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Automated indoor range 'strips golf experience to its core'

Newest franchise location in Newmarket allows golfers to practise on simulators without permanent staff on site

Tosan Lee got into the golf simulator business after he and his family built one for his father.

They decided to build a simulator for the avid golfer in the back of one of their other businesses, and it soon became an activity that the family did together, Lee said.

That was the genesis of what would become the family’s new franchise, one where they would not have to have anyone on site for much of the time.

“We all started to play it and at some point just generated this idea (about) how to operate a golf simulator facility, but not have us be there all the time,” he said. “We really like the concept. The fact that there’s nobody here, at first it's a bit odd, but we’re always a phone call or a text away.” 

Newmarket became home to the fifth Tracer Golf indoor driving range last October at 16655 Yonge St., Unit 5, at Mulock Drive, in the Nature's Emporium Plaza. The store has continued to expand around the GTA since the first one in 2019. 

The automation concept means the space only has golf simulators available for customers, without the restaurant or bar area that some simulator businesses have.

Using their app, patrons book a time online and are then able to enter the facility using a smart door key to use their designated simulator. The staff works throughout the five GTA locations, checking in to each location periodically for maintenance or providing regular remote support.

The franchise “strip(s) the experience down to its core, help(s) people improve their game and play golf,” Lee said. “I’ve always had qualms about paying so much in golf. So by being fully automated, we save a lot of operational costs and I think it’s turned out really well.”

The fees are $18 an hour, plus tax, for a regular bay, and $22 an hour, plus tax, for a premium bay.

The Newmarket location came about through customer surveys, Lee said. 

“We ask them straight up, 'Where do you want the next location to be?', and enough feedback came from Newmarket,” he said. “It’s a great city. It’s growing. When we looked at it, it was actually sorely in need of something like this.” 

It is not Lee’s first business venture. His family has run a specialty Korean telecom for years, something he still manages today. 

“It’s really for community support,” he said. "It really is just to help the Korean community to get connected.” 

Newmarket golfer Mark Wigglesworth said he started coming to practise during the winter.

“I’ve found this very convenient and close by,” he said. “I like the ease of use of it.”

“It’s great. It’s actually one of the best simulators I’ve used,” Jamie Alcock, another Newmarket golfer, said. “Everything seems pretty accurate.” 

Lee has aspirations to continue to expand the franchise across the country.

“Our long-term goals are quite lofty, but they should be,” he said, adding that they have attracted a large demographic that includes both young and old.

“It’s fun and affordable.”