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The owners of Dogwood Country Club want the game to be accessible to all.
Dave and Elyssa Nastalski wanted to change the perception of golf as an exclusive game for polo-and-khaki-wearing white collar professionals. So, a year and a half ago, the married couple opened a country club smack dab in the heart of the city.
Dogwood Country Club, marketed as Raleigh’s first urban country club and located in the Warehouse District, is as much a place to hang out and socialize as it is an indoor golf facility. The sleek, semi-private club on West Cabarrus Street is equipped with hitting bays, a state-of-the-art virtual putting green and a bar featuring local beer and wine for patrons.
“When we decided we wanted to call it a ‘country club,’ we wanted to take the concept of a country club and flip it on its head,” says co-owner Elyssa. “Everyone’s welcome here, you can wear what you want, music is playing and we’re here to have fun.”
It’s a distinct contrast to the traditional golf scene where high costs of entry and rounds that can take hours to play prevent many prospective golfers that lack the time and resources from taking up the hobby.
“I see us being a part of growing the game of golf through how approachable this space is,” says Dave, who is also a licensed PGA golf instructor. He offers training sessions to groups and individual players looking to improve their skills by appointment.
“When you rent a hitting bay, it’s all yours and private to you,” Dave continues. “It’s different than trying to hit balls on a driving range. Here, you can hit the ball sideways. It doesn’t matter.”
The Nastalskis say they wanted to create a business that would make the game more accessible and time conscious for patrons. With stationary hitting bays, guests can play 18 virtual holes in less than an hour and the facility attracts experienced golfers looking to fine-tune their game as well as beginners who have never picked up a golf club.
Dogwood quickly became popular with the downtown crowd and is now home to a community of 200 members. Though it offers monthly membership packages with benefits such as unlimited access to hitting bays, guest passes and priority booking privileges, Dogwood is open to the public as well. Bay rentals start at $40 an hour and can support groups of up to eight players at a time. Guests can use complimentary demo clubs or are welcome to bring their own. The club features world-class golf technology including Trackman, a golf swing monitor that computes swing metrics such as distance and accuracy, and Puttview, virtual putting software that simulates slope and speed.
When the Nastalskis originally signed a nine-month lease to open Dogwood, the Cabarrus Street property that’s home to the club was listed for sale at the time. They took a big risk, the couple says.
“We invested pretty much everything we had,” says Dave.
“More than what we had,” Elyssa adds, with a laugh.
The gamble paid off. When new owners bought the property last year, the valuable real estate was prime for redevelopment. But the new owners have allowed the Nastalskis to stay. With Dogwood as an anchor, they plan to divide the neighboring spaces into suites with the intention of becoming a destination area for downtown residents and visitors. The Nastalskis say they plan to sign an 8- to 10-year extension on their lease.
“Downtown has a way of pulling in a certain crowd,” says Elyssa. “It’s a more diverse crowd and a pretty progressive crowd that’s excited about new things and new technology. It fits well.”
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