How to fund your indoor golf business
With your business plan in hand, it’s time to tap all your available resources to
find the best available financing at the lowest cost to you. As you enter this
phase of your indoor golf startup, keep in mind that there are lenders, accountants and attorneys who specialize in small business financing. In some cases, they represent your best chance of a smooth, successful financing experience.
We recommend starting your financing investigations by weighing your ability
and willingness to leverage your own assets and working your way from there
to conventional and other potential lending sources.
Home Equity: If you are a homeowner, you may be able to leverage your home
equity through a home equity line of credit (HELOC), or a home equity loan
(HEL). The biggest advantage to this is that leveraging your own existing equity
should be possible at a relatively low interest rate. The disadvantage is the
inherent risk involved in putting your home up as collateral for your business.
Always take care not to assume more risk than you could handle.
Retirement Funds: You can leverage retirement funds for your business
investment and avoid penalties by working with a company that specializes
in helping investors take advantage of the Entrepreneur Rollover Stock
Ownership Plan (ERSOP) or Rollovers as Business Startups plan (ROBS) to fund
new businesses. In these scenarios, your retirement funds become an investor in your business instead of being invested in publicly traded equities or fixed-
income investments. Using this kind of account is quite complicated, so make
sure you work with a reputable investment professional to ensure your ERSOP
or ROBS is set up and executed correctly. As with the use of home equity
funds, use caution as you look at utilizing retirement dollars. Know the risks of
putting this money ear-marked for long-term security on the line for a business
Family and Friends: Gifts, loans, and investments from family members can
be a great source of capital for your business. If you do accept funds from people you have personal relationships with, make sure you have an agreement in writing,
with the terms and conditions of the gift, investment or loan clearly outlined--
including investment terms, payback terms, interest, and what happens if you
default. Having the details hammered out in an agreement may prevent a
misunderstanding down the line.
Traditional Loans: Another option is to leverage traditional business loans,
or commercial loans. There are many types of commercial lending, including
secured and unsecured loans, short- and long-term loans, equipment loans,
and business lines of credit. Expect to put up at least 20% of your investment
to be considered for these kinds of loans, and know that many traditional
lenders may not understand startup business models and that there are lenders
who specialize in this area. As with any financing source, it’s always in your best
interest to shop around, so make sure you check out business loans at multiple
U.S. Small Business Administration Loans: The SBA offers loans through
participating banks and lenders, and since the SBA will guarantee up to 85% of
the loan, there is less risk for the lender—which can translate to a lower interest
rate for you. SBA financing is not really a government loan, but rather a private
loan backed by government funds. There are multiple types of SBA loans you
can investigate. Make sure you carefully evaluate the pros and cons associated
with taking out an SBA versus a traditional loan, i.e. the cost to establish the
loan, the length of the loan, and the interest rates of the loan. Also worth noting is the fact that individuals with high net worth may not qualify for this type of loan.
Online Financing Centers are online companies that serve as clearinghouses
for financing. These companies have multiple financial institutions
in their systems to review your financial information and evaluate your request
for financing. They host the equivalent of speed dating for the loan industry--
you provide all of your information, then lenders review it and decide if they’d
like to initiate a relationship with you.
We'd love to hear from you. Is there another source of financing we missed? Do you have advice on how to think about any of these? Leave us a comment and share.
We get this question a lot. Let’s start by examining the most crucial element, golf simulators.
What does a golf simulator cost?
The price ranges also vary by brand.
Cost ranges by commercial golf simulator brand:
See even more detail about the simulators at our golf simulator cost comparison page
Starting an indoor golf business
Yardstick Golf has done extensive research on what it cost to open indoor golf centers. There is a wide range of startup costs for the indoor golf bars we studied. Four of the biggest factors driving the range in costs are:
Small Indoor Golf Centers
Small golf centers we studied cost between $50,000 and $250,000 to open. They had between 2 and 4 simulators and were between 1,500 and 3,200 square feet. Simulator choices were on the lower end of the commercial range.
Medium Sized Indoor Golf Centers
Medium sized golf centers we studied cost between $350,000 and $650,000 to open. They had anywhere from 6 to 8 simulators and were between 5,500 and 10,000 square feet. Simulator choices were generally mid to high end of the commercial range. Beverage services were much more common that food service.
Large Indoor Golf Businesses
The largest golf centers we studied cost between $750,000 and $900,000 to open. 7 to 10 simulators were the norm for this group and the facilities were between 6,800 and 12,000 square feet. Simulator choices were typically high end, but a few went more in the mid-commercial range. Beverage services were also much more common that food service.
What do you think?
Now I’d like to hear from you:
Did you have a different experience opening your center, or are there other cost questions you’d like to know?
