ELSMERE — There’s a buzz around Normanside Country Club indicative of things to come for 2021, and it has more to do than the chainsaws.
Normanside Managing Director Dave Hostig has done what he can to keep the popular country club afloat despite losing wedding business throughout most of a pandemic-riddled 2020. A quiet banquet room led to expected cuts to employment, but he said, it allowed him time and room to adapt.
Normanside opened its banquet hall last month to snowbound golfers. Hosting introduced five TrackMan simulators, installing them inside a space more apt to serve appetizing sandwiches than sand wedges.
TrackMan simulators offer a virtual tour of both fictional and real-world golf courses. Golfers step up and tee off into a spacious booth facing down a fairway projected upon the screen. From there, they approach the game much like how they would outside — address the ball and swing away into the screen. What follows is computer enhanced magic that determines where the ball lands and calculates fascinating statistics along the way.
The program lets one play some of the world’s most famous courses, including Royal Portrush, Innisbrook, Muirfield Village, Albany, PGA National and the four legendary St. Andrews Links courses.
The cumulative $230,000 cost is an investment Hostig said is needed to turn Normanside into a year-round destination. Though each of the five stalls stand socially distant across the banquet hall today, they will later be moved. Hostig is presently adding an addition to the country club, which he anticipates will be completed later in 2021. The machines will be moved to that room, reopening the banquet room to weddings and events.
The changes across the country club have been extensive over the past several months. Canceled weddings and gatherings cut food and beverage revenue by 70 percent, Hosting said. The idle time, however, opened opportunities to improve the grounds. All of the course’s 64 bunkers were rebuilt, renovations to the clubhouse facade and interior were made, a new roof, outdoor bar and a practice green were erected last year, too.
The buzzing of chainsaws resonated through the neighborhood, too, as groundskeepers took down more than 300 dying or sickly trees. The noise prompted one neighbor to take to social media with complaints of “deforestation.”
“Help me understand why NCC wouldn’t notify their Normanside neighbors of their mass deforestation A.K.A. fairway improvements of their massive and consistent chain sawing and chipping from 7 am to beyond darkness,” Elsmere resident Julia Richards said. “Not one word or explanation.”
Of the trees removed from the grounds, Hostig said many included infested ash trees or rotted pine trees failing to thrive. The dying trees posed a safety concern, the director said. He cited the tragedy of a golf pro who died from a fallen tree at a Massachusetts golf course last October.
Hosting responded to the same online thread to offer his cell phone number and welcome his neighbor to contact him with future concerns.
Traffic to the country club’s links increased last year, resulting in approximately 300 new members — a 20 percent jump in membership and a 40 percent rise in golf revenue. Hostig hopes to see that carry over into the winter months with the new simulation stalls. It costs $50 to play in each stall.
Hostig admits to cheating his busy schedule to sneak in a game. In one recent outing, he managed a hole-in-one. Otherwise, he said, “I wish I had more time [to play].
“My dream is that they’re not even available for me to use. That they’re booked every hour,” he said.”