Student Projects: The University of Pittsburgh

Golf Course Enhancement Simulation

by S. Walker
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This simulation was developed to model the golfing pace of play effects that operational procedure changes have on a golf course in Allison Park, PA. A quicker golfer pace of play increases customer satisfaction, allows a higher daily golfer throughput, and makes it more likely that the customer will return to play again. Therefore, a faster golfing pace will have a long-term, positive impact on greens fee revenue received. The golf course is a municipal facility run by the Allegheny County Parks Department with funding from Allegheny County taxpayers. It is therefore in the best interest of county taxpayers that golf course is run as efficiently as possible to reduce reliance on taxpayer money.

Objectives

The initial goal of the model is to simulate the “as is” operations of the golf course to get the typical pace of play. Then, various combinations of procedural changes to the golf course’s operations will be implemented to see their effects on the pace of play. These procedural changes include:

  • Time-delayed start at the beginning of play
  • Allowing group passing in-between holes
  • Enforcing the use of golf carts for all players
  • Allowing groups to start on the back nine holes when it is free

Pace of play statistics will be generated for combinations of these changes to determine the optimum scenario.

Enforcing a rule that everyone must ride on a golf cart is the only procedural change that had a significant effect in improving the pace of play. An improved pace of play should increase customer satisfaction and improve the likelihood that golfers will come back more often. There are many factors that should be considered if the golf course is to decide to implement this modification. First, they need to know if the customers will be willing to pay for a golf cart at the current rate and whether or not the improved pace of play will increase demand. The model shows that the golf course is capable of handling a high amount of customer demand and that having all golfers ride a cart reduces round times; however, the model cannot predict the behavior of customers once they experience the change. Revenue will rise since golfers that intend to walk will have to pay the premium to ride.

If indeed a larger number of customers do start coming, the course needs to know if the revenue benefits outweigh the cost of buying, maintaining, cleaning, and storing more golf carts. The change should not be enacted if the course knows costs will exceed the added gains.

The fact that none of the other changes were able to successfully improve pace of play for the golf course model, even though these types of policies are used to improve other golf courses, is most likely due to: intrinsic layout, length, and type of the course. The fact that the course is a fairly lengthy, compact, and a public facility has many ramifications. The skill level of player varies a lot and having time delays (tee times) becomes less useful with greater variation, and the course’s compactness leaves less chance for passing between holes. Even though the results are a bit underwhelming in terms of course improvement, it was important to verify that implementing certain procedures would be costly mistakes.