An open spot at the back of the range at the Country Club of Lincoln proved to be the ideal spot for a new Golf Performance Center, while Destination Kohler looked to a nearby retail center to expand its instructional footprint and services.
When Nick Muller, PGA, came to Lincoln, Neb. to join the Country Club of Lincoln (CCL) as its Director of Golf in 2013, plans for technological advancement of the club’s golf program began. Fast-forward to 2019, and a once-grassy area at the back of the driving range is now a 1,200-sq. ft. Golf Performance Center.
“I always knew there would be a need to engage our members during the cold winter Nebraska months,” Muller says.
Conveniently located between the range and clubhouse, the Performance Center is part of a $3 million capital improvement project scheduled to be completed in the early spring of 2020. The club is also building a new cart barn/maintenance facility.
“As far as ROI, our hope is it will pay us back many multiples with new members and most importantly, by retaining existing members,” Muller says. “On average a member brings over $100,000 over 10 years of being a member—so it won’t be long before the facility pays for itself.”
CCL has expanded its technology with the Performance Center. The club had an existing Flightscope X2 to track ball flight and record swing specifics, but added the ForeSight GCQuad to power the simulator bay.
Muller’s staff uses the V1 Sports software and instruction app in the “Learning Bay,” along with the ForeSight and now the newly purchased K-Motion wearable technology that records a golfer’s movement.
“Having our own golf course on the simulator has been the biggest hit with our members,” Muller says. “V1 adds a lot to teaching programs, but K-Motion is going to take us to an entirely different level, and will assist us with getting the fitness side going.”
Early returns have been positive, and Muller has the luxury of flexible space and usage going forward.
“We were very deliberate when designing the facility, and were careful not to corner ourselves on being able to make future additions,” he says.
CCL has also made sure its Performance Center is adequately staffed. “We have a good-sized, full-time staff with five Class A PGA Professionals, a Merchandiser and a Merchandising Assistant,” Muller says. “It allows us to staff the facility with professionals that know what they are doing and care about the experience our members have.”
Additionally, CCL is planning to create a Director of Instruction position in the spring. “We’ve never advertised lessons to our members, and I think there is a huge potential for this position, to ultimately help our members play more and better golf,” Muller says.
All CCL professionals are Certified Club Fitters, but in-house training sessions were scheduled for the GCQuad. One of the club’s pros is also going through K-Motion Certification.
At Lakewood Country Club in Westlake, Ohio, the indoor simulator is used for an annual Winter Yeti Cup that takes place over several months. Kicking off in late January and culminating in April, members who pay a $40 entrance fee, plus $10 per nine-hole match, are placed into brackets and vie for golf shop credits.
Getting in the Swing
Mike O’Reilly, the PGA Director of Golf Operations at Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., went off site to enhance the technology offered by the Destination Kohler properties. The Kohler Swing Studio and Golf Shop, a 5,000-sq. ft. entertainment space with four golf-and-entertainment simulators, is located in the Shops at Woodlake, very close to the Inn on Woodlake, one of the Kohler resort hotels.
Two of the simulators are aboutGOLF simulators, and two are Topgolf Swing Suite Bays. The aboutGOLF simulators have more than 60 golf courses, instructional tools, and additional practice and entertainment options. The Topgolf simulators, made by Full Swing Golf, have more than 80 golf courses, Topgolf simulations and several additional entertainment and game options.
“We use the aboutGOLF simulators for several things, but one key feature is the teaching and clubfitting technology that you can include in the purchase if you choose,” says O’Reilly, a member of the 2020 Ryder Cup Executive Committee. “One of the simulators has two cameras, instruction software that’s easy to use for the instructor and student, weight plates to measure body movement, and the software provides all of the ball and club data an instructor needs to fit clubs. Our clubfitting business has increased by over 50 percent since opening the facility.”
Kohler made a specific hire for the Kohler Swing Studio, O’Reilly says, bringing in an Assistant Golf Professional responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the space. Others from the golf staff help to manage league play and oversee all instructional offerings, including lessons and club fittings.
“In addition, we have several others who contribute from a retail and food-and-beverage standpoint,” O’Reilly says. “In total, we have eight people who work within the space on a full-time or part-time basis.”
Prior experience helped to lessen the amount of training that the staff needed, he adds. “Most of our golf professionals already work with technology when they teach outside, so they were familiar with much of the functionality,” O’Reilly says. “They did need training to understand how the aboutGOLF and Topgolf simulators work, but it was fairly easy because they had already had experience working with launch monitors and other teaching-software programs.”
Feeding the Masses
Because members work up a thirst while utilizing the Performance Center, CCL offers a full bar in the back of its simulator bay.
“During private events we provide a bartender and catered food menus,” Muller says. “During slower times, the golf shop staff [provides] F&B [service], in conjunction with our 19th Hole staff.”
Similarly, a full bar and a limited-menu restaurant is located inside the Kohler Swing Studio.
“We serve lunch, dinner and offer service to all players on the simulators,” O’Reilly says. “The food-and-beverage service is new for us, but our guests are providing a lot of positive feedback in regard to our offerings.”
Overall, response to the new Swing Studio has been great, O’Reilly adds.
“For the past three years, we have had 80-plus league players in the winter and many other players that come and practice, get a club fitting or take a lesson,” he says. “With the recent addition of two new simulators and F&B offerings, we have seen additional demand.
“We now have over 125 league players and other revenues are on the rise,” O’Reilly adds. “The technology is fairly easy to use, so our guests can quickly understand how to use the system.”
Summing It Up
> Indoor-outdoor facilities provide a year-round option for members who wish to practice regardless of the weather.
> Clubs can add an additional revenue source by offering food-and-beverage options.
> Simulators and swing analyzers are not only excellent tools for instruction, but can also be used for club fitting as an added value to members and the pro shop’s bottom line.