The Rise of Indoor Golf in Rhode Island – Part 1
The term ‘Trending’ is defined as “a general direction in which something is developing or changing.”
What is trending right now in Rhode Island is Indoor Golf.
Since January of 2021, X-Golf opened at the Lincoln Mall, Inside Links took up a spot in Cumberland, Shanks Clubhouse opened doors in East Greenwich and Linx Golf opened in North Kingstown and Westerly Virtual Golf opened as well.
COMING THURSDAY: THE STORIES BEHIND THE RISE OF INDOOR GOLF
“I think it’s great. I mean, it’s always nice to have a few restaurants on the street. I know there’s eight of us, but we are pretty spread out. We’re all kind of in what I would call like golf hotbeds, which is great,” said Max Buerman, Founder and President of Newport Indoor Golf.
“We opened V-Golf April of 2019 in Cranston. I think Newport indoor Golf had opened up pretty much a month or two before that. So we were the first in Rhode Island, both Newport and us. Obviously, they’re on their side of the state. We’re on our side of the state,” said V-Golf owner Dennis Parrillo.
V-Golf has since moved out of Cranston and opened two new locations, one in East Providence and another at Triggs.
So what is fueling this trend?
The Golf Boom
The game of golf has seen a massive boom over the last few years since the 2020 Covid Pandemic.
Golf course tee sheets are full and clubs like Kirkbrae, Wannamoisett, Alpine and others have, in some cases, extensive waiting lists.
“I think COVID helped the golf industry because it was the only activity that you could do, when we were all told to stay inside. I think golf found some new customers. People found out how fun golf was and I think that’s a positive thing,” said Linx Golf Owner Brian Farley.
Forbes reported in 2022 that there were more golf rounds played in 2021 in the U.S. than ever before, all stemming from the Covid boom of 2020.
“The pandemic actually revived golf because it was the only thing you could do. There was only a handful of activities you could participate in outside your house due to shutdowns and everything. I mean, your club, my club, all our clubs are really healthy now because of everybody started taking up golf and it’s regained its popularity,” said Inside Links owner Mario Lemme.
While Covid has been a boon for the golf industry, the indoor golf industry has seen another, boon – technology.
Tech Comes to Golf
If you have ever been to a pro golf tournament and stood near the range to watch players hit balls, you have probably noticed a iPad-like machine behind the players that they constantly look at.
Those are launch monitors so players can get their numbers (ball speed, swing speed etc…) and make their adjustments before going out to the course.
That technology is now available to the “public” to use and the indoor golf industry has taken advantage.
“Pros have been using the launch monitors and the technology that’s been out and developed then and been improving for years. I see a lot of skepticism about the technology when people come in. These units are all tested and scrutinized through independent engineers so no matter which system you get, especially now, like 10 years ago, might have been different, but all of the systems now are pretty darn good,” said Farley.
There are different brands, for example Inside Links uses Foresight Launch Monitors and FSX 2020 Software, but the most common one is Trackman.
“When you have technology like Trackman, and there’s a million technologies out there, but I’m gonna stick with Trackman because to me, they are the gold standard when you have a company like track man that is out there and doing what they’re doing, the technology trying to compete with Trackman still has to be good,” said Parrillo.
According to their website, a Trackman costs around $20,000.
Trackman technology, similar to other tech that is used, can help you track your speeds, where you hit the ball, miss the ball and more.
“I mean, I know if I hit a couple balls outside and I’m hooking a ball, it’s one of two things and if I jump on Trackman and can see, ok, it’s my, it’s my face, it’s closed twice as much as my club path. That’s why I’m hooking a ball. You can’t fix that stuff without a launch monitor,” said Parrillo.
Players can also take part in leagues and play tournaments with golfers from all over the country and the world, all set up by Trackman and the app.
Trackman has about 250 courses that you can play and dozens of other games.
You might even find some Rhode Island courses in there.
COMING THURSDAY: THE STORIES BEHIND THE RISE OF INDOOR GOLF
Indoor Golf on a Grand Scale
While indoor golf is growing rapidly here in Rhode Island, it is also growing on a national level.
Research conducted by Straits valued the indoor market at $1.485 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow to $3.2 billion by 2031.
That is an annual growth rate of 9.2%.
X-Golf America had one location in 2016 and now have more than 84 locations across the country, including in Rhode Island (Lincoln Mall).
“We’re immensely proud of the community we’ve built, the golfing memories we’ve created, and the countless smiles we’ve shared along the way. But let us share a little secret – this is just the start of something even bigger and better,” writes X-Golf America Inc.
The entire indoor industry is going to get a massive boost in 2024 when TGL, an indoor golf league founded by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, launches.
The league has teams across the country, including in Boston, and will come to arenas and stadiums to play competitive golf matches, essentially on a simulator.
“You got the PGA Tour and guys like Rory and Tiger interacting with indoor set ups. What do you think, the market could never go away? It couldn’t go away because now you have affirmation that this stuff isn’t fake,” said Parrillo.
Recently, TGL signed a broadcast deal with ESPN and the ESPN family of networks.
Players such as Keegan Bradley, Terrell Hatton, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and, of course, Woods and McIlroy have all signed on to play.
The league will launch on January 9 with a preview show scheduled to air in late December.
The Future of Indoor Golf in RI
What is the future of indoor golf in Rhode Island? Right now, there are no signs of it slowing down.
“I think it’ll grow, I think at some point it’ll reach saturation. Prices will probably come down because there’ll be a lot of places, there’ll be more competition and then the better products will win out or the products with the best location,” said Lemme.
Peter Walsh, formally of Kings Crossing, is set to open Golf365RI in Warwick this weekend.
“Golf365RI is a year round entertainment and training facility. With our partnership with Mohawk Movement, we have a TPI certified personal trainer to work on physical, as well as, golf training here,” said Walsh.
The grand opening is set for Saturday, October 21.
Reiners Bar and Game Room at the Graduate Hotel in Providence has added multiple Topgolf Swing Suites for visitors to use.
Some clubs even put simulators in for the winter months.
Parrillo concludes, “It’s interesting how fast it’s developed in the area, and it’s also fantastic, obviously, how many businesses are out there. There’s a lot of room, there’s a lot of room in this market. New England is a very big golfing market.”