By Ken Klavon, USGA
October 12, 2011
Ross Galarneault was a member of the Minnesota Golf Association staff for 15 years, the last six as executive director before joining the USGA staff in 2001 as manager of regional association services for the Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN).
In that position, he travels the country extensively to educate golf association staff and member club officials on the use of GHIN products and services. Galarneault also coordinates the scoring activities for the USGA championships. Each year, he is assigned to provide scoring support at three or four championships, including the U.S. Women’s Open & U.S. Amateur. He also fills a supporting Rules and competition role at one championship annually.
Galarneault originally hails from Minnesota. He is a 1985 graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science – Management Information Systems. He sat down with the USGA’s Ken Klavon and discussed the importance of GHIN.
What is GHIN®?
GHIN (pronounced “jin”) stands for the Golf Handicap and Information Network®. This department was founded by the USGA more than 30 years ago to assist state and regional golf associations (SRGAs) by providing a high quality handicap computation service. We work only through SRGAs, never directly with individual clubs or members. GHIN believes a handicap computation service must be dynamic and be driven by customer desire and changing technology. The primary purpose of GHIN is to be of assistance to its golf associations so that they can attract and retain members. In recent years, the USGA has also offered the GHIN service to foreign national golf associations/unions/federations that are licensed to use the USGA Handicap System™.
In how many states can you find GHIN?
Currently GHIN works with 71 golf associations covering 41 states plus Puerto Rico, Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, Guam and India. These associations represent more than 12,000 clubs and nearly 2.1 million golfers, making GHIN one of the largest handicap computation service providers in the world.
Why is GHIN important?
GHIN provides an extensive array of dynamic services and products aimed at allowing an SRGA to provide premier services to its member clubs and golfers. The SRGAs throughout the country are key allies of the USGA and they assist us in administering many of our programs and services within their jurisdictions. Their vitality is important, so if providing GHIN as an option for SRGA membership services is beneficial, which the USGA believes it is, then the association is fulfilling its objectives.
The GHIN service includes a number of core products for managing handicaps and tournaments for clubs. Those are the GHIN Handicap Program™ (GHP™), which is a PC-based software product that synchronizes with our central database; GHINClub.net, a remote handicap platform; and the Tournament Pairing Program® (TPP®). Beyond the core products, GHIN provides a large range of services to support SRGAs, their member clubs, and individual member golfers. Those include eClubhouse™, which is a microsite Web presence for clubs; eGolfer, which provides golfers on GHIN a way to manage their handicap information, buddy lists and keep personal statistics; eNewsletter, an email-delivered update of a golfer’s handicap information along with news from their SRGA; and many other products and services.
Why else is TPP important?
TPP is widely considered to be the premier tournament management software available today and is only offered to member clubs of SRGAs using the GHIN service. Additionally, TPP is also used by the SRGAs on GHIN for their tournaments and the USGA Championship Department to help organize all USGA championships, including our nation’s oldest championships, the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur. TPP is actually a powerful suite of products that allows users to efficiently organize tournaments, score events, display results and post the scores back to the golfers’ handicap records.
How many clubs use TPP?
About 7,000 of our more than 12,000 clubs use TPP, though all clubs on GHIN have access to the software. Each year we do a survey and among other things we ask clubs that do not use TPP, what do they use? The number one answer we always get is that they don’t use anything. They either do it by hand or maybe don’t have tournaments at all. Our number one competitor is Microsoft Excel – they do everything in a spreadsheet. Those two answers comprise 90 percent of the clubs using GHIN that don’t use TPP.
How does the USGA use TPP for its championships?
TPP is used to some extent at all USGA championships. At the three Open championships, it’s used to help set up the pairings, to produce scorecards and to generate the entire pace of play documentation for all of the rounds. At the amateur championships, USGA staff uses TPP to do everything. They set up for the championship ahead of time, print all of the pairings information, all of the scoring, produce the draw for match play, enter all of the scoring in match play and feed the real-time scoring on the Web and via TPP Clubhouse Viewer™ on displays in the clubhouse.
Why don’t all USGA championships use real-time scoring?
We use a component of our platform called TPP OnCourse™, which allows us to wirelessly put scores into TPP from on the course. We try to provide scores after each hole or what is called “real-time,” at all championships but sometimes we are limited by volunteer availability or wireless connectivity. At a minimum, we do try to put scores in at the halfway point of a round and as soon as they are verified at the conclusion of a round.
Can somebody still post on GHIN if their club doesn’t use GHIN?
If that member’s golf association subscribes to the International Golf Network (IGN), a score exchange service between golf associations, then we will route the score to the vendor that assists their home SRGA via IGN.
Say someone belongs to multiple clubs. Can they still use GHIN?
In the GHIN service, if a golfer is on GHIN at multiple clubs, they only have one GHIN number and through that number, scores are routed to all of their clubs. If a golfer is on GHIN in an IGN association and also in a club in an IGN golf association not on GHIN, we use their membership number to route their scores to the other golf associations.
What is eGolfer?
The eGolfer platform was relaunched on March 8, 2011, and the response to the new version has been excellent. GHIN members who register for this free service have access to a personalized Web page where they can post scores, view their handicap information, track hole-by-hole information and produce statistical reports that help them analyze their performance.
The new eGolfer interface allows members to “Post and boast.” Members can share their rounds via Facebook and Twitter social networking sites, or via email. Their friends who view this information will be able to link back to GHIN where they can learn more about eGolfer, their local SRGA and how to become a member. Since the USGA launched the new version of the platform, golfers are able to sign up online at GHIN.com or through their own SRGA website. There have been more than 52,000 new profiles activated and more than 150,000 scores have been added using the new interface.
Can anyone be an eGolfer?
Any of the GHIN users can have an eGolfer account.
Is there any new technology you’re working on?
We’re actually developing several new platforms for our associations, clubs and golfers. Probably the most notable one will be a completely Internet-based handicap platform that would be on a club computer but would not need a robust software program installed. Everything would reside on our central servers so that the scores are instantaneously in the central database and available on the Internet. If a person posts at home or from work on the Internet, or uses their smart phone, their score would be immediately visible at their club. Speaking of smart phones, we are also doing considerable development of mobile interfaces and “apps.”
Our tournament platform is being updated to be completely Internet-based. We’ve been using that throughout the development process for running scoring at USGA championships. We also have about 70 associations using it for running their association events as well. All these projects are nearing completion and you will start seeing most of them in the public by the end of the year.
The GHIN objective is to provide software, systems and services using current technology. This keeps things both easy to use and improves what GHIN offers, keeping it in the forefront of technology. GHIN can’t rest on its laurels; it has to keep pressing forward. That said, development is done in a measured approach. GHIN doesn’t just jump in and do new things that can get messy or problematic for people who are happy with what they currently use. It ensures that the next items developed are better than what they have today.
Do you hold a lot of seminars?
GHIN assists golf associations in presenting seminars. Most do their own presentations, but it’s a major portion of what I do. My job is to take care of the golf associations that use our service, and that entails quite a bit of travel. Outreach to associations, clubs and their members are vitally important. Not only does it provide an opportunity for GHIN to share information about our products and services, but it also gives us an opportunity for feedback from our users. GHIN cares about what members, clubs and associations have to say about our service and products. We receive many excellent ideas to improve our offerings and a number of those are implemented annually.
What kind of feedback do you get from associations?
The associations interact with us on a regular basis. Generally I get the more strategic type of questions about how to grow their membership, whether they should use our service or not, how to do a better job in retaining golfers and things like that. So I will probably talk to half a dozen to a dozen of the golf associations each week. Overall, our associations are very pleased with our service and that satisfaction increases each year.