Smart signage has been used to hide the unsightly wiring, which can be quickly accessed for maintenance and repairs.
There can be no question that modern technology is driving golf range usage to new heights.
The technology takes many forms and after a couple of years of consideration, I have personally chosen to invest in a total technology solution for Grimsby Golf Centre says Golf Features Editor, Colin Jenkins.
The centre, which has been in our ownership since 2003, has had a chequered past in recent years. We are now the grateful partners of American Golf, who run a beautifully presented superstore at the front of the range: the additional interest that American Golf generates for golfers of all types leads to a significant uplift in golf ball sales. Golf retail is not something that I ever wish to be involved with again, but I love passing this onerous task on to the leading experts and we are delighted to have a strong working relationship with them.
For the golf range at Grimsby, we selected a combination of Awesome Golf software using FlightScope technology with a radar unit in every bay. This is a more expensive option for golf ranges with over 30 bays, but for smaller ranges, like Grimsby which has 18 bays, it is well worth considering.
The software is superb and the opportunity to take not just the ball flight characteristics, but also the club’s path and face angle in relation to the ball flight, gives the ultimate in feedback. There is no better system available on the market today.
In addition, one of the key benefits is that we were able to buy the system outright, funding it over a five-year period, which means that after this initial time we will have only a small annual charge per bay to pay for the system, which makes perfect financial sense.
FlightScope, originally from South Africa, was the first company to use Doppler radar to track a golf ball and are now able to track golf balls with their various spinning and soaring trajectories to give the golfer completely accurate feedback on the shots that they have struck. Often technology can be more confusing to the average player than a simple idea of what he or she should be trying to accomplish. However, if you are of a technical disposition, you cannot get better feedback than the combination of Doppler radar married to the Awesome Golf software. It is a compelling package for the avid golfer, but when you also include the games available for youngsters and novices - and even those golfers who may just want a more frivolous session - the options are extensive.
Gavin Hamer from Awesome Golf spoke to Golf Features: “We were delighted to have been chosen to supply the technology solution for the refurbishment of the Grimsby Golf Centre.
“Colin had an excellent team who were able to supply all of the relevant cabling and behind-the-scenes infrastructure needed to make our product work perfectly from day one. Any new system has a few glitches, but these have been quickly ironed out and the customer experience is second to none.
“We are very happy with the results that have been coming through from Grimsby and also from Horsham - our first site in the UK. This style of technology is definitely here to stay. It’s compelling for the golfer and for the golf operator, and the financial returns are extremely attractive.”
In order to get the most out of the Awesome Golf technology, the FlightScope radar units need to be mounted no more than 3.5m behind the golfer. Due to the generous dimensions of the range at Grimsby, this specific measurement meant we needed to build a poser table in each bay to house - and hide - the radar units.
We were able to turn these tables into a sharp and modern feature, opting to use a high quality, charcoal grey ‘Fenix’ worktop, each with a charging unit for mobile phones and tablets. Customers are encouraged to download the Awesome Golf app, which not only allows a fast QR login at each visit, but also means they can use it to compete with friends and keep statistics from each practice session.
Gavin commented: “When it came to locating the FlightScope within the bay, the best solution was to integrate the unit into a table. This has been done seamlessly, with the FlightScope unit being fully enclosed within the table, with the radar signal passing through a protective plastic sheet. The table itself is a great feature and we will be looking to implement the same design at other ranges soon. “Awesome Golf has been designed from the ground up to be perfect for driving ranges. It’s an ideal partner for the FlightScope Range unit, which was crying out for software good enough to match its immense capabilities. We work closely with FlightScope to ensure a smooth installation and to resolve any problems which may arise - customer satisfaction is paramount for FlightScope and we share that ethos.”
In our quest to deliver the best possible customer experience, we decided to introduce bay booking. All of the bays are bookable, bar two: these two are reserved for walk-in play, one of which can also be reserved by American Golf if they want to do a full flight fitting, rather than rely on the in-shop technology using a net.
We opted for YourGolfBooking.com to provide the system for the online bay booking. This has proved to be an exceptional piece of software. Founded by Jake Peek and Declan Malone, it allows golfers to book 30 minute and 60 minute slots. Within a couple of days almost all of our customers had got used to the system and understood how simply it allowed them to use the range at convenient times for them.
From a range owner’s point of view, it is also a godsend. It spreads the peaks of our trade and stops people from queuing, which is an important safety factor whilst we are still in a pandemic. A queuing golfer is less likely to enjoy the overall experience and may also detract from the pleasure of the person who is finishing off their session: with booking, this issue evaporates. It is also possible to add items to the ‘shopping trolley’ including club hire or a round of Footgolf - some venues could also offer coffee and food.
