The stunning two tier golf range has 55 bays and was built to the highest standard.
The golf centre at Hounslow is a magnificent new addition to the golf world.
The newly constructed centre has a 55 bay, two tier, range complete with unlimited balls available for each bay, InRange technology, soft seating behind each hitting station and the ability to order food and drink directly to each bay. In addition, there are two 18 hole adventure golf courses, a nine hole par three course with synthetic tees and greens, a great cafe bar and further opportunities for future developments. An online booking system with fibodo allows visitors to reserve time slots on the range, 9-hole course and on both of the adventure golf courses.
The site, which is owned by Richard Haygarth’s Maple Leaf Golf Group, has been planned and built over the last eight years, the whole process having spanned the difficult years of the pandemic. It is with some relief that the golf centre was finally opened on July 9th.
At first sight, the artificial outfield of the range takes your breath away. It looks fantastic, with a dramatic, vivid blue colour for the main outfield, with large circular red, green and yellow targets within the area: it is not at all what one might expect when visiting a golf range – very refreshing! The view from the upper tier is particularly impressive, where there is the reassurance of safety netting provided in front of each bay. The range is surrounded by smart, 30m high ball-stop fencing, provided by Hi Nets, the leading netting company, which should retain almost all of the golf balls within the playing surface. Behind each bay is comfortable seating where food and drink can be ordered by using a phone app whilst visitors enjoy playing their golf. A dumb waiter allows for the food and drink to be delivered swiftly to the top tier, where hosts are waiting to serve the customers. This service will definitely be very popular, particularly in the evenings, with the view being all the more enhanced at night when the outfield is lit up.
Each bay is supplied with unlimited balls. There are six baskets with 120 balls in each and are held in a special metal frame. Staff top up the balls and customers pay for the time used, not the balls hit. The bays are deeper than standard to encourage people to order food and drink whilst they’re enjoying their golf range visit.
InRange has been chosen to provide outstanding technology with screens on each of the 55 bays, ensuring a lot of fun for those using the golf range. It has already been installed at Horton Park, the Haygarths’ Epsom golf centre, and is delivering lots of additional excitement to new golfers, along with excellent feedback for better players who are seeking to improve their statistics, launch angles and striking patterns. It is hard to think that 10 years ago golf ranges did not have any technology available to the customers: now it is becoming quite normal for this tremendous innovation to be expected at golf ranges.
The lighting at Hounslow is sensitive due to the site’s proximity to Heathrow and also local residents. There are LED lights on the range, but berm lighting has been placed on the range surface to ensure that all balls struck are picked up by the lighting system throughout their flight. InRange can track golf balls in very poor light, due to the fact that they use radar as the basis for their technology. Doppler radar was first used in the ballistics industry to differentiate bullets and measure the effectiveness of various munitions deployed to kill and injure. Today there is a much better purpose for this clever technology, and that is to provide joy and entertainment to golfers of all abilities. Nick Longley, founder and chief executive of InRange, added:
“Inrange are proud technology partners for both Horton Park and now this fabulous new range at Hounslow. It is a dramatic setting and congratulations go to Richard and his team for the remarkable transformation of the site. Inrange will not only provide a premium practice experience, but will also allow those less familiar with the game to have a great time at Hounslow. The reliability of our tracking technology and the immersive gameplay allows us to play a much greater role in enhancing the customers’ enjoyment. This means more repeat visits, better word-of-mouth and a much more vibrant golf centre for everyone involved.”
The ball distribution system is completely different at Hounslow. Richard wanted to get away from vending balls and instead provides unlimited golf balls and charges for the time spent at each bay. Each bay has a specially-designed black frame that neatly holds six full baskets of balls for the players. Ball prices start at £9.50 for 30 minutes, £16.50 for an hour for single players or from £26 an hour for 2 players, £31.50 for 3 players or £36 for 4 players. The balls are still dispensed, cleaned and washed by a sophisticated European Golf Machinery system, but the interface is only accessible by staff members with 120 balls being cleanly vended into black baskets made by EGM. EGM also supplied the smart black bay dividers and mats, and installed an elevator system to distribute the range balls to the ball dispenser on the second tier. It is a very slick backroom operation. Golf Features spoke to Tony Nelli from EGM:
“We were delighted to have been selected to build the infrastructure behind the range and will watch with interest as Richard’s ground-breaking ideas for range management evolve over time. It is an extremely well thought out and designed golf range and we’re sure it will be very successful.”
The robotic ball collectors from AMS wait to the side of the range charging up and ready to collect thousands of balls..
