Council Signs Off On Golf GPS System

OCEAN CITY – After hearing a detailed account of the potential benefit to the town and its golf-playing visitors, Ocean City officials this week approved the addition of GPS systems on the carts at the municipally-owned Eagle’s Landing course in West Ocean City.

The Ocean City Mayor and Council on Monday approved a measure that will add the popular GPS course management system to Eagle’s Landing and instructed staff to begin ironing out the language in the contract. Golf GPS systems are rapidly becoming the norm at quality courses around the country. The monitors affixed to golf carts at the courses give players detailed information about each hole from tee to green, providing them with distance measurements, maps of the holes and the locations of hazards and other pertinent information about the conditions.

From the course management side, the GPS systems on the carts allow starters and rangers to track the pace of play, address back-up areas on the course and alert players of changes in conditions or update them on the weather. In addition, the GPS system allows the course to increase revenue by directing food and beverage carts to concentrated areas of golfers on the course and by advertising specials on food and beverages and retail items in the clubhouse.

While enhancing the amenities for the golfers and improving course management for the club itself are among the top reasons for adding the GPS systems to the carts at Eagle’s Landing, there is a large financial benefit for the town and the company, ProLink, that supplies them. The screens on the GPS systems provide space for national and regional advertising along with opportunities for some local advertising and specific information about upcoming events at the course or in the town of Ocean City in general.

The provider, ProLink, has entered an agreement with national television network ABC to provide space for national advertising from companies with ties to golf such as FedEx, Buick, and Cadillac, for example. In a sense, ProLink is a middleman of sorts, providing space on its GPS screens for national advertisers through its agreement with ABC, while providing additional space for the town of Ocean City for advertising it sells or its own promotional information.

The advertisements on the cart-mounted GPS screens would change at each hole on the course. Under the agreement, ProLink would sell advertising rights to national companies through ABC on 15 of the holes at Eagle’s Landing, while the town would reserve the right to advertising space on three of the holes.

While ProLink would negotiate with the national advertisers on the system, the town would maintain the final say on advertisements displayed. For example, as a town officially sponsored by Pepsi, no Coca-Cola advertisements could be displayed. Similarly, if the pro shop at Eagle’s Landing features Titleist equipment exclusively, no Nike equipment could be advertised on the signs.

In terms of the bottom line, after hearing the presentation on Monday, town officials are satisfied the deal with ProLink represents an opportunity to enhance the amenities at Eagle’s Landing while offering an opportunity to increase revenue at the facility. The six-year lease with ProLink to provide and maintain the GPS system will cost the town about $26,000. However, Ocean City will receive $12,000 each year as share of the revenue generated by the sale of national advertising on the system.

In addition, adding the GPS system will allow Eagle’s Landing to remain competitive with the glut of private courses in the area that already offer the system. Eagle’s Landing golf professional Bob Croll told the council on Monday just three of the major facilities in the resort area, including Eagle’s Landing, currently do not offer GPS system on their courses.

“It’s really become part of the mainstream,” he said. “Players have come to expect it when they come to the nicer courses such as Eagle’s Landing.”

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan agreed, saying most of the golfers that come to the resort expect the added amenities the GPS system provides.

“If you play one or two courses that have it, then you play one that doesn’t, you can really tell the difference,” he said. “It really sets you apart. We have a top-notch facility out there and it has become essential that we add this. If we don’t do it now, we’ll probably pay more to do it down the road.”

ProLink spokesman Jeff Kline told town officials they should expect a return on their initial investment of about 168 percent in five years. Kline explained food and beverage sales increase about 20-30 percent and sales of apparel and equipment in the pro shop should follow a similar trend. In addition, the town will be able to realize increased revenue from its share of the national advertising as well as the sales of its own advertising space on the system.

Perhaps more importantly, the GPS systems on the carts improve the pace of play, allowing the course to book and sell more rounds during prime times and improving the experience for the golfers on the course.

“The increase in food and beverage sales alone will cover the cost,” said Kline. “If the pace of play picks up and you can add one or two more foursomes a day, it will pay for itself in no time.”