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LIGHTING: Going for the Green

Golfers - and the people who know them, love them, or merely endure them - know the truth. Golf isn't a game. It isn't a sport. It's a lifestyle, a philosophy, even a religion.

And its disciples tithe generously. From the weekend duffer to the scratch player, golfers seek the ball, club or instructional video that will shave strokes off that scorecard with a devotion usually reserved for Trekkies and Thuggee assassins. If the course is the cathedral, then the pro shop is the confessional, and the cash register is the ever-filled offering plate.

In Novi, Mich., disciples of the church of Golf have a new chapel. It's a store called Golfsmith, and it offers everything from clothing to club repair in its 25,000 sq. ft.

The store's centerpiece is its indoor putting green and waterfall, but from the practice range to the cleat cleaners, the entire space is dedicated to helping golfers find paradise in a setting that also communicates value.

The store's low, clear sightlines and racetrack layout are designed to help customers find the products they want quickly and easily (and to expose them to other interesting products along the way).

Of course, none of this matters if you're in the dark. Illumination is a constant concern in the design and operation of any store, but it's even more important in a store that wants to create the feel of an actual golf course, very few of which are in warehouse settings with hardwood floors and metal deck ceilings. The task of sustaining this illusion fell to Holophane, Newark, Ohio.

The trick was to create a daylight atmosphere throughout the store, while emphasizing key merchandise and departmental signage. Jim Thompson, Golfsmith's vice president of merchandising, says that the lighting system must "romance the products and departments. There's a difference between generally acceptable lights and lighting that focuses the customers eyes on what we want them to see." After all, lighting everything equally is nearly as counterproductive as not lighting anything. The lighting also had to minimize glare from such products as golf clubs, framed prints, and the like.

To top things off, the lighting solution had to be quiet - once again, we're talking about golfers. If Tiger Woods can complain bitterly about cameras with automatic film winders, Golfsmith's shoppers can live without ballast hum.

Along with the waterfall, monitors showing continuous golf programming offer enough auditory stimulation without competition from the lighting system.

The illumination had to be relatively inconspicuous as well. After all, as Jack Ries, Holophane's director of commercial and residential indoor lighting, notes, Golfsmith is in the business of selling golf gear, not lighting systems.

Holophane's Retailer luminaires with prismatic glass reflectors and clear 400-watt pulse start metal halide lamps solved all these potential problems. The white light offers a feel that, if not Pebble Beach, at least isn't Bob's Megabarn, and the encapsulated luminaires reduce ballast noise. Ries also observes that the prismatic glass reflectors mean the lighting units are less conspicuous than lamps with more common acrylic reflectors.

The fixtures are mounted on threaded rods, which are hooked to the ceiling's trusses 16 feet above the floor, and are spaced 16-feet-by-18-feet 18 feet on center, with additional spotlights for key strike zones. The store's typical light levels range from 70 to 75 foot-candles.

The solution has worked well enough for Golfsmith to adopt it in the chain's new California locations, according to Thompson. While golfers will still have to contend with water hazards and sand traps, they'll at least be able to shop without feeling like they're in deep rough.

TAGS: Development
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