Indoor golf training facilities boost off-season bookings, with revamped spaces that offer instruction, club fittings and more.
Golfers and Mother Nature have a contentious relationship, one that club managers must wrestle with on a regular basis. Whether it’s persistent heat or rainy seasons in warmer climates, or the onset of winter that moves players off the green, members aren’t ready to give up their golf games—and many no longer have to.
Thanks to continued innovation in simulation technology, combined with a greater demand for tee times, facilities are investing in indoor training centers that enable golfers to perfect their performance, no matter the weather.
Buoyed by the increasing demand for indoor golf, Chimney Oaks Golf Club in Homer, Ga., recently built a brand-new indoor facility, The Forge, to cater to this trend. The Forge opened its doors in May 2021 and has since become a “popular spot for golfers of all skill levels,” reports First Assistant Golf Pro Hunter Suggs. “We have given golfers the ability to play golf and practice when the weather does not allow them to be outdoors,” Suggs says.
Adjacent to the club’s driving range, the 3,000-sq. ft. building is outfitted with the latest TrackMan simulator technology to maximize and improve game play. Members rely on the advanced equipment in two side-by-side hitting bays to calculate and estimate their alignment, aim and swing, with individual monitors displaying pertinent data.
The Forge’s flexible design allows golfers to perfect their swing in two different modes of play. When hitting outdoors, the building’s garage door is opened so players can hit balls out onto the range, while data is supplied via the monitor. When the door is closed for indoor hitting, a projector screen is lowered for data display.
“The design of the hitting bays allows the player to be covered from the outside weather, while still being able to hit outside to see the flight of the ball,” says Suggs. In addition, members can have their clubs fitted by a staff member and may choose from a variety of options, including TaylorMade, Cleveland, Srixon, Callaway, Titleist and Ping.
Since The Forge’s opening, members have taken advantage of the indoor bays for evening birthday parties and company events. A built-in bar and catering from the club’s foodservice operation extends the use of this all-inclusive functional space. “Parties have the option to rent out the entire building by the hour, giving them a private space with no outside guests allowed,” says Suggs.
Extending the Season
As cooler temperatures take hold in Chicagoland, visitors to Heritage Oaks Golf Club in Northbrook, Ill., no longer need to put away their clubs until next year. Instead, they are now able to partake of indoor golf facilities within a brand-new clubhouse. The decision to add this amenity was prompted by the club’s geographic location.
“In Chicago, the outdoor golf season is only so many months long,” says General Manager/Director of Golf Operations Greg Baron, PGA. “We wanted to activate our site by having year-round activity.”
In August 2021, the facility opened its doors to the public with a completely refurbished set-up, including a dedicated space that houses two Full Swing golf simulators and provides room to socialize. When determining the layout, Baron and his project team considered different iterations that would make the best use of the space.
“We went from considering side-by-side simulators and then opted to have them hitting away from each other, so it creates a more intimate environment,” explains Baron. The selection process required a team visit to the PGA Show before settling on Full Swing models that “provided the most realistic golf precision.”
Each wide-screen simulator occupies 440 sq. ft. and is anchored by a communal area in the center, complete with high-top chairs, tabletops and a couch that can collectively seat eight people. (The room itself can allow 8 to 10 people standing.) A set of sliding-glass doors look directly into the adjacent grill room, so diners can keep an eye on the action. “One of our concerns was noise emanating into the simulator space, so we chose a soundproof material for the doors,” notes Baron.
To supplement the indoor golf experience, a 15 x 15-foot structure within the 1,000-sq. ft. pro shop will serve as a secondary space for instruction and club fitting in the offseason. Beginning in late November 2021, a portable TrackMan will be used for instruction and will stay in place until outdoor play resumes in March.
The new facility earned tremendous buzz during the club’s open house in August 2021, when nearly 1,000 people walked through the new simulator room. And as a result, Baron reports he’s also received interest in having the space rented out for a number of private parties.
To further address the need and demand for indoor golf, Heritage Oaks is currently promoting a simulator league that will be held Mondays through Thursdays, with daily rentals during the off-hours. “When we did our research for designing the simulator space, we heard that most places with simulators have had every hour of every day booked in the offseason,” Baron says. “We hope to have that same level of success.”
In mid-November 2021, members of Sea Pines Country Club were scheduled to begin teeing off inside a brand-new addition to the Hilton Head, S.C. property. Known as The Barn, the space will provide golfers with a dedicated place to perfect their swings during inclement weather, while taking advantage of a full line of fitting and instruction programs.
“This new teaching and coaching facility will highlight our newly reconfigured practice area and will allow future growth of Sea Pines Country Club’s overall golf experience, to be on par with all other high-end clubs in the region,” says Director of Golf James Swift.
Located to the left of the new practice tee, the 1,500-sq. ft structure, constructed from an existing cart facility, is designed with what Swift describes as a simple, but well-thought-out floor plan. “Our goal was to utilize what facilities we had on site and build upon them to create a convenient and comfortable setting, but with all the technology and benefits of some of the top teaching facilities in the country,” he explains.
Of note is the installation of TrackMan’s new high-definition golf simulator that allows players to choose from over 200 courses across the world. A private fitting bay will house a second TrackMan unit dedicated to private instruction and club fitting, which will be integrated with Swing Catalyst teaching and coaching software. “[This will] provide our members and guests with the highest level of feedback and swing analysis seen at the best teaching and fitting facilities,” adds Swift.
After contending with an unseasonably rainy winter in 2020-21, Sea Pines members are expected to benefit from this year-round investment. With blocks of reserved time allotted to four to six players at a clip, The Barn is projected to accommodate 30 to 40 players per day, even when playing outdoors is not possible.
While integrating the necessary technology components did not pose any challenges, acquiring the necessary building materials—hampered by COVID-related delays and shortages—created a slight hiccup. Nevertheless, the project remained on schedule for its mid-November opening. “Smart, simple design assisted in the construction and completion of the project, which we hope will result in a clean, comfortable and professional setting for our members to enjoy,” says Swift.
Refreshed and Repurposed
Adding a simulator to The Country Club of St. Albans (Mo.) had been under discussion for several years, but because of the lack of space and funding, the idea was put on the back burner, until a new discovery and member generosity combined to bring it forward.
“We finally found space in an unused card room and after presenting the idea at an annual meeting in 2018, a member made a significant donation to fund the project,” says Morgan Gonzales, Regional Operations Executive, KemperSports, and St. Albans’ former General Manager. The new space opened to membership in January 2019 and has been a hit with golfers ever since.
Located on the third floor of the main clubhouse, directly above the men’s locker room, the 1,200-sq. ft. space contains a TrackMan simulator and launch monitor, hitting screen and turf mat. A counter and seating area with tables and chairs can accommodate 40 occupants, providing ample room for socializing between rounds. When not perfecting their swings, players can also take a turn on a Golden Tee arcade machine (see photo at left).
During construction, the ceiling needed to be opened up so the equipment could be brought into the room. But otherwise, the project went off without a hitch. “We’ve received very positive feedback about the space, and the members are requesting that we build another simulator,” says Gonzales. The club is currently looking into other existing areas where a similar, temporary set-up could be used from November through March.
Summing It Up
> Increased demand for indoor golf facilities and year-round practice access has prompted the design of dedicated simulator rooms.
> Simulators allow clubs to offer world class-caliber teaching facilities, regardless of their location.
> Situating simulator rooms with easy access to clubhouse amenities facilitates extended member visits.
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