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BigShots Golf tees off in Springfield

Officials expect attraction to draw out-of-area crowds

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While BigShots Golf’s debut arrived months later than planned, Springfield’s newest attraction is ready for visitors to take their best swings.

“We got open but it’s been a tough year,” said General Manager Brian Inman.

The north-side entertainment center at the intersection of Kearney Street and Glenstone Avenue opened May 17, he said. The project is a partnership between O’Reilly Hospitality Management LLC and ClubCorp.

Management company officials declined to disclose construction costs, but a Springfield building permit lists a $6.5 million declared valuation for the 12-acre development, where a former Kmart was demolished last year. It originally was expected to open in 2020, but officials said various complications, including weather, sewer easement issues and the coronavirus pandemic, contributed to the delay.

“I knew our soft opening wasn’t going to be a soft opening,” Inman said of the May 17 BigShots launch, which had a line of customers waiting to gain access to the 37,000-square-foot facility. “I had our team ready for that.”

Declining to disclose early attendance or sales figures at the 1930 E. Kearney St. venue, Inman said, “It’s exceeded our budget expectations.”

The entertainment attraction’s features include 56 driving range bays across the two-story building, 3,500 square feet of meeting space, an outdoor putting green, and a full-service restaurant and bar. It employs 150, around half of which are part-time jobs, Inman said.

O’Reilly Hospitality spokesperson Kerrie Van Sickle said a grand opening is slated for mid-to-late-June, when finishing touches should be completed.

Inman said weather delays, such as frequent rain in the past couple of weeks, have pushed back the completion of outdoor spaces, such as the putting area, outdoor patio seating and fire pit installation. General contractor is Snyder Construction Group LLC, and Peoria, Illinois-based Turf Solutions Group are in charge of landscaping for the project, he said.

“They’re trying,” he said, noting work should wrap within the next month, weather permitting.

On target
Since BigShots opened to the public, Inman said he’s already noted the range of customers, reinforcing his belief the attraction can be a draw for a wide audience of all ages.

“We’ve had people who have never played golf in their entire lives coming in and having a blast,” he said. “We also have people that play golf on a regular basis and really work on their skill because of our Doppler radar technology in the range.”

Tracy Kimberlin, president and CEO of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc., agrees BigShots has a large drawing potential.

“It will be on the list of amenities and things we have to offer as far as activities,” he said of CVB’s plans to promote BigShots. “Because of food and beverage and entertainment with the golf, I can see it doing quite well.”

The proximity to Branson is another drawing card for the new attraction, Kimberlin said, pointing to investments from Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris in courses at Big Cedar Lodge helping turn the Taney County town into a golf destination.

“We should take advantage of Branson being a golf mecca and us being a landing point,” he said. “We have an opportunity here in Springfield.”

Elsewhere in Greene County, another similar golf venue has operated for the past year.

Backwoods Golf LLC opened in May 2020 in Republic. The $4 million golf driving range development at 6155 W. Republic Road features 28 driving bays and a full-service restaurant and bar, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. The venture is co-owned by Charlie Locher and Austin Cloud, who also serves as its general manager.

Cloud didn’t return messages seeking comment by press time.

In collaboration
At BigShots, Inman stressed that experience in golf isn’t necessary to enjoy taking swings in the driving range bays, which hold up to six guests. Plexiglass dividers are installed between each bay, and a rigid standard for disinfecting all guest touchpoints is in place, he said.

“We’re golf for the nongolfer,” he said. “I’ve been giving lessons to a lot of people helping them learn how to hit a ball and get them started.”

Corporate gatherings also are a focus of the entertainment center. Its website promotes events such as company outings, fundraisers, meetings and team building exercises.

Van Sickle said promotional opportunities with nearby hotels are on O’Reilly Hospitality’s radar. Two of those, DoubleTree by Hilton and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, also are O’Reilly Hospitality properties.

“We’re collaborating with sales teams there to create packages for travelers that want to come in and take advantage of it,” she said. “We’re definitely trying to market as a destination and as an amenity to our current hotel guests that are already coming into the area.”

The local BigShots entertainment center is the second to open in as many months for O’Reilly Hospitality. The company also collaborated with ClubCorp on a franchise in Fort Worth, Texas. Inman said. The first BigShots opened in Vero Beach, Florida, in 2018, according to the company’s website, which also lists a fourth franchise coming to Bryan, Texas, later this year.

ClubCorp bought controlling interest in 2018 of Peoria-based BigShots Golf LLC.

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