The Golf Center, a driving range and miniature golf business on North Lee Highway, has reopened.
In early July, the property on which the business last operated about two years ago, was purchased by Chris Byrd.
Byrd, a first-time business owner, has worked at driving ranges for years and chose Cleveland for his first foray into running his own range.
“Like it or not, I’m here,” Byrd said with a chuckle. “I wanted to spend my last 10 or 12 years working doing something I love.”
He has spent the past five years managing a driving range in Chattanooga. Before that, he worked for one around Knoxville.
A longtime golf lover, he spent some time after finishing college playing professional golf on the club circuit.
The golf business, which has been open for roughly five weeks, currently features a driving range.
Byrd said he also hopes to have the miniature golf course reopened by sometime in September. While the property, which had a similar business, sat vacant, it had fallen into disrepair.
While Byrd said the driving range required things like a good lawn mowing, the miniature golf course was in need of some bigger changes.
Outdoor carpet covering the course is ripped in places and held together with tape, he explained.
Shrubs and other landscaping meant to make it look welcoming have grown into a “jungle” of plant life.
For now, he is having to turn people away from miniature golf until the improvements are made, but he hopes to see people enjoying the course this fall.
“There’s people walking in every day wanting to play putt-putt,” Byrd said. “But my standards are high, and there’s still a lot I want to do here. I want to make it the best that I can make it.”
With occasional help from friends and family, he is currently running the business on his own. Since it is late in the summer season, he said he did not want to hire an employee he might have to lay off if the business was slow to start.
Despite not having the miniature golf course open yet, Byrd said he has been pleasantly surprised by how many people have begun taking advantage of the driving range.
He admitted that starting a new business has been challenging, but he said he hopes The Golf Center will become a family-friendly attraction that many people know and love.
Having been inspired to open the business in part by friends who had reopened vacant driving range businesses in other cities, he said he was prepared for the worst and hoping for the best.
“I knew going in ... I’d be having to wing it,” Byrd said.
However, his hope is the prices of his attraction paired with a curiosity about the game of golf will equal success.
The golf industry as a whole tends to take a hit when the economy does, he explained.
Some people think they might enjoy playing golf, but paying for things like green fees and club memberships can sometimes add up to a hefty bill that is difficult for some to manage.
Byrd said driving ranges like his allow people who want to try the “addictive” sport of golf to do so without the expenses of a traditional golf course.
“Someone may not be able to afford a country club membership, but can hit a bucket of balls every once in a while,” Byrd said.
Beginners can try their first golf swings on the range, and pros can stop by to use the facility to practice.
Golfers are sheltered from the elements by a canopy while they swing, and signs denoting various distances allow them to see how far their swings make the ball travel.
Visitors must purchase buckets of golf balls for them to use on the range. There are small, medium and large-sized buckets of balls available for $6, $8 or $10.
Anyone who uses the range is welcome to bring their own clubs, and clubs are also available to rent for free.
While the miniature golf prices have not been finalized, Byrd said he believes a game will be less than $10, with a discounted rate for children.
In addition to finishing the miniature golf course’s renovation, he said future possibilities for the business include adding things like golf lessons and a space that will be available to rent for birthday parties and other events.
“I just want it to be a place that people enjoy coming to,” Byrd said.
The Golf Center is located at 5580 North Lee Highway in Cleveland.
The hours, which the owner said may change with the seasons, are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information, call 423-458-4376.