Tips to Start and Grow a Golf Simulator Business

Planning for a golf simulator business

At Carl’s Place, we are well aware of the peaks and valleys of starting and running a small business. Not a day goes by that the Carl’s Place team is not working with an entrepreneur who is opening a golf simulator business or working to incorporate golf simulators into their existing establishment. 

We enjoy hearing their visions, process and advice, and thought our readers would love to hear it, too.

We tapped into the minds of Alex Deering, who plans to open up Sand Trap Indoor Golf in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, with his brother in September 2021, and Evan Sharp, who owns Sharp Golf with his wife in West Haven, Utah, to learn about some of the thought process that went into their businesses.

“My brother has been talking about opening an indoor golf place for a couple of years now,” Deering said. “I ran the numbers and created a business plan to make sure it was practical and the next thing we knew we were signing a lease on a place.”

Sharp Golf is an indoor training facility. Both Sharp and his wife are avid golfers.

“We wanted a place where golfers could improve their game efficiently and golf without worrying about weather,” Sharp said. “The golf season in northern Utah is short, and we wanted a place where golfers could play year round.”

WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN STARTING AN INDOOR GOLF BUSINESS

One of the top factors to consider when incorporating golf simulators in your business is your physical space. How much room do you have? Do you want a couple larger enclosures, such as the Carl’s Place Pro Enclosure Kit, or smaller enclosures like the Carl’s Place DIY? Will an enclosure actually fit in that corner of your space?

Deering’s space includes a total of 3,500 square feet – 2,000 of which is a wide-open gym area. Originally, they wanted to use four to five simulators that can accommodate both right- and left-handed golfers.

“We quickly realized that wasn’t going to work,” said Deering, who grew up in Coeur d’Alene but left for a while to become a pilot in the US Air Force. “We looked at a lot of custom enclosures that were more construction and higher costs, but Carl’s Place was that nice balance of looking good while keeping the construction on a rented space so low.”

With limited wall length to squeeze in four simulators, Deering said they had to get creative. After initial planning, they had to call an audible and made two of their simulators right-handed only, allowing them to shrink the width down to 10 feet, and two wider enclosures to allow both lefties and righties to play.

“There’s a lot of extra space requirements we didn’t think of initially, like the area behind the screen so the balls don’t hit the wall,” Deering said.

Sharp Golf is located in a warehouse-style building and has 25-foot ceilings, so the height of the Carl’s Place enclosures Sharp bought were not an issue. He was more worried about where he was going to place his launch monitors.

“We bought Carl’s Place enclosures because we needed a place to mount the simulators,” Sharp said. “We were not confident in building our own mounts for the simulators since they have to be about 10 feet off the ground.

“Also, we had to think about air conditioning … we are a warehouse and it doesn’t have AC built in. This has been the hottest summer in Utah in a long time, and we have had to do a lot of work to get portable coolers to keep it semi cool in here. You have to be able to get the temp down quite a bit so it is comfortable for people swinging clubs over and over again.”

The same likely goes for winters and keeping the warehouse warm. 

TARGET CUSTOMER OF AN INDOOR GOLF BUSINESS

Some business plans might target the more serious golfer looking for the most comprehensive stats, while others will go after families and groups of friends looking for a fun time together. Either way, you’ll want to know who you’re targeting.

Sharp said he is aiming at a couple different types of golfers.

“Serious golfers who want all of the data the simulator can provide, and golfers who struggle to find time to golf or want to golf during the winter or at night,” Sharp said when asked about their target audience. “We thought an indoor place suited this the most and that is what we are passionate about.”

According to Deering, the golf community in Coeur d’Alene is massive with many older and retired golfers, so the decision on which group to target for Sand Trap Indoor Golf was easy.

“We are targeting fun golfers,” Deering said. “There isn’t much of a professional scene here, even though it is a big golfing community … We want Sand Trap to be a relaxed environment where you can be comfortable and hit some balls with some friends with a drink or two.”

Deering added that they have memberships to some courses in town and have built good relationships with a lot of the community. He said his wife has been “killing” the marketing part of the business on social media (Facebook/Instagram), and they also sponsored a charity tournament recently that helps give back to children in the community. 

