When marketing golf (or anything else, for that matter), there are two ways to acquire new customers: cut the price or increase the value the customer receives when purchasing your product or service. St. Andrew’s GC in Hastings-on-Hudson chose the latter strategy, making the heroic decision over five years ago to invest $3 million in a high-tech learning center that not only boosted current member loyalty but also brought in many new faces.
The word choice of “heroic” is intentional, because their decision to build the learning center was made at a time when the economy was just barely bouncing back and every golf headline seemed to announce the imminent death of the game. I guess the oldest golf club in America (St. Andrew’s has been around since 1888) and a founding member of the USGA isn’t scared by a little cyclical downturn.
Terry Geller, golf captain at the club, says rounds played are up 25% since the opening of the Apple Tree Learning Center campus this year. The facility is truly a campus, including not just the new high-tech facility, range, and short game area but a full par-three hole, the club’s original expansive putting green, and a smaller chipping green.
“Our young member growth has been phenomenal,” adds Rick Powers, membership chair. “They are definitely attracted to the technology.”
The Apple Tree Learning Center is full of the latest gizmos, practice aids, and whiz-bang golf toys. There are three hitting bays, all available for year-round climate-controlled practice (bay doors open or closed, A/C or radiant heat) and each is dedicated to a particular technology. Bay 1 features Foresight GC2 with HMT technology. In laymen’s terms, that’s a launch monitor with hi-res cameras that capture up to 10,000 frames per second (even I don’t swing that fast), a stereoscopic lens arrangement, and an internal accelerometer that instantly corrects for non-level surfaces. HMT stands for Head Measurement Technology that delivers near-instantaneous data on club head speed, club path, smash factor, dynamic loft and lie, and even impact location. The bay also has FSX Simulation software so you can play the world’s favorite courses without ever leaving Hastings.
Bay 2 is equipped with three high-speed cameras that capture your smooth-flowing swing down the line, face-on, and from behind; the cameras feed data into V1 coaching software. If you dare, you can post videos of your swing to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Bay 3 has the same V1 setup but also includes Flightscope X2, the world’s first completely wireless 3D Doppler tracking radar that can display side-by-side video of your swing with club or ball data.
There’s a separate SAM (Science & Motion) PuttLab that measures 28 relevant parameters of your performance with the flat stick. Additionally, each of the bays has putting cups cut into the floor for additional practice. There’s also a club-repair shop on site as well as a patio and indoor lounge with a fireplace to gather and swap golf stories between practice sessions.
To make room for the building and expanded range, St. Andrew’s built an entirely new par-three third hole. The old third hole was converted to a short game area where you can chip and pitch to a regulation green from all turf and grass conditions or from a greenside bunker. The expanded range features 32 grass hitting stations and two practice fairway bunkers. The area in front of the Apple Tree Learning Center was contoured to provide uneven lies to practice the shots we encounter off the fairway, where many of us play most often.
Apple Tree Learning Center includes area for hitting from uneven lies
“The Apple Tree Learning Center advances Saint Andrew’s teaching capabilities to the leading edge of golf instruction,” says Greg Bisconti, head pro, who is joined by director of golf Charlie Hicks and assistant pros Ambry Bishop and Tyler Jaramillo in teaching members at the club.
St. Andrew’s president George Miller says, “By building the finest teaching and practice facilities in the Metropolitan Area, The Saint Andrew’s Golf Club continues its commitment to promoting and nurturing the game, making it more accessible and enjoyable to every kind of golfer.”