WINDHAM — Club14, a new golf simulator, bar, cafe and virtual reality arcade, celebrated its grand opening May 10 at 13 Rockingham Road.
Owner Jaime Slocum of Windham said the business opened with just golf simulators on Dec. 14 last year, and hosted nearly a dozen eight-week leagues that ran through the summer, with about 100 regulars coming in every week.
“We had an awesome indoor golf season,” Slocum said.
A few weeks ago, the company installed the VR stations, with HTC Vive Pro headsets and controllers, available in the existing golf bays and additional station spots throughout the roughly 5,000-square-foot, two-floor space.
Slocum said golf simulator businesses often close or reduce their hours during the summer as golfers migrate outdoors, but the VR and events business is meant to keep customers coming.
A VR arcade that opened recently in Londonderry, ActionVR, offers a somewhat similar experience, with HTC headsets and a Springboard game library interface. But Slocum said when you add the golf simulators and the full bar and full kitchen, you get something unique.
“I’m not familiar with anyone doing quite what we’re doing here,” Slocum said.
It costs $25 an hour on weekdays and $35 an hour on weekends to book a station. While weekend events might usually cost about $525, assuming you have five stations booked for three hours, but she’s currently running a special to host events at a flat rate of $249 if they’re booked until the end of June.
She’s also offering a deal for nonprofit fundraiser events, to simply split ticket revenues down the middle.
Slocum estimated it cost about $350,000 to set up the business, which was financed in part by People’s United Bank in Derry. The equipment was a big part of that; each HTC headset cost about $1,500 each, four treadmill stations by KAT VR cost her $3,600 per station, and five golf simulator sensors by Foresight Sports cost $25,000 each.
So far, business has been going well. Slocum said the winter golf season already exceeded 120 percent of the company’s goal, putting the business well on track to be profitable by the summer. Once that happens, she hopes to expand with a second location, probably in Portsmouth.
She said they are also exploring options to add simulator stations in a 3,500-square-foot adjacent space in the existing building.
Slocum said she first came up with the idea because she is a hobbyist golfer, but always found it difficult to find the time to golf between her work and parenting schedules.
The location was selected by taking into account the high percentage of home ownership, high home values and the number of nearby golf courses. Slocum said she gets customers from Windham, Derry, Salem, Hampstead and beyond.
Slocum said the business gets an older demographic but appeals to kids, too. She’s hoping to market to busy moms to schedule play dates with other moms and their kids.
The kitchen menu features flatbread pizzas, wraps and appetizers. Each of the flatbread pizza options on the menu can also be converted into wraps or salads, Slocum said. And the bar features some “herbaceous cocktails” such as the summer hibiscus lemonade.
This is Slocum’s first business. Previously, she consulted as a business analyst for small to medium sized businesses in the area, Slocum said.
She said town officials have been easy to work with and the landlord believes in her vision for the business.
Learning how to work with the VR technology has been a learning process, according to her VR manager, Jordan Faulkner. For each of the initial events, there was some hiccup that forced them to learn on the spot. Now, he says they have it down to a science.
In the coming weeks, Slocum said her golf sensor equipment is getting upgraded from GC Quad units to the overhead GC Hawk units, which scan a larger area, are less likely to get struck by a club, and accumulate less dust.