Golf Course Architecture - Issue 75, January 2024

45 EYEBROW (E.G. BLINDNESS) appeal of simulator golf is that players whose options for actual physical golf are rather limited can ‘play’ bucket list courses like Pebble Beach (or wherever) without travelling and spending the enormous green fee (if the bucket list course is even accessible to them). In locations where winter golf is simply not possible for climate reasons, it makes golf a 12-month business. Danish architect Caspar Grauballe says that the simulator boom is changing the economics of golf facilities. “We may have to look at the design of other areas than just the course. Our designs are being used in simulators on ranges because our designs can easily work with technology to provide players a new/different path into the game. I think we are seeing a lot of young people being introduced into golf via new concepts which seem to fit their lifestyle,” he says. “I work with a club, Portmore Golf Park in Devon, England, where changing the driving range to feature target greens, Toptracer, and beer and food has changed its whole economy. There are young people using it as a social meeting place and these are people who have never played golf. “I think our role as architects has to be broadened in the future to include design of virtual courses as this market will grow and we’ll see more players being introduced by practicing, playing and competing on virtual courses. Possibly this will bring golf out to a whole new demographic. For ‘real’ courses there is an opportunity to gain new customers if they can create an exciting experience of their virtual course.” And it is happening now. Nicklaus Design’s Chad Goetz has recently embarked on a project to design the world’s first virtual-only golf course. Hyperscapes Golf Club is a virtual club, a members-only service, for which Goetz is working on the design of Rocabarra Cliffs, described as ‘the metaverse’s premier golf course’. Rocabarra Cliffs is an ambitious project that goes beyond the creation of a virtual golf course. The course will be set in a real location, a small peninsula on the banks of Loch Shieldaig in the north-west of the Scottish Highlands. This part of Scotland is not a golfing destination – it is a wild two-hour drive west from Inverness – but it is a spectacularly beautiful spot, and, crucially, home to one of the few surviving patches of the Caledonian forest, the pinewoods that covered much of northern Scotland in prehistoric times before the massive deforestation caused by farming, and are among the most precious of ecosystems in Britain. DESIGNING FOR THE YOUNG Portmore Golf Park has increased its revenue by revamping its range with the latest technology and introducing food and beverage options Photo: Portmore Golf Park