A New Entry Point for Young Golfers

Written by Andrew Penner

Written by Andrew Penner

Next Gen Golfers:

It’s nearing midnight on a cold Thursday evening in mid-December and inside LaunchPad – the new golf “experience” at Heritage Pointe in southeast Calgary – things are heating up. Young ladies wearing, well, not traditional golf clothing, are swatting at golf balls and, after impact, spinning around in poetic pirouettes. (And, yes, “impact” is not necessarily with the golf ball.)  Young men in jeans, many sporting full-sleeve tattoos, take turns smashing golf balls and long-driving for drinks. Yes, it appears as if the demographics of the game might be turning a page.

LaunchPad at Heritage Pointe

True, golf has, for decades, struggled with “old guy” stereotypes. Happy Gilmore, that great theologian, said it himself, “Golf requires goofy pants and a fat ass.” Yes, from the monied, old-school country clubs, the five-hour rounds, the staunch dress-codes, the high cost to play, the cumbersome rules; there are many inhibiting reasons why young people especially, choose other sports, other forms of entertainment.

But, make no mistake, golf is hitting back. The young folk have another entry point. And you’ve just got to visit LaunchPad – and a growing contingent of indoor/outdoor golf centres equipped with state-of-the-art technology – to see it first-hand.

“Roughly 70% of our guests at LaunchPad are non-golfers,” says Barry Ehlert, CEO of the Windmill Golf Group, the company that owns and operates Heritage Pointe and LaunchPad. “This is one of the most exciting things about this facility. Yes, we still love to attract seasoned golfers. Our leagues, lesson programs, memberships, and amazing practice technology definitely appeals to core players. But if you come on a Friday or Saturday night, you’ll see people from 3 to 83, from all walks of life, just having a blast. We’ve removed the barriers here. And it’s our passion to see new golfers, people who have never picked up a club before, come here and just have fun.”

Unquestionably, the incredible advancements in ball-tracer technology, launch monitors, graphics, speed sensors, beginner-friendly target games, and so on, has certainly bolstered the appeal of the game, this new “genre,” to the beginner market. And, definitely, it’s not just LaunchPad (the Windmill Group also operates a similar year-round facility at Mickelson National GC in Springbank) that is attracting new golfers and growing the game.


Numerous year-round indoor facilities have popped up throughout the province and similar results – attracting new golfers to the game – are being realized. Drop Zone Golf Centre (Lethbridge), Fore Seasons Indoor Golf Centre and Town Centre Golf (both in Grand Prairie), Golf Traders Indoor Golf Centre (Edmonton), Total Golf (Calgary), and Go Go Golf (Calgary), are just a few examples.

At Rad Golf, for example, which has two state-of-the-art facilities in both Red Deer and Calgary, the formula is simple: offer guests a fun, non-intimidating place to unwind, have a few drinks, great food, and play world-class courses on the most advanced simulators available in the world.

“We’re seeing a steady flow of new golfers at both our centres,” says Jared Nicolls, co-owner of Rad Golf. “There’s no pressure here. Our private rooms are a huge hit. We do corporate events, birthday parties, stags, you name it. People can relax on the couches, play ping-pong, watch the big game on TV, and, of course, have a blast playing golf in ideal  weather with all the mulligans they need. It’s the perfect place to play golf for the first time.”

While the nightclub-like theatrics that do occasionally occur at some of these facilities (LaunchPad, for example, has partnered with Cowboys Dance Hall for various events) are not the norm, unquestionably, a “let-your-hair-down-and-just-have-fun” mantra certainly prevails at most of these facilities. And, make no mistake, many powerful people and organizations within the game are taking note.

“It’s great to see the excitement and the energy that these new indoor golf centres and driving ranges are creating,” says Kevin Thistle, the CEO of the Canadian PGA. “Sure, many people that visit these centres will not go on to fully invest in the sport. But many will. They’ve been introduced. They’ve got a taste for the game. And I believe the industry, as a whole, will benefit because of it.”