Home Arts & Leisure The Westchester gets into the experiential swing of things with virtual golf

The Westchester gets into the experiential swing of things with virtual golf

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After teeing off in Fairfield, Connecticut in 2018, Golf Lounge 18 has set up a virtual array of international golf courses to play at The Westchester in White Plains.

The space, just a chip shot from Neiman Marcus, features five golfing bays. In addition to a round of golf, you can also have a round of beers, wines and soft drinks and also shop for some golf merchandise.

Increased competition from the internet has been encouraging shopping mall operators to consider experiential retail and entertainment attractions for their properties. Simon Property Group Inc., which owns the 810,000-square-foot mall, has said, “The Westchester represents the perfect union of classical elegance and future trends.”

Enter Golf Lounge 18 founders Ajay Gautam, Ajit Padda and Purnedu Kagtada. 

The Westchester Golf Lounge 18
A customer plays a round of virtual golf at Golf Lounge 18 at The Westchester in White Plains. Photo by Peter Katz

Gautam told the Business Journal that he thinks what they’re doing can help support shopping centers looking to offer more than just merchandise retailing in order to remain viable destinations in the internet age.

“I feel it changes the whole dynamics of that,” he said. “I’m a golfer, I love to be more on a golf course than in a shopping mall and believe me being convinced to bring it into the shopping mall was one of the biggest decisions but I think we got it right.”

Some individuals and small groups of friends had made reservations to use the virtual golfing bays on opening day as a result of a preopening promotion and there was steady foot traffic throughout the Business Journal’s visit to the facility.

“On day one we saw a lot of families in here. They hanged out, had some good times, played for an hour, went shopping,” Gautam said.

According to Golf Lounge 18’s relationship manager Paul Wilson, Gautam, Padda and Kagtada were golfing buddies and “were frustrated that courses close at the end of October. They saw an opportunity in Fairfield. With great community support in Fairfield, they saw an opportunity to expand.” And last year they opened their second location in Orange, Connecticut. 

The bays at Golf Lounge 18 use video projectors to present images of whatever golf course and hole the player has selected. Computers running TrackMan software create the images the golfer sees based on data and images that have been preloaded. The TrackMan system uses radar and optics to detect the movement of the golf club, its impact with the ball and the flight of the ball. After its impact with the screen at the front of the bay, the software calculates where the ball would have landed on the real course.

Players are shown a moving image of what the ball looks like in-flight as it traveled to its landing spot. Included among the household-name courses replicated by the software are: the PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; the Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim, Northern Ireland; and, St. Andrews Links in St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, the birthplace of golf. Drones were used to map the courses and collect images.

“It’s the most accurate way to simulate the golf experience, the most realistic simulator on the market,” Wilson said.

As do country clubs, Golf Lounge 18 has memberships, leagues and tournaments. Bays can also be rented by the hour. Hourly rates are $45 off-peak Mondays through Thursdays. Fridays through Sundays are $60 per hour. Up to five people can play together.

“You can play golf all year and you can practice and get all of the dimensions of what your swing is like,” Gautam said. He said that private instruction is available. Their head of instruction is John Humphries, who won the 100th Louisiana Amateur Championship last July.

“We definitely have plans to look into expansion in 2020 to take it to the next level,” Gautam said.

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