The Byron, Ill. property has replaced its previous driving range with the PrairieFire Golf & Grill, which features Toptracer technology and a full-service kitchen, fireplaces and bar. Those behind the project expect the facility to draw from “at least a 40- to 50-mile” radius. “It’s an entertainment component that is open year-round,” says the club’s Assistant GM. “It’s similar to Topgolf, but with a lot more technology. The millennials will eat this up.”
Matt Henkel, General Manager of PrairieView Golf Club in Byron, Ill., had a radical idea, the Rockford (Ill.) Register Star reported. In the spring of 2018, with golf courses all over the country facing declining revenue, Henkel asked the Byron Forest Preserve Board to build a $3 million driving range.
This would be no ordinary range, the Register Star reported. And for that kind of money, it had better not be.
What Henkel had in mind, the Register Star reported, was a facility that would be unlike anything else in the Midwest, complete with Toptracer technology that provides shot replays, statistical analysis, carry distance, ball speed, launch and height. A cozy ambience would also be provided to make the experience more than about golf.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind,” Henkel said. “We wanted to try something to bring people in. Golf is a tough business. It’s not like the 1990s when golf courses were being built about every day.”
After touring a Toptracer driving range in British Columbia with Forest Preserve Director Todd Tucker, Henkel and his boss were sold on the concept of a state-of-the-art facility in Byron.
“That was the catalyst. We fell in love with it,” Henkel said. “It was packed on a Friday night in February.”
With radiant heat coming from concrete and overhead lamps, a winter golfer can feel comfortable, be it in Byron or Canada, the Register Star reported.
Named the PrairieFire Golf & Grill and located at the site of the club’s previous driving range, the facility opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 4th, the Register Star reported.
“It’s an entertainment component that is open year-round,” said Scott deOliviera, PrairieView’s Assistant GM. “It’s similar to Topgolf, but with a lot more technology. The millennials will eat this up.”
Computerized screens at each of the eight driving areas will show the same data that can be seen on TV when watching a PGA event, the Register Star reported. And instead of reaching into a bucket to get out a range ball, simply waving a golf club in front of a machine gets one automatically dispensed.
The Toptracer technology also puts players on the best courses in the world, including Royal St. George’s or Pebble Beach, with its virtual mode, the Register Star reported. And while the Rockford Park District offers a similar virtual experience at its Indoor Sports Center, golfers there hit into a screen, At PrairieView, golfers also get to see their ball carry onto the driving range in real flight.
“It takes four people about 3 ½ hours to play 18 holes,” deOliviera said.
Besides virtual golf, there are several other options to play at the PrairieView facility, including a launch monitor, what’s in your bag, longest drive, approach challenge or closest to the pin, the Register Starreported. There’s also a point game I the rewards points for distance and proximity to a bullseye target.
The rates per bay will range from $25 to $45 an hour, with the top prices in the more desired nighttime slots, the Register Star reported. Comfortable couch seating is available inside and out.
And, because PrairieView GC realizes it will take more than high-tech golfing to draw crowds, a full-service kitchen, fireplaces and bar will add to the experience, the Register Star reported.
“With up to four people, it’s an affordable way to spend part of a day,” says Dwight Bond, a local resident employed by Morton Buildings, which engineered the structure.
“I think this place will draw from at least a 40- to 50-mile radius, especially couples,” Bond added. “You have to go all the way to Omaha [Nebraska] to find something comparable. It is a destination.”
Madison, Wis. and Burlington, Iowa, have similar properties, but according to the proud PrarieView staffers, they’re not at the same level as what can now be found in Byron, the Register Star reported.
“The big difference in construction was the electrical components,” Bond said of the building and its cost. “It probably added three months to it. The brains behind the wiring is unbelievable.”
Much care also went into creating a rustic look that even a professional home designer would appreciate, the Register Star reported. “A Morton Building doesn’t have to look like a machine shed,” Bond said.
The actual driving range at PrairieView GC now also has a different look than the standard version, the Register Star reported, with targets of various colors and LED lights for nighttime usage.