Performance training and club fitting are the name of the game at indoor golf facilities.
As temperatures cool down and fairways lose their lush, verdant hue, the game of golf is turning over a new leaf. Clubs are investing in full-fledged performance centers, where their members can perfect their swing, sign up for a custom club fitting and even grab a drink or a bite with their golfing buddies … all in the same location.
With the advent of high-tech educational facilities that add an entertainment component to attract more golfers, clubs are exploring ways to implement these extras for year-round play. The result is an array of thoughtfully mapped out performance centers that bring golfers inside without compromising their game.
Spirit of ’71
When a club undergoes a golf course update, providing an indoor practice space to support members’ golf game is a natural next step. Such was the case at BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach, Fla., where the club’s East Course renovation last January paved the way for the March opening of a 16.5-acre practice grounds and the brand-new ’71 Learning Center. “This all-encompassing facility allows members to hit every shot they would experience on the course with innovative technologies and resources to perfect their swing,” says Director of Golf Jeff Fitzherbert.
Named for Jack Nicklaus’ PGA win in 1971—BallenIsles played host for the championship—the 3,000-sq.-ft. ’71 Learning Center is situated on the north end of the practice grounds. The comprehensive layout includes dedicated spaces for training, custom fittings and club repairs. Once inside, members are met by a team of golf pros to help choose the appropriate clubs. With the right equipment in hand, they can take their pick of four instructional sites: two fully enclosed bays, complete with TrackMan radars, a three-camera system and golf simulator with drop-down screen, or two covered outdoor bays, each with their own TrackMan units. Golfers can play against each other or independently with instructional videos to improve their swing in either set-up.
“Another priority for BallenIsles was to create a space where learning golf was easy, fun and creative,” notes Fitzherbert. “Like the Topgolf craze that’s leading a resurgence of the golf industry, the driving ranges and hitting bays give beginners a place to practice their swing in a lively atmosphere.” The convenience of having repairs, demos and training in one location is an asset for golf members. “They have access to a Callaway Performance and Innovation Fitting Studio, equipped with all the necessary tools and equipment to perform the most professional fit,” adds Fitzherbert. “The studio is the first of its kind in the U.S. and we are very proud to offer this to our members.”
When lessons are complete (and the weather cooperates), members can take advantage of the ’71 Learning Center’s covered outdoor seating area and dine on refreshments from the outdoor food truck. Shopping for new golf gear is also possible inside the center’s retail shop, providing members with additional amenities within easy reach.
Further enhancing BallenIsles’ golf experience is immediate access to the upgraded practice grounds. A 25,000-sq.-ft. putting course boasts a daily 18 set up, while the long game area features nine targets and individual bays outfitted with GPS systems noting the distance between targets. According to Fitzherbert, participation in the short and long golf areas has increased tremendously. “The enhancements provide a true championship course that is fun to play and practice areas where members can spend all day working on their game,” he says.
The desire to provide full-time golfing resources drove the recent construction of an enclosed performance center at NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio. “We saw there was a growing need to create an indoor option for multiple people to enjoy practice, instruction and club fitting year-round,” says Director of Membership Kerry Pool. Earlier this spring, the club unveiled an 8,000-sq.-ft. facility that boasts ample space for instruction and club fitting for its members.
NCR’s Performance Center amasses more than eight acres adjacent to new pickleball courts and a renovated practice tee. To determine the best layout, the facility management team visited Cincinnati area facilities, including Kenwood Country Club, Hyde Park Golf & Country Club and Maketewah Country Club, and consulted with TrackMan representatives when designing its seven performance studios. Six of these indoor/outdoor rooms are reserved for professional instruction and fitting, while a standalone indoor studio is used exclusively by the University of Dayton’s men’s and women’s golf teams. A 1,600-sq.-ft. practice green rounds out the remainder of the facility.
Each studio features casement partition windows that can be opened to a sitting area or closed for private instruction. Meeting space housed with four desks and assorted audio/visual equipment is available for clinics. To further maximize their experience, members can take advantage of food and beverage service in this area. They also have easy access to the newly designed practice area via bifold glass patio doors.
When a golfer’s game calls for an improved swing, members can partake of the Studio 54 club fitting area. “With dedicated attention and data gathered from TrackMan, and fitting equipment from all the major manufacturers, every golfer—from the novice to the scratch player—can be more confident in their golf game,” says Pool. Additionally, the Tool Shed enables club repairs and alterations as needed, whether it’s a loft adjustment or a quick regrip.
To keep the services running smoothly, the performance center’s design incorporates a range operations room, improving overall efficiency. “Previously, our range ball cleaning, sorting and storage areas were more than 300 yards from the practice tee in the basement of the clubhouse,” Pool explains. “Now, the staff can manage the practice tee and range within all these areas built into the back of the performance center.”
Such a comprehensive project, while carefully planned, was not immune to setbacks. Railroaded by a clubhouse fire in 2019 and the pandemic shortly thereafter, construction was put on hold from its original summer 2020 kick-off. Pool credits open communication with an expanding membership, bolstered by a strong management team, for pulling off a successful renovation.
Judging by the strong response from its membership and solid numbers, TPC was worth the wait. Offering year-round fittings has contributed to a 22-percent increase in equipment sales during the first off season alone. Having the indoor space has also enabled more than 1,000 instruction hours during a period that would only have permitted 10 percent of that amount. “Add in the individual practice, meeting and social opportunities of the TPC, and it has kept our membership more engaged during months when it has been difficult to accomplish that,” says Pool. “Our ability to offer golf services and entertainment for all 12 months is an outstanding benefit to our members, while also creating added, expanded revenue streams for the club.”
Practice Made Perfect
At The Woodlands (Texas) Country Club, a former outdoor pavilion was recently repurposed to provide indoor training space for member golfers. “We were doing a full renovation of the practice facilities, and the building made perfect sense to develop into an academy with hyper focus on instruction, along with building out our standard as it relates to an academy,” says SVP Golf Operations Mark Gore. The Refinery, which opened its doors last year, has since enhanced the overall club experience and provides ample resources for improving golf games.
Located at the club’s player course, the 1,500-sq.-ft. facility contains four bays sporting roll-up doors for easy access to artificial and real turf. The two interior bays are outfitted with high-tech functionality, including V1 Pro golf software, TrackMan 4 launch monitors and full simulators. A master fitting bay has the same technology, with the addition of the SAM PuttLab. “We have more than 875 components to offer the best fitting experience in a private club,” affirms Gore. The last bay, used mostly for teaching, includes fitness capabilities and a TrackMan 4 unit.
The Refinery’s flexible open-air design is a true asset for players, offering a large open space behind the bays that can be converted into an entertainment space for private events. Each bay has its own workstation in which coaches can provide one-on-one instruction, while a small retail space offers additional amenities.
Since The Refinery’s opening, The Woodlands has become a go-to destination for enhancing one’s golf game. “The overall experience with the redesigned driving range by Lanny Wadkins, along with the Refinery, has been an incredible addition, and the members are blown away by the amenities and the ability to drastically improve their game,” enthuses Gore. C+RB