New golf instructional facilities with the latest and greatest teaching tools- plus appealing extra features that make students happy to come to school- are getting high marks at clubs across the country.
As members look to improve their handicaps on the golf course, clubs are heeding the call for instructional spaces that can be outfitted with the latest technology to help enhance players’ games, along with plenty of appealing creature comforts that will keep them coming back, no matter what the season.
Be it a space that spotlights a particular vendor’s offering, or a multi-tiered shop that boasts simulators, areas for customized clubfitting and other features, these new hot spots are putting many clubs on equal (and less-crowded) footing with the fanciest public facilities, and positioning them to take the lead in developing dedicated golfers for the rest of the 21st century.
|SUMMING IT UP:
– Enhancing golf instructional space can establish clubs as a destination for members and the community at large.
– Creating a dedicated space for instruction allows a club to accommodate an expanded equipment list.
– Mirroring the design of existing facilities into practice space makes for a seamless transition.
On Par with the Pros
To better serve its membership’s golf needs on a regular basis, the Magnolia Green Golf Club of Moseley, Va., unveiled a brand-new, 1,600-sq.-ft. academy building this past February. “The investment shows our commitment to excellence, as we continue to set the standards as the premier semi-private golf facility in the Greater Richmond area,” says General Manager Bobby Kidder. “The facility and quality of instruction that is provided puts us on par with the highest-end private clubs.”
Situated adjacent to the range and clubhouse, the club’s practice space carries over the Craftsman style of Magnolia Green’s existing facilities, featuring asphalt shingles, hardiplank siding and a stone water table. “Every square foot is maximized for usage by multiple golfers at once,” explains Kidder. The space is outfitted with three types of turf—a traditional tee line, longer rough, and green—and a 15 x 35 putting green serves as the home of the club’s own SAM PuttLab.
Taking into account indoor ball flight and unit-placement parameters when designing hitting areas, the club opted for the Flightscope Launch Monitor, which allows balls to be hit into a net indoors or with the hitting-bay doors open to the range. Clubfitting, another key design factor, was also addressed with the inclusion of putter and iron loft/lie machines, in addition to a designated re-gripping area. A dedicated place for demo equipment and fitting carts keeps essentials in a secure, accessible location.
Fortunately for management, Magnolia Green did not encounter any challenges during the design and installation process for its new academy. “We had plenty of room for the building and easy access from the adjacent parking lot, and the building’s location had minimal impact on golfers during construction,” notes Kidder. Because this facility is brand new, no maintenance has been required yet, but it will be power-washed and repainted as needed.
Member feedback about the academy building has been overwhelmingly positive, Kidder reports. “The building was built to create a measurable increase in member facility utilization and retention,” he says. “Despite a very rainy spring, the number of instructional cancellations has been minimal, and we’re already seeing an increase in usage.”
Building Around a Brand
For Fox Creek Golf Club in Smyrna, Ga., going high-tech has been on management’s minds from the get-go. “The owners of Fox Creek are very much into technology,” says Gautam Patankar, Vice President of Operations for Mosaic Clubs, Fox Creek’s management company. After being given the opportunity to open a GolfTec teaching facility on campus—one of five nationwide locations that sits on a golf course—Fox Creek proceeded with construction this past spring, and opened its new 2,400-sq. ft facility in mid-May.
The new building, which adheres to standard GolfTec specs for golf course locations, resides on the club’s driving range. The exterior is designed to match the brick-and-stucco Fox Creek clubhouse, and is painted white. Indoors are three hitting bays: two for right-handed golfers and a larger, middle bay for both right- and lefthanded players.
Each bay is outfitted with a television monitor for immediate video feedback, and a computer to monitor and track swings. A shaft wall accommodates multiple club shafts and clubheads for proper fitting. Two offices, two rest rooms, a putting green and lobby space round out the remaining square footage.
Thanks to the temperate Georgia climate, the driving-range location allows the bays to be opened yearround—what Patankar refers to as “open-garage hitting. You would not see that in colder locations,” he adds.
Despite some minor setbacks during construction that hampered the production schedule and pushed opening day back slightly, Fox Creek’s guests have realized immediate benefits once the GolfTec facility was up and running. “Those who are into game improvement, believe in learning through technology and are visual learners are really enjoying the facility,” Patankar says. “So many local golfers are now visiting Fox Creek for lessons, which has helped our overall customer base.”
Out of the Office, Onto the Green
Technology has been at the forefront of The Golf Club of Georgia’s practice facilities for quite some time. Following last year’s redesign of the Alpharetta, Ga.-based club’s instructional space, management decided that an area was needed to properly showcase its existing RoboGolfPro and future high-tech installation components.
Under the partnerships of architects Bob Cupp and Kuo Diedrich, the club opened an 1,800-sq.-ft. Cupp Golf Academy this past May.
