US 20070016438 A1
A method of allocating revenues attributable to rental and use of a golf course information system implemented in golf carts with local monitor adapted to display any or all information from among course and hole layout, course features, and distance to selected features of a hole in play, to assist a golfer in play of the golf course, and to display advertising, promotional messages and golf tips to enhance the golfing experience. The method includes steps of: renting an assigned golf cart implemented with the information system to a golfer for commencing a round of play on the course; and automatically allocating all revenues applicable to the golfer's use of the information system on the assigned cart during a round of play on the course, commensurate with a predetermined agreement among the golf course and its cart supplier, and contemporaneously with renting the cart to the golfer.
1. A method for administering use of a golf course information system implemented in golf carts with local monitor adapted to display any or all information from among course and hole layout, course features, and distance to selected features of a hole in play, to assist a golfer in play of the golf course, and to display advertising, promotional messages and golf tips to enhance the golfing experience, said method comprising the steps of:
assigning a golf cart implemented with said information system to a golfer on commencing a round of play on the course; and
automatically allocating revenue, from a fee for the golfer's rental of the assigned cart and use of the information system thereof during play of the course, among the golf course and the cart supplier to the golf course according to a predetermined revenue sharing arrangement, contemporaneously with assigning the golf cart to the golfer.
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8. A method for administering use of a golf course information system implemented in golf carts with local monitor adapted to display any or all information from among course and hole layout, course features, and distance to selected features of a hole in play, to assist a golfer in play of the golf course, and to display advertising, promotional messages and golf tips to enhance the golfing experience, said method comprising the steps of:
renting a golf cart implemented with said information system to a golfer prior to commencing a round of play on the course; and
automatically allocating cart rental and monitor-displayed advertising revenues applicable to use of the information system of the golf cart for a round of play by the golfer, among the golf course and the cart supplier contemporaneously with assigning the golf cart to the golfer.
9. A method of allocating revenues attributable to rental and use of a golf course information system implemented in golf carts with local monitor adapted to display any or all information from among course and hole layout, course features, and distance to selected features of a hole in play, to assist a golfer in play of the golf course, and to display advertising, promotional messages and golf tips to enhance the golfing experience, said method comprising the steps of:
renting a golf cart implemented with said information system to a golfer for commencing a round of play on the course; and
automatically allocating all revenues applicable to use of the information system on the golf cart during a round of play on the course, commensurate with a predetermined agreement among the golf course and its cart supplier, and contemporaneously with renting the golf cart to the golfer.
10. A system for allocating revenues attributable to rental and use of a golf course information system implemented in golf carts with local monitor adapted to display any or all information of said system to assist a golfer in play of the golf course, said system comprising:
a golf cart processing point in proximity to tee boxes of the first hole of the golf course at which golf carts implemented with said information system are assigned to golfers for commencing a round of play on the course; and
calculating means positioned at least in part at said processing point for automatically allocating all revenues from golfers for their respective use of the information system on the golf carts during a round of play on the course, according to a revenue sharing agreement between the golf course and its cart supplier, contemporaneous with revenue collection from the golfers upon making the golf cart assignments.
This application is a continuation-in-part of co-pending application Ser. No. 09/626,648, filed Jul. 27, 2000, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,031,947, issued Apr. 18, 2006, of the same assignee. Priority of the '947 patent is claimed for the present application, with respect to common subject matter.
The present invention relates generally to position, distance measuring, navigation, information and communication systems for use in the playing of golf courses (referred to generally from time to time herein as a golf course information system), and more particularly to a method and system that allows the golf course administration to designate the use by one or more golfers (players) of an available golf course information system in play of the course, and in so designating, to automatically allocate predetermined portions of the revenue derived from such use between the golf course and the vendor or lessor of the golf carts used on the course.
Many golf courses now make available golf carts (as used in this application, the term “golf cart” or simply “cart,”is intended to mean and include a motorized golf cart, a manually movable cart, a hand-held unit, or other roving unit authorized by the golf course administrators and adapted for use during play of the course to provide golfers with information and navigation assistance) equipped with automatic yardage measurement systems using the Global Positioning System (GPS), dead reckoning, or other known navigation systems to give the golfer/user the knowledge of instantaneous location of the roving unit on the hole being played and its distance from the cup and other features of the hole displayed on an on-board monitor.
