FARMINGTON – The time should never be the wrong time to play a round of golf. Thanks to innovative technology, that doesn’t have to be the case.
The Bluffs Country Club, an emerging business hosted by the Quality Center for Business at San Juan College, opened last month and features an indoor golf game that allows players of all skill levels to take part in virtual reality courses from across the country and the whole world compete against each other.
Keith Wood-run Bluffs Country Club is located in a huge room on the college and has a single bay where players can either work on their game or compete in tournament-style or arcade-style golf games.
“There is literally nothing you can’t do with this setup,” Wood said earlier this week. “The library of courses you can play has over 125, and we’re adding more all the time.”
The software for the virtual reality game comes from a company called Trackman, which gives players the ability to watch their own game with radars, cameras and simulators that track the swing and flight distance.
The Trackman system is used by professionals around the world and is supported by notable players such as 14-time PGA Tour winner Justin Thomas and this year’s PGA Tour winner and 2020 Olympic gold medalist Nelly Korda.
Using technology known as Optically Enhanced Radar Tracking (OERT), the Bluffs Country Club system enables players to play a round of 18 holes of golf in less than two hours.
Indoor golf critics will point out that conditions in an air-conditioned venue can never match the actual feel of the game outdoors. Wood doesn’t expect that opinion to change, and neither is it on purpose.
“There’s just no reason for people not to be able to play or even practice just because the weather is bad outside,” said Wood. “The intention was not to compete with the actual game, but to improve the game of those who enjoy it but cannot benefit from it all the time.”
It is estimated that there are hundreds of indoor golf courses like the Bluffs across the country. The popularity of indoor play has increased as a result of the pandemic, which has allowed many to find more creative ways to compete. The result of this has led to increased interest and competition in the sport.
“The courses were mostly closed last year so people started looking for other ways to play,” said Wood. “Now that the courses have reopened, more people are playing the game, which is great for the future of the sport.”
The costs of running an indoor golf facility can be high. Wood estimates that a high quality golf simulator can run for more than $ 50,000 for the operating software only.
“Then there is the cost of running the facility,” said Wood. “You can’t have these bays in a small shop front. It takes up quite a lot of space for multiple bays.”
The Quality Center for Business, which houses the facility, offers a variety of programs that serve as a hub of economic development and innovation for the community.
The Bluffs Country Club currently operates as a single bay on the college campus, with players signing up for sessions on their website, but Wood hopes to expand that operation and have the ability to stay open 24/7.
“There are people who want to play a round of golf at Pebble Beach at midnight,” said Wood. “Our goal is to give you this opportunity.”
Players can bring their own clubs and golf balls or rent the equipment available on site. The Bluffs also offers balls from golf manufacturer Titleist, which just signed up last week to endorse the Trackman simulator.
In addition to prestigious golf courses around the world, the Bluffs is actively working to create virtual courses for local facilities such as the San Juan Country Club, Pinon Hills, and the Riverview Golf Course in Kirtland.
Steve Bortstein can be reached by email at [email protected], on Twitter @DTSBortstein, or by calling (505) 635-2680.