Comment and share your experience or question.
Finding the right location for your business
Your lease will be one of your biggest expenses in opening your golf center. We want to make sure you avoid the pitfalls that can sink you.
Today you’ll learn exactly how to get the best location and the best lease for your indoor golf facility.
Let’s jump right in
There are “Fore” fatal flaws you need to avoid when locating your business
Flaw 1 – Negotiating without an attorney
Commercial leases are a complex contract between two parties. Unlike a residential lease, commercial leases do not have the consumer protections and regulations designed to protect individuals. Many people starting a new business skip on getting a lawyer to scrutinize the lease and often signing very unfavorable terms.
If you are considering forgoing an attorney, be prepared to review every single word of the lease. The language is often skewed in favor of the landlord and with a lease term that may run five years, mistakes can cost you for a long time to come.
On the other hand, hiring an attorney can demonstrate to your landlord that you are serious and expect to get a great deal and fair treatment. Given the headaches and hassles you can avoid, hiring an attorney to review your lease is a best practice we recommend. Nolo offers some great resources on how to hire an attorney to review your lease.
Flaw 2 – only comparing locations on price per square foot
Many business owners focus intently on price per square foot as the main way to compare different locations. That risks overlooking many other factors that could drive up the cost of the lease. There are many reasons why a higher price per square foot may be a better lease. It may be a gross lease and include expenses such as utilities and taxes.
The cheaper lease may have less parking, be in a less desirable location or have less truly usable space for your business. The cheaper location may be further from your customers and not be as well suited to your planned services. Look at price per square foot as a starting point, not the only point of comparison.
Flaw 3 – Locating too far from your ideal customers
Our player preferences study found that most players won’t drive more than 20 minutes to play indoor golf. When you look at a prospective lease, you’ll often get demographics like the number of men and women within 3 to 5 miles. That is nice, but won’t help you understand whether one area has more golfers than another.
You need to do some research to find out where the best concentrations of your ideal customers live. In our location selection tool, we show you how to find the number of golfers within a 3 to 5 mile radius of your indoor golf facility.
Flaw 4 – Trusting the landlord’s measurements
We do not mean to imply that landlords intentionally mislead tenants. Rather we believe that most are trying to provide a fair service at a fair price. That said, we have heard too many instances when prospective tenants found measurements to be inaccurate.
If your lease overstates the square footage of your facility, it can hurt you in a number of ways. First and most obvious is that you would end up paying more rent than you should. Less obvious is that you would end up paying more than your fair share of things like taxes, janitorial services, and common area maintenance. It is critical that you double check the size of your space to get an accurate lease.
Did I miss anything?
Now I’d like to hear from you:
Is there a fatal flaw that I missed? Did you develop a unique approach to get a great lease?
Comment and share your experience or idea.
Customer retention is a really important part of keeping your business healthy
Ways to drive indoor golf customer retention
How do I engage with my customers?
Great ways to communicate with your customers include:
2. Position yourself as a resource
Your members will be interested in tips, training, and new features. Ensure that your team is up to date with trends and capabilities and are able to offer informed advice relating to a host of topics and goals. By positioning yourselves as industry experts you will add weight and value to your facilities, allowing your customers to use you as an all in one resource rather than purely a facility provider. Once again achieving this will greatly add to the golfer experience.
3. Encourage customer involvement
Run fun events or skill building talks, keeping customers involved with your club is a great way to add value alongside your facilities.
I’m running out of events to organize!
Why not sign up for a charity event as a group? Get as many customers involved as you can. You can all train together in the months leading up to the event, plus you can put on special workshops depending on what the event entails. Taking part as a group will add a real sense of community, it will be great for the atmosphere within the club too!
4. Ask for feedback!
Ask your customers what they are pleased with and what you are doing well, this way you’ll be able to identify what makes them happy and act upon it.
For example: You get great feedback on your early morning specials, particularly those that are family based. You could introduce more specials like this or rework your less popular morning specials to feature more family options.
Don’t forget to ask for the feedback that won’t necessarily be as positive. Areas that customers are not happy with may often be things that can be changed with relative ease. By taking action on negative feedback you will show your customers that you value their opinions.
Making a golfer feel valued will no doubt improve their loyalty to your club.
5. Create a community
Actively encourage golfers to interact with each other. By building a friendly community, customers will feel a sense of belonging. Your club will not only serve as an entertainment option but also a pivotal part of their social life. Not only will this add a an extra benefit of your facility, but it will also ensure they stay loyal to your club, rather than moving to any competitors.