“The philosophy of the Cupp Golf Academy is ‘to create an environment where golf technology enhances golf performance,’” says General Manager Jacqueline Welch. Situated at the rear of the club’s dual driving range and practice facility, the style of the academy resembles that of the clubhouse’s Carolina Lodge feel (see photo above). “We wanted the space to blend in with the natural surroundings and have an inviting atmosphere,” Welch describes.
Three bays with large, retractable doors let players hit golf balls onto the range during their lesson. The center bay spotlights the facility’s focal point—the RoboGolfPro—that members view through a large window as soon as they enter.
Next door are practice bays that house two Trackman units and three Swing Catalyst units, and a middle bay used for full club fittings and a SAM PuttLab. “Several pieces of technology, including Trackman and SAM PuttLab, are transportable and can easily be set up on the practice tee or putting green,” notes Welch.
Given the Atlanta area’s mild, year-round climate, weather did not contribute to the location of the Golf Club of Georgia’s practice facility. “It was more important to us that the facility be located in close proximity to the Par 3 Cupp Course and the shortgame practice facility to enhance the quality of instruction,” says Welch. Air conditioning and heating installed in each bay provide year-round comfort, while cedar-shingle siding and an asphalt shingle roof were selected specifically to withstand the elements.
While climate control did not pose any issues, the design team experienced its fair share of challenges during all phases of the construction process. Determining how to get basic utilities, such as electricity and Internet to an area that was primarily forest, proved to be costly. Also, the access of construction vehicles to the job site and parking in designated areas was limited, to avoid damage to the cart path and turf areas.
As if that wasn’t enough to contend with, a thunderstorm with driving rains pushed water under insulated, roll-up doors during the final stage of the project. Fortunately, a metal channel for the roll-up door prevented water from pushing further into the bay.
But those issues aside, the club’s Cupp Golf Academy is already earning rave reviews from its membership. According to Welch, bookings for lesson packages have been consistent, and camp and clinic program additions are increasing to meet member demand.
Best of all, the installation of the academy has given the Golf Club of Georgia an opportunity tap into another revenue stream: the corporate sector. “We have a tremendous opportunity to leverage the academy to offer unique golf experiences for executives and their teams, where we can create customized programming for fun, team-building outings for all skill levels,” says Welch. “For them, it is more about getting out of the office, trying something new and developing a sense of camaraderie among the group, so they can be more productive in the boardroom.”
After a long, cold winter, members of the Olympic Hills Golf Club in Eden Prairie, Minn., are warming up to a brand-new golf instructional facility, opened just last month. “In Minnesota, we have an especially short golfing season,” explains Brett Heisler, the club’s PGA professional. “To enhance the quality of our membership experience and increase member engagement during the winter months, we decided to build our hitting bays.”
Situated on the back of the driving range, approximately 50 yards from the clubhouse, the 1,800-sq.-ft. building mirrors the look of Olympic Hills’ recently renovated clubhouse and new golf shop.
“At Olympic Hills, we have paid particular attention to creating intimate and inviting spaces around the club for members to hang out,” says General Manager Rudy Luther. “The style of the hitting bays incorporates the same site standards as the other renovations, using modern architectural lines and integrating wood, rock, glass and steel elements.”
Upon passing through the building’s two steel doors, members can immediately deposit their belongings in cubbies and use iPads for self check-in. Two bays—Pines Bay on the left and Prairie Bay on the right—are symmetrical in design, each with its own lounge area featuring wooden floors, leather couches, swivel chairs and tables. A golf bag rack and movable curtain provide distinct space between the two bays, while synthetic turf with inlayed hitting mats serves as durable flooring.
Sporting a versatile layout, this facility is designed for both indoor and outdoor hitting functionality. “The participant can choose to open up a glass garage door to hit the balls out onto the range, or to deploy a projection screen to hit balls indoors with a simulator in the same space,” notes Heisler.
Each bay is outfitted with a Trackman 4 Doppler-radar system and touch-screen computers. Televisions are situated on either side of the bay to accommodate right- and left-handed swing analysis, with two additional TV sets in each bay for member entertainment.
Because the Minnesota climate dictated the need for this indoor space, adding sufficient heating—in this case, infrared, forced-air and in-floor—was key to the design process. “With our new hitting bays, we can equip our members properly in the colder months, so they are ready to go by the time the weather warms up and the course opens,” says Heisler. “We thought it was crucial to create a space for our members to hit both indoor and outdoor, because so much of golf is target-oriented.”
To keep construction on schedule, the designers opted for walls assembled with pre-constructed structural insulated (SIP) paneling, which Luther credits with enabling a quick installation. “Because our wedding venue is near the building, we had a hard deadline of June 1st to complete the exterior project, so it would anot disrupt our event operations,” he says.
As the golfing season got underway, Luther was confident that the new bay facility will supplement and enhance the overall member experience at
Olympic Hills. “The construction of these hitting bays has increased our ‘social currency’ in immeasurable ways within the community,” he says. “We are a pure golf club, without tennis or a swimming pool, so a project like this made a lot of sense for us.”