The balls are collected robotically using three AMS robots, which quietly scurry around and collect up all of the range balls, before they are cleaned and blown back into the ball dispenser. When not required, the robotic ball collectors sit charging to the right of the range. There is a back-up system in place in case of emergencies or extreme weather such as deep snow when it would not be possible for the robots to run. For 99% of the time, the system of ball collection will be amongst the easiest to operate of any golf range.
In addition to the golf range, there are two 18 hole adventure golf courses: the Eruption Course which features red coloured water, with the course winding its way around a large erupting volcano, and the Cascades Course with its striking blue coloured waterfalls and meandering mini rivers. There are a number of large dinosaurs strutting menacingly alongside the holes, as well as caves and plenty of flowing water features surrounding both courses. The two courses have been really well designed and built, with attractive plants and roped fencing and will certainly provide much fun and a genuine adventure for leisure seekers of all ages. It is also the perfect introduction to golf. Prices start at £10 for juniors and £13 for adults, £36 for families of four.
Perhaps a second step, prior to becoming a golfer, will be taken on the nine hole par-3 course, called Knockabout 9, complete with artificial tees and greens. The greens are specially cushioned to stop the ball from bouncing wildly over and beyond the target. The par-3 course extends to about 15 acres and has been extensively drained to ensure play can continue throughout the year. The grass areas that make up the rest of the course, apart from the tees and greens, are all cut by AMS robots, which recharge in a similar manner as the ball collectors on the range. Anyone would think that perhaps Richard didn’t like green keeping staff, as he seems to have done away with most of the traditional job roles! He explains:
There are two adventure golf courses at Hounslow.
Both are themed with dinosaurs -
Eruption and Cascades.
“In building this golf centre, we wanted to maximise the customer experience. We have a superb team who look after all of our customers in the range, the cafe bar, on the adventure golf courses and on the par-3 course. Their mission is to ensure that our customers have a great time. This is clearly not a traditional golf centre - nor do we want it to be. We are aiming to attract new players and those eager to have a go, rather than the more formal golfers who prefer quiet practice and traditional styles of play with dress regulations from a bygone era. The decision to automate the ball collection, cutting the course, and using artificial grass where possible, is to allow us to provide an excellent customer experience whilst keeping maintenance costs down. Obviously, we still have a maintenance team, but to build something similar with real grass would have cost considerably more and had ongoing maintenance costs that were hard to justify.”
As yet there is no team of PGA professionals assembled to teach the golfers at Hounslow. This is quite deliberate and Richard explains:
“Our first concern is to make sure that our customers enjoy a wonderful experience. We will definitely be creating a coaching team to back up and enhance our customers experience, but this will evolve over the next few months and years. We are committed to driving golfers into the game and our Get Into Golf initiative is extremely good for all local clubs and the sport as a whole. We will be creating thousands of new golfers each year.”
Also missing from the initial golf centre set up is a large retail shop, which had been originally planned in the first round of discussions eight years ago. Richard elaborates:
“We will almost certainly introduce a large golf shop at some point in the next few years and have planning permission for this and an additional indoor adventure putting course. We have invested substantially in the whole set up and the priority - as ever - is the customer. Whilst golf retail is a very important part of the wider golf industry, we are happy to lend our customers clubs to use on the golf range and whilst this may be a missed opportunity for golf retail, it is not necessarily to the detriment of our customers. We have tried to take new ideas from across the golf and leisure industries and mix these together with our own experience at Horton Park and Chichester, creating the very finest customer experience we can. The proof of the pudding will be in how we trade and how we are perceived in the local area. It’s a very exciting time.”
There is the spacious, modern Volcano View Café located behind the range, which provides anything from pizzas to burgers, coffee and cake, to snacks and ice cream – perfect for all occasions. There is a large window overlooking the range, as well as a perfect view of the two adventure golf courses, which keeps everyone connected to the various golf experiences whilst taking time out for eating and drinking.
Next door to the golf centre, there is another large leisure business that is focused on an animal petting zoo together with other non-golf attractions. The two businesses will operate side-by-side, sharing an entrance and a large car park and will definitely become a major leisure destination for the West of London.
It will be interesting to see how these two businesses work together over the next few years. They are both attracting different elements of the leisure market and clearly there will be lots of cross-fertilisation; within families there will be potentially splits where some of the family will choose one activity whilst others will visit the other centre, and then come together to share food and drink at either of the sites afterwards. It is amusing to watch the newly-arrived billy goats at the petting zoo eyeing up the dynamic dinosaurs over the fence - they seem to be a bit more comfortable now they realise that the dinosaurs are not going to eat them!
The golf site is highly visual and will garner lots of custom from passing traffic. In addition, Richard’s team will be maximising their marketing opportunities with social media to the fore. It certainly is a highly impressive golf centre, well thought out, designed and operated. We wish Richard and his team all the very best with this new venture and will watch its progress with great interest.