By Vinnie Manginelli, PGA
The days of the practice range being an afterthought at a private club or public golf course are over. There are many private facilities that tout their range and short game areas as the heart of the club. Especially in these days of social distancing, golfers are rediscovering the range as a place to learn, practice and engage fellow members, friends and family.
Recognizing this trend, many facilities have range renovation projects either in their future plans or already underway. Whether adding grass tees, enhancing the short game practice area, creating a short course or putting course or even adding to the visual appeal of the range through target greens, new fairway cuts and obstacles that allow golfers to practice a variety of shots, many clubs are investing in the improvement and enhancement of their practice facilities. Golfer engagement and member retention are two indicators that prove it is money well spent.
In Pooler, Georgia, The Club at Savannah Quarters boasts an 18-hole Greg Norman design and award-winning PGA Professional staff, including PGA Head Professional Cody Carter, a two-time Chapter Teacher of the Year in the Georgia PGA Section, and PGA Director of Golf Jonathan Mattox, the 2019 Georgia PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Private Facilities. I spoke with Mattox about some recent renovations and enhancements they made to their practice facility. We discussed the details of the renovations, the reasons for them and the membership’s response to the club investing in their facilities.
Kicking off last August, the renovations were complete by early October. Mattox tells me his membership is very active and loves to practice and work on their game. He says they took to the reconfigured practice grounds as soon as the green light was given.
He detailed the changes, which included adding 6,000 square feet of hitting space to the practice range, several new real grass target greens, new drainage and also new TifTuf turfgrass on the tee.
With new homes being built adjacent to the old short game area, a new short game practice area was built that included a 6,000 sq. ft. green with two new bunkers so members can hone their sand and short game skills.
They transformed the old short game practice green into an area strictly focused on putting. With putting training aids and smaller cups, members can get lost in their practice sessions as they work on what many consider the most important part of the game.
Mattox highlighted a special outdoor socially-distanced grand opening celebration that was held on December 6th. Members enjoyed food and craft beer while getting into the Christmas spirit to the tunes of a local guitarist. The expanded range was adorned with the club’s fitting carts and the PGA Professional staff gave members the opportunity to try some of the latest equipment while striking up conversations that will likely lead to new hard goods sales or lessons, and provided for an enhanced member experience. The staff organized various putting and chipping games, and members enjoyed their new amenities, as well as the camaraderie of friends and family.
Feedback from members has been stellar, Mattox indicated, as they appreciate the investment made in the club amid the pandemic. He also affirms that his members have enjoyed the revisions so far and are putting the improvements to good use.
Mattox says they’re considering adding indoor practice and teaching facilities in phase two of the project, slated for some time in the next 18 months. With the 18-hole Norman layout and new practice options, an indoor studio to house their teaching technology could be the icing on the cake for the dedicated members at The Club at Savannah Quarters.