The Greenwich setting provides a terrific backdrop for a top class golf range
Golf is dying, haven’t you heard? The decrepit old game has finally folded up its plus fours and wandered bleakly out into the cold mumbling that it ‘may be some time’. Believe the pessimists who complain noisily about golf’s demise and you would certainly think so. The pros all swing the same. If they swing differently, then they hit the ball too far. If they hit the ball too far, then the equipment is making the game too easy. When you play at the weekend, half of your playing partners are playing with fiddly shot and score tracking apps on their phones when they should be enjoying the great outdoors. All the gentlemen are gone, replaced by muscular jocks with lurid private lives. Ruinous progress has damned the sport to an early grave. Or has it?
One invigorating institution that is picking up the modern game and running with it is the driving range. Perhaps one of the finest examples anywhere in the country can be found at Greenwich Peninsula Golf Driving Range in London. This stunning two tier riverside golf range and adventure golf course, nestled on the bank of the Thames near North Greenwich station, delivers a revitalising shot in the arm to the game of golf, particularly to those people who find it difficult to escape London for greener pastures. Greenwich Peninsula Golf Driving Range has 60 technologically advanced bays, each with a table, sofa and shielding screens to protect players from any blustery Thames weather or errant shots. Those practising their game hit into a wide and well-lit vista containing eight raised greens of varying yardage.
Where the range comes into its own is in the technology it employs to track the ball flight. Greenwich Peninsula Golf Range has partnered with ‘Inrange’ to install a marvellous radar-powered ball tracking experience that uses a screen in each bay to give instant feedback to the golfer on their shots. Inrange have carefully charted the actual outfield of the Greenwich range, so the targets that are visible are those that display on the screen, often enhanced, but physically present, ensuring that there is a realism to the games played. Whether your strike was a sweetly struck seven iron or a jarring thin, the radar technology will pick up the ball flight and deliver to you the degree of curve, ball speed, ball height, highlighted trajectory and of course, yardage. The results are unerring and remarkable, even when the shots are not!
This technology has been used to create four addictive Inrange games that encourage the kind of risk taking and shot making skill that is more routinely called for on the course. Up to four players in each bay can compete at games like ‘Shrinking Islands’ in which you must land your ball on a series of virtual islands surrounded by burning lava to outscore your playing partners. The islands become progressively smaller each time they are hit and the more they shrink, the greater the points reward. Another is ‘21’, in which players have to hit cunningly positioned virtual playing cards spaced around the range in order to achieve a combined score of 21. Who knew that it could be enormously satisfying to smash a golf ball into a 60ft high playing card? The Inrange screens also give you a variation on the ‘Bullseye’ game where players aim for giant bullseye targets as well as, of course, the classic long drive competition.
Away from the ball striking, there is plenty to relish at the range. On the ground floor a large restaurant called ‘The Joint’ serves customers with unpretentious and excellent food, some of which can be taken out onto the range for bites between swings. Two bars, one for each tier of the range are conveniently placed to settle any beer-based bets on the outcome of any of the Inrange games. Personally, I prefer to play golf than just practice on the range, but with all the games and options available to spend time with my golfing mates, we will definitely return, particularly as we can genuinely compete with each other in poor weather and also in the darker evenings.
The management have implemented a thorough COVID-19 compliant one-way system to protect players from unnecessary contact with those who are not in their party. This is well adhered to and marshalled effectively by the attentive range staff. The complex also contains an 18 hole CrazyPutt Adventure Golf course. The holes are inspired by famous holes around the world and is an ideal venue for families and group parties. Given that Greenwich has so much to offer golfers it is little surprise that American Golf has a premium store here. If you are thinking of getting to grips with a new putter, try it out on their instore green and see if their knowledgeable and friendly staff can advise you on the best options. Custom-fit is a huge and growing part of the business and one that allows a golfer to optimise their ability through equipment. Not surprisingly, American Golf have a busy fitting studio with all the major brands available on the range.
The first thing that strikes you as you walk out into the bays is the remarkable backdrop of the whole of Canary Wharf. At night the twinkling cityscape adds to the sense that you are playing the modern game at what must become an iconic golf range. Greenwich Peninsular Golf Range imparts a sense that the game is growing because of advancements in technology and changing player demographics, rather than being hindered by innovations. I was told at the site that around 16 million balls are hit at the range each year. Golf ranges will never become the entire future of the game: courses will always attract players who enjoy the heady risks of testing themselves against a full track. However, look around Greenwich Peninsula Golf Range and you can see that the players on the range are generally young people that have made the short walk from North Greenwich Station on the Jubilee line. The range feels lively, with people energetically comparing shot statistics and attempting to best each other’s long drives. If this is where golf is heading, then I am going too.
Louis Marr will return soon. For more details on the range and to book a bay, please visit: