Indoor simulators suffice when
weather isn’t so nice
HERE’S A PILOT PITCH for the DIY Network and
Golf Channel, if the two ever decide to collaborate.
Converting untapped, unorganized spaces into
indoor practice paradises. Starring GAP Member
Clubs such as Llanerch Country Club, Old York Road
Country Club and Whitemarsh Valley Country Club.
That trio followed the aforementioned plotline,
and delivered in the ratings.
“I think it’s been really well-received. It steadily gets used, especially on weekends during the
winter. People are very happy to have it,” Christopher Wilkinson, who is entering his 10th season
as Llanerch’s head professional, said.
“We took what was a basic shell of a room with
no bells and whistles, created a plan of action
and for what we spent in doing it ourselves, it’s
amazing,” Dave Pagett, Whitemarsh Valley’s head
professional of 11 years, added. “On weekends, it’s
booked up from 9 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.).
“I’m very proud of it. One because we did it and
two because it keeps us relevant and current. Two
months ago, we had nothing.”
Whitemarsh Valley previously offered a room in
the Men’s Locker House basement with two nets
and plenty of PVC material. Use was minimal and
lessons were sporadic throughout the winter.
Pagett purchased TrackMan, a premiere swing
and ball flight analysis system, for the club’s golf
operation in March 2018.
“We realized that we had an awesome piece of
technology. We had the room, but I wasn’t sure
how to utilize it at the time,” Pagett, 40, of Ore-land, Pa., said. “We know simulators are all the
rage. I counseled with [head professional] Jeff
[Sikina] over at Old York Road. He had bought a
TrackMan. I saw how he set it up [in an indoor
space at the club].”
Sikina and his team set up three hitting bays
in a 30-by- 25 room that experienced rare foot
“It was a disaster,” Sikina, who is in his second
season as Old York Road’s head professional, said.
“A quarter of the room was shelving and storage.
There was just a net up in there with three mats
where members could go in and hit balls. Old
York Road had zero technology whatsoever, and I
knew we needed it.”
In addition to year-round lessons and practice,
Old York Road’s indoor hitting room stages
a winter league, which runs from January to
“I was thinking I may get 20-30 guys signed up.
I ended up getting 60. It’s been great,” Sikina, 41,
of Horsham, Pa., said. “Guys are in there until
midnight on some nights. Our food and beverage
service has never been better.”
Like Old York Road, Whitemarsh Valley is reaping
the benefits of membership engagement. Its Indoor Golf Studio, a $3,000 investment, opened in
2019 following six weeks of TLC. With an accessible
entrance situated between the cart barn and the
locker house, it is open to the entire membership.
Old York Road and Whitemarsh Valley uplifted
unkempt spaces; Llanerch, conversely, claimed
open space adjacent to the club’s fitness center.
“There was a room that was originally planned
to be a yoga room, and we kind of took it
over,” Wilkinson, 40, of Havertown, Pa., said. “At
Llanerch, golf has always been a 12-month sport.
We have a lot of people who are still here during
the winter and just looking for a way to get ready
for the season.”
Llanerch’s indoor room, which opened in March
2017, features six holes for sloped putting, a hitting net with 15 feet of clearance and FlightScope
“We use it a lot for fitting purposes. We have
all of those capabilities,” Wilkinson said. “In the
past, we had to wait until late April or early May
until the weather was good enough. People were
chomping at the bit to get new clubs before that.
The room gives us the opportunity for people to
hit clubs in January and February and to purchase
clubs a lot earlier than they were able to before.”
Indoor hitting rooms clearly interest the audience. The DIY Network and Golf Channel should
consider such programming.
– Tony Regina
Makefield Highlands’ driving range nets
$175,000 to $225,000 annually in revenue,
Gibson said. The Golf Range Association of
America (GRAA) gave it a spot on its Top 50
Best Public Golf Range Facilities list for six
consecutive years (2013-18).
“[The driving range] is a big piece of our
business, for sure,” Gibson, 41, of North
Wales, Pa., said. “When I started here 11
years ago, the driving range was there, but
it was just kind of out there. Now, if you
looked at the percentage, I would say 60
percent of the golfers who come here to
play use the driving range. We get a ton of
What happens if a club doesn’t offer
a driving range, much less a substantial
practice space, altogether? Ask St. Davids –
founded in 1897 sans such amenities.
“We had a small chipping green, a bunker
and a tiny bit of fairway. Plus, we had a cou-
ple of areas where there were tees that you
could hit balls out into and across fairways,”
longtime member Jay Howson, Jr., said. “Us-
age was pretty limited. We had tried for years
to figure out how to have a driving range.
We’re landlocked. We tried to buy any land
around us that was available and we couldn’t
As St. Davids planned for a new clubhouse
and golf course restoration in the mid-2000s,
the prospect of a driving range appeared dim.
Until a lightbulb moment occurred in the
club’s grill room.
“We had placemats that were a depiction
of the golf course. Two of our members were
sitting in the grill room, and they started fid-
dling around,” Howson, 81, of Malvern, Pa.,
said. “They came up with a plan to change
the 17th and 18th holes so that we could
have a driving range.”
That plan called for the following: change
No. 17 from a long par 4 to a moderate par
3; change No. 18 from a straightaway to a
dogleg right par; replace the old No. 17 green
with the new No. 18 tee-box; allow the new
18th fairway to follow the old 17th fairway
to a point adjacent to the new No. 17 green,
then curve toward the old No. 18 green.
In essence, the 18th hole became St.
Makefield Highlands Golf Club’s
driving range nets $175,000 to
$225,000 annually in revenue.