Family owned course has a unique spin on an old tradition

There are many memorable golf courses in the region that spans the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier of New York.

Conklin’s Players Club has to sit near the top of the list.

The family owned golf course has several unique features that help it stand out amongst the crowd, with the GPS system the most obvious.

“When you have didn’t have it, you didn’t miss it,” Co-owner and golf course manager Theresa Rickard said. “But now if you took it away, you’d miss it.”

This year marks two big occasions for the Rickard and Brown families. It’s the 20th anniversary of the course’s opening and the it’s the 10th anniversary of when they brought in the GPS.

From the beginning, the course was a labor of love for the two families.

“We built it ourselves,” Rickard explained. “My husband (Rick Rickard) and I bought it from a dairy farmer.”

They, along with the help of her brother Marty Brown and a few others, designed the course.

“We’ve attracted a lot of people from outside the local area,” remarked Rickard. “We have stay and play packages we do with them.”

The GPS has been a big reason for business.

“It’s a luxury for the golfer,” Rickard explained. “We don’t charge extra for it or anything.”

They were the first course in the area to install it; the only other nearby course with a GPS system is Traditions at The Glen.

The system has changed the way the Player’s Club has done business.

“We don’t have yardsticks our there anymore,” explained Rickard. “(The GPS) tells you how close you are to the pin.”

They use a program called the Pin Placement Manager to help the GPS keep track of all the pins.

“We change our pins pretty much on a daily business,” Rickard said. “You go out and cut the pins, then the maintenance staff comes in and they go right down to the computer and put down right where the pin placement should be. It then picks up the signal and sends it to all the carts.”

The system does more than just measure distances, though.

“You can send messages (to golfers) and they can send messages back,” explained Rickard. “You can do storm warnings.”

Ordering food to go is also another feature. As the cart nears the turn, a screen pops up asking if the golfers would like to order anything from the restaurant.

“We chose that for hole eight,” Rickard said. “When you go to hole eight you can order what you want off the menu, then it’s already for you when you come on the turn.”

The system also keeps track of the score.

“There is a scoring system that goes in that’s great,” remarked Rickard. “You can keep your score automatically; now with this new one you can e-mail it to yourself. Everything is all electronics anymore, there’s no paper.”

The system also helps Rickard keep track of the golfers.

“It monitors pace of play, which is a big part of the golf course,” Rickard said. “Slow play is annoying to people. We try to keep track of people who are behind pace and ahead of pace. It’s very nice to monitor it that way.”

Golfers can use the same system to make sure that there is nobody ahead of them when they hit a blind shot, too.

Like all technology, the system has gone through several upgrades.

“When they first came out with it, it was a roof mounted unit,” explained Rickard. “Four years later we had an in dash mount.”

The improvements have continued this year with another upgrade.

“It’s a new system that works off cell towers,” Rickard said. “Even though you’re getting the signal from the satellite, you’re communicating with a cell tower. Before you had antennas and repeaters out on the course but now you communicate everything through the internet. It’s new to us, too.”

The graphics have improved, showing a 3-D image of each hole right down to the individual trees that run along the fairway.

“They’re so clear now,” remarked Rickard.

The Player’s Club is excited to be reaping the benefits of this touchscreen system.

“I thought it was pretty cool when it first came out,” Rickard said. “It’s come a long ways since then, they’ve really changed things. Also, they’re putting little quarks here and there; it’s very user friendly.”

Of course, golfers come for the GPS but they return for the golf.

The 18-hole course has been given some strong recognition nationally, with Golf Digest giving it 4 1/2-stars, the same rating as 2002 U.S. Open host Beth Page Black; an impressive feat for a family owned course.

“We do it all ourselves,” explained Rickard.

All of the landscaping is done by her husband, who owns his own business.

“We plant all our own trees, we do all our shrubbery work and all our landscaping; the whole thing.”

Being able to run the course and get their hands dirty in keeping it well groomed has been key to their success.

“(My husband) knows how to run all the heavy equipment,” explained Rickard. “My brother’s the superintendent here.”

They also believe that being family owned has been a big incentive for keeping the course in good condition.

“When it’s something of your own, you take a lot of pride in it,” Rickard said. “Myself, my husband and my brother, we’re very particular. You want to treat it like a child, almost.”

The course is located on Route 7 a few miles south of Binghamton.


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