Richard Haygarth and his wife Sally own and operate Maple Leaf Golf, a group of golf facilities that includes Chichester Golf Club and Hillbarn Golf Club on the south coast, along with Horton Golf Park in Epsom. Sally runs the south coast facilities on a day-to-day basis whilst Richard runs Horton Golf Park; he has also been developing a very exciting new facility at Hounslow, which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2022.
At Hounslow, Richard is putting the final touches to a major new golf centre, which boasts a 55 bay two-tier floodlit golf range, complete with the very latest technology. There is also a large café bar that will provide for 100 covers in the restaurant, a sprawling patio, with food and drink being served directly into the golf bays. There is also a major adventure golf course complex: Volcano Island, which comprises of two 18-hole layouts - one called Eruptions and the other called Cascades. The former is themed around a vast artificial volcano, whilst the latter features beautiful waterfalls tumbling over rocks, to the delight of golfers of all generations. Finally, there is a nine hole par-3 course with artificial tees and greens.
The whole golf offering has been pitched to be all about fun and participation, rather than earnest and silent practice. Whilst the technology in the golf range will appeal to many top golfers, it is an unashamed attempt by Haygarth and his team to encourage more people of varying abilities to come and enjoy their golf at Hounslow.
With this in mind, the golf range has been named as the ‘Games Range’. The whole offering is not miles away from the ethos of Topgolf, with golfers encouraged to play in groups, eat and drink in the golf bays and enjoy a game experience rather than practising in solemn solitude. It is perfect for serious golfers as well as party groups, families and teenagers. There will be music, food and drink served to each bay: fun and laughter are precisely the intention.
The range, which has an artificial grass outfield from Blakedown and 30m nets from Hi Nets, will have balls collected robotically, automatically replenishing the ball dispensers. The ball dispensers, which have been supplied by European Golf Machinery, are unusual in the fact that they are designed merely to give staff access to golf balls. Richard’s team will then place an unlimited amount of golf balls in each bay so that there is no need to ever run out of golf balls whilst you are enjoying your time at the Games Range.
This is a major shift in the way that golf ranges are developed, but it is one that Haygarth believes in wholeheartedly. He spoke to Golf Features:
“During the pandemic, we switched to selling time slots at our range at Horton Golf Park. We have given up on cash as a transaction and only take digital, cashless payments. Every golfer at the new Hounslow complex will be asked to pre-book so that they can get the bay that they want, at the time that they want. Each bay will therefore create an hourly yield and not be dependent on selling balls for the duration of the experience. There are so many advantages to this way of doing business and we have noticed a huge pick up in both customer satisfaction and takings at our range at Horton Golf Park.
“The range bay booking system, yourgolfbooking.com, is exceptionally easy to use. We pay a very small commission and customers can easily book for half hour or one hour slots on their phones, tablets or computers. The money is taken at source and this means that the normal peak times for golf ranges are avoided and our customers can pick the easiest time for them to enjoy our facilities.” This is a bold move, as many golf ranges that have switched to booking, especially during the pandemic, have found that golfers are keen to arrive on an ad hoc basis since society has opened up more. Nevertheless, there are major advantages, especially in the fact that there is no cash held on site. It would seem almost certain that more facilities will copy this cashless style of operation.The same booking system will also be deployed for the Volcanic Island and the Cascades adventure golf courses. Golfers will be able to book online every five minutes - and the courses, which are still under construction, will provide hours of engaging entertainment for leisure seekers to in the west of London.The nine hole par-3 course, is also based on a fun theme and is styled ‘Knockabout 9’. This is a game aimed at the mass entertainment market with plenty of hire clubs, a non-demanding layout and pricing that encourages families and groups to play together.
The whole centre is based on casual golf for the masses and whilst some of the golfing puritans may sniff at this new type of informal golf, there really is something for everyone at the new Hounslow Golf Park. The technology chosen for the range is from Inrange. Inrange has already taken over as Haygarth‘s technology partner at Horton Golf Park and replaced the Toptracer system that he had installed initially.
