“We’ve no membership fees, and if somebody walked in here in their best suit and tie, it would be them that looked out of place,” says Mark Rozenbroek.
“People come here to relax and have fun. To the vast majority of people, golf is a leisure activity, a hobby. Yes, we all like to take our game seriously and we all want to improve, but the sport itself doesn’t have to be serious and stiff.
“It has to be fun, and open to all, and that’s what we keep as our top priority, at all times.”
Looking around the One Stop Golf centre in Hull, it is hard to disagree with that philosophy.
It calls itself the ‘Ultimate Golf Gaming Centre’, and it has certainly struck a chord with people in East Yorkshire. Such has been its success, it has recently been shortlisted as a finalist in two Business Awards events for attracting new visitors to the region. Golf, it seems, can attract new audiences, both young and old.
“We’re on course to have 100,000 people come through the doors this year,” adds director Mr Rozenbroek proudly.
“That’s up more than 20 per cent on last year, and up from 45,000 in our first year. We’ve invested £1m into transforming this place from a run-down driving range into what it is today, and our plans haven’t stopped yet, we want to add more fun facilities around golf.
“The only rule here is we want to see people play with a smile on their face.”
The offer at One Stop leaves plenty to smile about. There’s a Pirate Adventure Golf course for the very young, and a specially devised Fun Golf course for beginners in which the ball is designed not to roll too far when it lands – making the game easier and more inclusive.
For the serious to professional players, state-of-the-art facilities in a 19-bay driving range, and a specially designed, floodlit Target Golf course, provide the perfect platform to perfect key skills both day and night.
Throw in a nine-hole Footgolf course, currently the UK’s fastest growing sport, and superb facilities in the centre’s Premier Lounge, where Sky Sports plays on huge screens – and small screens also placed on the bar pumps – and it is clear to see why visitor numbers are rising sharply. It is a place where people choose to come together and enjoy the sport, in all forms.
Mr Rozenbroek added: “We made a conscious decision not to have a membership fee here. People come and play what they want, when they want. Memberships cause division. Who wants to be somewhere where people are looking at you and saying ‘you’re not a member here’, or ‘you can’t use this because you’re not a member’. How is that encouraging people to play?
“Our aim has always been to break down the barriers which often put many people off walking into a golf club, and our figures show we are doing that. We have birthday parties, wedding receptions and corporate events here. It is a place for everybody. Once people have been here once, they come back.”
Importantly, One Stop Golf caters just as well for the serious players as it does the newcomers and those simply out for fun.
Its state-of-the-art floodlit range uses the highest quality gel mats, with air-driven ‘pop up tees’ delivering the next ball to the tee in under one second. Players can even make use of the latest technology to analyse their swing and custom fit the perfect clubs to match their style from the onsite shop.
A unique Target Golf course, in which players have to accurately hit their ball into a number of different targets, all at different lengths and angles, and a Short Game Challenge focused upon the key skills in and around the greens, ensures local pros such as Hull European Tour Professional David Lynn and Richard Finch have the facilities required to study and fine tune their game.
They are regulars, as are many stars of Premier League football side Hull City, playing alongside local kids who are perhaps holding a club for the first time.
PGA professional Richard Pace is also based at the centre, providing lessons for the more serious golfers. He is also currently launching his own scholarship programme in which he will give up his time throughout 2015 to offer coaching and support to a selected squad of juniors aged 14-19, developing winter training programmes for them, and supporting them through the summer at tournaments, ensuring the focus is on them being rounded individuals, and never losing their passion for the sport.
“I have seen many great juniors from Hull and the East Riding over the years, but when they reach their late teens, they seem to burn out, perhaps because there has been too much focus on playing and handicaps,” said Pace, who will make no money out of the project.
“My approach is all about progression, ensuring kids always want to keep playing golf. If you set a young kid out on a course and then tell him he has been 30 shots over par when he finishes, how is that going to encourage him?”
What makes One Stop work so well is a common belief from all involved that golf needs to move away from the stereotypical image of membership-led clubs entrenched in tradition, rules and dress codes, and ensure the focus is always on enjoyment.
“We wanted each of our golfing games to be fun but retain that competitive edge,” adds Rozenbroek. “No sport is fun without competition, but when competition takes over, that’s when the fun can disappear. It’s important to keep that in your mind at all times, and it is why we organise many events here, bringing in pairs competitions and team games. Some have even been in fancy dress, just to make it different. Imagine that at a golf club.
“From the start we had a very clear vision of what we wanted to create. We wanted to provide a facility where the high quality golfer could come and fine tune their skills in a way not available anywhere else, leading to us developing and introducing three brand new golf gaming concepts to the sport, each focused on developing the key skills of the game in a fun, yet competitive manner.
“In times where many golf clubs are struggling to attract new people to the sport, we are bucking the trend, and we are also offering a progression for young players.
“Those kids who start out on the Pirate Golf and Fun Golf courses soon aspire to step-up and be using the more sophisticated facilities. The pros here understand why we have an open to all approach, and that means everybody feels welcome.
“Walk into a golf club tomorrow, where you are not a member, and have the kids in tow. See how welcome you are made to feel. That is where the sport is going wrong, and where we truly believe we are getting it right.”
One Stop Golf www.onestopgolf.co.uk