A new concept club launches in Brisbane.
Zac Chipperfield saw first-hand the restrictions that exist at a traditional golf club.
A junior at Bribie Island Golf Club and playing extensively throughout Brisbane’s north and the Sunshine Coast, Chipperfield’s first job in golf was as a cart attendant at Pacific Harbour Golf & Country Club at 16 years of age.
After a couple of unsuccessful attempts at the PGA Tour of Australasia Qualifying School, he began the PGA Membership Pathway Program at Indooroopilly Golf Club in Brisbane in 2012 before returning to complete the final two years at Pacific Harbour.
Immediately upon completion, he took over as golf operations manager and in April this year returned to Brisbane to take the role as golf manager at Pacific Golf Club.
Yet it was a nine-month stint at Golf Central near Brisbane Airport last year that opened Chipperfield’s eyes to the possibilities that traditional golf clubs were not in position to take advantage of.
“There are only so many tee-times at a traditional club and so many hours of sunlight each day,” says Chipperfield, whose new venture, The Golf Bunker, will launch in Brisbane in late September.
“COVID has obviously helped the past year, but so many clubs I grew up playing always struggled financially – but seeing the numbers that go through Golf Central was a huge eye-opener, seeing that business model as opposed to a golf club.
“This business is essentially a convergence of those two businesses where we will operate as a 24-hour indoor golf club with the latest in TrackMan technology and where you will be able to complete a round of golf in about an hour any time, day or night. It’s essentially a 24-hour virtual golf club. You’ll scan as you come in. You can use it as you want. Book an hour at a time. When you’re finished, just leave.”
It’s been a steep learning curve to go from member satisfaction at a golf club to project management, but Chipperfield credits his grounding in golf and additional education for putting him in position to make the move into small business ownership.
“I was green but I was lucky in that someone was willing to say, ‘I think you’ve got the brain to do it. We’ll train you how to do it,’” Chipperfield said of his transition from trainee to golf operations manager at Pacific Harbour.
“I did a Cert IV in Accounting and I’m doing currently completing my diploma because to me, you can’t sit in a board meeting and not understand financials. That was a huge part of the learning curve, getting my head around budgets, KPIs, and all that sort of stuff.
“Troon came back on board while I was at Pacific Harbour too, and they do an awesome job of analysing tee sheets and capitalising on every single hour that’s available, every single tee-time. That stuff alone is invaluable from a golf management point of view.”
In practice, The Golf Bunker will operate as a virtual golf club that members can access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Members will receive a card that will allow for access at all hours and the ability to play one of more than 100 courses built into TrackMan Golf’s Virtual Golf 2 platform, with more being added every week.
The popularity of Topgolf and other golf simulator experiences has highlighted the game’s appeal to a younger audience seeking immediacy and interaction. Chipperfield believes he can service a market that is crying out for a different golf club experience.
“At Golf Central, 50 per cent of the people are wearing hi-vis and 50 per cent of people would never have played golf before,” explains Chipperfield, who will incorporate lessons and club-fitting to round out the golf club experience.
“They don’t have time for four-and-a-half-hour rounds of golf. I’d say no one goes to Golf Central for more than an hour but they get their large bucket of balls, a few drinks and they’ve spent $60 or $70. The cost of golf isn’t the issue to me, it’s the time.
“And the tech stuff is huge. Young guys in particular don’t care which direction the ball goes, they just want to see the numbers that tell them their swing speed and that it carried 250 metres. TrackMan now operates a TrackMan handicap so we’ll be able to run weekly competitions where, if you like, you can come in, play Pebble Beach and be part of the comp for that week.
“There are plenty of people I know in Brisbane you have told me that they’d love to be able to put the kids to bed and then duck out to play golf for an hour at 8 or 9 o’clock at night. That’s why I think this can work.”