Singapore: Al Hamra Golf Club’s reputation as one of the United Arab Emirates’ most progressive sporting establishments has been cemented with the successful implementation of its ‘Less Touch, More Tech’ policy.
In its attempts to reduce contact points and minimise the threat of the Coronavirus, the club has moved quickly to embrace technology designed to enhance the safety of members and guests at the Troon-managed venue, located in the most northern of the UAE’s seven Emirates, Ras Al Khaimah.
“In the UAE, golf is still a relatively new game so we’ve not only had to educate people about golf, but also about how golf can be enjoyed in a safe environment,” said Paul Booth, General Manager at the club which was shut down for 25 days due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking during the latest Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF) webinar on ‘Why New Technology is Now Essential in Golf Course Management’, Booth said the club had to prove it was safe to operate before receiving the necessary government approvals to re-open.
“From an operations standpoint, our terminology is Less Touch, More Tech,” said Booth, referring to the implementation of online booking for tee-times as well as for the club’s gym and golf practice facility, enabling them to control capacity and social distancing.
At food and beverage outlets, QR codes are used. “We’ve noticed when people come into our outlets that they don’t want to touch menus any more, even though we’re sanitising them. We’re learning as we go,” said Booth, who has also been using Golf Genius Software’s tournament management programme with the resumption of club competitions.
Booth said a combination of software and social media has helped Al Hamra tackle key issues related to pre- and post-round activities.
He said: “With our Government in the UAE, we had to demonstrate that we could operate in a contactless manner – no shotgun starts or presentations and everything being done by social media and other platforms.
“These are some of the things that Golf Genius can do. Everything’s user-friendly and it really can enhance the event that you’re doing from a membership and corporate day standpoint – branding, selling sponsorships. It’s a pretty unique and cool tool to work with and once you get the hang of it, it’s very user-friendly.
“On the results side, we were able to appease the Government by demonstrating that we could publicise our events through different platforms without doing physical presentations. We use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to showcase our winners. We take a picture of the winner, but there’s no shaking hands and no handing over of prizes as that would be breaking social distancing.
“A key element is communications – communicating with the members, communicating with the Government, communicating with the staff. The more you’re communicating what’s going on and why you’re doing it, the more likely you are to get everyone to buy-in, we’ve found. I wouldn’t say it’s been a seamless transition, but it’s definitely helped us get to where we need to go.
“Getting corporate golf and membership tournaments back on the scene is a revenue-driver and also a value benefit to the members. For them to get tournament golf is very important.”
Joining Booth in the discussion on tournament play and software in the time of Covid-19 were Craig Higgs, Managing Director, Golf Genius Software, Peter Shaw, Director of International Sales at Golf Genius, and Steven Thielke, Chief Executive Officer at Malaysia’s TPC Kuala Lumpur.