WJ Golf works with The Arboretum Club to bring state-of-the-art golf simulators for lessons and events to the Chicago area. See the best commercial golf simulators.
Many golf courses have installed or are looking to install golf simulators for a variety of different reasons. Two of the top reasons are to keep the business alive when the weather doesn’t cooperate, and have a convenient spot to teach lessons.
That said, golf courses tend to only have room for one or two simulators. The Arboretum Club in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, had room for several more.
“Essentially, we had a golf course that had a banquet facility in it, but one of our biggest weaknesses for the golf course was that we did not have a driving range,” said Geoff Tollefson, head professional at The Arboretum Club. “The Arboretum is a course that could probably use a driving range based on the difficulty of the course and the challenge that it provides. As we ended the lease with the previous tenant that owned the banquet facility, I wanted to take a look at whether it was feasible to retrofit the facility with simulators that could serve as a driving range plus winter entertainment.”
That’s where Won Cho and Jason Jung of WJ Golf came into the picture. Tollefson reached out to the duo, who already had two established indoor golf facilities in the area, to see what they could provide in the banquet facility.
“We have one of the best technologies that I believed could accommodate their needs,” Won said. “Therefore, we partnered up with The Arboretum and the village to provide them state-of-the-art golf simulators that can be their practice facility prior to the golfers going out to the first tee, and also run as an entertainment venue, which is a one-of-a-kind in the Chicagoland area where we stay open 365 days (per year).”
Tollefson said when he met with Won and Jason at their original WJ Golf location, he was impressed with their vibe, energy and quality of simulators.
“The more we talked, we really found a synergy with what they could bring and what we needed, and what they needed, we could bring to them,” Geoff said.
COMMERCIAL GOLF SIMULATOR BENEFITS
Although the golf simulators haven’t even been at The Arboretum for a full year yet, Geoff knows what kind of benefits they will bring.
- Accelerated learning
- Instant swing analysis
- Easy to teach and coach
- Resonates with younger and older generations
“I think the industry is evolving in a much more technological approach to golf,” Geoff said. “From a learning component, what these simulators are able to provide for our customers who actually want to come in and see their swing on video, see all the data that results from how they play the game … it provides them a quicker, accelerated learning process, as opposed to going out to the driving range and trying to figure it out on your own or even taking a lesson.”
Instant Swing Analysis
“Even from a teacher’s perspective, you’re able to watch the student hit the ball and instantaneously see their swing on video.
Easy to Teach and Coach
All of the tools and technology that are embedded in the software really allow the instructor to get to a teaching point a lot quicker as opposed to being outside on a traditional range … It’s a great tool for players to not only enjoy the experience, but you’re also able to learn at the same time and get better.”
Resonates with Younger and Older Generations
Geoff added that golf simulators tend to resonate with younger generations that grew up with video games at their disposal, but older generations have also come to love them.
“The systems and simulators are easy to use,” Geoff said. “Once you start playing on them and start to learn how they function and how they work, it really gets them hooked and you see them in here much more frequently now. I think the overall response from everybody has been very positive and I think it’s going to pay big dividends down the road.”
WHAT DID WJ GOLF BRING TO THE ARBORETUM?
PRACTICE GOLF SIMULATORS AND FOOD
WJ Golf installed seven commercial golf simulators for public use in The Arboretum’s old banquet facility, and one private teaching studio with a golf simulator for Todd Sones, who has been voted one of the top 100 golf instructors in America by Golf Magazine. More from Todd in a bit.
On top of all the golf, they also added in a new food and drink menu.
Each golf simulator bay is outfitted with an O.K. Golf Simulator launch monitor, an automated system that tees up your ball, rotating turf for realistic lies, and a Carl’s Place Pro Enclosure with Premium Impact Screen.
“Being able to practice for 10 minutes before your round will really improve your game,” Won said. “We encourage people to come in to practice prior to (a round) so that your 70 swings really matter out there.”
“The Carl’s Place Enclosure really stands out … we’ve always gone with Carl’s Place because we know we can trust their brand behind our brand to run a successful business.”
Won added that Carl’s Place enclosures and screens are extremely safe, which is a key factor in a commercial environment.
“We want to make sure when our customers are playing, they are in a safe environment,” Won said. “When looking at enclosures from other competitors, some of the materials are exposed; you can see the frames or the ball being struck through the screen. With Carl’s Place, it has really held up.”
