On the Right Course Trio Aces Chicago-Based Online Golf Service

Article excerpt

Kathryn Savarese was a self-proclaimed golf nut.

On the road to self improvement, Savarese, a member of Dartmouth's tennis team, would diligently record her strokes and other elements of her game in a homemade Excel spreadsheet.

"I was obsessed with it," Savarese said.

Fortunately for Savarese, co-founder of online golfing service GolfServ Online Inc. in Chicago, so are many of the 25 million golfers in the United States.

Launched in March of 1999, GolfServ now appears on more than 180 different sites, including USAToday.com, America Online and CNN/Sports Illustrated (cnnsi.com).

GolfServ combines its GameTrack, the golf game management system that evolved from Savarese's homemade database, with course reviews and the ability to book tee times and purchase golfing equipment. It gives GolfServ's clients ready-made content for their Web sites in return for licensing fees and a share of advertising revenue.

Savarese had projected that the typical GolfServ visitor would play twice a month, on average. That means the visitor would come to the site to enter stats two times a month.

"People are coming back two times a week," she said. GolfServ visitors played 175,000 rounds of golf last season. Half of those people entered their strokes hole by hole, she said.

"People use it a lot," said Rick Miller, sales director of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Interactive site. GolfServ users account for 45 percent of the traffic to site's Golf Plus Online area during the golf season and 38 percent in the off-season, Miller said.

The goal of GolfServ is to be a one-stop online shop for golfing information and help. The cornerstone of the service is GameTrack, which lets users track their handicap and performance. Golfers enter their scores and other measurements of their game toward establishing an unofficial handicap. GolfServ also has a version for the Palm operating system so players can enter their information on the course as they play.

GolfServ also includes Golf magazine's course guide that lets users name a city or zip code and get the names of courses in the area, including course descriptions and scorecards. The service also provides the ability to book tee times at some courses.

Other offerings include VirtualPro, which provides golf lessons online, and FitGuide, which includes information such as strength and flexibility exercises to help players improve their games.

In February, GolfServ introduced a community service that helps members of golf leagues communicate and follow each other's games, aggregate scores and provide rankings. Within a week of introducing the feature, nearly 400 leagues were using the service, Savarese said.

GolfServ also has a pro shop, where golfers can order equipment through online stores or auction sites. One of the equipment sellers, ChipShot.com, bought GolfServ in January.

Savarese said the match is a natural one since ChipShot specializes in manufacturing custom-made equipment and GolfServ is intent on developing specialized content for golfers of all stripes: experienced players, newcomers to the game, women and men. …