Check out how Michael Rucci made his indoor golf vision come to life with the help of Carl's Place.
As Michael Rucci puts it, he is the poster child of the Covid-19 era golfer.
Due to pandemic lockdowns that kept him home in Chicago instead of commuting to New York for work on a weekly basis, Rucci had a lot more time on his hands. So, he started getting back into golf since it was one of a few activities he could still do. He started playing a few times per week, when in the past, it was just a few times per year.
He set goals and got his handicap down to its lowest point ever, but then winter came.
“I didn’t want to lose it,” Rucci said. “So, I found some indoor places throughout the area, and as it got colder and colder, the availability became scarce. Where I would normally book a time for later in the day, that became two days away. I thought this was an interesting concept.”
After parting ways with his former company, he knew he had six months where he wasn’t going to be working.
“I don’t do well just sitting at home,” Rucci said. “I had to have some type of project.”
After seven months of research and help from his family, Rucci opened Smash Factor Indoor Golf in Aurora, Illinois, in October of 2021.
“Are we a Top Golf? Are we a training facility with lessons and professionals? I would say we are neither,” Rucci said. “We’re not Top Golf where it’s pure entertainment. We are golfers and we built this for golfers. We are looking for the serious person, but we also created a facility that if a golfer’s friend or spouse wants to come along, we have a great facility.
“It’s for the person who is looking to use the tools that we have to improve their game, as well as the best-of-the-best when it comes to software on courses. It’s just amazing.”
Rucci added that if anyone is interested in trying out Smash Factor, stop in and ask questions.
“It is built for anyone who is looking to improve,” Rucci said. “We’ve had a father come in with his son. The father is a very experienced golfer and the son had played three or four times. They were using the tools and looking at the video replays of the shots and the son, you could just see the level of excitement, the level of interest there.
“The equipment that we have is very safe, so if somebody hits a bad shot, it’s not going to come back at them. That was our main focus, ensuring that it’s built for the serious golfer, but also would not be intimidating or uncomfortable for the less experienced golfer.”
Smash Factor Indoor Golf, located at 367 Illinois Rte. 59 in Aurora, Illinois, offers golfers of all levels a chance to improve their game with eight different hitting areas.
In its 8,500 square feet, Smash Factor Indoor Golf includes eight Carl’s Place Pro Enclosures with Premium Impact Screens; Uneekor EYE XO launch monitors; and E6 Connect and GSPro software.
“When I chose to go with Carl’s … that by far was the best value as far as getting me as close to the number per bay that I was looking at,” Rucci said. “The quality and the safety was right up there with the top producers.
“I think I changed my mind five different times and every time it was no problem (for Carl’s Place) and they were basically able to answer and solve every obstacle that we had. With any of the other (companies), it was like here’s the side, here’s the material, here’s the top and that’s it. If you want netting, then you need to do that yourself. With Carl’s, it was tell me what you want and we will custom build it for you.”
Opening a new business during the Covid pandemic in that short of time is no easy task.
“(Having been) in positions in executive management, you have a team that you can delegate to. In an adventure like this, I was the CEO, the head of HR, the head of research and development,” Rucci said. “It was very difficult in the sense of trying to do everything. That same challenge then becomes the reward once you are able to do it and see it through
“It was really a family experience. That was probably the best part about it.”
Smash Factor Indoor Golf General Manager Chris Pietrangeli said indoor golf businesses seem to be popping up more often for several reasons.
“Instead of spending four to six hours (outside on a golf course), you’re indoors and one person can play 18 holes in about an hour,” Pietrangeli said. “The world we live in nowadays … time is money and money is time. In the winter, unless you’re in a warm weather state, guess what? You have no chance to play golf.
“The availability just wasn’t there. There are only certain people who take care of this industry. The little guys like us are starting to understand that it’s affordable and we can take care of anybody.”
Smash Factor Indoor Golf uses Uneekor EYE XO launch monitors with E6 Connect and GSPro software.
Pietrangeli said there are great companies out there that help small indoor golf businesses get started.
“Prime examples are Carl’s Place, Uneekor, E6 … with the technology, availability and backup support that comes from them, building a business like this isn’t as hard as it used to be,” Pietrangeli said. “Carl’s Place is a small business like we are. You’re family owned, family operated, and everybody is treated like family.
“I’m a new customer and you guys didn’t know me from Adam, and I can make a phone call or shoot an email and the reply is instantaneous. The quality of the product is hands down one of the best we’ve seen.”
Both Rucci and Pietrangeli said one of the best aspects of Carl’s Place is the flexibility and customization offered with its enclosures and screens.
“You guys have said, ‘Whatever you want, we will make it so it fits in your space,’” Pietrangeli said. “For us, bigger is better. We like it this way. We’re hoping to continue to work with Carl’s as we expand and grow this business.