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How can clubs keep the golf season going year-round?

IT IS OFFICIALLY WINTER and, depending on where your club is located, there is a good chance golf is on hold through the next few months. It doesn’t have to be. Commercial facilities with indoor golf simulators—high-tech machines where players hit into a “simulated” golf course or driving range-image screen—are becoming more and more popular. Golf simulators can instantly measure shot details, analyze swings and allow players to play games and virtual rounds of golf on iconic courses.

The National Golf Foundation reported in 2018 that while there were around 24 million golfers, golf participation climbed to 33.5 million when factoring in increasingly popular golf entertainment venues. So why—when the weather outside is frightful —should members have to seek out these facilities elsewhere when, for a reasonable investment in capital dollars, clubs can construct their own indoor state-of-the-art golf entertainment facility?

ClubCorp has added several indoor and outdoor golf “lounges” at clubs over the past few years and now holds a controlling interest in BigShots Golf™, a cutting-edge golf and entertainment company with all of the aforementioned features, plus colorfully animated family games and Live Play allowing players to compete against players at other BigShots Golf locations.

Done right and complemented by compelling social programming, indoor golf simulators greatly enhance the member experience and drive revenue and retention through:

  • Food and beverage sales
  • League play competitions
  • Member social events
  • Private golf lessons
  • Retail sales through club fittings and demo days
  • Private party/event sales
  • Introduction to the game of golf

The first parts of the puzzle are key and important things to think about are:

Cost: Options available range from $30,000 (the bare bones minimum) to $125,000 for a permanent space that includes a simulator plus seating area. If you can swing it (no pun intended), a second simulator will bring more energy to the space.

Where: Per simulator, you’ll need approximately 28 feet of depth (18 feet for the simulator and 10 feet for seating), about 16 feet of width and at least 10-foot-tall ceilings. Keep in mind the noise level, though acoustic baffles can help reduce the sound. Also, think about the proximity of the kitchen and bar. Will you be able to efficiently provide food and beverage service?

When: Construction, which can take several weeks, ideally should take place during the summer months while members are mostly using the outdoor amenities.

Furnishings: Counter-height bar tables make it easier for players to hop up and down between swings, while lounge furniture—comfortable sofas and chairs—tend to slow the pace of play. Combine the two, add TVs and a sound system and you’ve got a new club social hub.

So, when you next begin planning your capital projects, consider the addition of an indoor golf simulator and what year-round golf, a permanent social feature and new private event opportunities can mean to your club’s bottom line. That is called killing many ‘birdies’ with one stone.

Tom Bennison is chief development officer at ClubCorp, the largest owner and operator of private golf and country clubs. He serves as an NCA director. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit