RALEIGH — Anyone that has driven along Interstate 40 between the N.C. 54 and Wade Avenue exits near PNC Arena recently has seen the poles.
They rise above the trees like missiles readying to be launched.
Only it’s not a top-secret military defense site. It’s a new golf facility, a fact that began to come into better focus once netting was attached to those ubiquitous poles.
Just don’t call Drive Shack a driving range.
According to Dan Godfrey, general manager of the company’s soon-to-be-opened Raleigh location, there’s a lot more to do there than just hitting a few balls or working on your swing after work.
“We’re really a multidimensional golf entertainment facility. That would be a good way to sum it up,” Godfrey said. “When you talk about the venue itself, obviously we are the coolest driving range in the history of mankind. But we have so many other things to offer.”
In addition to the three-story, 96-bay climate-controlled driving area — where players can practice in a traditional manner or challenge themselves in one of several virtual games — Drive Shack also offers a full-service restaurant, an arcade that’s included in the cost of membership, an outdoor bar and entertainment space for events, and corporate team-building activities.
The Raleigh Drive Shack will become the company’s second location once it opens this summer. The other is in Orlando, Fla., which has been in operation for about a year. Further expansion is planned for West Palm Beach, Fla., Richmond, Va., New York City and New Orleans.
Though indoor, multistory “golf arcades” are hardly a new idea, having been popularized in Japan decades ago, Drive Shack and its competitor TopGolf have added a new dimension to the concept by combining a sports activity with a social event.
“We’re not going to say we invented Coca-Cola. But we’re definitely inventing Pepsi,” Godfrey said. “We understand the need to give people a fun place to go that involves exercise and having a good time no matter what the weather. It’s like bowling, only its outdoors because we only have three walls.”
Those three walls will contain seating for up to six people and several television monitors, as well as other amenities — including a “bay caddie” available to attend to all the players’ needs.
The hitting areas will be equipped with a computer that can analyze things such as swing speed, launch angle and ball speed to determine exactly what the ball will do and how far it will carry based on the way it is struck. It’s similar to the tracking technology used on the broadcasts of PGA Tour events.
“It’s pretty remarkable stuff,” Godfrey said.
Inside the poles and its netting on the range itself are a series of targets that allow serious players to work on their accuracy while giving the more casual golfer an opportunity to play one of four interactive games.
There’s S-H-A-C-K, a variation of basketball’s H-O-R-S-E, ShackJack, which is based on the card game 21, DS Classic and Monster Hunt, a game in which players try to hit fictitious monsters that bounce around the field in order to save a princess in her castle.
In addition to those games, there are five virtual courses on which players can play a full 18-hole round in about half the time it takes to play on a traditional course. Regardless of the weather.
A PGA professional will also be on site to provide lessons, clinics and other instruction.
“We have a lot of different elements to our technology,” Godfrey said. “We have games that are for all ages. With the courses themselves, you can play an entire tournament with 144 players in our facility, or you can just play a round with your buddy and you can do it in about 90 minutes or so.”
While golf is the primary focus of Drive Shack, Godfrey said that the innovative company is open to all potential ideas — including a sportsbook as legal gambling becomes more mainstream.
“We think and look at everything the climate and the culture of the world we live in is gearing towards,” Godfrey said. “There are also a lot of great things going on with esports. We’re aware of the things that are occurring. We’re young and we’re pliable, so we’ll adapt to whatever situations become available to us.”
Including an unintentional advertising strategy centered around some large poles rising above the tree line.
“The poles are the biggest marketing piece we have. They catch a lot of attention,” Godfrey said. “We love the fact that it gets people thinking and asking what is coming. When they find out and see how cool everything really is, it gets them even more excited.”