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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Craguns 2017

Fairways & Greens
June 25, 2017

The Wilds' Drone Creates A Buzz
Andy Gerber flying his drone at The Wilds
+ click to enlarge
Andy Gerber flying his drone at The Wilds
The Wilds #4 Photo Courtesy Peter Wong Photography
+ click to enlarge
The Wilds #4 Photo Courtesy Peter Wong Photography
Tim Cotroneo


When The Wilds Golf Club opened in 1995, most golfers were more likely to think the word "drone" meant a buzzing sound than an unmanned aircraft. Today, The Wilds' use of aerial video technology has opened a window for those golfers who wish to take a sneak peek at one of the Twin Cities premier 18-hole layouts.

In 2014, Head Professional Andy Gerber believed that a drone would provide golfers with a real-time insight into The Wilds layout, landscape, wildlife, conditions, and ambiance. Gerber purchased a DJI Phantom 3 and incorporated the drone into virtually every aspect of The Wilds marketing.

"Besides our website, we use drone footage on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and in various marketing campaigns. Our drone has become a tremendous tool for showcasing what The Wilds can offer as a golf experience, for instruction, and for tournaments," Gerber said.

International Reach For Golf Tournaments
Since The Wilds opened for business 21 years ago, the course has become synonymous with delivering one of the best tournament experiences anywhere. Not only has The Wilds become a go-to venue for Twin Citians seeking customized tournaments, after two decades of generating success stories, the course's reputation is now international.

"We just hosted a July corporate tournament in which a company's employees were flown in from across the globe for a Twin Cities-based conference. They decided to put on a tournament at The Wilds to coincide with the conference. We had 75 golfers from 20 different countries playing here. The organizer had previously coordinated tournaments on several continents, and he said The Wilds were far and away the easiest course he's ever worked with," Gerber said.

The Wilds takes pride in fulfilling the most unusual tournament requests. Outside the box desires that have been fulfilled range from dunk tanks, to food and beverage on every hole, and even military processions with bagpipes.

2016 Course Conditions Are Exceptional
The Wilds long-time Superintendent Wes Stoneback pursues traditional and cutting-edge methods for staying on top of his lush 7,000-yard playground's appearance and playability. Like nearly all The Wild's employees, Stoneback is an avid golfer himself. Playing the course later in the day offers him an insight into noticing areas that he may have missed during his early morning trek throughout both nines.

The second way Stoneback meticulously manicures The Wilds terrain is by reviewing the daily social media updates. "I regularly scroll through our drone postings on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I notice unusual wear from cart traffic as well as irregular fertilizer spray and drainage issues. It's amazing what an aerial view can show you that you can't see at eye level," Stoneback said.

It's All About The Little Things
Gerber formerly worked at The TPC Sawgrass Golf Course, the home of The Players Championship. Gerber learned two management mantras during his time in Ponte Vedra, FL, and he continues to implement these philosophies today.

"One of the work principles I believe in is management by walking around. Each day I drive out on the course and see how our golfers are doing. I think it's really important that The Wilds team makes a connection with golfers, learns their names, and never forget that there are a lot of courses that our guests drive past before they arrive here," Gerber said.

The second business principle Gerber is passionate about is that when a golfer spends time at The Wilds, it's for more than just golf. "Whether a guest is here for a wedding reception, to eat dinner, golf instruction, a tournament, or practices on our driving range, we need to pay attention to the little things. If we get the little things right, there's a good chance we'll earn a customer for life," Gerber said.

Going Viral At The Wilds
Even though Gerber and The Wilds team takes the business of golf seriously, there are times when they can't help letting their collective sense of humor show. Earlier this year, Gerber created a drone video that caused quite a stir.

"I shot a video footage of someone inserting beer into a six pack followed by the six pack being hauled off into the sky via our Phantom drone. The implied message of this video was that our drone delivered beer to golfers out on the course," Gerber said. What some, but not all viewers realized was that the video aired on April 1.

The drone beer delivery video received 6,500 likes on The Wilds Facebook page along with dozens of delighted comments. The feedback was extremely positive except for one golfer. "Shortly after the video aired, a golfer who drove all the way from Chicago arrived and told a member of our pro shop which hole he wanted his beer delivered. He wasn't too pleased to learn that the video was an April Fools joke," Gerber said.






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