Not many years ago, making a tee time at a golf course involved a phone call, a pencil and a piece of paper.
Those days, like laminated wood drivers, are long gone at most courses.
Just ask the golf enterprise management majors at University of Wisconsin-Stout, Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University. They take a 10-week class that teaches them how to manage a golf course during the information age, complete with an electronic tee sheet, online reservations, automated marketing and much more.
The course is called Fore! Reservations. It’s named after the company that provides UW-Stout with its industry-tested management and marketing software.
The partnership between UW-Stout and Fore! Reservations is five years old and going strong.
Recently, students Taylor Sanborn and Brandon Ross trained for a week at the company’s headquarters in Burr Ridge, Ill. They returned to campus as lab assistants and are using their knowledge to help train other GEM students this semester in the class, taught by Assistant Professor Kris Schoonover.
When students pass the class, they become certified in Fore! Reservations software, which is used by more than 2,000 mostly public and semiprivate courses in the U.S., Canada and Central America.
Knowing how to operate course management software should make GEM students more attractive to employers. “With this training, we’re a step ahead. A course that hires us doesn’t have to train us,” said Sanborn, of Mazeppa, Minn., who will graduate in May.
In addition to the software education program, UW-Stout and Fore! Reservations have partnered to develop Cooperative Education opportunities, which provide academic credit for structured and compensated job experience. Golf courses that use the software can seek co-op students from UW-Stout who are certified to use it.
Golf management companies from seven states, from Alaska to New Jersey, have sought UW-Stout students with Fore! Reservations skills, according to the university’s Career Services office. GEM students are required to complete two co-op experiences prior to graduation.
Schoonover, the online GEM program director, says UW-Stout’s partnership is good for students and the golf industry. “The golf course benefits from having a co-op student or new employee who helps the facility meet its operational needs. The industry benefits by developing its future managers,” she said.
A ‘unique opportunity’
Schoonover approached Fore! Reservations about the partnership in 2008. She worked with Harry Ipema, company co-owner who eventually served on the GEM program advisory board.
Fore! Reservations operates on several levels. It allows courses to track golfers’ names and contact information in a database. The database then is used for automated marketing, such as for special offers or events at the course. The software also lets golfers book tee times online, provides point-of-sale marketing and seamlessly integrates operations between the pro shop, food and beverage areas and accounting.
Nicole Nichele, Fore! Reservations marketing services product manager, calls the partnership with UW-Stout a “unique opportunity” for GEM students.
“The software is designed to help you as a manager gain and use information so you can connect with the customer,” said Ross, of Andover, Minn., who expects to graduate in fall 2014.
Sanborn and Ross were trained at Fore! Reservations’ headquarters by Nick Eisold, one of several GEM alumni who have gone on to work for the company.
“We received a complete overview of the software, and then they broke it down for us,” Sanborn said of the training. “A big part of what we learned was how to market better.”
Training at Fore! Reservations reminded Sanborn of what the golf industry is all about. “It’s all customer service, how you can bring better service to your customers,” he said.
Students in GEM, part of the School of Hospitality Leadership, take courses in all aspects of golf course management. The Bachelor of Science program is endorsed by the National Golf Course Owners Association.
For more information on the GEM program, click here.