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Greg Norman’s Shark Experience could ignite stagnant golf industry

Two-time major champion Greg Norman has made millions on and off the course, but he said money was never a motivating factor, even in 1986 when he won the Las Vegas Invitational and golf’s richest first-place prize at the time, $207,000.

“I never played for money. I played golf for the enjoyment and the feeling it gave me,” Norman said of winning the tournament that is now the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. “I always loved playing that event, even though I’m not a gambler. One of my most memorable shots was in that tournament. I hit a 1-iron and it went right through a pigeon. That has never happened before or since.”

Last week at the PGA Merchandise Show in Florida, Norman officially launched Shark Experience, his new cart software program bringing “connectivity, content and customization” to a golf course near you. The Shark Experience is a partnership between Norman, Verizon, Club Car and GPSi.

I first learned about Norman’s new idea when he spoke at Golf Business TechCon in September at the Aria. He criticized the stagnant golf industry and gave a sneak peak of his new venture, saying it would help revolutionize the sport by driving revenues for course operators and enjoyment for golfers.

Each new Club Car Tempo Connect golf cart will feature Shark Experience displayed on a built-in, high-definition touchscreen featuring Bluetooth speakers. Tech elements include an electronic scorecard, 3D flyovers, hole overviews, rangefinder and GPS Zone messaging system. Golfers can watch live sporting events and golf tournaments, get playing tips from Norman, seamlessly charge food and beverage, and enjoy other elements of the software.

Norman, who got started in golf as an assistant professional at Royal Queensland Golf Club in Australia, empathizes with the challenges of running a course and is pleased with the initial reaction to the technology. He said one club pro told him golfers would delay their tee times to wait for carts featuring Shark Experience.

“We’ve had more than 10,000 beta test rounds, and the results are a little above what I thought it would be,” Norman said. “Maybe I tried to keep my expectations a little lower, but it really does reinforce to me that the industry definitely needs this new technology to break out of the box that golf has been stuck in for decades. Also, the advisory council that we have from the USGA, the PGA of America, the big management companies like Troon and others, have also validated it.”

Norman said his new technology will help attract the next generation of golfers.

“When I see the success of Topgolf and that 11 million people went through their facilities in 2017, and then I break that down and see that 4.4 million had never played golf before, that’s the market we are trying to tap into,” Norman said. “People who are finding golf fun, listening to music, enjoying food and beverage, being with friends and connecting with their devices. Nobody has been able to conquer this space, and yet we did.

“When the PGA Tour saw what we had, they wanted to get involved. When we are fully deployed in a couple years, we will be in front of 93 million golfers per year. The PGA Tour could never capture the out-of-home market, and now they can. You’ll be able to play golf and watch the PGA Tour at the same time when before you had to do one or the other.”

Stars on, off course

PGA Tour player Kevin Na made a trick-shot putt from the steps of his private plane to a plastic cup on the McCarran International Airport tarmac before flying to Phoenix for the Waste Management Open.

The golf notebook appears Wednesdays. Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at bhurlburt5@gmail.com or @LVGolfInsider.

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