Beacon Hill Golf, a year-old target-golf practice facility located on the North Spokane mountain just east of Hillyard, is facing competition.
Just six miles away, on the busy Nevada Street corridor near Northpointe, construction is under way on Birdies Golf Center, which will open in mid-September.
Beacon Hill owner Pete Rayner welcomes the addition.
“I’m looking forward to it, absolutely,” said Rayner. “They have more money than us and better marketing than us.”
But Rayner likens it to “auto row” on Sprague in the Spokane Valley. The new facility will attract more golfers and benefit him as well.
Bud Nameck, who is manager of Birdies and who was a marketing major in college, concurs.
“Because we’re fairly close, there will be a drain on both of us,” said Nameck, who formerly was sports anchor at KXLY-TV. “But even when we’re done, there should be plenty of business for all of us.”
Target-golf centers are a refinement of the old driving range concept.
Instead of merely whacking golf balls into an open field, golfers can experience match situations without actually playing 18 holes.
At both Beacon Hill and Birdies, golfers shoot to several greens at varying distances scattered over scenic contoured terrain.
In addition, the facilities have putting and pitching greens and traps for golfers to practice their sand game.
“There are two problems with golfing at a regular course: time and money,” said Rayner, “We offer all the challenges at a reasonable rate at a fraction of the time.”
Beacon Hill was conceived by lawyer-developer Rayner while he spent a year in Phoenix working on a building project. He whiled away his free time at a neighboring golf course that had a putting green and traps, and he noticed his game improve.
“I thought, if Spokane had a first-class facility, it might go,” he said.
Following a year of research and another of construction, his golf facility opened last May.
Originally targeted to open Aug. 1, grass is just now taking root on the fairway at Birdies Golf Center, part of 40 acres of land owned by the Guthrie family of Pacific Securities. Kevin and Dave Guthrie are principals in Birdies.
The debut at Beacon Hill was inauspicious following a two-month delay caused by city planning oversights and inability to get water soon enough to save the putting green from an unusually hot spring.
“I don’t even count last year,” said Rayner. “I wouldn’t advertise. The putting green was an embarrassment.”
This year, use has increased by 40 percent each month, and Rayner is continuing with improvements.
“We’re in the second inning of a brand-new industry,” said Rayner.
A three-floor clubhouse that will include a retail shop, restaurant and offices is being constructed.
Landscaping continues with a scenic creek and water cascade being built to separate the parking lot from the green. Also in the works is a covered pavilion for company picnics.
Beacon Hill is built on 20 acres of a 200-acre parcel that Rayner owns. It offers a scenic view of the city and is on Wellesley just two miles north of Esmeralda Golf Course between Hillyard and Bigelow Gulch.
There are 10 target greens ranging from 150 to 261 yards nestled into the hillside. Golfers hit from 50 grass tee stations or over a water reservoir from another 20 covered mats.
The facility has a 50,000 square-foot tiered 18-hole putting surface and is adding a 4,000-square-foot practice green.
Golfers can take lessons from Rayner’s partner, head pro Jim Henry. Rayner envisions an annual five-day golf school, including instruction by local pros and rounds on area courses.
If there is a liability, it is the remoteness of the location, although Rayner points out that he is 20 minutes from anywhere in the area and that Wellesley is to become a major thoroughfare someday.
Location is the biggest advantage that Birdies will have, situated as it is near a growing retail center.
“I would use it because I could drop my daughters off at T.J. Maxx and hit a bucket of balls,” Rayner concedes.
Nameck said Birdies plans to be extremely service oriented.
“It’s a lost art,” he said. “We’re making sure we do the job right.”
The center includes five target greens with cups ranging from less than 100 yards to 225 yards. There is an 8,000-square-foot putting surface.
A clubhouse is being built that will include pro shop and teaching areas. Golfers taking lessons from club pro Clint Wallman will be able to have their swings videotaped and analyzed both inside and on an outdoor pad.
Of the 60 hitting stations, 22 are covered and heated, allowing for year-round golf.
The course also has a state-of-the-art ball-moving system, Range Servant from Sweden, that will collect and transport balls into hoppers. Golfers will fill their buckets by using tokens or a debit card.
“We will attract new people,” said Nameck. “More women than men are taking up golf, and they are more inclined to take lessons. A person can come here, hit a bucket of balls and still do dinner.”
It’s express-lane golf, and parties at both facilities hope there’s room for to co-exist.
“I don’t know marketing. I grew up on a farm and am a lawyer,” said Rayner. “But I’m naive enough to think this is a Field of Dreams.”
Build it, and the golfers will come.
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