High costs of maintaining an outdoor golf range, as well as the need to better serve customers, has forced Golf Universe to change its strategy.
Sun Pacific Energy, which owns Golf Universe at 6311 W. Clearwater Ave. in Kennewick, is moving the golf-focused shop about a mile away to 825 N. Edison St., across the street from Kamiakin High School, at the beginning of next year.
The plan means abandoning the location where it’s been for well over 20 years, as well as its 4-acre outdoor driving range and two mini golf courses.
But customers can expect exciting new changes at the new, bigger location, said Jarrod Franson, operations manager for Sun Pacific.
Golf Universe will embrace technology to better serve its customers and provide a wider selection of golf equipment at more competitive prices.
Franson also said there will be a bigger and better club repair shop inside the new store.
“All of this allows more one on one time with the customer with an employee who is certified and trained,” said Franson, who expects the current number of employees (six) to remain the same at the new store.
Golf Universe’s 10-year lease agreement with Adams Enterprises expires on Dec. 31.
Adams Enterprises has not announced any public plans for the Clearwater Avenue property.
Golf Universe will move into a $4.5 million development planned by Craig and Marilee Eerkes. Craig Eerkes has run Sun Pacific Energy, and before that Tri-City Oil, for the past 40 years.
The couple’s son, Chris Eerkes, is the company’s president.
Sun Pacific sold all of its Tri-City area Sun Mart stations about 10 years ago. It currently has a number of newer Sun Market franchises, which usually include Firehouse Subs restaurants.
Golf Universe will be the flagship store at the nearly 30,000-square-foot shopping center that could be divided into nine suites.
The golf shop will occupy a large suite on one end, and Sun Pacific will look for as many as eight other tenants, possibly fewer if a tenant wants more than one suite.
Some of the suites will have a second story.
On the opposite end of the development will be a suite with a drive-thru window.
“We don’t have any future tenants yet,” Franson said.
There will be 122 parking stalls at the center, as well as a bus stop.
Devin Geisler of DKEI Professional Services is the project architect.
Shane O’Neill of LCR Construction is the contractor.
Advances have made golf technology a bigger priority to better serve golfers, Franson said.
“Technology allows us to better fit people with their clubs with simulators,” he said. “The needs of golfers being fitted for their clubs properly has become a priority.”
Store officials expect to have three indoor bays that will use TrackMan technology, which can show golfers where their golf shot would end up on a simulated golf course, as well as every statistic imaginable on their swing.
TrackMan simulators can cost upwards of $50,000 each.
“Obviously, the technology is huge in this. But those (simulators) are just for fittings and private lessons,” Franson said. “This allows us to get all the information we can for the individual golfer because everyone swings differently.”
Franson said the new shop will have 5,000 square feet of retail space, more than the current location.
It will still sell a wide array of golf brands, too.
“And we’re going to be more competitive with online pricing,” he said. “In the past, customers have come in to try out clubs, then they go online and find the club cheaper than we can sell. By reducing our expenses, it will allow us to be more competitive in our pricing.”
The changes are necessary to secure Golf Universe’s future success.
“The cost to run an outdoor driving range is extremely high,” Franson said. “The driving range is getting old, and it’s a high expense to run it. There are costs for gasoline, mowers, staffing. The netting and the poles are expensive.”
The loss of the outdoor driving range will leave just one dedicated outdoor driving range in Eastern Washington: Tour Fairways Golf Range in Walla Walla.
Of course, almost all golf courses in the Tri-City region have outdoor driving ranges. And there are a handful of simulator golf shops in the Tri-Cities, like Divots Golf in Richland and X-Golf and Zintel Creek Golf Club in Kennewick.
What’s the fate of Golf Universe’s two 18-hole mini golf courses?
They may be going away unless someone comes in and buys them, Franson said. “We’re sad about the miniature golf courses,” he said.
But regular golf is Golf Universe’s main revenue stream, and sometimes change is necessary.
“We’re excited and nervous at the same time. It’s the way of the future for golf. And it provides the needs for our customers,” Franson said.
Golf Universe: 6311 W. Clearwater Ave., Kennewick; 509-735-2900; golfuniversetc.com. Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
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