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Business Spotlight: In the Swing

BigShots Golf looks to expand clientele in its second full year

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Drivers near the intersection of Kearney Street and Glenstone Avenue can’t miss BigShots Golf, the prominent 12-acre entertainment center with netting that rises to 170 feet behind a 37,000-square-foot building.

The north-side attraction is a partnership between O’Reilly Hospitality Management LLC and ClubCorp, which bought controlling interest in 2018 of Peoria-based BigShots Golf LLC. It includes 56 driving range bays across the two-story building, a combined 3,500 square feet of meeting space, a six-hole outdoor putting course, and a full-service restaurant and bar.

Brothers Tim, Pat and Ryan O’Reilly, along with their spouses, Brooke, Shannon and Brandi, respectively, own the Springfield franchise, which opened in May 2021. It’s among seven BigShots, which includes one in London, England, according to its website.

While declining to disclose visitation figures, General Manager Jennifer Peterson says the facility has new customers – both locals and tourists – come through its doors every day. BigShots is designed for wide appeal, including seasoned golfers and those who’ve never picked up a golf club before, she says. Some come purely for the expansive food and drink menu, she says, which includes pizza, burgers, sandwiches, salads, cocktails, wine and beer.

“We make it fun for everyone. Even if you’re not a good golfer, you can come and have fantastic food and drinks,” she says. “We’re very family friendly and we want that to be out there. We really market towards that.”

Aside from families, Peterson says BigShots aims to draw in college students via a weekly Tuesday promotion where they get discounted play time in the driving range bays, along with food and drink specials. She says staff in recent weeks have visited the campuses at Missouri State University and Evangel University to drum up interest.

Each driving bay uses a Doppler radar-based system that allows customers to play virtual games or even recreations of famous golf courses, according to its website.

BigShots isn’t the only golf-related entertainment concept that has a growing national footprint. The similarly themed Topgolf has over 70 locations across the U.S., according to its website.

Gathering space
Corporate gatherings also are a focus, Peterson says, as BigShots promotes events such as company outings, fundraisers, meetings and team-building exercises. She says the event spaces, named for golf terms – eagle and albatross – are in use around 75% of the time. The spaces are on the second floor with garage doors facing toward the golfing bays for those companies mingling a little play with their work.

“It’s a fun place to come if you have to have a serious meeting,” she said. “After they have their meeting, the garage doors open, and they can come out and enjoy golf.”

Peterson says numerous nonprofits have hosted fundraisers, meetings and other events at the facility, citing Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield Inc., Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks and Ozarks Food Harvest.

Boys & Girls Clubs Director of Development Didem Koroglu says the organization utilized BigShots in June 2021 for a collaborative fundraising event with the Sertoma Club of Springfield, dubbed the Sertoma Golf Experience. The event brought in roughly $16,000 for the local Boys & Girls Clubs chapter, according to its website.

“That was just amazing, and funds raised for that event supported programming at our clubs,” Koroglu says, adding the organization has used the facility several times since then. “We’ve done a variety of different things from fundraisers to strategy meetings to board meetings. We definitely intend to host more events there.”

The organization also teamed with O’Reilly Hospitality to host a career fair in April for the company, aimed at club parents and teens. The event was held through the nonprofit’s Reach program, which provides access to workforce development opportunities for youth and their caretakers.

Name recognition
The local BigShots was the second to open last year for O’Reilly Hospitality. The company also collaborated with ClubCorp on a franchise in Fort Worth, Texas, which launched in March 2021, Tim O’Reilly says.

Peterson took over as general manager of the Springfield facility in May, replacing Brian Inman, who is now Area Director of Operations and Culture for O’Reilly Hospitality, according to company officials. She leads a staff of 85 at BigShots, noting the employee count varies by the season and reaches as high as 140 during the attraction’s busiest time in the summer.

“We did great in our first year, although any new business has its challenges in dialing in the business model,” O’Reilly says via email, declining to disclose 2021 revenue.

Part of that challenge is just making sure there’s name recognition, Peterson says.

“It’s amazing to see how many people didn’t even know we were here. So, we have really increased efforts to get that out there,” she says, adding BigShots has an on-site marketing and sales department, as well as O’Reilly Hospitality’s corporate office to spread the word.

With two franchises of BigShots in operation, O’Reilly says his company wants to add the golfing centers in new cities.

“We do have several locations for which we are considering development, but they are confidential at this point,” he says. “We are working through the construction pricing surge and rising interest rates, and all of the challenges that those issues produce for construction and development.”

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