October 26, 2016

Tourism and Entertainment

Trendsetters - Tourism and Entertainment

Mike Vogel | 6/1/2007
Driving for Dough

Mary O'Donnell
Inside Golf
Owner, Jacksonville
Worked previously in: Washington, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana and Texas.
Costly mistake: O'Donnell discovered customers wanted onsite parking, so she had to move within the first year ofb operation.

[Photo: Kelly LaDuke]

You're supposed to follow your passion. Mary O'Donnell hopes to find success following other people's passion.

Though not a golfer, O'Donnell last year opened Inside Golf, an indoor practice facility in downtown Jacksonville. Two large simulators covering 28 courses, right down to the barking seals at Pebble Beach, give feedback on launch angle, distance, club speed and other factors on the ball you hit.

With degrees in architecture and city and regional planning, California native O'Donnell came to Jacksonville six years ago. After working for the city, she looked for an opportunity outside government. "I wanted to do something for Jacksonville," she says.

Copying from indoor golf centers in major cities, she opened Inside Golf in 2006 as a place where people could learn golf in a supportive environment -- or just get in some practice in their time-constricted day with their own clubs.

Customers buy memberships for unlimited play or pay $25 for nine holes, $45 for 18 holes. There also are two putting areas, a driving bay and a lounge with a beer and wine license. She's introduced a ladies night, summer camp for kids and other measures to boost volume.

"It's a lot of overhead, and we need a lot of people in to help us get to a break-even point," O'Donnell says. "We're not there yet."

Tags: Dining & Travel, Trendsetters

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