Fan Yang is blunt. He thought golf was for “older people” for a long time. The Chinese-born entrepreneur says green fees and golf equipment are more expensive there because the sport doesn’t have the same popularity it does in North America. He first came to Canada in 2006 to study finance at Saint Mary’s University. On a visit home during a summer break, he finally teed up.
“My friends are all working during the day and I’m bored,” he remembers. “My dad suggested I hit some balls on the range and I tried that. Once I did I got addicted.”
Today Yang, 28, is the president and CEO of Patrons Golf and Lounge on Dellridge Lane in Bedford. The open main room features a dining area, lounge area, and two golf simulators. Design elements connect the three spaces for a seamless vibe. Black ceilings and slate grey walls create a simple backdrop for red, black, and white leather chairs. A blue neon light runs along the bar adding another splash of colour while a massive crystal chandelier hangs over the lounge.
Golf hooked Yang when he was earning his finance degree at Saint Mary’s University. He graduated in 2011 and immediately started working at CIBC. Golf offered the recent grad the perfect opportunity to network with clients.
By 2014, Yang wanted to start his own business. “There is lots of potential here for small business and entrepreneurs,” he says “My ultimate goal is to be an entrepreneur. That is one of the big factors that comes to my decision to stay in Halifax after school.” He’d visited a few indoor golf facilities, but the golf-only aspect didn’t appeal to him.
Yang wanted to create an environment that focused on golf simulators, while offering other entertainment. “Not everyone needs to golf to have fun,” he says. Non-golfers can watch their friends play while enjoying food or a drink in the lounge only a few feet away from the simulators.
The menu includes traditional bar nibbles such as wings and nachos, along with sandwiches, salads, and steak. The eatery offers an array of beers, signature cocktails, and a lengthy wine list. Plus, it serves a hearty weekend brunch menu.
Patron’s rents its four golf simulators by the hour. In addition to the simulators in the main area, the business offers two additional simulators in private rooms.
All of the simulators are from Aboutgolf, which provides golf stimulators for the PGA Tour. Patron’s library features more than 50 courses, including many players will recognise such as the PGA Tour TPC Sawgrass in Florida and TCP Scottsdale in Arizona, and Pebble Beach Links in California, site of five U.S. Open Championships.
TCP Sawgrass is a particular favourite of Yang’s. “It’s really challenging,” he says. “It’s surrounded by woods and water. You have to be accurate with your shot and use strategy too. Golfers like challenges.” Patron’s celebrates its first full year of business on Dec. 5. While winter may seem like the prime time to visit an indoor golf simulator, Yang says summer and fall business have kept up. The simulators offer players the opportunity to practice their swing with the aid of metrics not available on a real-world course.
“There are features to show you how you hit the ball,” says Julia Chapman, Patron’s marketing advisor. “For people who care about making those little tweaks. It’s a great way to get ready for a golf trip or a tournament.” Additionally, the spot has an on-site golf pro who will run through a player’s numbers to help make the needed corrections.