Mike Chicoine – Drive Shack Inc.
In the classic Adam Sandler comedy “Happy Gilmore,” the title character takes a trip to a miniature golf course late in the film to hone his putting skills ahead of a major tournament. While working with his coach Chubbs Peterson, Gilmore gets frustrated as obstacles like windmills and laughing clowns keep his ball from going to its home.
Miniature golf has changed a lot since that movie came out in 1996, says Mike Chicoine. He would know.
Chicoine is the head of construction and project development for Drive Shack Inc., an owner and operator of golf-related leisure and entertainment businesses, including American Golf Corporation, Drive Shack and its latest concept, Puttery.
“Think of your high-end bowling alleys, dart clubs and axe-throwing spaces,” Chicoine says. “We’re bringing that same idea to miniature golf, but we’re doing it better.”
A new mini-golf experience
Drive Shack owns and operates more than 50 golf courses in the U.S., as well as four 72- and 96-bay hitting facilities. But the company’s focus right now is Puttery, Chicoine says.
Each Puttery location—currently open in Dallas and Charlotte—includes between 18,000 and 24,000 square feet of space, a full kitchen and bar, seating areas and lounges. Every location has between two and four nine-hole themed, tech-enabled courses. Each hole has a touchscreen players use to track their scores.
“No more carrying around a scorecard and tiny pencil,” Chicoine says.
What makes Puttery unique compared to competitors in the space are its high-end cocktails, differing food options and the type of technology used, according to Chicoine. Putters choose their themed golf course, each uniquely designed by Puttery partners. There’s a library, illusion, mountain lodge, city rooftop and conservatory, with more themes planned.
“People love the adults only, 21-plus atmosphere, making our venue a perfect night out for some competitive adult fun,” Chicoine says.
Growing the game
Because the company uses pre-built commercial spaces and converts them for miniature golf, as opposed to building from the ground up, Puttery’s goal of being in every major metro area in the U.S. is attainable, Chicoine says.
The company’s plan is to grow to 50 locations in the next four years, with locations currently being developed in Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Miami, Kansas City and New York City. Each course within the facility occupies about 2,000 square feet, so finding the right building and making everything fit is a challenge that Chicoine says he relishes.
“It’s been amazing to see the team’s hard work pay off as each venue comes to life. Along with our partners, they’ve made sure that each location takes on a personality that fits its city,” he says.
Partners including Barker Nestor, Pizzazz, Greenspan and Cost have been crucial to Puttery’s initial success, Chicoine says.
Building something fun
In high school, Chicoine says he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study in college. During his senior year, a school administrator told him he excelled in math and science, and the energy industry was growing rapidly in the early 2000s.
So, Chicoine, a native Mainer, studied and earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Maine. But about three years in, he realized he didn’t want a career sitting behind a desk. After graduation, Chicoine spent nearly 13 years at Kiewit, one of the largest construction and engineering companies in North America.
He started at Kiewit as a superintendent, and after five years, he became a project manager. Chicoine managed several projects over the next eight years until he joined Drive Shack in November 2020.
“We were building power plants, wastewater treatment facilities, bridges and other massive projects,” Chicoine says. “Building a bridge is cool, but Puttery has a different and possibly cooler dynamic.”
Working at a place he also frequents as a customer gives Chicoine a different sense of pride. Sure, he says, it’s nice knowing a bridge he helped build is used to connect people, but working on Puttery locations will connect people in a unique and more personal way.
“After everything that’s happened in the past few years, people are craving connection and looking for fun,” says Chicoine. “Puttery is bringing people together in exciting new ways, and I’m proud to be part of the team that’s making it happen.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. III 2022 Edition here.
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