Building a Commercial Golf Simulator Business ft. ZSTRICT
Incorporating golf simulators into sports entertainment businesses is trending as the popularity of indoor golf continues to grow. Golfzon simulators and ZSTRICT – a sports bar in Connecticut with 10 Golfzon simulators – is the perfect case study in the success of this model. General Manager Ben Mackey shares his secrets to providing a wonderful customer experience.
Mackey and his team have found success by providing their guests with a fun way to play golf. From the incredible Golfzon simulator technology to the easygoing sports bar vibe, everyone enjoys their time at ZSTRICT no matter their skill level. Building these communities by starting a commercial golf simulator business is filling a demand in the ever growing golf simulator market.
Take a look behind the scenes of a commercial golf simulator business and envision how you can start your own with Golfzon.
Golfzon: Why start a commercial golf simulator business?
Ben: Golfzon, which began in South Korea in 2000, broke into the North America market in 2015 after noticing how the golf simulator market was trending up and how land availability for new golf courses was paring down. While COVID-19 has been great for golf courses, we are starting to see more demand than can be met with green grass facilities.
Part of growing the game is making it more easily accessible to the customer. The Topgolf model helped shape the industry by making golf more attainable off the course – that’s where the Golfzon golf simulator comes into play. Commercial indoor golf simulator facilities are popping up all over the place now because it’s the trend. It’s hot, and we all want to capitalize on it and make a big splash in the market.
ZSTRICT, a popular golf simulator bar in southern Connecticut, has seen the company’s growth and will be opening a few new locations in the near future. Now’s the time to enter the market.
Golfzon: What surprised you the most when starting ZSTRICT? Managing ZSTRICT?
Ben: What surprised me the most was some of the hesitation towards golf simulators. When they were first manufactured 50 years ago, they gained a negative stigma that unfortunately stuck because the technology was really bad. A large number of our customer base, and some people who were coming in that were interested, still carried this negative feeling toward golf simulators, so that was a huge hurdle for us. We really had to make sure we changed that narrative right off the bat because otherwise our business wouldn’t be successful.
It was really surprising to see the market’s opinion on golf simulators, but it was also so rewarding to have such an amazing product. We could show them there was something better, that Golfzon golf simulators are more than just a thing you put in your basement. Golf simulators are interactive, fun machines that allow you to play real golf.
Golfzon: What are your thoughts on commercial simulators in the industry as a whole – what has it accomplished? Where’s it going?
Ben: As a PGA Professional, one of our biggest initiatives is growing the game. What better way to grow the game than by creating a different avenue for people to get involved in and also continue playing golf, especially in the Northeast where the seasons are much shorter.
Golf simulators have created a brand new market for the golf industry as a whole. There are people who will only play screen golf, but then there are also avid golfers who play green grass golf 8 months out of the year and then spend the colder months playing inside. The golf simulator market is huge right now, it’s exploding, and it’s awesome for the game of golf.
Golf simulators provide a less intimidating way to be introduced to the game, too, and there are a lot of people who want to play; if you look at the National Golf Foundation (NGF) data and feedback on the market, there are plenty of golfers and individuals interested in playing the game, but beginning is too daunting or difficult with all the barriers.
To have something like ZSTRICT where you’re coming into a sports bar atmosphere, it’s just much more relaxed and it creates a comfortable environment for people who have maybe never played before and will hopefully encourage them to get into the game. We can grow this game for the next 20 years with golf simulators.
Golfzon: What do your customers enjoy most about Golfzon simulators? Your sports bar setup?
Ben: The Golfzon simulator technology is second to none. The moving swing plate, the auto tee, the unbelievable graphics and the realistic game play – it’s just huge, because there aren’t many golf simulators in the market that have those features.
To be able to see customers come in and witness their reactions, like “Oh my gosh, it’s like I’m actually playing a round. I’m hitting all my chip shots, I’m making putts” – it’s rewarding to watch and makes using Golfzon technology a huge advantage for ZSTRICT.
One feature I have to point out is the putting. Most golf simulator’s putting capabilities are terrible, you just don’t do it. There is an auto-putts setting, an option to turn putting off. With Golfzon simulators, you putt everything out, from a 6-inch putt to a 60-foot putt. You’re going to hit all those putts and feel like you’re really playing the course.
You can even read the greens, almost as if you are playing the Tiger Woods golf game where the grid pops up on the green. Golfzon simulators get you as close as possible to playing realistic golf while inside, and that’s why ZSTRICT has found so many happy customers.
When you have a good product, word travels fast. One of the most successful pieces to ZSTRICT and the Stamford, Connecticut, market right now is our word-of-mouth advertising and our reputation. We have over 300 5-star reviews on Google, and we’ve only had 3 less than 5-stars since we’ve opened. That’s a testament to my team, but it’s also a testament to the technology that we have because without that technology, you would expect much less.
Golfzon: Do you host any events or themed nights on your golf simulators?
Ben: We host a solid number of events on our golf simulators. We have our ZSTRICT Open – we’re currently on our 6th edition – and this is a quarterly tournament that starts with a $5,000 cash prize purse and grows incrementally as people play. We always have a tournament going on.
