Gaining an edge with a wedge
Some might see an eight-acre pond amid three auto dealerships as a big chunk of wasted space.
Scott Casebeer saw opportunity.
Casebeer, owner of Capitol Auto Group in Salem, Ore., last month anchored a floating golf green in a pond that dominates the 25-acre landscape surrounding his Chevrolet-Cadillac, Toyota-Scion and Subaru stores.
Then he bought 6,000 floating golf balls and invited his customers and employees to swing away.
"We probably have 30 or 40 customers a day who go out there to hit golf balls, and there's quite a few more that will just sit out there in lawn chairs and watch people hit balls," Casebeer explains. "You go around town, and everybody comes up and they're talking about it."
The three dealerships were built over the past two years on the campus. They also share a paved pathway that customers can use for exercise or relaxation while their vehicles are being serviced.
Casebeer says he bought the floating green for $50,000 from a company in New Hampshire and had it installed in early September. Its cup is about twice the size of the cup on a standard golf green, and the turf is laid over more than 2 tons of sand so the ball lands as it does on a normal green.
The green floats about 110 yards from the two driving mats, which are placed close to the Toyota-Scion store. Customers aim toward Casebeer's Subaru store as they strike the ball. A large fountain also puts out a giant decorative spray elsewhere in the pond.
Every three days or so, Casebeer dispatches a pair of attendants armed with fishing nets in a small boat with an electric motor to retrieve the balls.
Of course, giant fountains, island greens and floating balls attract more than just established customers, who are allowed to hit a bucket of balls for free. Casebeer says he charges $5 a bucket for golfers who aren't customers to take their swings. He donates the fees to a local charity.
Casebeer says his new installation is starting to bring in new customers.
He says: "One of my salespeople said to me just the other day that he had a customer who told him he wouldn't buy a car unless he let him hit some golf balls. So we gave him a bucket and let him swing away."
You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at email@example.com.