A new par-3 short course concept is planned for pubic access in major metropolitan areas. 8AM Golf … [+]
In recent years, golf entertainment offerings have mushroomed. Topgolf continues to lead the aggressive growth in the high-tech, new-age driving range space while companies like Puttshack, Puttery, Popstroke and Swingers are among the indoor miniature golf entertainment concepts coming to market.
But there hasn’t been a company that’s sought to broadly bring the par 3 short course movement beyond the realm of high-end resorts and private clubs. Until now.
8AM Golf, the holding company whose portfolio includes GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com, Nicklaus Companies, Miura Golf, True Spec Golf and GolfLogix, has invested heavily in a concept called 3’s that combines accessible Par 3 golf with hospitality and entertainment amenities. Justin Timberlake, one of the world’s best-selling music artists and an avid golfer, has been an investor and partner in 8AM Golf since 2020 and is part of the group working to bring the lighted, 12-hole facilities – complete with hospitality, food & beverage and entertainment amenities – to major metropolitan areas.
“Making golf more accessible, less intimidating, and more fun is a passion of mine, and that’s exactly what 3’s accomplishes with its … relaxed, ‘all are welcome’ vibe,” said Timberlake, who regularly plays in charitable golf tournaments, sponsors golf-related events and has been an investor and developer in other golf properties.
3’s was developed in 2019 by Davis Sezna, who has over four decades experience in golf and hospitality management, and opened its first location in Greenville, South Carolina, in 2020. While Sezna will remain the day-to-day visionary behind the concept, 8AM plans to leverage its industry knowledge, connections and expertise to pursue new locations – likely in Southeast cities to start such as Nashville, Tennessee; Charleston, South Carolina; and Tallahassee, Florida.
“There’s this white space in short course par 3 concepts, which a lot of people have been speaking about for the past several years. But you don’t really see anyone out there turning it into a business,” said 8AM CEO Hoyt McGarity. “At 8AM, we love this space. If you go to Pinehurst and go to The Cradle, it’s just so much fun. The greatest experience. And we’re looking at how you bring that to the public, and kids, and family fun centers.”
Player gather around a firepit at 3’s in Greensboro, the public short course concept that’s being … [+]
8AM is looking to bring the 3’s concept to both existing golf facilities – perhaps transforming an underperforming municipal golf course – and open space in select markets. The planned footprint is roughly 20 acres, with the lighted courses having 12 Par 3 holes that range in distance from about 70 to 140 yards, along with bar areas every few holes and a Himalayas-style putting course.
“We’ve had people reach out from Las Vegas to California,” says McGarity. “We looked around the world at every par 3 concept we could find from here to Japan. We settled on this 3’s. We just thought it had a lot of great things going for it.”
Par 3 courses have become increasingly popular at resort properties in recent years, offering a shorter, less-time consuming amenity for golfers of all ages and abilities.
Pinehurst is among the most prominent examples, with the addition of the popular Gil Hanse-designed Cradle, while Tiger Woods reworked the Par 3 course at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Bandon Dunes is adding a second Par 3 course, while resorts such as Sand Valley, Golf Kohler, Gamble Sands and Forest Dunes have short courses.
A growing number of private clubs have also added Par 3 layouts, but the short course concept hasn’t yet established a branded public foothold the way Topgolf has in the golf entertainment space. 8AM, Timberlake and Sezna hope that 3’s is the answer.
“3’s is a creative culmination of my 40 years of loving golf, food and beverage, hospitality, and most importantly, making it fun for all,” says Sezna. “Saying that I’m excited to grow with 8AM Golf and JT would be a huge understatement. Our opportunity with 3’s together is unlimited.”
The original 3’s concept is in Greenville, South Carolina, and its backers plan to expand, starting … [+]
As McGarity says, the short course niche is “white space” within the golf industry that hasn’t really been activated yet.
“It’s time to have a brand like 3’s that can fit into these particular markets,” said McGarity. “Are we going to have 50 of them? I don’t know. But it’s a good place to learn how to play golf. The key is: how do you monetize it from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.? That’s everything from birthday partners to engaging kids, juniors and more.”
“Look at ‘The Hay’ at Pebble Beach; it’s something like 60,000 to 70,000 rounds. It’s a whole new revenue stream,” added McGarity. “And the Cradle fits for Pinehurst. That was 17 acres that was pretty much useless to them. Now it’s possibly the coolest thing they have. It’s amazing how vision can change things on a piece of land you already own. I’d like to speak to all the par 3, short course owners and say, ‘Give us a call. We might be able to help plug and play with a really cool model and use our media and access to help promote it.’ That would be the goal, as long as it keeps with the vision of 3’s.”
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