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April 2024

Range of Options

Blue Jeans Golf Finds Niche in Driving Range Market

By Steve Eubanks

Their instincts have always been to fill gaps, to find niches, and to enhance value in markets no one knew existed. Devin Charhon and Michael Canfield, co-founders of Blue Jeans Golf and new members of the NGCOA, came to the game from private equity where they spent their days (and many nights) drilling holes in business models and analyzing burgeoning industries. A decade ago, neither of them could have imagined they would be entrepreneurs in a sport they played for fun. But that’s the beauty of golf: with sweat and vision, dreams can and do come true. 

“Our mission is more people, more golf, more often,” Charhon said of the goals of Blue Jeans Golf, which currently owns four driving ranges in Dallas, Kansas City, and Connecticut and hopes to identify four more properties in 2024.

“My partner and I were from Topgolf. I was there for seven years from 2015 to 2021 during which time we grew from 10 to 65 venues,” Charhon said. “I was leading emerging concepts, which allowed me to touch every aspect of the business. I worked closely with the Toptracer team and the licensing of that technology into the range space. That opened my eyes to this opportunity for a category that didn’t exist – facilities that fall between Topgolf and traditional golf.” 

Canfield also moved from private equity over to Topgolf where he was vice president of finance. So, the partners have all the business savvy. Their goal now is to grow the game by creating a category they call “Golf Lite.” 

“The data showed that Topgolf is this huge funnel introducing tens of millions of people to the game every year. But the shift from Topgolf to traditional golf is still a massive one,” Charhon said. “So, we decided to create this space in between. We are acquiring existing driving ranges, investing in those facilities, keeping them golf, and repositioning them with technologies, light food and beverage, operational programming, and creating a different atmosphere and environment that bridges the gap between Topgolf and traditional golf.”

This is the Toptracer Range concept standardized and put into dedicated driving ranges.

While the parent company is Blue Jeans Golf, the front-facing brand is called Golf Ranch. It is, in Charhon’s words, “Technology-enabled ranges. We’re creating an environment that isn’t quite as big an event as going to Topgolf.”

It’s not a nightclub. You aren’t likely to see women in sequins and heels falling down as they swing a club for the first time after an appletini. But it’s also not a traditional green-grass range with stoic obsessives beating one 7-iron after another.

“It’s still fun but it’s not so much of an occasion to go to Golf Ranch,” Charhon said. “At the same time, we’re pulling the traditional golfer into this environment with high-quality technology, high-quality mats and high-quality range balls. And we’re encouraging them to use this as a practice facility.”

The Golf Ranch in Dallas came with a 9-hole pitch-and-putt course, but the partners are focused strictly on driving ranges. And they aren’t concerned about competition from regulation courses, or the growing simulator business where Topgolf Swing Suites, GolfZon and others are making huge inroads. 

“I’m a huge believer in a rising tide lifting all boats,” Charhon said. “The more people playing golf the better. And each facility offers a different experience. Topgolf offers one interpretation of golf. A facility like Pine Ridge (in Paris, Texas, where owner Cathy Harbin installed Toptracer Range) has a golf course attached to it, so that’s a very different experience. Ours is a different vibe and experience as well.

“Simulators are another way for people to play golf and another interpretation of what golf is becoming. Again, rising tides. The more people playing golf the better. That’s core to our mission. Particularly in urban markets – my business partner is in New York, for example, so getting out to a green-grass facility is tough – that is where the simulator experience makes a lot of sense.”

So, what is the growth strategy for Blue Jeans Golf?

Charhon has certainly thought that question through. “We’re looking at healthy existing businesses, and we’d love to be in larger markets,” he said. “I’m located in Dallas and we’d love to have facilities near where we’re based. But we’re also looking all across the country.

“Also, there are a lot of different things that go into a good range. There are the demographics, the footprint, the quality of the business, the customer base that’s there today. We look at all of that, but we also believe that we can transform any driving range because there are golfers everywhere.

“We believe we have a business model that can work in any environment in any town or city in the U.S.”

The trick, as always in golf, is land value. When demographics shift in a way that is advantageous for an inherently expensive sport like golf, the highest and best use of the land is rarely a driving range. That’s why so many ranges of old – those that once had a minigolf component along with carnival rides and a pizzeria – are now Amazon warehouses or Google data centers.  

“What we’re finding is that a lot of folks have owned their driving-range businesses for a long time and now they’re at this inflection point,” Charhon said. “They see golf is changing. There’s technology and a hospitality side, and many of them have to decide if they’re going to adapt or retire.

“What makes us unique is that we’re in the business of preserving driving ranges. We’re finding that that’s important to a lot of people. 

“We see it as our charge to preserve these facilities,” Charhon said. “We think that’s important for golf. And we think we have an effective business model to do it.” 


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