Drive Shack preparing for grand opening in Raleigh

The new golf entertainment facility, which is scheduled to open in 'late summer,' is taking steps to become part of the community

The view from a third story hitting area at Raleigh's new Drive Shack resembles a real life video game (Brett Friedlander/North State Journal)

RALEIGH – A diverse group of people gathered in the still unfinished lobby of North Carolina’s first Drive Shack location last week waiting to be interviewed for jobs at the soon-to-be-opened golf and entertainment facility. 

Only this wasn’t your traditional job interview. 

In addition to answering the standard questions about their employment history and career goals, these candidates were also asked to put together Legos, role play with props and even run a relay race to determine where and how their individual skills might best be used. 

“It’s a way of seeing who the natural leaders are, whose personalities might be best for customer service positions and things like that,” said Dan Godfrey, general manager of the Raleigh franchise. “It also gives them a taste of how we do things and what kind of company we are.” 

Drive Shack clearly isn’t your father’s kind of driving range. 

In fact, while there will be a PGA teaching pro on staff – Campbell graduate Jared Morrow has already been hired there will be a lot more to do there than just hitting some balls and working on your swing. 

There is a full-service restaurant on the second floor and an indoor-outdoor bar on the third that Godfrey said will host comedy shows, band karaoke and live music on weekends. There is an arcade, a meeting room and entertainment space with full catering service for things such as receptions and corporate team-building activities. 

“If you can dream it,” Godfrey said, “we can do it.” 

That goes for the golf, as well. 

There are 96 climate-controlled driving bays, each equipped with a full set of TaylorMade RJ model clubs available in men’s, women’s and youth sizes for both right- and left-handers an automatic ball delivery device, seating for up to six, television monitors and wait service. 

The hitting areas will also be equipped with “Trackman” technology, which is designed to analyze things such as swing speed, launch angle, ball rotation and distance, and will allow players to simulate a full 18-hole round and any number of courses around the world, including the Old Course at St. Andrews. 

“There are two radar units on each side and one on the roof pointing toward the field,” said Roger Cottam, a Trackman technician who was at Drive Shack last week testing the system. ‘It’s the same technology that they use on the PGA Tour and Major League baseball broadcasts. Trackman is everywhere.” 

For those less traditional players and youngsters, a number of target golf games will also be available. Standing on the third floor looking out at the green field dotted with colorful targets, faux water hazards and sand traps, it’s almost as if you’ve been transported into a giant real life video game.  

That, said Godfrey, is the desired result. 

So is the fact that the perspective on ground level is much more reserved so that serious players can hit balls without distraction. 

“We’ve tried to think of everything,” Godfrey said.  

The Raleigh Drive Shack will become the company’s second location. The other, which has been in operation for about a year, is in Orlando, Fla. Further expansion is planned for West Palm Beach, Fla., Richmond, Va., New York City and New Orleans. 

While Drive Shack is a national entity, Godfrey said the company has already begun efforts to “localize its product.” One way of doing that is holding an online competition to determine which North Carolina craft brewery will have a tap at the Drive Shack bar. 

“It’s really important to get involved in the community,” Godfrey said. “We’ve volunteered with Special Olympics, Fairways for Veterans, food banks. It’s the right thing to do and a good thing for the community.” 

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. 

With opening schedule for “late summer,” presumably by Labor Day, Godfrey said his top priority is finding the right people to help run the facility. Several job fairs, complete with those unique interviews, are scheduled throughout July. The dates are posted on Drive Shack’s website. 

“We want to make a genuine connection with the public,” Godfrey said. “Hiring is the key right now.”