While scrolling through Facebook (no really, it was work-related) a picture of a vast three tiered driving range appeared, with the headline ‘Golf Driving Ranges in Japan Booked up to 2031’.
Wow! I thought about this for a minute and let out a groan which was both a ‘thank god I do not live in Japan’ but at the same time I reflected on how, as golf architects, we could be missing out on this important and growing form of the golf game.
Wait! I hear you say. Golf driving ranges are surely not worthy of the attention of the highly trained and skilled golf course architect, so why should we get involved?
What skills could the golf course architect contribute?
There are approximately 720-750 commercial golf driving ranges in the UK at present and in 2019, the upgrading and building of golf driving ranges was recognised as a source of financial growth, for those attached to golf clubs, and a way to tap into a younger and more diverse potential new membership.
Recent investments in UK golf ranges to bring new state of the art virtual reality to their ranges, include:
There is no doubt that there has been a revolution in the golf driving range industry with the advent of new chip-in-the-ball hi-tech ranges and multi-millions invested in standalone ranges, like Topgolf, taking centre stage. Digital and radar tracking technologies can be cost-effectively installed into existing ranges and are now poised to fundamentally change the golf driving range experience. These technologies are likely coming to a range near you … and soon.
So how can the golf course architect get involved in these golf range developments? The answer is ideally the involvement starts at the very outset and the architect can play a key design role, including:
The importation of inert subsoils on golf ranges, although sometimes controversial, can be an extremely useful tool when used with care by the golf architect to shape the range outfield. At the same time, this allows for an additional stream of income, with the best ranges now being sculpted into ‘realistic’ golf holes, with greens, bunkers, trees and even water hazards.
Commercial driving ranges provide opportunities for golf course architects to contribute their skills and training to become a key player in the creation of this rapidly evolving form of the game, to the benefit of all.
By Steve Ritson, Green Tyger Design