Get Out On the Range: Family Fun
By Vinnie Manginelli, PGA
Family enjoys the range.
Stand alone driving ranges, private clubs and public courses are taking their practice facilities beyond just a place to hone one’s skills, and making them more of an entertainment experience for families. They’re implementing family-friendly features like:
- Miniature golf
- Range technology
- Interactive targets
- Summer camp opportunities
- Short courses
- Ice cream…yes that’s right!
These amenities are attracting patrons of all ages - those who consider themselves golfers and others who are new to the game.
Many stand alone driving ranges, like Vitense Golfland in Madison, Wisconsin, have exciting, modern mini golf courses that have long been a favorite of kids of all ages. In fact, at the same time you'll see teens on date night or groups of young friends, you will also enjoy the smiling faces of little kids playing putt-putt with mom and dad.
On the driving range itself, owner Joel Weitz has brought his facility, established in 1955 by his grandfather George, a long-time PGA Professional, into the 21st century with golf suites that are equipped with Toptracer Range technology. With seating and food and a climate-controlled environment for year-round engagement, families are not just hitting a bucket of balls and leaving anymore. The range experience is more inclusive than ever before thanks to the innovative technology available and forward thinking of today’s range operators.
Technology like Toptracer Range and TrackMan Range offer unique games like Capture the Flag, Closest to the Pin, Go Fish, Bullseye and Hit It! for fun that extends far beyond hitting the ball on the center of the clubface or how far you’re hitting it off the tee.
Range targets have also become a differentiating factor in the quality of and enjoyment derived from time at the golf range. Die-hard golfers want greens and flagsticks to measure their distances with each club, but kids, families and those there for the social experience, prefer interactive targets that light up, make noise and let the world know - I HIT MY TARGET!
That interactive vibe is at the core of many of the summer camps that are held on driving ranges every year. Rather than just beat balls for hours at a time, PGA Professionals, including the team at Chelsea Piers on the west side of Manhattan, are engaging their junior golfers in games, contests and interactive activities that promote camaraderie, competition and fun. After all, if the kids have a good time, they’ll be back with mom and dad before you know it.
With full tee sheets at a lot of courses, many facilities are building short courses to engage their beginners and juniors, as well as create a new social experience for adults. Family Golf and Learning Center in St. Louis has a nine-hole par 3 course. Others are building three-hole courses with multiple tee boxes to provide this increasingly-popular amenity.
Finally, ice cream was mentioned earlier and we should elaborate. Newbury Golf Center, near Boston, opened during the peak of the pandemic in 2020 and already boasts highly-popular women’s and junior golf programs. Owner and PGA Professional Erik Sorensen also brags of their ice cream selection - 27 flavors strong. Think about how many nights per week you take the kids out for ice cream. Now grab a few clubs and hit some golf balls at the same time!