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Damage caused by vandals to golf courses and their golf car fleets is an $8 to $10 million problem that course owners, operators, club professionals and superintendents are struggling to solve, according to a whitepaper published recently by Club Car.
The whitepaper, “Golf car vandalism: no joyride,” was developed following research to identify owners’ and operators’ chief operational concerns. Among the survey findings were statistics that underlined the critical nature of the vandalism problem:
• 72 percent of courses reported golfers playing extra holes without paying a green fee
“Unfortunately, vandalism seems to be on the rise in many areas,” said Mike Read, director of marketing for Club Car. “But from an economic standpoint, some of the costliest damage can occur after the act itself because damaged golf cars and plowed up greens can cripple a course for days, if not weeks.”
Joel Willis, an insurance executive who was interviewed for the whitepaper, said the costs of golf car-related vandalism go beyond the obvious (vehicle and equipment replacement, lost revenue from course closures for repairs or for preparing temporary greens). Repeated incidents could also prompt an increase in insurance premiums, said Willis, program director of Clubsurance, a division of The Commonwealth Insurance Group.
Golf course managers have tried a number of tactics to thwart vandalism, including installing video camera surveillance of the golf car fleet, adding higher fences to the property or bigger locks and chains to the storage facility, and posting nightly security patrols.
“Now most courses have cart barns that are locked up and secure. They have spent the money to do that,” said Brian Fisher, national programs coordinator for the Davis-Garvin insurance agency in Columbia, S.C. “That’s one of the questions we ask: How do you secure your fleet?
“Obviously, a wide open fleet, whether it’s chained down or however it might be secured, is very susceptible to vandalism,” Fisher continued. “To spend the extra money on a cart barn is well worth the time and money, especially in terms of us viewing it as a favorable risk.”
In a high-tech approach, Club Car worked with GPS Industries, a Sarasota, Fla.-based global media and technology firm, to develop its new GPS-based Guardian SVC system, which allows course managers to define restricted areas and limit vehicle access to them. Club Car says it expects the system to be a major deterrent to joyriding vandals.
“If you can stop the source of their ‘fun,’ odds are you’ll come close to eliminating the damage,” Read said.