffic as golfers were desperate to get back out on to the golf course.

One of the largest pieces of work conducted in recent times was preparing for, and then integrating the system with, the new World Handicap System when it launched in November 2020.

The transition has largely been a success and the hope is that both existing golfers and newcomers to the game will come to find a system which is easy to understand and provide a user experience which is as easy as possible.

As smartphone usage on the course becomes an increasingly integral aspect of golf these days, from GPS apps to mobile scoring and connectivity with GPS trolleys, HowDidiDo is seeking to take golfers’ competitions to the next level with the introduction of live leaderboards during events.

Currently being beta tested by dozens of clubs and coming very soon to clubs free of charge on all product levels using Club Systems software, live on-course leaderboards will allow golfers to see exactly where they are placed upon completion of every hole and keep track of their friends’ scores from across the course, adding a little extra excitement to every single round.

Mobile Score Input is still undergoing improvements, too, with a number of updates since it was first introduced to include features such as marker’s signature and supplementary scores for casual rounds which qualify towards a golfer’s handicap index.

In addition, there will be the Enhanced Markers Scoring update, where golfers in groups of two to four people will be able to mark scores for both themselves and the golfer that they are marking for. At the end of the round, it will validate all scores against each other, flag any discrepancies and ensure that scores tally up before they are submitted.

Peabody added: “We’ve always been at the forefront of developing new technologies for golfers to enhance their enjoyment of the game. That’s what excites us – bringing new tools and added dimensions to the game we love.”

More than 750,000 golfers have downloaded the HowDidiDo app – 240,000 in the last 12 months and 140,000 since the turn of the year

With restrictions easing in England and across the rest of the UK and Ireland towards the end of the summer, Club Systems is anticipating even more traffic across their platforms in the coming months as golfers will be able to utilise more of the benefits of their golf club membership, including enjoying full use of catering facilities.

The measures taken by the company over the last 12 months or so will stand them in good stead to manage this increase and the developments that are ongoing and planned for the near future will ensure that golfers continue to receive the very best when it comes to managing and tracking their golf.

With opportunities for further progression of the company which could expand its offerings to a global audience just on the horizon, Club Systems is seeking to maintain their position as the industry leader going forwards, something which will ultimately benefit the company, its golf clubs and their members.

Coming soon to Club Systems’ customers for free will be live on-course leaderboards to allow golfers to see where they are placed upon completion of every hole

For more information, visit www.clubsystems.com

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick August 20, 2021 12:47
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