Advanced golf course information systems provide not only cart navigation information, but an efficient communications network for data transmission between a base station operated by the course administrator and carts on the course, high resolution color graphic display on board the cart and at the base station to give the players selective views of each hole and portions thereof being played including location of salient features such as tee boxes, green, cup, fairway, rough, and hazards, and their respective distances from the particular then-current location of the cart. The system may also detect the presence of the cart within a predetermined zone or region of the course to automatically activate display of the current hole on the cart monitor, as well as to measure pace of play for each hole, and provide automatic pop-up golf tips and advertisements on the cart monitor as the cart transitions from zone to zone or from one hole to the next.
Each golf cart uses the navigation technology embedded in the system and other enhancements to display a map of the overall course or a selected portion, with an icon that represents the real-time position of the cart superimposed on the map of the hole being played, on the cart monitor. A cursor on the screen is pointed to a feature of interest to allow the golfer to observe on the display the numerical distance (e.g., in yardage) from the current position of the cart to the designated feature, as well as the hole layout and hazards affecting play. This knowledge enables the golfer to make consistently better and faster club selection and other strategic and tactical decisions in play of the hole than would otherwise be the case.
These information systems may also provide a capability to collect and distribute scoring information; a feature which allows the golfer to obtain information regarding the scores of other golfers with or against whom the golfer is playing, while in actual play of the round. This knowledge can provide the golfer with the same experience during play as a tour professional, in that respect.
Such information systems may also provide a capability of connectivity to outside communications networks, such as the Internet, through their existing communications interface. Access to the information available from such networks is of significant interest to a number of golfers. Capability to receive electronic mail (e-mail), sporting event scores, or stock quotations, for example, are indicative of content that is or will be available to the golfer through these systems as they mature.
The course management portion of golf course information systems supplied by ProLink Solutions, LLC of Chandler, Ariz., the assignee of this application and the invention disclosed and claimed herein, includes a base station computer unit, receiver/transmitter unit and display monitor in the clubhouse, typically in the pro shop. The base station setup gives the course administrator better insight into daily operations and revenues through identification and monitoring play of every cart on the course in real-time. The information and system capabilities available at the base station enables the administrator to pinpoint and analyze the cause of bottlenecks on the course; to compile an extensive computerized data base useful for statistical analysis of course operations and instituting improvements; to communicate with all carts on the course, and to enhance course revenues through advertising delivered to the cart monitors.
Typically, the cart-based golf course information system is offered to players at the time of sign-up at the course club house, as an option available at extra cost for the round being played. For golfers who may be totally unfamiliar, or not completely familiar, with the system, or who are being offered an entirely new or improved system, it is desirable to have an opportunity to play a hole or two before requiring a decision on whether the advantages of the system are worth its cost to play the entire round with the cart-based system. Prior to improvements provided by the invention disclosed in the '947 patent, the player had to make an election before starting play for the added cost of use of the golf information system to be imposed at the outset. If the player had elected not to use the system, a cart would be assigned whose system graphics or display was made inactive.
According to the invention disclosed in the '947 patent, a method and apparatus is provided for administering use of a golf course information system utilizing a a golf cart adapted for displaying information or data to the golfer(s) using the cart, using the information system and a monitor or other information access provider installed in the cart. Information displayed may include a view of the layout of the course, overall hole or portion thereof being played showing location of salient features such as tee boxes, green, cup, fairway, rough, and hazards and relative location of the cart on the hole, as well as providing a close approximation of the actual distance from the cart to the cup or other feature on the hole, tips on club selection, and other useful information to assist the golfer in playing the hole. The same may also provide other information to the golfer that is of interest in play of the game, such as scores of partners and/or opponents, and information which is of interest to the golfer outside the game being played, such as from other communications networks to which the system is connected, in the way of e-mail, sports scores, and stock quotations, to name a few.
The preferred method of the '947 patent invention includes invoking a gratis trial period considerably less than an entire round of play of the golf course, for example the first two or three holes, during which the cart display is activated to allow the golfer or golfers using the cart to view such information relative to the current points of play, and automatically deactivating further display of such information, or the availability of such information, at the end of the gratis trial period unless, by that point, the golfer using the cart has made an appropriate commitment or authorization to pay for completion of the round with activated cart display.
The method of the '947 patent includes providing a means to enable the golfer to make the payment commitment if he or she elects to continue play of the round with the display system. For example, the cart itself may be outfitted with suitable apparatus such as its existing radio communication system used in conjunction with the golf information system, or provided with a credit card or smart card reader, keypad, or wireless telephone. Or an appropriately located fixed or temporary structure with a card reader, keypad, telephone or other payment transaction apparatus may be used, such as a kiosk placed near the tee boxes of the next hole following the last hole designated for the gratis trial period. Alternatively, the payment transaction may be made via the golfer's personal wireless communicator such as a cell phone, personal digital assistant, or hand-held computer, or using various other conventional payment transaction means.