Without any question, all golf ranges should strongly consider using this brilliant and simple system. The costs for using the software are modest, but I think it is possible to see an increase in trade of 10% to 15% for almost all ranges. Huge congratulations must go to Declan for the idea, and to Jake for his software wizardry. This is a must-have product.
European Golf Machinery
European Golf Machinery (EGM) have supplied a new adapted ball dispenser, which faultlessly reads the bar codes that are generated by the Yourgolfbooking.com website. These bar codes, which are generated when a customer books and pays, are a critical link for the customers’ experience. They have worked perfectly and simplify the booking and payment service. The conversion of the existing ball machine was carried out seamlessly - and reasonably - by EGM’s top engineers.
Included in the refit was some serious security. A personnel detector based on the algorithms of human movement was installed, as well as night and day CCTV cameras, with the ability to speak to anyone remotely who may be on the range when they shouldn’t be. If an intruder is spotted, a message is sent automatically to the range manager and they can bark a warning, alert the police, or even growl menacingly like a guard dog! Each screen has a double hinged, protective metal cover that is put into place at night and padlocked for extra security. On each screen there is a discreet but clear warning sticker letting would-be thieves know that the screen will only work in its current location, with any attempt to use it elsewhere being futile. Grimsby Golf Centre is lucky to be just 200m from the town’s police station, so hopefully trouble will be kept to a minimum.
It was also part of the installation to provide quality music speakers so golfers can enjoy their practice with music piped throughout the day. This sets a very different and informal tone for a range visit and most people have commented positively about the new sound system. Rhythm is a key ingredient in a good golf swing and music sets almost everyone in a more relaxed mood.
Laurence Warne, Jason Abrams and Joe Foster supply first class PGA coaching services using the technology. The Awesome Golf software, in conjunction with the FlightScope radar units, is able to offer an unparalleled set of data for the improving golfer. The club face and ball flight information could easily confuse an inexperienced golfer, however the professionals are able to explain the practical implications so that they can work on improving their vital statistics, which directly lead to better performance and lower scores on the course. There is no finer technology available in a golf range anywhere.
For the last four years the range has been operating very successfully, using robots to collect the balls and cut the range outfield. The range, which previously laid very wet in the winter, has now a complete coverage of tightly mown grass, no bald, muddy patches and looks in pristine order despite one of the wettest winters in recent years.
Some people may attribute this to good fortune, but it is a combination of lower ground pressure and excellent maintenance. Bruce Ottley is our senior maintenance technician and is responsible for the presentation of the golf range, both in the bays and the outfield. He looks after the robotic pair exceptionally well and in return they work without fault 99% of the time. The very occasional issues are dealt with promptly by the AMS team and this must surely be a service that more ranges will enjoy in the future.
Lighting at the golf range has been improved in two areas. The tables were fitted with a low level blue LED strip light, which creates a beautiful blue halo around the back of the golf range bays. On the range outfield additional LED floodlighting was installed, greatly enhancing the ball visibility at night. Exled Lighting supplied the new range lights, which were installed by the ESS Systems team, ably led by Richard Ainley.
ESS Systems was responsible for installing all of the wiring and cabling, trunking, electrical equipment, speakers, cameras and security equipment. It was a major undertaking and one carried out efficiently and expertly by Richard and his team.
The opening hours have been extended to accommodate for those wishing to use the range further into the evening. So as to not impose unrealistic opening hours on our partner, American Golf, an additional member of the Grimsby team locks up the range, securing the screens and ensuring everything is in ship-shape order for an hour and half after American Golf have closed. Golfers can then leave by a separate exit and the range is secured and has become infinitely more profitable as a result.
To mark the refurbishment, OGRO’s Rohan Barnett created a smart new logo and first class website, linking seamlessly to the bay and Footgolf booking platforms. Clear professional signage has been used across the centre featuring the new logo, which helps to hide unsightly wiring between the bay dividers, whilst adding to the sharp new image.
It is perhaps too early to say how successful the investment has been at Grimsby, but the current level of income is a resounding endorsement of the decision to upgrade the facility. Golfers genuinely love the new experience and there are many more spectators than in the past. The spectators are tempted to enjoy having a go too. There has been a noticeable uplift in the number of hire clubs sold for range enjoyment, and this indicates that newer golfers are willing to try the range, because they can play games which are more interesting with the new software and exciting graphics.
Further improvements and adjustments to the activities at Grimsby Golf Centre will surely follow. For further information please visit the website www.grimsbygolfcentre.com
All range owners and operators, and those interested in joining the industry, are welcome to contact Colin Jenkins directly on his mobile 07768 887033 to discuss costs and business potential for similar upgrades.