Inrange, which works using radar - and therefore requires less lighting in order to achieve accurate results - tracks the ball hit from each bay and immediately relays it to the golfer who has just hit it. This information is attractively packaged on ruggedised screens in the golf bays and forms the backbone of the entertainment for the golf. It is great fun. Serious golfers can work on their yardages, displacement patterns and other technical details, whilst other golfers can take advantage of a host of fantastic games to play, which are out and out fun, and only lightly based on technical golf swings. You can also play a host of beautiful golf courses in the virtual comfort of your own bay, sipping a drink and enjoying a burger whilst you have a group of friends take turns playing on some of the world’s most favourite courses.
So why did Haygarth decide to switch to Inrange from Toptracer? He elaborates:
“Toptracer was a very good system for us initially at Horton Golf Park, however, at the time we thought it would require more light in order for its photographic sensors to pick up the golf ball in flight, especially as the natural light of the day fades. At Hounslow Golf Park, because we are very close to Heathrow Airport, part of our flood light system is supplied using berm lighting, so additional lighting would be necessary to make the Toptracer system work, which was going to prove quite a nuisance. However, the main reasons why we switched to Inrange are that we preferred their gaming systems, and in addition, the booking system they use is very easy and straightforward for our customers and also for our own administration.”
However, the nature of technology is that it evolves and improves over time. Toptracer’s original sensors required an amount of specified light to guarantee performance outside of daylight hours. However, they are now using a new model on all installs which means that the current requirements are a now a third of what they were when Toptracer Range initially launched.
Moreover, Toptracer say they’re so advanced now that when there are specific requirements such as flight paths where lighting must be limited, they can configure creative lighting solutions to satisfy both the restrictions in place for the facility while meeting the recommended minimum requirements to guarantee performance.
There is also a minimum level of lighting required to the outfield to provide the golfer with a positive experience at the range at night regardless of technology and the reality is based on their latest specifications of performance this is in line with what Toptracer require to provide tracing at their 550+ ranges worldwide.
Nick Longley, co-founder and director of Inrange also spoke to Golf Features:
“We are thrilled to have been chosen to supply the technology for both of these very important ranges. We share Richard’s enthusiasm for bringing the game to a much greater audience whilst also providing the highly technical experience that the avid golfers seek.
"We are looking for more ranges who share our vision to take golf participation way beyond the traditional demographics.“
A golf range provides a fantastic opportunity for teaching. There are no dedicated teaching bays as such, but with top technology in each bay, it is very straightforward for high-quality tuition to be available at any time with greater flexibility than those facilities that specify teaching only, in certain bays. Haygarth and his team will continue their excellent work at Hounslow Golf Park with an improved version of the ‘Get into Golf’ scheme with which he has created so many golfers at Horton Golf Park. It is anticipated that there will be at least six full-time professionals working at the range and also able to utilise the par-3 course to nurture new talent, especially junior golf. One of the best things about adventure golf is that it charges younger participants with a zeal to play ‘proper golf’. It is the best possible tool to create new golfers with.
Hounslow Golf Park is also unusual in that it does not have a large retail facility. Retail used to thrive in such environments, but Haygarth wishes to focus on customers’ experience, rather than selling them equipment on the back of high volumes of traffic. He explains:
Golf retail is a highly specialised part of the golf industry and more and more people are moving to purchasing equipment online. We will still sell the basics of balls, gloves, caps and tees and we may well add custom fit clubs to this mix, but our prime goal is to focus on our customers’ experience and make sure that they enjoy every moment of their time on site. We are going to make sure that all of our customers have a highly rewarding visit and golf retail can sometimes get in the way of this ideal.”
Hounslow Golf Park will definitely set new standards in the newly defined golf-leisure sector. Golf Features will be back to cover the opening of the range next Spring. The last eight years have been a lot of very hard work for Richard and his colleagues and it will be a great relief for all, when they can open for trade.
More details can be found at: www.hounslowgolfpark.com