Fact: Visitors and tourists love to golf on Hilton Head Island.
Fact: It gets very hot during Lowcountry summers, which deters many from golfing outside.
If you put these two things together, we should have seen an indoor golf facility long before now. Whatever kept it from happening before, Jeff Smith and Ashley Pemberton are here to change that.
After a nearly two-year adventure that started about as far away from golf as you can get and spanned a pandemic, the couple has finally opened Chronic Golf, a new family entertainment center on New Orleans Road.
“We are so excited to show this off to the community,” Smith said. “It’s been a long journey to get here, but I know we’re giving folks a night out they’ve never been able to experience before.”
Smith, an Army veteran and former U.S. Department of Defense employee, moved from Tampa four years ago. He and Ashley had the dream of starting a float center – a spa filled with sensory deprivation tanks where you lay in water and are immersed with Epsom salts, floating in a pitch-dark, soundproof pod. The practice is good for chronic pain, faster healing and quieting the mind.
“I’ve seen this work great with veterans dealing with PTSD and I got to experience the therapy. My mind is constantly racing with ideas and energy, and this was the first time I was ever able to shut down and block out all the noise,” he said.
Multiple issues with timing and proper real estate caused the Smiths to look at other business options, and that’s when they crafted the Chronic Golf business model.
Jeff did exhaustive research to find the best current golf simulator technology and landed with Full Swing Golf, a tech package endorsed by Tiger Woods and many of the world’s top golfers.
“The measurements, the information provided to the serious golfer, the accuracy the simulator captures in the swing, this was definitely the way to go,” Smith said. “We wanted tech that is built to adapt to any swing from beginners to pros, and this delivers.”
Players will get to play a selection of more than 90 courses, including a full collection of TPC courses.
Smith needed a space with high enough ceilings to house the five simulators and found that in the former Adventure Radio building at 59 New Orleans Road. Ironically, the couple worked with long-time Adventure boss Mike Buxser, now serving as a new business advisor for SCORE.
“He already knew all the ins and out of the space, so that was a cool coincidence, a little bit of karma in our favor,” Smith said.
The golf is just one part of the indoor entertainment experience. Chronic will also feature 13 sports, from football to soccer to baseball, and a kids’ favorite, a game where you battle off zombie attacks.
“We want to appeal to the serious golfer for sure, but we have this set up to be a family entertainment center as well,” Smith said. Each of the four simulators is its own unique space, complete with its own couches and seats and iPads to order food and drink.
There is also a fifth simulator in the VIP area, made for larger groups and parties – perfect for any event from bachelorette parties to corporate meetings and events. (The giant screens and projectors can also be used to give PowerPoint presentations.)
Each golfer will have access to the latest clubs and balls from Srixon and Cleveland Golf, two of the games’ top manufacturers.
“That was an important component to giving golfers the highest-end experience they can get when they’re off the course,” Smith said. “We’re thrilled about these relationships and can certainly see us expanding what we do with them as the business grows.”
Smith is excited about the team he is assembling. Vern Hanna will be Chronic’s daytime general manager. Hanna was Smith’s initial food rep with Cisco, a man who knows the food and beverage industry inside and out. Josh Goodman joined Chronic after serving as the assistant teaching pro at Moss Creek Golf Club.
“We have a great combination of restaurant and golf industry experience that sets us up to give our guests outstanding service,” Smith said.
Smith and Pemberton survived the many obstacles thrown their way due to the COVID pandemic, as indoor gathering restrictions and a shortage of construction supplies and labor wreaked havoc with their business plan.
“It makes what we’re about to show this area all the more special. We fought to get to this beginning and we are so excited,” he said. Smith gives special thanks to the Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce staff for their support and counsel as a new business owner starting up under such adverse conditions. “Everyone at the Chamber has gone above and beyond for us and given us many tools to set us up for success.”
When the couple began planning this venture, there were no other indoor golf options or simulator centers in the area. Two years later, the TopTracer range has opened at Palmetto Dunes, Rendezvous Golf has opened a simulator center in Bluffton and a chain, X Golf, is opening in Tanger Outlets 2.
The competition is welcome to Smith, as he knows Chronic offers a truly unique experience.
“We can cater to the serious golfer but we can also be a hangout and entertainment option for local and tourist families with all of our non-golf games,” he said. “Plus, we have an amazing bar area with an array of craft cocktails and an eat-in and catering menu that is going to appeal to any taste or group size.”
With the simulators installed and the finishing touches complete, Chronic Golf is finally opening its doors. Smith said a soft opening period of a couple weeks is planned in early July with a full-scale grand opening planned for late July or early August.
Each of the normal simulator areas is built for use by up to seven people. Use of the simulator will run between $45 to $105 per hour – you’re paying use of the simulator space, not per person – depending on the time of day and week.
“It’s the type of place I want to hang out in, I know my friends want to hang out in, and we just can’t wait to welcome in the community,” he said. “Get out of the heat and have some fun.”
For more information on making reservations and the full Chronic Golf experience, go online to mychronicgolf.com.
Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. Contact him at email@example.com.