When the weather’s too bad to play outdoors, North Oxford Golf Club offers members and visiting golfers the chance to play some of the world’s great courses, thanks to its new golf simulator.
And when the climate’s fair, they can warm-up before teeing off – or practise their long and short games whatever the elements outdoors.
North Oxford has chalked up more than a century of golf and is still going strong. A `proper test for the thinking golfer`, the Par 67 mature parkland course presents six tough Par 3s, which explains why the Standard Scratch is above the par score.
A delight on the eye, with avenues of trees, copses and panoramic views of the Oxfordshire countryside, the course is just three miles from the city centre.
Now the club has found fresh fame, as Britain’s first Centre of Excellence for Golf Tech Systems and is already attracting youngsters to the game, also aiding more seasoned golfers hone their driving, chipping and putting skills.
The state-of-the-art Technique Prestige simulator, for which Golf Tech Systems is the UK distributor, features leading edge hi-tech equipment that can give golfers instant data feedback on the power, length and accuracy of their drives.
Club professional Lee Jackson reports brisk business hiring out the simulator to members and visitors for training sessions (£27.50/half hour) as well as using it for club fitting (£10/appointment).
“The spread of data that the simulator provides is staggering,” says Lee, “providing instant shot profiling and valuable feedback on how golfers can improve their game by analysing club face position, angle and range.
“They can also quickly gauge which clubs best suit them. If they want to drive further, the data tells them club head speed for different shafts, how open the club face is, launch angles, speed and direction in facing or following winds. “It can make a big difference to your game.”
The simulator is also the key to attracting a new generation of golfers, believes Lee, who is no mean achiever himself, lifting the Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire club professionals title back to back in 2008 and 2009.
“This is a fun, entertaining way to learn how to play and to sharpen up your game,” he says. “Younger guys like the technical aspects of the simulator. The graphics appeal to them and they feel they are `members for the moment` here.”
Even when the weather’s fine, the simulator can come into its own, he adds. “It’s a great way for members to warm up before they tee off; a ten-minute session costs just £2, while visiting golfers can compete in a `Nearest the Pin` competition when they come here for a society day. The prizewinner receives a complimentary voucher for a foursome to play here.”
The Centre of Excellence is delivering a win:win for everyone, says General Manager Bob Harris: “Last year, the course closed after a massive flood and we lost valuable revenue but the simulator now allows us to earn income when outdoor play isn’t possible, particularly in winter. Foursomes can play some of the world’s greatest courses, such as Pebble Beach and St Andrews. Members feel we are adding value for them, while visiting golfers can still enjoy a round.”
Lee adds: “My favourite course is Pebble Beach and favourite shot, the 7th – short, surrounded by bunkers and the sea. You can even hear the birds chirping.” And that other great benefit: “You never lose the ball and you don’t have to walk the fairways.”
Bob explains: “We are a land-locked course and have no outdoor practice facilities. The simulator extends our flexibility and facilities in a novel and eyecatching way and offers golfers valuable opportunities for tuition.”
There’s another bonus too. Golf Tech Systems will also hand them commission when other clubs view the system and decide to buy one for themselves.
“This winter, we’ve only suffered a few closures because of the extreme weather conditions but that’s when the new facility can really enhance opportunities for everyone – members, visitors, the pro shop and the club. We see the simulator as a key revenue stream,” says Bob.
North Oxford Golf Club www.northoxfordgolf.co.uk
Golf Tech Systems www.golftechsystems.com