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Perfect your swing without taking a step outside

New VR technology analyzes users’ swings, stance and movement
Aug 31,2019
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Park Gi-won, the CEO of Golfzon, talks about the Golfzon Driving Range, which allows people to play golf indoors with virtual reality technology. [BYUN SUN-GOO]
Now avid golfers, or simply wannabes, can perfect their swing without having to step foot outside.

Although screen golf, indoor virtual golf courses that allow patrons to drive or putt golf balls at projector screens, is nothing new in the country, new technology means players can really refine their skills.

Park Gi-won, the CEO of Golfzon, a chain of screen golf ranges with over 4,900 stores, recently introduced the company’s upgraded innovative indoor golf platform Golfzon Driving Range (GDR).

GDR is a combination of cutting-edge software and hardware that is equipped with virtual reality (VR) technology and gives users a customized experience by analyzing their swings with visual sensors.

The recently upgraded GDR features a new high-speed camera that allows the system to better analyze players’ swing paths and angles. The upgrade also includes technology called G-balance that logs players’ visual data and analyzes how they move their weight, as well as their arm and feet placement, to offer solutions to their performance problems.

Park is so confident about the new technology that he plans on offering satisfaction-guaranteed golf lessons to customers at 59 Golfzon GDR Academies using the technology. The daring plan guarantees players will be able to finish an 18-hole round in less than 100 strokes. For professionals, this feat may be child’s play, but for golf amateurs, it is a big step toward bettering their skills and ultimately, getting more from their golfing experience.

Each of the 59 indoor GDR driving ranges is installed with 20 golf machines, and costs an average of 650 million won ($536,103).

The money-back guarantee ensures those that are participating in the program and unable to reach the goal of 100 or less within a certain period will get their money back.

Park said he got the inspiration for the guarantee system in Japan where a similar program was successfully implemented at a gym. The gym provided a muscle enhancing program with a guarantee that customers would get their money back if they are unable to achieve satisfactory results. Following their success, the gym implemented the program to golf ranges and again received positive responses from customers. The success of such a program in a neighboring country inspired Park to borrow the concept and implement it at his innovative golf ranges.

“We created [a manual outlining] 24 types of beginner mistakes with the David Leadbetter Golf Academy and former national golf team coach Sung Si-woo,” said Park. “If beginners take advantage of Golfzon’s swing analysis system and this manual, they will easily be able to score under 100 strokes.”

Golfzon has achieved market stability thanks to the company expanding its ranges, but Park says it’s not profit he’s hoping for with the new GDR Academies, but rather he wants to make it easier for people to try out golf.

“Golf is difficult at first,” said Park. “Only after a person can play under 100 strokes can they see the sport as a fun exercise instead of an irritating one, and this can create new screen golf and field golf players.”

Park also said that his plan to introduce new methods of teaching golf is part of a bigger plan to create a modernized golf education culture.

“The GDR project is also a road that will lead Golfzon to expand overseas,” said Park.

The key to the GDR project is maintaining good relationships with other screen golf ranges in the market. With the saturation of golf practice ranges and free online lessons, Park, along with others in the golf industry, face challenges, but he hopes to introduce a whopping 20,000 GDRs into the market to revitalize the golfing experience.

“Offline golf practice ranges today are in a turbulent era,” said Park. “We need reform. There are people who work alone from dawn to late night and are unable to make a big profit. Golfzon can integrate those people with its GDR. As a full-time employee, we expect them to be able to work and earn better wages.”

“Golfzon, which was created in 2000, was introduced overseas in 2010 and will attempt to leap forward again in 2020,” said Park. “I will create 1,000 GDR academies across the country and an initial step [to my plan is to] create 300 academies by 2023 as part of a project to employ 10,000 people including 4,000 professional golf tutors.”

BY SUNG HO-JUN [jung.myungsuk@joongang.co.kr]