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Manhattan's Chelsea Piers: The Only Game in Town
Author: Peter Finch
August 28th 2017 - A big summertime storm has rolled into Manhattan —a world-is-ending type, with brilliant lightning flashes, window-rattling thunder and buckets of hard rain. Step outside and you'll be drenched in an instant, even with an umbrella. Hoping to hail a taxi? Ha. Not a chance.

Yet the Chelsea Piers practice range is packed, including a Girls' Night Out event that's at capacity with 70 women. They're whacking balls from covered stalls out onto the range and getting pointers from a couple of roaming professionals, while upstairs in a banquet room they're enjoying drinks and hors d'oeuvres and seeing who can hit the longest drive on a simulator.

It's just another Monday night at Chelsea Piers, a practice range that will not be slowed by something as trivial as terrible weather. OK, if you arrive in the middle of a snowstorm, you probably won't wait long for one of its 52 stalls. But the Golf Club at Chelsea Piers is otherwise nearly always busy. It says that roughly 350,000 customers roll up to its entrance along Manhattan's 11th Avenue every year, hitting more than 17 million balls and absorbing more than 16,500 hours of golf instruction.

To put those numbers in some context, consider that the Golf Range Association of America celebrates the 50 best "standalone" ranges annually. These leading ranges average less than half of Chelsea Piers' volume. And remember, these are the best in the United States. "Chelsea Piers blows everybody else away," says Patrick Cherry, the range association's general manager. "Nobody else even comes close."

What's the appeal? Well, it's a nice practice range. It's reasonably clean, and the balls are in good enough shape. You don't even have to bend over to tee your ball. An automated system ensures that a new one emerges, on a tee, from a hole in your mat after every shot. There's a busy golf academy, with 12 instructors from multiple countries, and areas for practicing bunker shots, chipping and putting.

On top of all of that, you can look out over the Hudson River and into New Jersey while you hit balls. "We have the most ridiculous sunsets," says Marjorie Jones, the head professional here since 2013. "I can't even tell you how many pictures I have on my phone."
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