It had to be the perfect April Fool’s Day prank. A video touting pro golfer Bubba Watson and a space age hovercraft as a golf cart skimming along fairways, across water hazards and sand traps hit the Internet on April 1 and started a stir.
Pete Duffey had his doubts, too. So he and his partners at Nostalgic Golf LLC made some phone calls. They found out it was no joke at all. They found out that Watson, the 2012 Masters champion, had indeed teamed up with Oakley and manufacturer Neoteric Hovercraft of Terre Haute, Ind., to move the concept from Watson’s mind into reality.
On July 27, Windy Knoll Golf Club in Springfield will unveil its two new hovercraft golf carts with a day-long celebration it has dubbed Hover Bash. Windy Knoll GC is at the head of the line when it comes to owning the hovercrafts and making them available to the general public. Hover Bash will feature a clinic with Tim Rosaforte of the Golf Channel, LPGA Hall of Fame member Nancy Lopez and LPGA golfer Paige Mackenzie, and an afternoon shotgun scramble. One of the hovercrafts will be out on the course, visiting teams as they make their way around the Par 72 links style venue.
The hovercrafts seat four, have room for two club bags and are powered by 65 horsepower engines that keep the craft nine inches off the ground. Watson’s video has had more than eight million views on YouTube.
This has all the makings of a grand publicity stunt – Bill Veeck meets the links – but it is anything but a stunt for Nostalgic Golf.
“We see this as a golden opportunity to set ourselves apart from all of the other choices that the everyday golfer now has,” said Duffey, who is the managing director of Windy Knoll GC.
There are more than 840 golf courses in Ohio according to the web site HYPERLINK “http://www.ohiogolfguide.com” www.ohiogolfguide.com. Look at the web site for the PGA. Attempt to count up the number of courses available to golfers inside the state boundaries. Your head will start hurting before you get to Byesville. At least mine did.
There is a lot of competition for the golfing dollar. Duffey said in Clark County, located 45 miles west of Columbus and a half hour’s drive from Dayton, there are about 10 public courses to go along with the private Springfield Country Club.
“This is business,” said Duffey.
It’s a business that Nostalgic Golf is excited about despite the financial hurdles. The group bought Windy Knoll out of receivership in May 2012. The course opened in 2001 but, according to reports from the Springfield Sun newspaper, the previous owner built up debts of $4.5 million over the first 10 years. The Sun reported the purchase of Windy Knoll saved six full-time jobs and several seasonal employment positions.
There have been numerous capital improvements made to Windy Knoll over the last 13-plus months. The hovercrafts are part of a larger plan.
“When a lot of courses are consolidating or closing, we’re going in the opposite direction,” said Duffey. “We think with the contraction of courses we’re seeing here possibly in this region we see this as an opportunity at Windy Knoll to offer these additional options and attractions that will increase visibility and play in the long run.”
Word of Windy Knoll’s purchase hit the Internet this week and the phone calls and drop-ins seeking more information began immediately. Windy Knoll is taking names and phone numbers of interested people. The Golf Course is aiming for mid-to-late August to begin renting the hovercrafts, although no specific date has yet been determined. Duffey said the target rental rate will be $230 per player for cart and round of golf.
Greens fees at Windy Knoll, with normal carts, range from $28-$37 depending on day and time of week.
For those seeking more information, Duffey said people can go to the club’s web site (www.windyknollgolfclub.com), it’s Facebook page or follow on Twitter (@windyknollgolf).
“It was a beautiful public course in the area that was a little too high-priced for some and a little too tough of a track for some,” said Duffey of Windy Knoll prior to the change in ownership. “This area can barely support one private club, one championship club, so if you want to survive in the golf course when it’s so saturated you have to have a playable course, you have to have an affordable course but we feel we have a great staff in place where we don’t have to sacrifice the quality of the product.
“This is a special offering. It’s for special occasions, for special trips with guys, for special rounds of golf. We see this as an additional special offering. We are doing our best to expand the banquet and event facility that we have. We believe it’s going to take success in that end to help the course as a whole.”