published Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Nob North adds GPS to all golf carts

Eric Hester, right, head golf professional at Nob North Golf in Varnell, Ga., checks his back swing near the No. 4 green.
Eric Hester, right, head golf professional at Nob North Golf in Varnell, Ga., checks his back swing near the No. 4 green.
Photo by Tim Barber.

Tully Johnson used an old-fashioned yardage book to take his measurements at Nob North Golf Course.

As he kept playing there over the years, he began keeping the book in his pocket and gauging yards from certain trees on the course.

"I play up here all the time, so I have certain marks and visualize it," said Johnson, now 62, whose name is on a plaque in the clubhouse.

He seemed hesitant when the public course rolled out a new feature earlier this year -- a global positioning system system in every cart without an additional fee -- to help Johnson and all golfers get precise yardage measurements from teeing grounds, fairways and almost any spot on the course, woods and weeds included.

"I look at that and then compare it to my local knowledge," Johnson said. "It provides accurate distances and it's a positive thing because it tells you the division of the greens and the exact location of the pins."

The city of Dalton, which owns the course, agreed to a one-year lease with Club Car to install its Visage system in 66 carts for an approximate cost of $36,000.

The purpose is to provide a different playing experience compared to other greater Chattanooga courses, and it provides the on-site management control of every cart at every moment it's out of the barn.

"We wanted to make it a nice amenity for people, and we wanted cart control," head professional Eric Hester said. "We're hoping for an increase in the number of rounds, and we think having something like this is an added incentive that may bring somebody to Nob North instead of going somewhere else to play."

The touch-screen system is an easy-to-use program for golfers of all technological and golfing skills. It has a basic interface with a map of the course, maps of all the holes, an electronic scorecard and other bells and whistles, including placing orders to the grill for food that will be ready at the turn

But its most important feature to golfers is providing exact yardage.

"A lot of golfers want the information and yardage, but they don't want to spend $350 for a laser or GPS," Hester said. "We found less than 10 percent of average golfers have that. So we've kept our rates the same and provide GPS."

The system also benefits the course and its investment in the carts because club officials have the main computer set up inside. With one click they can see every cart on the course. With another click they can shut down a cart or send a warning message about pace of play.

They can manage restricted areas where carts will shut down until the players have backed them out of there. They can make sure that cart-path-only is strictly enforced on soggy days.

"It's made my butt walk a little more," said Steve Card, Dalton's director of parks and recreation. "We can see where carts are -- maybe send somebody off No. 15 if there's a gap instead of waiting. Essentially we have a new way to see the whole course."

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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