Indoor golf facility open for business at San Juan College

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — There should never be a wrong time to get in a round of golf. Thanks to some innovative technology, there doesn't have to be.

The Bluffs Country Club, an upstart business venture hosted by the Quality Center for Business at San Juan College opened last month, featuring an indoor golf game that allows players of all skill levels to compete on virtual reality courses from across the country and around the world.

Managed by Keith Wood and located inside a massive space at the college, the Bluffs Country Club features a single bay where players can either work on their game or compete with others in tournament style play or in arcade-style golf games.

"There's literally nothing you can't do with this set-up," said Wood earlier this week. "The library of courses you can play is over 125 and we're adding more all the time."

The software for the virtual-reality game comes from a company named Trackman, which offers players the ability to keep tabs on their own game using radars, cameras and simulators that track one's swing and flight distance.

Keith Wood shows off his swing inside a virtual golf simulator at The Bluffs Country Club, located at the Quality Center for Business facility at San Juan College.

The Trackman system is used by professionals across the globe and endorsed by notable players like 14-time PGA Tour winner Justin Thomas as well as this year's Women's PGA Tour champion and 2020 Olympic gold medalist Nelly Korda.

Using technology known as Optically Enhanced Radar Tracking (OERT), the Bluffs Country Club system allows players to compete in an 18-hole round of golf in less than two hours.  

Detractors of indoor golf will point out that the conditions inside a climate-controlled venue can never match the actual feel of playing in the outdoors. Wood doesn't expect that opinion to change, nor is that the intent.

"There's simply no reason for people to not have the ability to play, or even practice, just because the weather outside is bad," Wood said. "The intent wasn't to compete with the actual game, but to enhance the play of those who enjoy it but can't take advantage of it all the time."

It is estimated that there are hundreds of indoor golf facilities like the Bluffs around the country. The popularity of the indoor game became greater as a result of the pandemic, which allowed many to find more creative ways to compete. The result of that has led to an increased amount of interest and competition in the sport.

"Courses were closed down for the most part last year, so people began looking for different ways to play," Wood said. "Now that courses have reopened, there's more people playing the game, which is great for the future of the sport."

The cost to operate an indoor golf facility can be great. Wood estimates that a quality golf simulator can run for more than $50,000 and that's just for the operating software.

"Then there's the expense of the space to run the facility," Wood said. "You can't have these bays in a small storefront. It requires quite a bit of space for multiple bays."

The Quality Center for Business, which houses the facility, features a variety of programs, serving as an economic development and innovation hub for the community.

The Bluffs Country Club is currently operating as a single bay on the college campus, with players signing up for sessions at their website, but Wood is hoping to expand that operation and having the ability to be open 24-hours a day.

Keith Wood stands in front of a simulator screen, showing Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of more than 125 virtual reality courses available at The Bluffs Country Club at San Juan College's Quality Center for Business.

"There are people who might want to play a round of golf at Pebble Beach at midnight," Wood said. "Our goal is to give you that opportunity."

Players can bring their own clubs and golf balls to the facility, or can rent equipment available onsite. The Bluffs also features balls from golf manufacturer Titleist, who just last week signed on as an endorser of the Trackman simulator.

In addition to prestigious courses around the world, the Bluffs is actively working to set up virtual courses for local facilities like San Juan Country Club, Pinon Hills and Riverview Golf Course in Kirtland.

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680.