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Golf courses have seen a regular decline in rounds because of a sagging economy and the time demands of 4 1/2- to 5-hour rounds. Most players who stay with the sport play without custom-fit equipment. Opening a golf simulator business can make the sport more accessible to those wanting to play without the hassle, and the simulator can provide data that helps regular players know their swing speeds, launch angles and other important statistics that show them where they can improve and which equipment works best.
Find an appropriate location. Look first for urban locations where access to courses is difficult. Consider a city with a short golf season and plenty of courses so you can help golf-mad customers keep sharp in the winter and practice efficiently in the summer.
Purchase several durable, accurate simulators. Don't keep customers waiting by buying only one simulator, and invest in equipment, screens and hitting areas that can stand up to hours of daily use. Look for simulators whose sensors scan a large area so players have the freedom to hit from different locations in the hitting bay. Install artificial turf of varying textures and depth to simulate hitting from rough or sand.
Make it easy for customers to reserve time on your simulators. Install a reservation system on your location's website. Reserve one simulator for 30-minute sessions to give more customers a chance to play during times of high demand.
Set up promotions to draw new business. Sponsor virtual tournaments involving local players, or enable your system to connect to Internet competitions that draw players worldwide. Try promotions on social media such as Facebook and Groupon to offer specials to entice players.
Provide a club-fitting service as well as a variety of simulated courses to play if you want to pursue a golf-only business. Hire a PGA professional instructor to interpret the data that your simulator's launch monitor provides for clients. Arrange with club manufacturers to visit so customers can try out the latest clubs.
Add attractions other than golf. Offer food and acquire a liquor license to accommodate customers playing a simulated round and their friends who may not play. Install large-screen televisions and subscribe to broadcast packages for big-league and college sports.
Give back to the community. Set up after-school programs to introduce youngsters to the game, or offer a class party for high-achieving students. Conduct marathons for a local charity.
Don't let maintenance suffer. Replace worn turf in the hitting bays, make sure simulators are calibrated regularly and keep software updated.
Jeff Rogers has edited and written since 1987 for the Associated Press, United Press International and six newspapers including "The Dallas Morning News," "The Washington Times" and "Dallas Times Herald." A Charlotte native who holds a bachelor's degree in journalism (news-editorial) from the University of South Carolina, Rogers has also worked as a technology analyst, sales executive and professional golf caddy.