A Dead Zone Comes Alive: Fun and Cool Is The Next Big Thing In Golf
Pity the poor driving range, especially at resort and public facilities. Well used from early morning through mid- afternoon, it often sits forlornly the rest of the day. Call it the Dead Zone, drawing neither veteran nor beginner golfers, not to mention any revenue. But two Southern California courses have been injecting new life into — and onto — that unused space.
At the Grand Golf Club in San Diego, a nine-hole short course built on top of the existing driving range is wrapping up its third season. Open during late afternoons in July and August, the popular short course has appealed to multiple demographics.
“It’s been great for our kids program, but a third of the play comes from resort guests with their families,” said Shawn Cox, director of golf. “There are a lot of people who aren’t 18-hole golfers and come here on vacation. They get to spend some quality time introducing their children to golf. That’s very difficult to do at a public course and even at a private club. It makes the game a little more attractive (as does the free price tag). And the kids are probably more open to trying since it’s part of a vacation.”
At another vacation destination — Indian Wells Golf Resort in the Coachella Valley — a brand-new concept called “Shots in the Night” was introduced on the facility’s driving range and putting course. Developed by NextLinks, a Santa Ana– based company, the technology enables colorful lasers to project various games onto the putting course greens, which will each be rentable by the hour. On the range, glow-in-the-dark targets react with lights and sound effects when struck by glow-in-the-dark golf balls. Hitting bays there will also be rentable by the hour.
“It’s hard to imagine because you just don’t see anything like this, especially on the putting course,” said Michael Tebbetts, director of sales and marketing for Indian Wells Golf Resort. The areas will initially be open to the public Thursday through Saturday night (with a deejay spinning tunes and a food truck parked nearby) and buyable for special events every night of the week.
NextLinks president and CEO Dave Shultz sees the new experience attracting two audiences. “For non-golfers, it’s a party zone that presents the game in a fun and non-intimidating way,” he said. “For serious golfers, it’s a cool way to enjoy real golf in a setting that’s never existed before.”
Fun and cool? What a concept. Throw in some added revenue for the facility on a previously unused space and it’s a win-win.
“Golf courses everywhere are looking for ways to make their venues fun and to keep golfers engaged there for longer hours,” said Steve Rosen, general manager, Indian Wells Golf Resort. “Not every ‘Grow the Game’ initiative has to be a loss-leader. You can bring new people to the game while growing your core revenue streams with solutions that fit your budget. I think Shots in the Night is going to prove that in a big way.”