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How Ratcliffe Golf Services is Using Technology to Navigate COVID-19

Posted by Ryan Segal on April 2, 2020

Proactive Measures

When the cancellations of group bookings and tournaments started to roll in, Del Ratcliffe, Owner and President of Ratcliffe Golf Services knew he had to take action. With five facilities under his management ranging from miniature golf courses all the way to championship length 18-hole courses and everything in between, Del knew he had a duty to do whatever he could to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while keeping his facilities operational. A true believer in social distancing, Del began rolling out new policies and procedures to reduce physical human contact as much as possible. With his innovative ideas and use of technology, he was successfully able to eliminate most, if not all of the physical contact points of a golfer’s experience. 

With golf being recognized as an essential service in North Carolina and one of the few activities people can enjoy while still social distancing, Ratcliffe Golf Services wanted to ensure that their golfers and staff were informed of best practices to keep themselves safe. Using postings on course websites, pamphlets at the course and messaging in the golf carts, golfers would be equipped with the proper knowledge on how to protect themselves when coming to enjoy a round of golf.

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Clubhouse Rules

One of the first measures that Ratcliffe Golf put in place was the elimination of all cash payments. Because of COVID-19’s ability to remain on metal surfaces for extended periods of time and no real way to clean the coins or cash, they immediately turned on the mandatory Online Booking and Pre-Payment function of Chronogolf by Lightspeed. This forced players to book and pay for their rounds before coming to play. By doing this, one of the critical touch points golfers face when they arrive at a facility - the credit card terminal - was removed. 

While all of the clubhouses remain open at the Ratcliffe managed golf courses, certain policies have been implemented to ensure everyone’s safety. Firstly, there is a strict limit to five people in the clubhouse at any given time. Once players are done with their business, they are asked to leave in order to allow for more players to enter. Additionally, Ratcliffe Golf wanted to strictly enforce the 6-foot social distancing guideline. They placed tables in front of the counter to prevent golfers from being too close to the staff and used broomsticks with a basket attached to the end of them in order to pass golf cart keys (which themselves were sanitized between use) back and forth. They also banned any form of high-five, fist-bump or elbow-bump amongst their staff stating that “if they’re doing that, they cannot maintain the 6-foot social distance requirement.”

Adding to the no-contact policy, all courses have deployed Chronogolf by Lightspeed’s Self Check-In Kiosk technology where players can check themselves in without having to speak to a member of staff. The kiosks have sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer next to them so players can wipe the screens down before and after each use in addition to the frequent sanitization performed by staff members. At the time of this article, the Ratcliffe courses are in “phase one” which allows them to keep their clubhouses open. If the situation becomes critical, the courses will enter into “phase 2” where clubhouses will be closed and the kiosks will be placed outside to allow for golfers to check-in without being in close proximity to anyone. 

 

Changing the course

On the course, two high-risk surfaces are the cup and the flag-stick. To combat the spread of the virus on these high contact surfaces, all of the courses turned the cups upside down so the ball didn’t fall all the way into the hole and required golfers to leave the flag-sticks in place and not remove them while putting. The courses removed all bunker rakes, water containers and golf ball washers from the courses. Rental sets are not being offered due to the uncertainty of being able to properly sanitize them between use. By taking these necessary precautions Ratcliffe Golf Services was able to eliminate many of the potential points of transmission and stop the spread of COVID-19 on the course.

In order to ensure that all of his new regulations and policies were followed by everyone, Ratcliffe used ChronoPitch Email Marketing to communicate with their extensive database of Charlotte-area golfers. During a challenging period such as a pandemic, communication is key. Sending out frequent emails to keep golfers up-to-date on policy changes and adjustments would allow for everyone to stay safe while playing. Del noted that “having a marketing platform that is synced with our tee sheet database and can trigger multiple communications based on our golfer interactions is great”. It allows him to easily pull lists of golfers and send the proper communications to the appropriate list of people. 

 

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Sanitization Practices

An important practice during any health crisis is sanitization. By sanitizing high contact areas, the chances of the virus spreading are greatly reduced. The staff at courses managed by Ratcliffe Golf Services are equipped with gloves, eye protection and bleach sanitizer and frequently wipe down and sanitize all high-risk areas. 

Golf carts are sanitized by a staff member using a hand-held 2 gallon sprayer to make sure all surfaces are coated with the bleach solution. They then wipe down the cart and deliver it in a safe condition for the next user. The golf cart keys are also rigorously cleaned when they are given back and before being given to the next golfer. While frequent sanitization may be tedious, it is a necessary task to do to ensure the health and safety of everyone.

 

Conclusion

Ratcliffe Golf Services has been successful in taking steps to protect both their customers and staff while keeping what they view is a vital activity open during the COVID-19 pandemic. The drastic measures necessary to combat the spread of this virus are unprecedented in modern times, and society world-wide is struggling to cope with how to deal with the physical danger as well as the emotional trauma and upheaval to our daily lives.  Many experts believe that the physical activity of golf can be therapeutic and significant in helping people cope with this upheaval - but the activities must be undertaken with the understanding that social distancing is a must, not an option. Every opportunity to eliminate the potential for the spread of infection needs to be taken before engaging in any activity, Ratcliffe Golf Services takes this responsibility very seriously, and has managed to quickly utilize a combination of common-sense strategies and innovative technology to accomplish the goals of keeping their golfers and staff safe. As Del mentioned, “a lot of the steps that we have taken and implemented very easily would not have been possible without the technology partner that we have with Chronogolf by Lightspeed”.

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We’ve recommended Chronogolf by Lighspeed to a number of different operators. I feel very good about making that recommendation, you guys have done a great job of following through with everything that I told people you were going to do.

Aaron Gleason,
Walters Golf

Based on more than 100 reviews from operator wordwide.
Read them here.

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