LITTLE FERRY, NJ. The ubiquitous nature and ever-increasing role of technology is shaping the global world in far faster ways than many might conceive. Golf, for many years, stayed in a predictable silo. Learning the game meant allocating large chunks of time –often by oneself with the hope in finding a passionate teacher fully capable in taking you through the necessary steps towards clear improvement,
Simulators have been in existence for a number of years but the evolution in the offerings is rapidly growing. Millennial golfers have come of age where such technological improvements are not an afterthought, but a given.
Consider this — in South Korea today there are more indoor simulator locations than Starbuck’s franchises. That’s mind boggling given the start-up costs associated with such state-of-the-art establishments.
With daily life becoming more frenetic and people overbooking personal calendars, the amount of available time for golf has been squeezed. Given today’s world, traditional golf often finds itself outside the available time box for personal recreation.
For many golfers in South Korea the availability and cost to play traditional golf is prohibitive –‘simulated golf has become the main connection to the sport. Amazingly, there are South Koreans whose only connection to golf comes from using simulators. The profusion of locations has even meant professional events now played solely through simulator usage.
The South Korean reality is impinged by having less available land for 18-hole course development and the related associated costs in maintaining the varied aspects such actual clubs provide.
Simulators have become the quintessential connection — checking off a range of important boxes. First and foremost, simulators are never weather dependent. The business model is time sensitive — you’re never waiting for the group in front of you to speed matters up. It’s also ideal for social meetings and getting one’s golf fix satiated.
Originally started in South Korean, Golfzon opened for business in May 2020. The brainchild of Kim Young-chan, a former senior executive with Samsung Electronics –the company has become the dominant presence in the growing category. The mission statement is simple and straightforward — “make golf enjoyable for everyone.”
This week Golfzon opened its first location in the New York metropolitan area — located in Little Ferry, NJ — just 15 minutes west of Manhattan. Two upcoming locations in the same region are planned for 2023.
“Golfzon Range is the equivalent of a gym for golf — a dedicated place to train your golf swing so that you can have more fun and success when playing on the course,” said Ben Riches, CEO for Golfzon Leadbetter. “We’ve taught golfers of every ability all over the world but always at a golf course. Now we can take that same knowledge and use Golfzon technology to offer it in more convenient locations. This is the future of how the golf swing will be taught.”
The Little Ferry site provides an upscale vibe. 22 individual stations for golfers seeking improvement whether specifically for individual practice, private lessons and group classes. However, the establishment features a golf centric component first and foremost. Other companies using simulators have brought forward more of a party atmosphere where food and drink have as much emphasis as hitting that round sphere.
Golfzon is tying its identity to those wanting to fully understand their swings more so than whether the white or red wine is preferred with certain food offerings. The New Jersey location is concentrating on ramping up the skill levels of all those walking through the doors.
Golfzon added firepower to its offerings in 2018 acquiring Leadbetter Golf Academy and having its leader David Leadbetter become the focal point for instruction efforts.
Leadbetter’s success at the highest levels of golf has been demonstrated by such golf stars as Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Nick Price, Greg Norman, Se Ri Pak, Lydia Ko and Michelle Wie, among the most notable.
“Training at a Golfzon Range will be the most effective way to learn golf. Our research shows golfers learn the swing faster indoor than at an outdoor range or on a course,” said the English born instructor based now in Florida. “A purpose-built indoor golf training center like this will allow golfers to improve more quickly and that’s what golf needs to continue to grow as a sport.”
Improvement and fun are now the center point — welcoming new golfers and keeping those already involved actively engaged. For those living in northern climates the role of simulators keeps interest going when plunging temperatures make outdoor golf not feasible.
Being located in Little Ferry also provides a central location to an avid base of Korean golfers who live throughout the immediate NY / NJ area. That passion for the game is notable and emanates from its founder.
Golfzon offers a range of different price options and services. The cost factor is competitive with other non-golf entertainment options.
Nonetheless, simulator golf cannot replicate varying wind patterns encountered throughout a traditional round of golf. Ditto varying lies and stances faced when playing. Short game situations — notably bunker play is obviously not possible. Working on putting skills has improved noticeably but being able to test skills with lengthier putts is held back because of space limitations.
Golfzon is moving ahead with a bold effort in ramping up how technology can provide a far deeper connection through golf. Players today have available a range of connection points in which the manner by which they swing a golf club can be analyzed through the lens of different interactors. Today’s cellular phone provides that constant feedback loop with golfers at the center point of attention.
Understanding specific mechanical aspects and getting ongoing swing improvements both tracked and ingrained is a front and center dimension where simulators excel. Like an MRI, the stats you see on the screen don’t lie.
Interpreting the data correctly is an essentiality. Misinformation has always plagued the sport with a range of quick fixes that have only held back golfers from achieving a far higher level of play.
The mechanical side on how to swing the golf club is a big part for any golfer’s desire to improve. But golf is also played through a mental component — knowing full well in how to bring to the forefront the needed strategies where the lowest score with each and every hole is attainable.
Far too many so-called teachers need to refresh whatever skillsets they have and learn how to teach effectively. Golfzon’s platform of offerings realizes hitting a ball into a screen accomplishes little if qualified instruction side cannot be truly integrated.
Millennial golfers today have little desire to remain with a sport if a promising track for improvement cannot happen within a reasonable amount of time. Patience was a virtue past generations had in supply. The current crop of younger players can quickly gravitate to other leisure pursuits if results are not achievable.
There is an old business adage — never truer when it comes to golf. One cannot manage without measurement.
Having the brand name of Leadbetter brings front and center a clear commitment in securing Golfzon as a true game changer. Authenticity and legitimacy are the pillars and resting upon the Leadbetter name is meant to show the resolve of the company in achieving ultimate customer satisfaction.
Simulators are the latest golf technology rocket that has lifted off. The opening act has been quite impressive. Golfzon’s ascension has brought to the forefront a serious game plan. Rolling out a pledge where aspiring golfers can find a permanent home.
Embracing the future and pushing failed past practices aside is the focal point of attention. Undoubtedly, the ever-evolving embrace of golf and technology bears close watching with actors like Golfzon forging new pathways. Golfers like all other consumers are now monitoring what company will value their satisfaction in the never-ending journey in improving their game.
One can only imagine what Old Tom Morris would think of how golf has evolved since his prime playing days.
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Photos: courtesy Golfzon Range Leadbetter