Southern Golf moves into former Strike Fore

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A longtime Pelham business recently gave new life to an amusement-style facility hit last year by the economic downturn.

In March, Southern Golf, which has been in Pelham for more than 12 years, completed its move to the former Strike Fore building off U.S. 31 near the Pelham YMCA. Strike Fore closed its doors in late 2010 after several years of business in the city.

Because of the current real estate market, the owners of Southern Golf were able to move into a larger building while paying less each month.

“That’s the way it has been in this down economy,” said Jason Blankenship, one of Southern Golf’s co-owners. “If you are able to stick around and stay in business, you will get a better deal. Our new location is a little more visible.”

The former Strike Fore building is about 50 percent larger than the business’ previous location in the Pelham Promenade, and includes a few attractions the old store did not.

Because Strike Fore was a family oriented amusement facility, Blankenship and his business partner, Lorne MacWilliam, inherited a miniature golf course and batting cages with the new location.

“As a lot of people say, we dabble in putt-putt and batting cages,” Blankenship said with a laugh. “We’ve learned pretty quickly how to work on the batting cage machines. As with anything else, if those machines are down, it represents lost revenue.”

When the business partners were looking at the site, they were unsure what they were going to do with Strike Fore’s remnant attractions. But after their first month of business at the new site, Blankenship said he was pleased with the customer traffic the attractions have generated.

“During our first month, we did extremely well. We thought it would take a while to get the word out about our new location, but we had a lot of business right away,” Blankenship said, noting the miniature golf and batting cages generated enough revenue last month to pay the rent on the property.

Because Southern Golf has a more retail-oriented business model than Strike Fore, the owners made a few changes to the new building. Strike Fore had a walk-up window on the outside of the building, which allowed patrons to pay for miniature golf games outside.

“The first thing we did was close that to make the customers come inside the store,” Blankenship said. “I bet there are people who have been playing putt-putt for years who have never been inside the building.”

Southern Golf’s retail area takes up most of the space inside the building, leaving little room for the company to host indoor birthday parties and special gatherings. However, the company does offer special packages for those looking to hold special events at the batting cages or miniature golf course.

The Southern Golf store also features an indoor putting range to test the company’s clubs, and is looking to one day add a tennis section to its offerings.

“Pelham is one of the tennis Meccas in our area,” Blankenship said. “There are so many people who play tennis in Pelham, and they have felt the need for a tennis shop for a long time.”