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GreatLife Malaska Golf & Fitness Takes Shape

January 7, 2014, 10:15 PM by Angela Kennecke

GreatLife Malaska Golf & Fitness Takes Shape

Anyone who's ever golfed knows it's expensive and time consuming.  A new business aims to change that by combining golf and fitness for one low, monthly price. 

Last month, local Burger King franchise owner Tom Walsh Senior announced the arrival of GreatLife Malaska Golf and Fitness in Sioux Falls.

Golf courses may be cold and snowy now, but if the man's vision behind Sioux Falls' new GreatLife Malaska Golf & Fitness comes true, they'll be very busy this spring and summer.  Walsh thinks he has the key to resuscitating the dying sport of golf. 

"Then we learned about this concept down in Kansas where they combined fitness and golf and made it very affordable where it's fun and you can build relationships and it's been a win-win so far for everyone," Walsh said.

With unlimited golf and fitness starting at $50 a month, the GreatLife model is counting on volume.  Walsh and his partners plan to offer plenty of choices of facilities.  He's already purchased five area golf courses with plans to buy more.

"We're looking at actually three or four courses in a 20-mile radius of Sioux Falls.  People can figure them out," Walsh said.

Then there's the fitness side of the business.  The clubhouse at Bakker's Crossing is getting a complete overhaul. 

"Here we have about 4,000 square feet of fitness," Walsh said.

"In order to do that, we capitalized on the things that are least used at the golf course; the banquet rooms and then in the winter time the restaurant.  We put in the golf simulator here, so we can have year round golf, year round food, year round fitness; just really a great use of the resources,” Donn Hill of GreatLife Malaska Golf & Fitness said.

Walsh and his partners are doubling the size of Willow Run's clubhouse to include fitness.  Plus they're putting $1.3 million into EmBe, formerly the YWCA downtown, with $200,000 of it for new equipment. 

Walsh's plans include transforming the old Woodlake Athletic Club, which is now more than 30 years old.  The plans include an entire new fitness area, basketball courts, redoing the tennis courts and a permanent structure over the pool at a cost of about $2 million. 

"Back 30 plus years ago, that's where my family went to work out and my wife played tennis. It was kind of the queen of Sioux Falls.  And over the years with the way the market's grown with competition it's become a little old and dated and we're going to restore it.  We want it to be the best fitness outfit around," Walsh said.

Walsh plans to acquire other fitness locations too.  And before all the remodels are even complete, the concept is selling. 

"Over a thousand in the first couple of weeks and now with the first of the year, we expect it to really get going," Walsh said.

"There is no catch to this.  The deal is, it appeals to a much wider market than the golf community," Hill  said.

And bring in a new generation to the sport. 

"First of all, it will change the Sioux Falls market, but we really believe that this is also the model that can change gold nationwide because of those things--it's expensive and it takes a lot of time--if we can remove those barriers we essentially save golf," Hill said.

Walsh expects GreatLife to continue to grow in Sioux Falls, but he doesn't plan to stop there.

"Our goal is to take this and make it a national franchise," Walsh said.

While Walsh and his partners are investing a lot of money into upgrading courses and fitness centers, he expects it to pay off in the long run. 

"We hope to make money and we hope to break even.  It's like anything; you have to invest in it and you have to build on it and if we do it right, they will come," Walsh said.

Memberships can be purchased at Austad's Golf and online.

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