“We’ve been in this business now for three years with three locations and every single enclosure that we’ve purchased has stood up to the requirements that we need to provide a safe environment for golfers.”
“Working with Carl’s Place has been really enjoyable. From the customer service, on-time delivery, budget, working with us to make custom enclosures … everything has been top notch, top rated. I would never go with another enclosure.”
GOLF SIMULATORS FOR ENTERTAINMENT
The goal of the golf simulators was not only to be used as a driving range before going out on the course, or for lessons, but also for entertainment. In the mornings, the customers tend to be golfers getting ready for their round, but once the evenings (and winter) come around, you might see more customers looking for a fun night out with friends.
“We see a lot of beginner golfers coming in to use the entertainment side of our simulator, which includes fun golf such as playing golf on a dart board, target golf or even mini golf,” Won said. “It’s less intimidating because you’re not worried about losing golf balls and nobody else is really watching you. You’re just in your space in that simulator practicing away.”
Won said his business partner Jason can attest to how golf simulators can improve your game. At one point a couple years ago, Won was a better golfer, but then Jason started playing more on a golf simulator.
“In the beginning, I was teaching him how to play golf … (he) really practiced on a regular basis on a simulator, and now he’s a way better golfer (than me),” Won said.
GOLF SIMULATOR FOR EVENTS
With the loss of their banquet space, Geoff said they had to rethink how they would host outings and/or events.
That’s where some of the food and drink overhaul came into play, but also the entire bar and patio was remodeled.
“I felt personally that outings nowadays are more networking opportunities for people to be able to be more mobile,” Geoff said. “I think the days of playing in an outing and sitting in a banquet room at a table with seven other people that you might not otherwise know were probably getting a little old. We wanted to change that concept and provide a much more open air concept.”
“When you play in the outing and you’re done, you’re not necessarily locked into a room. You can move about and go wherever you want to go: inside, outside, come into the simulator room. We really wanted to provide more of an energetic entertainment concept for those outings.”
Event Idea: Golf Simulator Competitions
One option would be to have contests on your golf simulator(s) as players start finishing up the golf portion of the outing. Longest drive and closest to the pin contests are simple to run on a golf simulator.
GOLF SIMULATOR FOR LESSONS
Let’s bring back that Todd Sones guy. He teaches golf in a private studio at WJ Golf at The Arboretum Club. Straight out of high school in 1981, Todd knew he wanted to work in golf, and a short while later, he realized he really just wanted to help people play better golf.
Todd has decades of experience in the golf industry, including teaching golf outdoors and indoors. He said he has strictly moved to indoor teaching on his O.K. Golf Simulator and Carl’s Place Enclosure and Impact Screen for one simple reason.
“I want to help people get better as fast as possible,” Todd said. “Time is everything. Your practice is much more efficient. Most people take a lesson and progress can be slow because they don’t realize they're still doing the same thing. They’re not getting the feedback they need. That’s why this is better.”
Todd’s main focus tends to be on carry distance numbers for his students. He said a lot of golfers think they can hit a 7 iron 165 yards, when really that’s the distance it rolled to and they might have only carried it 145 yards.
He also mentioned he likes to work with people on their half wedge shots since it’s an important shot that many players don’t practice.
“The biggest thing that keeps people from getting better, especially when they have an ingrained pattern, a problem in their swing … you start to swing subconsciously (and) whatever you do that’s ingrained is what comes out,” Todd said. “What’s crucial about the player is for them to be able to see themselves after each shot. Every single swing gets recorded and you get playback from both directions, face on and down target. You can actually see if you’re doing what you’re trying to do.”
Geoff said he’s noticed that students coming in for lessons enjoy hitting more shots in a lesson as opposed to the time wasted having to record your own swing, then bring up the video and so on.
“I think in our market, (golf courses) should seriously take a look at it,” Geoff said of golf simulators. “I think every facility that’s in the Midwest, whether you’re public or private, it provides your customers the experience of being here year round, and that is huge. A lot of facilities in the winter months become very quiet and we don’t want that to happen.”
Although Todd is willing to help anyone get better in his studio, he said having a golf simulator at home is a great idea.
“I have a simulator in my house,” Todd said. “My son is becoming a competitive player and I’ll tell him a lot of times that he’s better off practicing indoors, seeing his ball flight and (carry yardages) … If you know what you’re doing and trying to accomplish, simulators are great.”
“The (Carl’s Place) screen is high quality. I want to do it once and do it right. It’s just a good environment to teach in.”
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