6. Offer loyalty schemes and Rewards
Offer loyalty programs and rewards, or customer discounts. By offering such rewards you are not only keeping your current customer base happy and engaged, you are also implementing opportunities for prospective customers to be introduced to the club.
What are good ways to reward loyal customers?
An excellent way to not only reward, but also incentivise golfers, is to offer a prize or some form of recognition for those who come to your facility most frequently. For example perhaps giving a free guest pass and sleeve of balls to the golfer who has the most visits per month. This will drive engagement not only with your club but also with the golfers within your club. A healthy sense of competition will drive your community feel.
7. Provide an unrivaled experience
You may think it goes without saying, but providing a great service really is one of the biggest factors within retention, ensuring your customers are loyal and choose you over your competitors. To make sure you are providing a brilliant service you should regularly assess what you are doing to benefit your golfers, why you are doing it, if it is successful and how you can improve upon this. By regularly setting aside time to answer these questions you can make sure you are on track and providing the best possible service. Customers who are happy with their service and feel that it is value for money will have no reason to look elsewhere.
8. Make sure you are easy to contact and highly responsive
It is vital that customers are able to contact you with ease, whether that be over the phone or via email. When they reach out to you it should be a quick and easy process. It is really important to keep members of staff that will be answering the phone updated on all changes to timetables, maintenance of facilities and just general day to day news. Prompt replies to emails are another great way to show you are there to help.
9. Reach out to customers who may be unhappy
Keep track of customers who’s attendance has dropped significantly. If a golfer's number of visits drops below a certain threshold it’s a good idea to reach out to them, whether that’s simply a phone call to check that they are still satisfied with service and your facilities or it could be a slightly different approach, such as a back on track email offering a new special to let them know you care.
10. Go above and beyond
Fulfill your customers needs and requirements to the best of your abilities. Reputation spreads quickly through word of mouth. Spending that extra few minutes being attentive to a golfer will stick in their mind. A glowing reference from a current customer is more valuable than any campaign or marketing activity that you undertake
Did you know that the first website listed on a Google search gets 30 times the clicks as the website in second place? Additionally, 75% of customers never scroll past the first page of search results. This is where SEO comes in - SEO stands for search engine optimization and it's goal is to get you higher in search rankings for relevant terms to your business.
Have you looked at where you rank on terms customers might search? Do you know what terms your customers might search? Let's say you own a facility in Washington DC, you might see where you rank on "DC indoor golf" and find you are at the top. Are you done? Probably not. What else might they search. . . DC golf, DC driving range, DC entertainment, things to do in DC, etc. You get the point. Each of these could be sources of traffic and customers for your business.
You could search each possible keyword one by one or you can use tools designed to help you analyze your website and get guidance on what to change or fix. I've linked one such tool below. Now that you know about SEO, use it to improve your website and get more customers.
How much time have you spent thinking about how potential customers might find you on the internet? Have you thought about the services you offer and what words folks looking for those services might use to search. Indoor golf, golf practice and golf simulator are all pretty clear and you should appear near the top of local searches for those. But how do you rank for "things to do in (city xzy)", or "entertainment in (town name)". Go ahead, search those for your town and see where you rank I'll wait.
Unless you have been pretty thoughtful about your SEO, I'd bet you are not even on the first page for those items. Most golf centers aren't, but it is a big potential loss of customers as your indoor golf center is about more than golf, it is a place to have fun. Take some time, think of other ways people might look for something to do and work on linking and content strategies to rank better for those words.
Beyond SEO, local search can be a powerful tool to help your business. According to a study by Google, 50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day, and 34% who searched on computer/tablet did the same. So what does this mean for you:
These are just a few ideas you can work on to improve your visibility to potential customers. Good luck!
Face it - America is overbuilt with shopping malls. The internet and how the way we shop has changed has really impacted malls in a bad way. According to The Wall Street Journal, with the popularity of online shopping affecting brick-and-mortar stores throughout the country. The mall vacancy rate for the year’s second quarter is 8.6% (from 8.4% in Q1), “as more consumers shifted their shopping online,” per the Journal. Retailers such as Bon Ton, Sears, J.C. Penney and Toys “R” Us have all announced closures this year. We don't need nearly the retail space that has been built already, but we continue to build more.
While this might be bad news for commercial property owners, it could be great news if you are looking to open an indoor golf facility. Mall operators want to lease space to things that will draw in customers so they can show foot traffic and get rents. Another ice cream shop or shoe store just doesn't have that unique cache that they are looking to add, but an indoor golf facility does.
As you are considering locations for your indoor golf facility, consider the mall. At one point, it was researched to be a desirable location, probably has good road access and even public transportation to it. With vacancies on the rise, you might be able to get a great deal on rent, but don't stop there.
