Why so many clubs are investing in their driving ranges

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 13, 2019 12:09

Several golf clubs have been investing in technology in their driving ranges in recent months as this is now a proven way to attract more customers to their venues.

One of the biggest trends of 2019 has been the recognition within the industry that a driving range can be a source of huge financial growth.

For example, Stellar Asset Management acquired Paultons Golf Club near Southampton and said the site will undergo a major refurbishment to its driving range.

“Taking inspiration from current trends in the US, the driving range will be transformed into a family, sports and entertainment space providing full-service food and beverages, sports bars and a multi-media private event space,” said a spokesman.

Similarly, Wallsend Golf Club in Northumberland is hoping to embark on a £12.5 million project that will see its driving range transformed – also into a centre aimed at attracting new people to golf.

The club is poised to become the UK’s first ‘BigShots Golf’ centre, combining traditional golf play with digital technology, and has applied for planning permission to reconfigure the existing golf course and include the development of a driving range that will be the first of its kind in the UK.

The BigShots Golf concept, launched in Texas in 2017, ‘is designed to deliver golf to a younger and more diverse market by combining the outdoor facilities of a traditional driving range with state-of-the-art virtual reality digital technology’, said a spokesman. Last year, ClubCorp, the world leader in private golf clubs, purchased a controlling interest in the company.

The project, which could be completed less than a year from now, will see the construction of a two-storey building, with golf bays fronting the driving range at ground and first floor levels and additional facilities including a new bar and restaurant.

PGA professional Phil Harrison said: “It’s a fantastic concept that is proving incredibly popular in the USA as it’s attractive to not only experienced golfers who can use it as a traditional driving range to practice, a coaching aid or just the fun of playing different courses in a virtual reality mode, but also to complete novices who can learn to play golf here whilst still having fun playing different games.”

Leading the way is, of course, Topgolf, the company which has been successful in England where there are three venues, which has said it will open its first in Scotland.

Topgolf centres are typically driving ranges featuring microchipped golf balls that provide instant feedback on each shot’s accuracy and distance, where games can be played by all ages and skill levels. There are no dress codes and drinks, including alcohol, along with food, are served.

The three in England all include areas featuring large screens broadcasting entertainment such as live sports, and they are very popular with younger people in evenings when golf club clubhouses may be quiet.

The venue for Scotland is set to be at Rutherglen in South Lanarkshire, and will feature Scotland’s first three-storey driving range, after it was approved by planners. It will also include a ‘golf entertainment centre’.

The multi-level complex will allow golfers to practice their swing from climate controlled hitting bays 27 feet in the air. Full plans for the huge complex included 72 hitting bays over three tiers, an open air roof terrace and bar with seating for 70 people, a sports bar, a lounge, an events hall with nearly 100 seats, one drive-thru coffee shop and one drive-thru restaurant.

Several clubs have been investing in their driving ranges in 2019, particularly in a bid to take advantage of new technology.

Wycombe Heights Golf Centre, for example, constructed a new driving range featuring state-of-the-art technology this year.

The Buckinghamshire club invested hundreds of thousands of pounds into the new facility. Using cameras mounted around it, the technology tracks and displays every shot on video screens found at each hitting bay and allows for a host of fun game modes that are scalable to any ability.

Data is instantly recorded and displayed on the screen through a player profile, allowing users to return to their stored data on subsequent visits or compare their performance against friends.

Sarah Blunden, general manager at Wycombe Heights, commented: “The technology has become very recognisable to golf fans over the last couple of years and it will really add a new dynamic for both avid golfers and beginners looking to pick up the game in a fun and relaxed environment.”

The investment into constructing the new range was extensive, with roughly 100,000 tonnes of soil required to re-level the outfield, as well as fitting new bays and updating the existing golf range equipment.

A new state-of-the-art swing / fitting studio utilising similar technology has also opened at Cowdray Park Golf Club in Sussex. Located on the driving range, the spacious studio provides golfers with a comfortable environment to improve their game, whatever the weather.

The club uses launch monitor technology to assist with coaching as well as developing the custom fitting service in the pro shop. The ability to measure full ball flight data is essential for recommending improvements, whether it is technique or equipment based, states the club.

And De Vere Wokefield Estate, near Reading, also opened a new driving range and academy in 2019.

The academy features technology such as ball launch and swing monitors.

The driving range comprises eight indoor bays and seven fully-lit outdoor bays, which can be used as part of corporate and leisure packages.

Ciaran Sheehy, group golf sales manager at De Vere, commented: “We’re constantly looking at ways to enhance the golf experience for our guests and members, and the addition of these quality facilities will enable us to attract more golfers and provide group coaching sessions for corporate clients, as part of team-building activities.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 13, 2019 12:09
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  1. EXLEDJames February 19, 12:56

    Fantastic Article. We have illuminated at least four of these Driving ranges. Love to see the feedback.

    Reply to this comment
  2. changingspacec November 20, 10:45

    Nice golf ground!

    Reply to this comment
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