Written Article about Mark & Plum Creek
The Daily News, Batavia, NY
Published: September 2011
More than a decade ago, Mark Pflaumer was looking to open a business but wasn't sure what to get into. He had some land off Batavia-Elba Townline Road that had been in his family since the 1930s.
After discussing business ideas with his wife he decided to open a driving range on the family's land, even though it wasn't a business he was that familiar with and he wasn't an avid golfer.
Owner of Plum Creek
"You've got the grass hitting areas that some places don't. That's got to be a huge selling point? "
"It's a little out of the way. I'm working on the state signs. But honestly, once people are here, they enjoy the peace and quiet that's here. I hear that more than anything, that it's quiet, it's peaceful. They can work on what they want."
Is your driving range kind of out of the way?
"It's difficult. I have a great wife, that's what keeps me going here."
How do you find the time to do everything?
(The following interview with Mark Pflaumer was conducted by sports editor Bill Bruton Jr. on Sept. 30 at Plum Creek Driving Range in Elba).
The Elba resident also finds time to coach modified basketball and football at Elba Central School.
Pflaumer, a 1986 graduate of Elba High School, also has a full-time job working on the third shift at Mod-Pac in Buffalo, a company that makes folding cartons.
After some time spent sketching out the idea and scraping together some money, he opened Plum Creek Driving Range on June 1, 2001, with 12 hitting stations. He has since expanded that to some 20 hitting stations. There is also a putting green. He is also working on getting permits to start an indoor hitting area for year-round use, with club fitting and launch monitors and will also sell clubs and other golf accessories. WGTF Top 100 golf instructor Tom Tucker gives lessons at the range. Pflaumer's family also helps out. Yes"It grew every year. The last three have been pretty steady
Do you get a lot more play than when you started?
"My grandparents bought this land, I think it was 1933. (My grandfather) bought this land because it had the creek. That's how the name became this. My name in German means plum farmer. Pflaum without the R means plum. I tried to name it after my grandfather, and I didn't want John'sDriving Range. So how could I name it after him when he bought the land because of the creek. You can't see the creek but it's out there (behind the pines at the end of the range)."
How did you start this?
"No. You can't tell if you hit it fat. You can tell if you hit it thin. On artificial, if you hit behind the ball, your club's going to bounce off and not give you a true reading of what you're doing."
But that doesn't tell you how your game is?
it is. The all-grass tee boxes, most people generally like to hit off. I have had a few customers say they'd hit off mats if I had them."
But the weather has been an issue that the last couple of years, too. This spring was terrible, but we caught back up to last year, which was awesome. But the last three have been pretty steady. My instructor Tom Tucker has brought a lot of new people here."
How good a golfer are you now?
"Mid 80s. I golower80s, the lower 90s."
Since you've owned this place have you become more of a student of the game and the swing?
"When I started the driving range I was shooting 105, 110. In the last 10 years, I have gotten a lot better, just from listening to people, listening to my instructor here. Things you pick up, and then I try them. So I have gotten a lot better.
Also, the clubs have helped. I've learned new clubs, new technology, everything that goes into making the club for certain individuals has a lot to do with making them better too."
Where do you see the game in 10 years?
"I think if we can keep the kids involved the game will continue to grow. With Tiger Woods' fiasco, it brought a lot of attention to golf, not always for the good, but it did bring a lot of attention back to golf. The professionals that are on TV, they're amazing. If you golf and you watch it, and you watch how good they are, and how competitive it is now, it's amazing anybody can win a tournament any given week. I hope it just continues to be good. Rochester has more courses than anywhere else Inow of, other than Myrtle Beach or something. Rochester's loaded with courses, which means there's a lot of golfers out there. It's very popular. And the prices around here are the best you could ask for. My buckets are reasonably priced because my belief since I opened is if you could afford to practice, you'll come and practice. If you can't afford to practice, you're not going to do it. You're going to go play golf instead of practice. It's $3 for a small (bucket), $5 for a large. My instructor always says I need to increase it, everybody else is getting more. Well, not everybody else. (He also has season passes: single $160, family $240)."
How many people do you have who have season passes?
"I usually have 24 or 26 members every year. Some come, some go. I've had one member since I opened: Tom Cecere. He's been a member here every year, he's very proud of that fact."
Generally, you're dealing with happy people coming out to hit balls?
"It's fun sometimes when you have people that really can't golf and they try to hit the woods. It's kind of funny. Even good golfers, the big kick for everybody is trying to get their driver out to those trees (270 yards from the front of the tee, 290 yards from the back). I have a few people who do it and they say I don't want to hit driver here. I'm like, the kids will get them out of the trees, don't worry about it."
Do you generally get good comments about the place?
"I get a lot of compliments I think with how it's set up. It's convenient, it's easy. My goal was to have it fast and convenient and affordable. I think I've succeeded in that. I have some people who spend $5 and they're here for two hours. Then I get guys who go, "I've got to go play golf," and they're gone."
How long does it take for the grass to recover?
"It takes about four weeks to fully heal. I'm rotating through and I'm only getting about three weeks when it's busy. When it slows down like this you get a little more time. But it depends on the weather."
What have you found out about the business in the 10 years you've owned it?
"My biggest surprise is how much I enjoy helping people and meeting people. I never thought I would enjoy that part of it. I've never been very social, so for me to be outgoing is different for me, and it's something I've had to learn to do. Some days I'm not the most outgoing person, but I hope everybody understands. Being forced to say hello, how are you doing today, is different for me. I never had to do that. I've always been in a factory setting."
BESIDES FAMILY AND FRIENDS, DINNER PARTNER OF CHOICE: "Benjamin Franklin"
FAVORITE FOOD: "Filet mignon"
FAMILY: "Wife, Loren; four children, Jacklyn, Jesse, Henry and Ben; son-in-law, Tyler Seger."
FAVORITE COLOR: "Green"
IF I COULD DO IT OVER AGAIN: "I would have started my own business sooner."
WHAT I SHOULD GIVE UP: "Being away from home."
DISLIKE: "Dishonest people."
WHAT'S WRONG WITH GENESEE COUNTY: "There's not enough people here, not enough attractions."
GENESEE'S BEST-KEPT SECRET: "Plum Creek Driving Range."