May 1, 2018

“Weathering the Storm”

Indoor practice buildings helped many northeastern facilities weather the brutal winter

By: Eric Hart

We hope that we don’t jinx it with this article, but it appears that winter has finally loosened its grip on much of the country. With a span of nor’easters in March and snowfall into April, it was a long and loopy season across the northeastern half of America — with a bipolar spring so short Midwesterners termed it a “Sprinter.”

Courses opened then closed, opened then closed, and golfers went stir crazy. Many northeast properties adapted to the less than stellar outdoor golf conditions by operating indoor playing and practice facilities. From Bethesda Country Club in Maryland, to Diamond Run in Pennsylvania and Manasquan River in New Jersey, the game was able to play through.

Manasquan River Golf Club, home to a Robert White championship course, opened their 1,200- square-foot indoor practice studio on the third floor of the new golf shop in 2004. Open year round to all 325 club members for fittings and lessons, the studio allows PGA Head Professional Christopher Dymek to generate income and provide member services. For the 25 to 30 percent of members who have used it, it helps maintain physical and swing conditioning throughout the winter. “Our setup is an extension of the pro shop,” Chris says. “Practical and purposeful.”

Bethesda Country Club features an Arthur Hills renovation and built a standalone 1,500-squarefoot practice building in 2017 – boasting three member bays and one instructional bay, with putting holes in the back. Impressive in scope with high ceilings and huge “garage doors” that open to a full practice range (pictured above), this addition rendered the club’s former winter option, a simulator, nearly obsolete. “This building was a major investment (around $300,000),” PGA Head Professional Ted Pogorelc says. “But it has proven to be well worth it. In just the first year more than 25 percent of our 500 members have already used it, and they want it open every day.” And it will be.

“We’ve got space heaters on during the winter to keep the temperature between 50 and 60,” Pogorelc continues. “It also houses giant fans for summer temperature control, with force plates, TrackMan and other useful tech and teaching tools.”

The building allows for socializing as well, with big screen TVs available to show the desired games. “It just makes sense,” he adds. “Our members want to play golf every day. One way or another, these studios allow them to do so.” It makes so much sense that other local D.C. clubs like Chevy Chase, Congressional and Woodmont either already have or are adding similar facilities.

Twelve miles northwest of Pittsburgh, in Sewickley, the Club Corp managed Diamond Run Golf Club has a Gary Player designed course and massive indoor practice facility of their own, spanning nearly 3,000 square feet. With three hitting bays, a putting area, chairs and TVs, their “Players Lounge” is a high-tech, comfortable arena that the club views more as an amenity than a source of income. The building opened a year ago, at an estimated cost of just over $200,000, and more than a third of the 350 members use it regularly.

PGA Head Professional Adam Morrison says: “What makes our lounge most unique is that it’s reversible. When the doors are open we hit out onto the range. When it drops below 20 degrees or the weather is otherwise terrible, we close the doors and hit to projectors on the back wall.” Like Bethesda C.C., Diamond Run uses the building throughout the year, which provides income to instructors through roughly 25 golf lessons a week, even during the cold months. “We try to keep it fun and accessible with simulator leagues, games and social events,” Morrison adds. Fun and accessible…just the way golf should be.

The upper half of North America has to make climatic compromises to golf in winter, but demand and innovation have produced some great supplements, with more clubs intent on following suit. So, who cares if there’s a blizzard outside? Tell your golfers to get theirs clubs and come play.