Get creative on your ask. See if you can get some help with the build out, get them to do some advertising (remember, they want traffic too), ask for signage in other parts of the mall, see if they'll provide any utilities, provide any insurance coverages (so you don't have to), add a link to your website from theirs, get reserved customer parking spots, favorable payment terms, etc.
In the end, the mall may not be the right place for your indoor golf center, but it is worth checking out. Remember, they need businesses like yours to get folks to the mall, so they may be willing to get creative in ways that really help drive your success.
Did you know that it costs 5 times as much to get a new customer as it does to retain a new one? Selling to an existing customer is also has a much higher margin than selling to a new customer because they convert at a higher rate and because it costs less to sell to them. These existing customers are 50% more likely to buy a new product and will spend 31% more on your offering when they do buy than a new customer. I could quote statistics like this all day and you could find many articles on this on the web to back up the point. . . doing a great job retaining your current customers is vital to running a profitable indoor golf center.
Since the bottom line here is about keeping good customers, do you know how well you are doing? Can you calculate your churn rate? Churn rate is a measure that determines what portion of customers end their relationship with you over a set period, say a month or a quarter. This would require you to know who your customers are and whether they are visiting every month. Can you find a way to get them to check in (say, giving points for visits that goes toward food or beverage credits) so that you have a means to measure what portion are coming back.
Once you can measure, you need to segment. Look at males versus females, different age groups, different skill levels, etc. Get a little info on them when you set up your points program, maybe check in with Facebook or get an address so you can calculate how far they are driving to get to you. Do surveys and tie it back to churn. Find out what features are keeping them and which ones they wish were better. Every dollar you spend here returns more than the dollars you are spending on ads to get them here in the first place.
I often get asked, what do you mean when you say "indoor golf". Indoor golf is an umbrella term for all activities in golf which can be carried out indoors.
Venues include indoor driving ranges, chipping areas, putting greens, and machines. A golf simulator allows golf to be played on a graphically or photographically simulated driving range or golf course, usually in an indoor setting. In some cases, based on the location of the sensing devices, it is now possible to capture data on both ball and club for most accurate speed and directional information, and simulated ball flight behavior.
The data collected is extrapolated to provide ball flight trajectory and roll out according to certain calculated relationships to the ball's flight performance per the tracked motion of the ball or club, adding environmental aspects through which the ball is projected, including terrain, wind, rain and other such influences or obstacles.
A key attribute of any simulator is accuracy. There are several types of measurement system used in golf simulation to achieve this, such as simulator mats, sonic sound systems, optical sensor arrays, radar and camera ball tracking systems. Many golf simulator systems use a sensor mat, which is essentially a rectangular mat containing several infrared sensors and microchips that can monitor the speed of the club as it passes the back sensor, the angle of the club and club speed as the ball and club pass the second sensor following impact and the direction of the ball as the club passes the third sensor.
A ball's flight depends upon many things, including the ball itself, the strike and impact of the club upon the ball, the ball's launch angle, direction, spin rate and velocity, as well as the hitting surface from which the ball is struck and the simulated environment through which the ball virtually flies, suggesting wind, rain, and other environmental aspects that may affect ball flight.
A computer calculates the expected trajectory of the golf ball from data gathered on the swing, and the image of the golf ball flight is then simulated on the screen via a projector.
Think about it. According to public sources, the Donald has been out to play golf 45 times as of August while in office. This has involved 7 flights to Mar a Largo and 6 flights to Bedminster at a total cost of ~$17.5MM (taking his entourage, protection, etc with him) according to the Washington Post. At this rate, he will play an estimated 320 times in 4 years at a projected cost of roughly $125MM of taxpayer money.
Justified financially . . . So Trump could go totally overboard and install the “greatest golf simulator ever seen” at the Whitehouse for less than the cost of one of his golf trips. That would save the American taxpayer over $100MM. I’m sure folks in Palm Beach would also appreciate not having everything from the airport to the beach shut down when he arrives.
Justified strategically . . . This would get his golfing out of the public eye and allow him to do it more frequently. I say both are a benefit because it will create less of a public stir and because it means less time for him to tweet or pick fights with Kim Jong-un.
Justified emotionally. . . Trump could then have daily access to just about any course he wants around the world. He wouldn’t end up stuck on his overpriced and poorly performing courses which I am sure is a source of frustration to him.
Justified ethically. . . The golf simulator keeps score automatically. No more arguments with celebrities about whether or not he cheats at golf. He would have a machine keeping score for him. Of course we all know he’d turn on mulligans and take as many as he wants.
Justified humorously. . . The golf simulator would be in a controlled environment. No more rogue gusts of wind blowing his mane out of place.