The 2023 PGA Show in Orlando made an incredible comeback from the previous year, with hundreds of exhibitors and more than 30,000 attendees. For a golf scribe attending his 20th show, a few things stood out. First, this one was all about business, and business was really, really good. Attendees were having fun but staying focused on the mission. Exhibitors were welcoming and cordial but also ready to get down to brass tacks on orders.
Second, golf simulators are not only here to stay in a big way. They’re also a huge part of the game’s future in so many ways. Mevo, Garmin, FlightScope, OptiShot, SkyTrak – the list literally goes on and on, and so did the sheer number of golf simulator booths at the PGA Show. Sure, the simulator industry has been around for years, decades, even. But with the growth of the game – and the economy – over the past two years, it’s now growing exponentially.
It’s little wonder that Carl Markestad was walking the show floor with a smile as big as some of the high-definition simulator screens. Founded by Markestad in 2006 in Milton, Wisconsin, Carl’s Place originally started out selling high-quality projector screens for indoor and outdoor use. In 2014, Carl’s Place expanded into a design-your-own golf simulator business, and today is one of Milton’s largest employers, with more than 50 employees (as of this writing) and growing as fast as ryegrass in the rain.
“It’s great to see the golf simulator business exploding like this, but we’re still a niche business without a lot of competition,” Markestad says. “There just aren’t a lot of companies that do what we do. Golfers can build their own simulators at the website, and we’ll get it to them in a matter of days.”
While there’s everything golfers need to research, design and build a simulator at the Carl’s Place website, Markestad is acutely aware that people investing thousands of dollars in a cutting-edge setup usually want to speak to a knowledgeable human on the phone. Golfers can simply call the store, connect with an expert and provide their room dimensions, budget, and a few additional details and presto, done deal.
“As you’d expect, we have a lot of customers who are new to this and need help,” Markestad says. “We have an entire customer service team ready to help and a design team to help with your new golf room renderings and what it will look like. And then our products are designed so that you don’t need a contractor or help to put it all together.”
In February, Carl’s Place announced the opening of its new, 65,000-square-foot headquarters – more than double the size of its original “HQ” and featuring additional space for product development, testing, and production, as well as a golf simulator showroom for potential customers to test setups, a cafeteria and two bowling lanes.
According to Markestad, the company has experienced unprecedented sales growth as off-course golf, such as golf simulators and screen golf setups, has seen record participation levels in recent years – with 2022 notching a record 27.9 million participants according to the National Golf Foundation. In the past three years, the company has more than tripled its number of employees en route to becoming the leading provider of golf simulator screens, enclosures and accessories.
“Thanks to our customers, Carl’s Place has seen tremendous growth in the last three years, and it was time for us to move into a newer and bigger space to continue making the products they love,” says Markestad. “In the new facility, we’ll have more room to be creative, try out new things, and ultimately continue offering customers innovative products to make their indoor entertainment dreams come true.”
In addition to enclosures, Carl’s Place offers a customization tool, two custom design services and its own line of indoor golf apparel, which all launched in 2022. Its Golf Simulator Customizer allows shoppers to customize every aspect of their simulator to fit their space and needs, while the Golf Room Design service provides customers with comprehensive technical drawings and renderings for indoor golf building projects.
For players hoping to play a specific course not available on simulator software, Carl’s Place now offers the Virtual Golf Course Design service to create a virtual design of a real-life course for simulator play. Most recently, the company launched Carl’s Off-Course Collection, the very first line of athleisure designed specifically for indoor golfers.
To ensure customers have the best in technology, Carl’s Place sells the industry’s leading brands, with launch monitors from Garmin, SkyTrak, FlightScope, Uneekor and Full Swing, simulator software from TGC 2019, E6 Connect, Creative Golf 3D, GSPro and Awesome Golf, and projectors from BenQ and Optoma.
If it sounds like Markestad is already one of the busiest University of Wisconsin Badgers out there in the golf realm, just wait. The simulator market is poised for even more explosive growth in the years ahead, according to several industry experts.
“I don’t play a lot of golf, so I’m ready [to get even busier],” Markestad says, laughing. “We love the direction the golf industry is heading and are excited to enjoy the ride.”
For more info on Carl’s Place visit www.carlofet.com.