Most resorts and high-end hotels are amenities driven. Some of the more popular amenities include golf, tennis, bicycling, yoga and spa. Beachfront and lakeside properties also might feature activities such as kayaks, canoes, fishing, diving and wave runners as an example.
One activity that flies under the radar, but has become immensely popular at a number of resorts is sport shooting. Sporting clays, trap shooting and even archery aren’t necessarily run-of-the-mill resort/hotel amenities, but they do help separate properties such as The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee; The Greenbrier in White Sulfur Springs, WV; Sea Island in Georgia; Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey in the Hills, FL; and Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, NC, from the competition.
Sport shooting also helps attract a different clientele to those properties—possibly a clientele that normally wouldn’t otherwise consider the resort/hotel.
“Our guests are loving the sporting grounds and the ability to go over there and shoot clays,’’ said Ralph Vick, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee.
Guest of the hotel have been given access to the Reynolds Lake Oconee community’s 800-acre Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds, which opened last year. The sporting grounds feature everything from one-stand to five-station shooting stand areas, as well as archery. Later this year the resort plans to offer a pontoon-boat shuttle across Lake Oconee (a nine-minute ride) to near the gates of the Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds.
“I’ve been to a lot of other places that have shooting, but never seen one done as well as they’ve done it at Sandy Creek,” Vick said. “It’s over the top. Having first-class sporting grounds is rare. I think it’s another point of distinction.”
Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds, Vick said, opens the resort to larger segments of the leisure and corporate markets.
“Not everybody plays golf, so when you come here looking for something to do, especially in cooler weather and Lake Oconee is a little cold, Sandy Creek provides another enticement to leisure and corporate bookings,” he said. “It’s something kind of new to do.”
While they may be new to The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, sporting grounds certainly aren’t new to some historic hotels and resorts. For example, legendary sharpshooter Annie Oakley was manager of the Pinehurst Gun Club from 1915 to 1922. The Tufts Archives in the Village of Pinehurst even has a playing card with one of “Little Sure Shot’s” bullet holes through it.
Today, Pinehurst Resort partners with two venues to host shoots. Each venue has a 50-target course and includes clay targets that simulate dove, teal and rabbits.
Located atop Kate's Mountain, the Greenbrier Gun Club has been in operation since 1913. It features four combination trap and skeet fields and a 10-station sporting clays course. The sporting clays course was designed by Justin Jones and John Higgins of the British School of Shooting. Jones is the man responsible for designing the Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds at Reynolds Lake Oconee.
Sea Island Resort’s Shooting School, located just off the causeway leading to Sea Island, features a variety of lessons for adults and teens, as well as individual and group shooting lessons.
Places such as Georgia, North Carolina and West Virginia seem “naturals” for sporting grounds, but shooting also can be found at what might be considered the “least likely” locations. That would include The Four Seasons Resort Lanai. The Lanai Archery and Shooting Range has a 14-station sporting clays course.
“It's certainly an activity that visitors don't expect in Hawaii,” said Lori Holland, the resort’s public relations director. “Shooting is more popular, in general. For kids, though, archery is more popular. Many families also combine activities.”
The majority of Lanai Archery and Shooting Range guests, Holland said, stay at the resort.
“When the second property at Koele re-opens in 2019 following renovation, we should see additional traffic,” she said.
The Mission Inn Resort & Club’s El Cazador Trap and Skeet Range has a single trap machine that throws targets as the competitor moves through five different stations. In skeet, two machines throw targets while participants move through a semi-circle of stations.
“I have been shooting skeet and trap since I was about 10, growing up in Chicago, so when we were looking to create a new activity for our resort guests, I felt this type of outdoor experience would have wide acceptance by our social and group guests,” said Mission Inn General Manager Bud Beucher, whose family has owned the Central Florida resort for more than five decades. “And we find it is enjoyed by men and women alike, almost at a 50/50 rate.”
Beucher said Mission Inn includes shooting information on its in-room TV channels that broadcast a wide array of resort activities and services to hotel guests.
“We also post videos and still shots on social media and locally create some buzz through support of charity organizations, with our donation of shooting certificates for their fundraising events,” Beucher said. “We have shooting sports enthusiasts living in the greater Orlando area who come to enjoy the range, as well as guests who add shooting to their experience at the resort. Also, we will have area hotels refer their groups here as a day activity.”