A long-running Ballarat sports business is expanding into the virtual realm, as it tries to increase patronage from young players and those who are time-poor.
Drummond Golf in Howitt Street, Wendouree has created a new recreational golf simulator facility called 'Big Swing Golf' inside its retail store, which will open in the next month.
The creation of the new virtual golf simulator comes after Ballarat's golf membership increased last year, but the sport as a whole faces decreases in participation.
It is the third virtual golf facility in the city, with The Golfer's Lounge on Gillies Street and the Ballarat Golf Club having driving range simulators.
The store's owner Chris McIntosh has also received a liquor license for the store, and opening hours will now be extended to compensate for after-work hours interest in the virtual golf simulator.
Mr McIntosh said that signage is yet to be installed and the bar area needs to be completed, but the indoor entertainment would cater for those who can't spend a long time on the green in Ballarat's cold.
"It's a bit harder for young fathers to spend six hours on a Saturday to play golf ... but the weather is always perfect in here," he said.
"We've always traditionally shut at 5.30pm, but what we're going to do in the future is have three or four days each week where we're open 'til 9pm.
It's a massive change for our business.Chris McIntosh
The virtual bays have overhead cameras and infrared sensors, which calculate how the golf ball has been hit.
Golf Australia's participation report for 2018, which was released in August, found that there was a 1.6 per cent decline in golf club members across the year. However, there is more than 383,000 paying members of golf clubs across Australia.
Across the sport more broadly, there was around 945,000 participants in 2018, which had declined by six per cent from the year prior.
The participation report showed there was a 3.2 per cent increase in Ballarat's golf members over the last year to around 3,400 registered players in the region, the largest jump in Victoria.
Only a quarter of Victoria's 16 golf districts increased the number of registered golf players last year.
Mr McIntosh said the local golf community had been "fantastic" in trying to provide opportunities for younger players to learn and trial the sport. He said that the virtual technology could open more pathways for prospective golfers.
"They may not take it up straight away, but at least they've had a chance to have a go at golf ... some might come back in a couple of years time and remember they enjoyed it, and they might make it their full-time sport."
There so many challenges now for young kids, because they're involved in so many different sports ... what we want to do is give them a taste of it.Drummond Golf owner Chris McIntosh
The technology is "state of the art", according to the Drummond Golf owner, with 80 different courses available. Used by Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, a 18-hole course can be completed in half the time of a regular round of golf.
He said players can be intimidated by the concept of playing a full round of golf, and cost can occasionally be prohibitive, but the advent of virtual technology can give golf a bigger audience.
Golf is debuting as an Olympic sport in Tokyo next year.
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