SINGAPORE – Since opening its doors at Club Street in 2007, Urban Fairways has seen the arrival of similar establishments offering indoor golf through simulators in a lounge setting.
But although the choice in such venues has grown, what surprised its founder Dilip Ghosh was how long it took for the concept to take off in Singapore.
‘It surprised me that it took on here so late,’ the 47-year-old said. ‘I was already open for two-and-a-half years before the first one (of the other venues) opened.’
Part of the reason for the concept’s slow start in Singapore, he said, is the tricky task of providing a good experience with golf simulators that would make playing in the bar comparable to being on the course.
Learning from the golfing bars which were already popular in Korea, he set out to introduce the experience here. ‘The No 1 thing you need to have is a good golf simulator. A lot of people were looking at it but they took a while to do it, and I think the reason was that they didn’t understand it,’ Mr Ghosh said.
He knew that he needed to focus on a specific target audience consisting of golf aficionados serious about improving their performance. But the lack of interest and awareness of simulators here meant that it would take some convincing for even the niche crowd.
Helping them understand the rules of the game and allowing for more productive practice sessions then became important means of attracting customers.
‘In Singapore, they don’t really care if they become good. They just play, to play with their friends. So I also explain to people that the simulators are very good for practicing, very good for obtaining feedback on how their shot is progressing or not, and a very intensive lesson,’ said Mr Ghosh, who is also Urban Fairways’ managing director.
The number of golfing bars has since risen to four, but although he was the first to set one up here, Mr Ghosh said that, in the early stages, he was a sceptic too.
‘I didn’t think it would work in Singapore and I grossly overestimated two things: one, the weather, and how much people like to be in the cool; and two, the extreme lack of time. If I asked anybody ‘Do you play golf?’, they always say ‘Yes, but I’ve got no time’. So time is a key factor in attracting business.’