The method of the '947 patent may also be regarded as involving automatically rendering the cart display of such information inactive at the end of the gratis trial period unless, by that point of play, an act representing commitment of payment for completion of the round with activated cart display has been detected. The detection, for example, may be a signal at the base station that indicates a successfully completed credit card transaction by a golfer using the respective numbered cart. In either event, the cart display of such information is automatically maintained active for completion of the round if, by the end of the gratis trial period, a commitment of payment therefor has been made by a golfer using the cart.
The '947 patent method may also be practiced by allowing the golfer to make a commitment of payment for cart display activation for an entire round of golf, prior to the start of the round, but subject to withdrawal of the authorization (e.g., by subsequent receipt of a credit) if the golfer elects not to continue use of the cart display beyond the end of the trial period. In that case, payment authorization is made before departing for the first tee, such as in the clubhouse or at the cart rental area. Here, in essence, the cart display of the available information is automatically maintained active for completion of the round upon a commitment of payment therefor by a golfer using the cart, since the golfer initially committed to pay for the entire round, but with the proviso that the commitment could be withdrawn by the end of the trial period. And if the commitment is not withdrawn, the status quo—display of the information on the cart monitor—is not affected.
The '947 patent invention also provides a system for implementing the method, including means for invoking the gratis trial period by activating the display of a particular cart and means for automatically deactivating the display by the end of the gratis trial period, for example, using a device, control, logic circuit or computer program which is responsive to a successful payment transaction or the lack thereof up to the point at which the trial period ends (or to a withdrawal transaction) that selectively enables or disables the display in a particular numbered cart, at least insofar as the information available from the golf navigation system is concerned. Such control is preferably also made available to the golf pro in the pro shop, or to a cart rental supervisor in the cart shop, to rectify a fault or failure in the system or to override an automatic command if necessary. As noted earlier herein, a successful payment transaction may be signaled to the apparatus in the clubhouse or cart rental shop by means of a device that senses same, such as a sensor of a merchant authorization number from a credit card issuer.
Portions of the '947 patent are duplicated in part or in whole herein for the convenience of the reader, but the specification of the '947 patent is incorporated by reference in its entirety, as fully as though it were duplicated completely, in this application.
Although for the great majority of courses, the roving unit will be a golf cart, the invention is not confined to carts, but may be used with hand-held wireless units having a monitor or display means for displaying cart navigation, course layout and related information, or with a unit carried in a manual wheeled-transporter for a golf bag, or any other suitable means. The method or means of displaying information may be liquid crystal display (LCD), plasma screen, cathode ray tube (CRT), electro-luminescent display, or any other conventional display means, and indeed, any means by which access to available information on the golf course information system is provided. The method or means of entering payment authorization may be by key pad, touch screen, card reader (e.g., for use with a credit or debit card, or for a smart card), currency reader, optical scanner, magnetic scanner, wireless communicator, or other conventional information input means suitable for the purpose. The method or means of communicating may be wire or wireless communication, radio transmission, radio/infrared/optical/magnetic transmission, or other communicating means suitable for the purpose, including data conversion means where required, and the capability to support secure data such as credit and debit data. The point at which golf carts are processed for assignment to golfers and collection of revenue from the golfers is generally a manned counter at or near the golf cart garage, and in proximity to the tee boxes of the first hole of the golf course.
Leaving the decision to the golfer of whether or not to utilize a cart equipped with the golf course communication system during play of the course may not be suitable in the case of many courses. Rather, the course administration may prefer to mandate the use of such golf carts during play, whether the requirement is imposed at all times or only on certain days of the week, or only during certain hours of the day. In other words, the course management may prefer to retain the option of whether or not the use of a suitably equipped golf cart is required to play the course.
Moreover, whether the option is left to be exercised by the course administration or the golfer, and in the latter case, whether or not a gratis trial period is offered, it would be desirable to provide a system in which revenue sharing for use of the cart is automatically allocated between the course and the supplier of the information system-equipped golf carts, such as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), who may or may not be the distributor of the carts, a conventional fixed term lease equipment lessor, or others involved as additional entities in the supply of carts, such as with third party leasing in which leasing of carts to the golf course is financed by a third party.