While we always want to welcome latent and beginner golfers, we also want to create a really exciting atmosphere for people who are competitive. By having the ZSTRICT Open, it gives people that feel – they could win thousands of dollars like the pros on TV. We pay out for 5 different flights, so you can play as many times as you want and you compete to what usually ends up being closer to $6,000-$7,000 in cash prizes.
We also have Challenge Mode, so if you get a hole in one, an albatross or a par-4 eagle when you’re playing on Challenge Mode, you win cash. We had a gentleman who won $750 the other day because he made a hole in one. It’s cool to watch and everyone loves the chance to win, especially in an indoor golf simulator bar that can mimic a casino. We have a prize purse displayed on the screen, similar to a slot machine counter, and it creates a little bit more excitement for people.
Golf is exciting, but for some people, it can be a little monotonous or a little slow for them, or maybe they don’t have their buddies to play with that day. Challenge Mode gives people another reason to come in and play on our golf simulators, and it keeps the game more exciting when you’re not playing with your buddies or out on a real golf course.
Golfzon: How do customers utilize all the golf course options?
Ben: People come to ZSTRICT to play – not necessarily a set amount of holes, but they want to come in and play some of the really cool golf courses we have. We have close to 100 golf courses you can play on, from Pebble Beach to Kingsbarns to Poppy Hills to Spanish Bay – these are just some of the best Golfzon golf courses, though there are plenty more you’d enjoy.
Groups love to come in and try these different tracks, or maybe they were just on a golf trip and played the Ocean Course at Kiawah and now they want to replay it on the golf simulator. The experiences are impressively similar because the moving swing plate emulates different lies on these world-class golf courses.
Most people come into ZSTRICT to play 9 or 18 holes and then play some other golf arcade games we have, or they’ll come in just to practice on the Golfzon Driving Range (GDR) technology. The GDR technology provides the most accurate golf shot data on the market, making your customers’ time on your indoor golf range well worth it.
Another great Golfzon feature is the wind. Wind can be incorporated into play, so you can have a lifelike experience on the Ocean Course at Kiawah or on Pebble Beach. We set our ZSTRICT Open winds to 25 mph, but you can turn it off or randomize it by the golf course.
Golfzon: What other venues can you see Golfzon golf simulators thriving in?
Ben: We like how ZSTRICT creates a sports bar vibe and a relaxed environment. One really cool location would be apartment complexes, and that’s been really popular lately. Imagine how great it would be to walk downstairs from your apartment and play some simulator golf – you’d spend so much time down there. Other places like the airport while waiting on your flight could also work.
Setting up more training facilities like golf academies would be great for PGA Professionals, especially in the Northeast, who want to be able to teach year-round. To install a golf simulator at your club for you and your students to utilize would become an exceptional teaching advantage.
Golfzon: How can Golfzon commercial golf simulators benefit businesses?
Ben: One of ZSTRICT’s goals was to create a premiere, professional feel, and Golfzon simulators helped us achieve that with their advanced technology that’s crisp and clean and works; it adds value to our amenities and our overall impression as a company.
I love the application of Golfzon simulators in the workspace, too. It’s really important to create a fun team environment and keep your employees happy, so having such great simulators on hand is the perfect bonding activity.
As a commercial operator, it’s so important to differentiate yourselves, whether you’re a restaurant or any other type of business. What sets ZSTRICT apart most is our customer service and the amazing technology that we utilize. That combination bodes really well for us as we expand in the near future.
Golfzon: What advice would you offer to someone considering purchasing golf simulators for their business?
Ben: Do your due diligence when searching for the best commercial golf simulator. There is such a drastic difference in the market in the products that are offered, and there are so many that it’s really important to understand your goals as a business and what technology works best for you. There are tons of options out there, and Golfzon is certainly the best, but you want to make sure it’s right for you.
I think Golfzon checks the most boxes and has a wider variety of use than some other brands, but it’s critical to understand what’s out there in the market and to be open to all the brands because once you get to Golfzon after seeing the other ones, it’s going to be a clear-cut choice.
Golfzon: How does Golfzon support businesses in design and setup?
Ben: Golfzon is extremely involved and helpful, especially after the design work is done and the facility begins operating. It’s up to the owner to run the business, but Golfzon is there every step of the way, from assisting with the design of the space to choosing the golf simulators to installing them.
In our experience, it was great to have the support throughout and to have the engineers and team to talk with, solve problems, plan accordingly and provide feedback from other facilities that utilize Golfzon simulators. Throughout the whole process, the support has been exceptional, and that’s what helps us be successful.
In terms of any issues with our simulators, they’re minimal to begin with and we’re a large facility with 10 simulators. The issues were fixed immediately because the Golfzon support team was there. If the engineers can’t repair the issue remotely, they’ll be there in person to help you fix it.
You’re buying a premium product (Golf Digest’s best luxury golf simulator, in fact), and when you get a premium product, you expect premium service, and one of Golfzon’s biggest goals is to ensure that’s the case. It could be the best golf simulator in the world, but if it’s not turning on, then it’s not worth anything. Customer support is a top priority for Golfzon, and the service you’ll receive will be nothing short of exceptional.
ZSTRICT has found so much success with Golfzon golf simulators and wants to continue growing the game. Whether you’ve been sitting on a commercial golf simulator business plan or feel inspired by Ben Mackey and his team, Golfzon is here to help your dreams come true. Join the Golfzon team and create a golfing experience your community will love.