OTTOWA, CANADA–Dru Lafave recalls the first time he saw a Full Swing golf simulator. It was 1994 and he was working as an accountant in Montreal. He walked into an indoor golf centre and was intrigued.
This passion for these simulators eventually led Lafave to start his own business – Golf-O-Max in Ottawa. Now in its 17th year, it features 11 Full Swing golf simulators, offering 45 top courses, along with a fully licensed 19th hole pub.
Lafave’s plan was to start with five simulators and grow to seven, which he did within two years. He admits he didn’t know much about marketing, but he put out a press release and was lucky to get a feature interview in the daily newspaper.
“From that day forward I was full,” Lafave says.
Around 1997, Golf-O-Max grew to nine machines. He was able to replace the pair of practice nets he had with two additional simulators. “I wasn’t sure how full I would get going from seven to nine capacity-wise,” Lafave comments. “But I was full all the time on all of them. It just kept growing. I was kind of the only guy in town, which helped.”
With more and more competition from big-box stores, eventually Lafave decided the small retail store he had at his facility was not profitable and he replaced it with an additional simulator. Business kept booming. “I had people who would have to call a week ahead if they wanted to get in on a weekend,” he says. “I had people on waiting lists every day of the week. We’d be open at seven in the morning till two in the morning.”
Lafave has relied a lot on word of mouth advertising to grow his business. Another key to Lafave’s success is his membership in the National Golf Course Owner’s Association, which has been a great way for him to connect to other golf course owners and properties.
“Golf-O-Max is a great example of how our simulators can help grow one’s business,” says Brian Arnold, Senior Vice-President, Full Swing Golf. “There are examples all over the world of the Full Swing simulator being used to sustain businesses that are open for more than a decade.”
In 2010, Lafave moved to a new location that was more conveniently located off a main thoroughfare and had better rent. In the process, he added an 11th simulator. Upon opening, business in November and December was up 30 per cent over the previous year.
“A lot of these guys have been coming to our place for fifteen years,” says Lafave. “I know the same guys on a first-name basis. We’re buddies … it’s a friendship we have with the customers. It’s a business but it’s almost a hobby. I love golf.”
For more information about Golf-O-Max, visit golfomax.com