The present invention provides such a system and method for automatically allocating revenue derived from the use of information system-equipped golf carts among two or more revenue sharing parties, promptly upon debiting of each cart's assignment to a user for a round of play. Similarly, other revenue sharing arrangements, such as revenue derived from advertisers' marketing and promotional presentations on the cart monitor during play of the course, may handled by appropriate allocation upon debiting the cart's user. For example, the advertisements may promote the tools of the game such as golf clubs, golf balls and the like, or golfing attire, or golf courses in other cities, or unrelated activities such as restaurants and entertainment facilities, to a captive audience, that is, the golfers using the cart. In general, advertising is relegated to a limited portion of the display screen, or is presented during movement of the cart within or between zones delineated on each hole of the course and detected by the navigation system employed in the golf cart information system.
The above and other aims, objectives, aspects, features and advantages of the invention will be better understood from a consideration of the following detailed description of the best mode contemplated for practicing the invention, taken with reference to certain preferred implementations and methods, and the accompanying drawings in which:
The method and device of the invention will be better understood by reference to a presently preferred embodiment. Throughout the views of the drawings, identical reference numbers indicate identical structures. None of the Figures illustrating apparatus are intended to be to actual size or scale.
The cart-based system may use all facets of an overall cart navigation, monitoring, communication, advertising and information system employed at golf course 10, which constitutes prior art and need not be described in detail for purposes of an understanding of the present invention. Alternatively, the information system employed in the cart may be very limited in scope, such as to known golf scoring systems or to wireless access to external communications networks such as the Internet for web-based transactions (e.g., e-mail, stock quotations, sporting event updates, etc.). Any or all portions of these various systems are referred to herein generically as a golf information or golf course information system, irrespective of whether or not information pertaining specifically to the game of golf is available or presented. Some golfers may be interested in only limited fare, but that interest may nevertheless be considerable.
Irrespective whether the present invention is employed in conjunction with the availability of a gratis trial period for a golfer's use of the golf cart 15 equipped with the golf course information system, it is the practice of golf courses to assign a cart to a golfer or pair of golfers desiring to play a round of golf on the course, for a preset cart rental fee in addition to the greens fee and perhaps other fees for the round. On most courses the use of a golf cart is mandatory, to assure at least minimum standards of completing the round within a specified period of time, so as to avoid interfering with the enjoyment of or delaying the play of other golfers. In the case of some courses, principally public courses, however, the golfer may be given the option to rent a cart or to simply walk the course with the bag of clubs, either carrying the bag or hauling it on a hand cart. Also, some courses may make available both carts equipped with the golf course information system and carts without that system. Alternatively, all carts on the course my be implemented with the information system, but the course administrator or valets at the cart parking garage maintain the capability to render the information system inoperative if the golfer does not wish to pay the higher rental fee associated with an operating information system-equipped golf cart.
For exemplary purposes of describing a preferred embodiment and method of the present invention, it will be assumed that any of three or more different cart rental situations may be encountered by a golfer at a course offering cart rentals. The first is a course at which cart rental is mandated by the course administration and each cart is equipped with an operating golf information system for the mandated rental fee. A second situation is a course at which the golfer is given an option to use the information system on the cart for the entire round for a cart rental fee that recognizes the advantages of more informed play offered by the information system at a special higher rate, or to elect having the information system rendered inoperative during play of the round and a concomitant reduced cart rental fee. And a third situation is a course at which the golfer is given the same options as indicated for the second situation, but also the opportunity to request a gratis trial period for use of the information system, subject to giving payment authorization (or withdrawing previously given authorization by the end of the trial period) for the higher portion of the rental fee. Other situations may be available, but all work in substantially the same way in the method and system of the present invention.
Typically, golf carts made available at a golf course are supplied ed and serviced by the OEM, or by a distributor appointed by the OEM, or by an equipment lessor, and under financing provided by the OEM, by the distributor or by a third party leasing arrangement. Various other arrangements involving cart suppliers to the course may exist, however. As used herein, the term “cart supplier” is intended to mean and refer to any entity constituting a source of golf carts for a golf course under an arrangement in which at least the course and the supplier are to share in the receipts (revenues) of the course from the course's rental of golf carts equipped with an operating golf course information system for use by the golfer/renter in play of the course, regardless of whether the supplier is typical or atypical among suppliers of golf carts. Any of the situations that might be present at the golf course will typically require sharing of revenue derived from cart rentals, and more specifically from rental involving carts equipped with a working golf course information system. This revenue sharing would be between or among multiple entities that may include, for example, the golf course itself and the OEM, or the course, the OEM and the OEM's distributor, or the course, OEM, distributor and third party lessor. Accordingly, a cart supplier may include only one entity or multiple entites.
