At a time when golf courses and centres are looking for solutions to the challenge of making the game both more attractive and faster, some operators and owners are leading the way with some new ideas.
Phil Taylor, owner of the popular Pachesham Golf Centre near Leatherhead, decided a year ago to close his range and lengthen it to enable customers to hit normal golf balls instead of distance-limited range balls, as one part of a plan to improve the offering and increase business.
This meant losing three holes out of the nine original ones, along with a big drop in income from closing the range. However, aware of the GolfSixes event at The Centurion Club and a potential solution to speed of play, Taylor also seized the opportunity to create a better experience based on six holes.
However, he’s gone one step further by adding two holes and pin positions on each green, one the standard width of four and a half inches and another a wider six inches. The six holes comprise four par 4s, a par 3 and a par 5, altogether totalling just over 2000 yards in length.
The newly re-furbished driving range opened quietly on the 31st March, but as Taylor expressed it: “We opened on the Friday as Saturday was April Fools’ Day and some people just wouldn’t believe it!”
He continued: “We have a large customer database who we email regularly but with the main range closed for nearly a year, we saw a drop in business of around 75%. Having advised all our customers that we were opening on March 31st, we were inundated with customers on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday with over 20,000 range balls hit over the three days, far more than would have been hit on the previous range before it closed, so we felt this was a pretty good start.”
Taylor’s relationship with his many customers paid massive dividends, as he said: “Most of our customers use pre-paid range cards and having offered some free gifts with any top ups, we took over £3,000 in ball revenue alone over the weekend.
Taylor continued: “We also opened our full length six-hole layout where players can choose whichever pin they wish to play to and putt out. Although we still have a small membership, the six-hole layout is still recognised by CONGU as a qualifying 18-hole course if played three times. But our main emphasis is on providing a fun, family-friendly and quicker golf experience.”
He reflected on the range’s lengthening: “Extending the new driving range outfield to over 350 yards in length is a better move for the future, enabling proper golf balls to be used and giving the range a much better and more open feel to it, without the need for unsightly perimeter fencing.
Taylor summarised: “The six-hole concept is being trialled in a number of formats in all levels of the game. It’s all aimed at trying to get the game of golf played in a more fun and all-encompassing way for the whole family, but without the time constraints associated with playing a traditional 18 holes round. Our approach will be monitored closely, and I suspect by many more people in golf than just our management team!”
Pachesham Golf Centre www.pacheshamgolf.co.uk