Dave Coy has seen it all in his 16 years working at the Belle Isle Practice Center. There was the time a Mexican Wolf escaped from the Belle Isle Nature Zoo and jumped into the river. On another occasion, President George W. Bush was spotted enjoying a run around Belle Isle. While there’s been no shortage of excitement around Coy’s business, it’s been lacking in another area: customers.
“On a good year, we’ll get around 19,000 people out here,” Coy said. “Numbers are really down this year, though. It looks like it’s going to be closer to 14,000 or 15,000.”
What gives? According to Coy, the Belle Isle Practice Center is one of the best (if not THE best) golf practice centers in the state of Michigan. Located at 175 Lakeside Dr. on Belle Isle, the property presents 2 acres of chipping and putting practice facilities, sand traps, a full driving range and five holes to help work on the short game.
“I think the location is one of the biggest upsides, but also one of the biggest downsides,” Coy said. “I like the fact that when you’re out here, it feels like you’re in northern Michigan, even though downtown Detroit is right there.
“The location is also bad for business, though, because of all the events that take place around here. People know the traffic around Belle Isle is going to be crazy and don’t want to deal with it. They end up not coming out.”
Coy has five workers this season responsible for picking the range, mowing grass, raking bunkers and spraying weeds. In past seasons, Coy has had the financial stability to hire more workers. That’s not the case this year.
“Business may be down, but that doesn’t mean the grass stops growing,” Coy said. “There’s always something to do around here.”
Open from 9:00 a.m. until dusk every day, the Belle Isle Practice Center has a grass driving range that players can use Friday – Monday. Tuesday – Thursday players are required to hit off a mat.
“There are thousands of divots we have to fill with sand and seed, and then mow it and give the grass a couple days to rest,” Coy said. “There aren’t too many practice facilities around here with a grass range, so it sets us apart.
“We’ve thought about going to grass seven days a week, but it’s so expensive when you consider the long hours it takes to replace divots and the extra money we’d spend in sand.”
As far as prices go, the Belle Isle Practice Center is competitive with other local facilities. A medium bucket of balls (51 balls) costs $8, while a large bucket (85 balls) is $10. You can use the short-game area for $4, or you can play the mini course for $5. If you want to experience it all, you can get a large bucket of balls, get some practice in at the short-game area and play the mini course for just $11.
“It’s a great place no matter how experienced a player is,” Coy said. “We get serious golfers who come out and spend hours practicing their short game. We also get beginners and young kids who are just beginning to learn the game.”
If you find yourself amongst the latter group and don’t yet have clubs, Coy has something for you.
“I’m amazed at how many people come to the range without golf clubs,” Coy said. “We’ve got rental clubs, free of charge, for anyone who doesn’t have clubs or left their clubs at home.”
With Coy going out of his way to do whatever he can to attract new customers, he also noted that Quicken Loans team members, as well as Wayne State students, police officers and firefighters, receive a discount.
Whether you’re a scratch player or new to the game, the Belle Isle Practice Center has something for everyone to enjoy.
“If I can get someone to give us a try, I think they’ll love it,” Coy said. “We treat all customers as if they are guests in our home. We want people to have a great experience here and we do as much as we can to make people’s experiences here a positive one.”