With Coeur d’Alene being in the Pacific Northwest, it gets cold and rainy from October to March. Like a majority of the world that experiences significant seasonal weather changes, Deering expects to be busier during that time of the year. 

However, Deering isn’t planning for much of a decline during peak outdoor golf season as players look to avoid the area’s booked up golf courses.

“Add in the high temperatures during the summer, and hitting some balls inside with a cold beer sounds great,” Deering said.

HOW MUCH TO CHARGE FOR INDOOR GOLF

When running a golf simulator as part of your business plan, there are many options on how to charge people for playing it. You can charge by the hole (by 9 or 18 holes). Charging by set time increments is popular. Or a regular membership is an option as well.

Deering said booking in 30-minute increments allows them to easily handle online reservations without fear of people taking extra time to finish their round, which then delays the next group.

“We want to be able to accommodate those golfers who want to come in and practice for 30 minutes to an hour after work during the week, even if they don’t have time to play a full 9 or 18,” Deering said. “Different players play rounds at different speeds.”

At Sharp Golf, they charge monthly membership fees. 

“We wanted a place open 24/7. To do that, we needed to run like a gym membership,” Sharp said. “We know who our customers are, even when we aren’t in the facility ourselves. They pay a membership fee to use our simulators whenever they want.”

EXPANDING YOUR GOLF SIMULATOR BUSINESS

If you're looking to go beyond just the golf simulator experience, many businesses might offer extras such as lessons, club fittings, apparel or leagues. Consider your target customer, what you could offer during your off-season, and your own business strengths to look at what you can bring to the customer to maximize your golf simulator business potential.

Sharp Golf does sell clubs and apparel, but said they know that most of their business will come during the long winter months in Utah, but added that they’ve been able to attract customers throughout the summer through teaching lessons. They also sell clubs and apparel. 

For Sand Trap Indoor Golf, Deering said he and his brother are not instructors nor good enough to become one, so they do not plan on doing instruction themselves. However, they plan to work with a local golf pro to send business to him and vice versa.

“In the same way, we aren’t planning on fittings, selling equipment, or anything like that,” Deering said. “The golf pro is well known and handles all of that, so we are working on a good relationship with him.”

However, Deering added they do plan to offer leagues during the winter.

“It creates a sense of community around the shop and brings in repeat and predictable business, which is always a good thing,” Deering said.

OVERALL CHALLENGES AND REWARDS OF A GOLF SIMULATOR BUSINESS

Nobody said it would be easy to start up a golf simulator business, especially in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Getting the space ready and dealing with all the delays in the world is definitely the hardest part so far,” Deering said. “Painting, construction, etcetera take way longer and are more work than they always seem.

“With all the delays in shipping right now, getting things quickly can definitely be a hassle. We had to wait way longer than we expected for things like grass turf, and some things were back-ordered, like computers, because of the shortages right now.”

Sharp said getting all the equipment is expensive and time consuming, finding the right building was tough and marketing is difficult when you’re new to the field.

However, the end product is worth it.

“The best part is having a place we can golf at whenever we want,” Sharp said. “Plus, being surrounded by golf all day long is awesome.”

“The most rewarding part so far was the first test shot when we set up the first bay and it just worked,” Deering said. “We are using the Uneekor EYE XO and that sensor is amazing. Paired with E6 Connect, it’s amazing how immersive it feels.”

HOW CARL’S PLACE CAN HELP

Need more information about the products Carl’s Place has to offer to make your golf simulator business dream come true? We’d be happy to help.

If you are an existing business just looking to add a simulator to some extra space, maybe you’d love one of our smaller DIY enclosures with one of our three golf impact screens. A smaller, more affordable launch monitor such as the FlightScope Mevo+ or SkyTrak would be a great option for a DIY enclosure. We also offer hitting mats, projectors, and other accessories.

If you’re looking to start up a full-on golf simulator business, you should look into a Carl’s Place Pro Enclosure Kit with a Premium Impact Screen and a Uneekor QED or EYE XO launch monitor, which can mount overhead on the enclosure.

And if all of this is too overwhelming and you want some help with designing your golf simulator business, we can help with our custom golf room design service

customer-simulator-room-start-to-finish

Ready to get started? Or do you have some more questions? Our customer service team is ready to help you on our website or by phone at (608) 352-0002.