Here’s a nice problem to have for a new golf business: figuring out its target audience because its appeal is so broad.
That’s the case with the X-Golf enterprise with its highly attractive mix of technology, entertainment and game improvement, all centered on state-of-the-art golf simulators. “We opened our Novi location a year ago and were packed from October to April,” said Scott Minke, one of the three owners behind the operation. “We soon realized X-Golf was resonating with many different groups—serious golfers, casual golfers, non-golfers and people just looking to get out and have a good time.” Standing inside X-Golf’s newest location in Grand Rapids on busy 28th St., Minke added, “It’s been hard to pinpoint one segment that’s driving our business.”
Not hard to pinpoint is the appeal of the simulators themselves set inside a hip, lively, music-pulsating, sports bar space. Minke and his long time friend and fellow owner Jason Perras were frequent golf simulator enthusiasts for years in the Detroit area. “We both thought it was fun and entertaining but there was an inaccuracy to it, especially in the short game area, that was disappointing,” said Perras who serves as the behind the scene financial officer of the enterprise while Minke oversees advertising and marketing. A third owner is Brendan Hadley, another long time friend. All of the principals are happily employed in other businesses while burning the midnight oil in guiding and nurturing X-Golf.
Nearly two years ago and while on a business trip to Los Angeles, Minke took a detour and visited the headquarters of X-Golf America with its upscale and tech-laden brand of simulators imported from South Korea. Soon after the proverbial light bulb went on.
“I remember Scott calling me from LA saying it only took him four or five swings on this simulator to know it was completely different and far superior to anything we had ever used,” said Perras. “Not only was it amazingly true and accurate in the short game areas but the other proprietary features set it apart from anything we’ve seen.”
Along with its 3-D, high-def renderings of over 90 golf courses, each simulator boasts more than 300 light and laser sensors that track a ball with a high speed camera delivering—within 98% accuracy— metrics for ball speed, ball spin, launch angle, impact, impact angle, club speed, club path, club face and ball direction. Said Perras: “These simulators can spit out valuable data to help a golfer when taking a lesson or when buying a new driver or a set of irons.” As part of its business plan, each X-Golf location has a PGA golf professional offering instruction, club-fitting and equipment sales including being an authorized Callaway Golf retailer.
But beyond these impressive golf-centric “bells and whistles,” there lies the strong social and entertainment pulls of X-Golf itself. “We discovered this past year in Novi that we appeal as much to the non- and infrequent golfer as we do to the traditional golfer,” said Minke, a graduate like Perras of both Novi High School and Grand Valley State University. “We saw a lot of “date night” couples where they didn’t have to be great golfers to have a good time. And we’re also clicking with those who want to get out of the house during the long winter and do something active.”
In Grand Rapids, its ample space of 6,000 square feet sports a full bar with a Class C liquor license and a nice selection of food. Each simulator is equipped with a Direct TV sports package, so users can tune into any game at any time. As seen in Novi, Minke also expects the GR location with its occupancy of 70 persons to be a popular choice for birthday parties, corporate gatherings and charitable events.
Perras and Minke both agreed that X-Golf’s user-friendly features also play a big role in its popularity. Specifically they cited the pluses of the patented X-Ball system that gathers balls after being struck at the simulator screen and then automatically tees them up at the exact height for the user. “Basically, this system is similar to a bowling alley where balls are automatically retrieved and set up, ready to be used again and again,” said Perras. “Best of all, it saves time.”
And time is money at X-Golf. In Grand Rapids, a choice of six simulator bays may be rented by the hour, ranging from $30 to $55 per hour depending upon day and time frame. Up to six players can use and share in the cost of the hourly rental. A variety of game and course option settings, including a Kids Par-3 game popular with families, are available with each unit allowing for multiple players to enjoy a shared virtual reality experience without the usual downsides of a real round of golf outdoors. “If you mishit a shot with X-Golf you’re not looking for it in the woods or in the tall grass,” said Minke. “And you can still play 18 holes in an hour; that’s a huge advantage when people don’t have as much time to play the game with the pressing demands at home and at the office.”
Andrew Mogg, a PGA professional and Director of Instruction in Novi, echoes the time savings element as another reason for X-Golf’s popularity. “People increasingly don’t have the whole day to play golf. And this is a more entertaining and less stressful outing than regular golf,” said Mogg. “Traditional golf will always be around and we need it to be around but X-Golf opens up opportunities for golfers wanting to have fun outside of the regular course.”
And with Michigan’s long winters, Mogg sees more avenues to advance players’ games at his indoor teaching facility. “More and more players are realizing the best time to improve their swings and adopt better habits is over the winter. With this technology, players can work on their games, get accurate feedback and be ready when spring finally comes around,” said Mogg. “Simply put, we can make someone a better golfer.”
Hmmm? Be a better golfer while having a fun and entertaining experience in the dead of winter? Now that’s appealing!
Images courtesy of X-Golf
For more information about X-Golf Michigan with locations in Novi, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and Shelby Township, visit www.xgolfmichigan.com
For a YouTube video of X-Golf’s patented automatic tee system: