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August 1, 2017

Renovation Review

Two facilities worlds apart have more in common than what meets the eye: A commitment to enhanced practice space

BY: NOAH SACHS AND TONY L. STARKS

Practice range renovations have become an emerging trend throughout the industry, as golfers with limited time still seek premium golf experiences – whether it’s on the range or on the course. For 2017, the Golf Range Association of America is introducing a new category among the illustrious GRAA Awards – Practice Range Renovations.

As we launch this new award, over the coming months we’ll highlight some of the best range renovation projects of 2017 as selected by our staff. This month, we’re looking at two facilities that are worlds apart. Literally separated by 5,000 miles, one is a luxury resort destination on the island of the Kauai and the other is a budding stand along range near the popular Philadelphia suburb of West Chester. At first glance, they have little in common – but upon further inspection it becomes apparent that both facilities recognize the value of an upgraded practice range in their respective markets. To have your facility considered for the new Range Renovation Award, visit www.GolfRange.org (see the GRAA AWARDS option in the top navigation bar) and fill out the application. Facilities interested in this award will be prompted to answer additional questions in the Top 50 Private, Public or Stand Alone Facility applications.

Honing the Practice Experience at Hokuala

The Ocean Course at Hokuala has long been revered for its beautiful oceanfront location and challenging Jack Nicklaus design. Formerly a resort/private destination, the Ocean Course recently opened to the public and debuted with renovations to the golf course, and an upgraded practice facility better suited for increased usage. Located on the island of Kauai, the stunning facility offers one of Hawaii’s longest stretches of oceanfront golf. Timbers Resorts, one of the largest independent developers and operators of private boutique resorts and residence clubs, oversaw the entire renovation project. The a multi-million dollar investment in the golf experience, included a luxurious new clubhouse with a new pro shop, lagoon-side restaurant and bar, and Tennis Garden, as well as an all new practice range.

The expanded range and practice facility was designed with the purpose if hosting a diverse offering of player improvement programs. “We are thrilled to introduce a new tier of golf in Hawaii to both travelers and the local community. With the enhanced practice facilities and the renovations to the Ocean Course, both experienced players and novices will find that we offer something to complement each player’s level, providing an enjoyable game for all,” says Fran Roach, PGA General Manager of the Ocean Course at Hokuala. “Our swift completion of these renovations of this first phase will allow visitors to look forward to the upcoming chapters for Hokuala.”

Roach, who was appointed to his new position when Timbers took the reins at Hokuala in 2016, is an industry veteran with more than 15 years of experience as a PGA General Manager. His staff and ownership are taking on the task of making Hokuala as one of the top resort golf experiences in the world.

“Hokuala is living up to its namesake as a new ‘rising star,’ as we have invested millions to renovate the golf club to exceptional resort conditions that match the exceptional services we already provide,” says David A. Burden, Founder & Executive Chairman of Timbers Resorts. “Between Fran’s seasoned background in exceptional course management and the new designs that are nothing short of spectacular, we are excited to share the recently upgraded facility with players.”

The 450-acre oceanfront resort community includes a private residence club, luxury whole ownership residences, custom golf course home sites, a retail shopping village and a boutique hotel featuring a destination spa, multiple dining options, extensive pools and multiple wedding venues. In addition to golf and tennis, a variety of other outdoor activities are offered such as hiking and biking trails, beach activities, as well as ocean and mountain adventures.

Re-brand & Revive

More than two years ago, PGA Master Professionals Harry Hammond (2012 PGA of America Bill Strausbaugh Award winner) and George McNamara (Philadelphia PGA Section Hall of Famer) embarked on a facility renovation journey. McNamara had a vision to develop The Golf Zone in Honey Brook, Pennsylvania, into the best stand alone practice range in the area.

Prior to the renovation, The Golf Zone was dusty and neglected. Customer service wasn’t what it could be, range balls were beat up and merchandise sales were virtually non-existent.

“We wanted to change the culture, instead of simply paying for range balls we wanted people to hang out, talk golf and spend more time with us,” says McNamara.

Following a $100,000 investment, the facility offers quite a different scene. Having undergone a complete rebranding, the facility is now The Golf Zone Family Fun Center. To align with this new family-centric brand, the facility has expanded its offerings to satisfy guests of all ages to include minigolf, go carting, yoga and paintball. The facility also added a food & beverage operation to satisfy guests’ appetite as they spend time enjoying the amenities.

Considerable improvements were made on the golf side, as well. The renovated golf shop is now far more spacious and includes a hitting bay for clubfitting. The indoor bay has been put to good use since Hammond and McNamara took over – with an average of 60 clubfittings per year. The PGA Professional staff has shifted teaching philosophies from one of tips, techniques and formulas, to one of exploration, discovery and freedom. It’s based on the principals of “Extraordinary Golf,” which was developed by renowned instructor Fred Shoemaker.

Aside from unique instruction, a distinguishing factor and major draw for local golfers is the two grass hitting areas that were added. A ToughLie 360 unit on the range offers golfers the opportunity to practice hitting off uneven lies. Furthermore, the combination of covered and uncovered bays allows golfers to practice rain or shine.

To draw people into the golf shop, Hammond and McNamara have started a rewards program. The system is simple – every dollar spent earns you one point that can be redeemed throughout the facility. To say the program has been successful would be an understatement, with over 6,000 golfers registered to date.

Hammond and McNamara actively engage the local community, working with the Chamber of Commerce to host unique events regularly, such as car and sports memorabilia shows, flea markets and live music. They have also been able to generate daylong corporate events at The Golf Zone through the Chamber of Commerce connection.

With the renovations and changes in management, as well as the improvements in customer service, amenities and the addition of the rewards program, The Golf Zone has seen a significant uptick in customers and business.

“We have a diverse clientele now, certainly more diverse than before we took over the operation 27 months ago,” says McNamara. “We even have members of the Amish community visit regularly to hit golf balls and play mini-golf. Furthermore, because we have diversified the business with activities like paintball and yoga, we have strengthened our position in the local community.”