It’s been a little over a year since Peter Lawrie launched the Spawell Golf Academy with the help of European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington.
Its grand reopening on February 1st, 2019 arrived off the back of a raft of behind the scenes measures taken by Lawrie and his team to bring the facility up to speed with the demands of the modern golfer.
Over a year on and Spawell has gained traction in the industry as a go to spot for game improvement as Lawrie looks to step-up its offering in 2020 and beyond.
“It’s been a learning curve,” said Lawrie.
“A lot of the equipment was old at Spawell so we’ve really tried to improve the place. We’ve put a bit of technology in there, new signs, balls, mats and just really tried to give people more of an experience than just simply standing there hitting balls.”
“We’ve got a lot of exciting things lined up. Our new outdoor bays are getting closer – we’re just getting a bit of grass ready on the right-hand side of the range. We’ve a new putting green nearly ready to go – it just has to be put down. Each year we’re there we’re going to try to improve the place.
“I guess the big issue is we don’t know how long that will be. It could be another 2-3 years or it could be another 10 and it’s hard to invest in a business when you don’t know where the finish line is, but we’re committed to its development.”
One of the most exciting innovations to accompany the reopening was the introduction of Toptracer technology which adds another dimension for golfers looking to get more feedback on their practice. Of SkySports fame, the analysis system leaves little to the imagination but despite the excitement of Spawell’s bays brimming with this access, people were slow to embrace the revolutionary technology initially.
“Like any technology, you have to get used to it,” Lawrie accepted. “A small percentage got it straight away, ‘yep, this is for me and I want to do this every time I go to the range’. Others were sceptical – they didn’t know what it was or they had an ‘I’m too old for that’ attitude.
“But we have a couple who come in regularly and they probably use it every third time they go to the range and they’re delighted with it. They’d be in their seventies and it’s lovely to see how that little bit of technology can give them something more than they ever had coming to a driving range.”
Fighting against perceptions has proved challenging for Lawrie when attempting to introduce newcomers to Toptracer but from experience, once you’ve plugged into the technology, there’s no turning back.
“We had a lady in the other day and she was asking what this Toptracer is all about and I explained it to her and she said, ‘ah, that’s no good to me, I don’t need that’, Lawrie recalled.
“So, I asked her – ‘how far do you hit your 7-iron?’ and she goes, ‘I’ve no idea – but I hit it on the third hole in the Castle!’
“I asked her what happens if you play somewhere else? ‘I’m goosed!’
“I said why don’t you come up and try it – you’d be amazed how much your game would come on when you know how far you can hit each club. Sure enough, she loved it. For someone wanting to improve, it’s a no brainer.”
Far from just a virtual world at Spawell, the Academy offers very real one-on-one coaching sessions with some of the country’s most experienced PGA professionals. A wealth of knowledge can be tapped into with David Keating, Brendan McDaid and John Dignam on board while that trio are complemented by a new-school approach led by Gary Murphy, Colm Moriarty and Tim Rice.
“We’re very fortunate to have a great versatility in coaching styles for beginners and for the more experienced player and people can get in touch with us at Spawell or contact the guys directly to arrange tuition,” said Lawrie.
“But I wanted Spawell to be able to cater for every part of your game – not just coaching. Nils Conway has started with us and he specialises in golf fitness. Johnny Dignam takes care of all our club repairs. We have the shop to sell you whatever you need for golf and if we don’t have it, we’ll get it for you. We really are that one stop shop for golf and we’re only getting better.”
Spawell is swiftly becoming a golfing institution and presents the ideal setting to hone your skills ahead of the new season. Toptracer technology is a huge asset to any golfer looking to improve across a season while virtual courses like St. Andrews and Pebble Beach offer weather-weary players respite from the elements. A 60inch screen in the big bay downstairs broadcasting your success – or failure – at these iconic venues makes for a super atmosphere for group golf while the attentive staff at Spawell complete what is much more than your average driving range experience.
“If you look at our google reviews, which are very important to me I have to admit, my staff have been unbelievable in their professionalism and also their friendliest to the customers,” Lawrie added. “Any business is only as good as the people who are behind it and all the lads who work for me have been tremendous.”
For all the latest offers at Spawell, visit www.spawellgolfacademy.ie/special-offers/