Other revenue sources attributable to the working golf course information system implemented on the golf cart might also exist and be subject to revenue sharing. For example, advertisers and promoters of various golf-related wares and goods, investment opportunities, golf resorts in other areas whether related to the course being played or not, and other entertainment facilities, desire to address a captive audience having the sought after demographics of golfers playing mid- to high-end courses. These advertisements and promotional messages are typically presented and displayed on the cart monitor at appropriately selected intervals during play of the course, with pop-ups controlled by presence of the cart within zones stored in the navigation system (part of the golf course information system) of the cart specifically for the map of this course.
In return for the consent given by the course administrator to advertise and promote goods and services on the local monitor in each golf cart, the course receives an advertising fee from the respective advertisers and promoters. Since the advertisements would not be displayed or rationally related to breaks in the play of the course but for the availability of the monitor and other aspects and features of the golf course information system implemented in the cart, this revenue is shared with the cart supplier(s), similar to the cart rental revenue of the course.
Other revenue sources might also exist in conjunction with the capabilities provided by the information system and its communications and display capabilities with the base station, other carts, the Internet, and so forth. For example, the golfer(s) might wish to take advantage of the availability of scores of other sports activities, or of stock market quotations, for which other fees might apply, and necessitate revenue sharing by the course with the cart supplier(s). Additionally, other techniques to enhance the golfer's enjoyment in playing the course may be mad available, such as golf tips for recommended golf club selection at specified points on each hole, depending on points such as length of the hole, lie of the ball on the hole, and designated par.
Accordingly, the terms “revenue sharing, “allocation of revenues,” and the like, are intended herein to mean and refer to the sharing of any and all sources of revenue, whether attributable to cart rental, advertising revenue, special services, or to any other kind in which information system equipped golf cart usage is a component, under an agreement, whether formal or informal, between or among the respective parties.
Referring now to
The per-round advertising fee and any other informational fees applied for the golfer's convenience (sports scores, stock quotations, etc.) are automatically tallied with the cart rental fee for performing appropriate (agreed-to) revenue sharing allocations by the microprocessor 22. The sharing allocation is delivered to data storage media 23 for selective readout, while the overall fee data is sent to transmission device (hard-wired or wireless) 25 for transmission to and debiting of the source of the golfer's funding. The devices 22, 23 and 25 may be part of the larger course administration system of the golf course, with a conventional requirement and implementation of appropriate encoding of the type or nature of the transaction by the course's cart operations employee, to trigger the revenue sharing calculation and disposition by those elements.
This system and operation suffices for the situations in which either the course administrator mandates or the golfer/renter is given the option of use of the golf cart equipped with an operating information system. It should be noted that rendering the cart's information system operational will generally be performed at the time the cart is assigned to the golfer. In a case where the golfer is given the option of a gratis trial period at the outset for use of the cart's information system, the collection of an added charge (beyond that for the cart rental only) for use of that system for an entire round of play (should the golfer/renter choose to do so) may be performed at a kiosk or other means located at a subsequent point on the course, as described more fully in the '947 patent.
The presently preferred method utilized according to the invention is illustrated by the flow chart of
In a presently preferred system for allocating revenues attributable to rental and use of the golf course information system implemented in golf carts with local monitor adapted to display any or all information of the system to assist a golfer in play of the golf course, a golf cart processing point in proximity to tee boxes of the first hole of the golf course, in or near the cart garage adjacent the clubhouse of the course, is used in the assigning of the carts to golfers for commencing a round of play on the course. The system comprises calculating means positioned at least in part at the processing point, such as the scanner of the golfer's credit card, debit card, club membership card, or other indicia of authorization to play the course and of a source of funds from which the fee(s) may be withdrawn.
The calculating means further includes a device or devices associated with the scanner which may be part of the club's administrative system, for automatically allocating revenues from golfers for their respective use of the information system on the golf carts during a round of play on the course, according to the revenue sharing agreement between the golf course and its cart supplier. The allocation of the revenues is contemporaneous with revenue collection from the golfers upon making the golf cart assignments.
Although a presently contemplated best mode of practicing the invention has been disclosed by reference to certain preferred methods, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art from a consideration of the foregoing description that variations and modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, it is intended that the invention shall be limited only by the appended claims and the rules and principles of applicable law.