Iron & Wood Golf Simulators
Iron & Wood is a golf simulator business located at 3453 Saanich Road. Whether you’re a golf pro or a fan just looking to have some fun, Iron & Wood is the perfect place to spend a few hours with friends having fun—after all, their motto is #SavourPlayTime. We sat down with Iron & Wood owner, Derek Orr, to learn more about his story, his passions, and how the business began.
What is the mission of Iron & Wood?
“Oh the mission. And you know, what a good question because when you’re building a business from scratch and you’ve got all these dreams and hopes and ideas, you start to overdo it. You want to have this big flashy mission—but at the core of Iron & Wood is that it’s a community-driven business that prides itself on the details. And underneath the details—the smallest and the biggest details all matter—they can help us create a place that is welcoming, inclusive, enjoyable, fun, and personable. All the things that we want to be and then have the details support that and make it a special environment.”
In addition, Derek explains that he wanted Iron & Wood to be a place for everyone, with any level of golf ability and knowledge, to come and enjoy.
“I was very adamant early on that as a golf professional, it would be very easy to build a golf facility for a narrow customer. But my belief about the golf industry is that it needs to be for everybody. Whether you’ve played for the first time or the fiftieth time, coming to Iron & Wood should feel like it’s for you. So if you want to come in as just an absolute die-hard golfer, we’ve got you. But if you just want to come in with some family or some friends and have a little golf time or social time, have a cocktail or two and just do your own thing, that’s the environment we have here. Golf is a very intimidating industry, whether you are female, male, good at the sport, not good—it’s intimidating. And this environment is helping nurture golfers. Golf is for everybody, so if we can create a place that nurtures that and encourages that, then we’ve done everything we’ve set out to do.”
“Booking a tee time, calling a golf course, even the etiquette and golf verbiage—it’s a lot. So to be able to be in an environment that will help you assimilate into the culture, and not in a stuffy way, but just picking up the culture of how golf evolves and plays—that’s something we can do here.”
What does Iron & Wood offer?
“It was important for us to offer the simulators, the hardware and software that is affiliated with the PGA Tour and Tiger Woods. We can hit that high end experience, but then also nurture the more fun stuff—the par 3 contest, or the driving range, or whatever. Just hitting a ball and bouncing it off the walls if you want to—doesn’t matter. It’s just enjoying it.”
It’s also important to note that the Iron & Wood simulators offer more than just golf games—visitors can play hockey, baseball, and even zombie dodgeball.
“I make the joke, I could start a zombie dodgeball business if I wanted to. It’s wildly popular, and you would think that a game like carnival games and bocce and hockey and baseball would be kid-focused. At face value it is, but you would be shocked at how many team-building events we do where people come in and do golf, or hockey, or whatever—mixing it all up. It’s fun to do something in a comfortable environment. And the amount of times I’ll hear someone play eighteen holes, they’ll finish up, and I can hear the zombies going for a little bit. And these are like 45-year-old men that just want to kill 15 minutes and have a laugh. The technology is at such a level that it is incredibly realistic and accurate and all the stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. So it’s been cool to be able to offer that.”
Derek also explains that Iron & Wood offers refreshments that visitors can purchase, particularly beers and other alcoholic drinks from local breweries.
“We have our liquor license and we have gatorades and everything in between, but we’re also very proud that again—in the details—if you come in here and have a beer, we only sell local beers and ciders. We create the community with the business culture and forge really strong relationships with the local vendors. Nine times out of ten, people come in and they really vibe on that. They really appreciate the thoughtfulness of only supporting local on our menu. So it’s just another little detail that we’re really proud of.”
How do you think Iron & Wood positively impacts the community?
“I’m really proud of one program we do. Because we sell all our beverages in cans, what we do is we collect them all up and take them back to the house and sort them. Which is a labour of love, obviously. We take all of those funds from the recyclables and we donate it all to Kids Sport Victoria. Outside of sorting the cans it’s not extra work, and it’s just making the dollars flow through some channels that we feel really strongly about, and that’s kids sports in our community. And it encourages people to grab a drink too! We’ve got some partners in the community that will match our donations in certain quarters of the year to also leverage that movement and be a part of some community stuff as well. So it’s awesome.”
Derek explains that community is something they factor into everything they do at Iron & Wood, including the original vision for the business.
“I mean, the donating of the cans is a very finite thing that we do. But growing up out in Sidney, my dad had a skate sharpening shop in our garage that was a very big staple in the Peninsula hockey community. And there was a culture of people just really coming in, dropping off their skates, but staying an extra five minutes, and looking at some of the memorabilia. It was a welcoming place that isn’t work and isn’t home. It was an ‘errand’ stop but really enjoyable to be in. So I really wanted to capture that feeling. Is it something that I can sit here and say is contributing to my community? Maybe not. But it is in the sense that it’s a business in our city that is just really enjoyable to be at and feel comfortable in. And mentally escape in—play Pebble beach, play some zombie dodgeball, whatever it is. Enjoy your time. Our slogan is Savour Play Time—take your time and enjoy, but feel comfortable in this space. So that’s the culture I’ve taken from my dad’s skate sharpening shop, and that I’ve tried to layer on to something that just creates an environment for hanging out.”
“If we’re not doing something for our community through business then what are we doing? I heard a quote yesterday and it hit me so hard. It said ‘business with intention.’ Having it hang in the air for a bit it just meant the world to me because that is the words to what we’re trying to do. And yes, we can have fun, and be responsible, and support local, but being also a business that makes our city and our people and our community better? I mean what’s better than that?”
What is the workplace culture like here at Iron & Wood?
“So no one works full-time here, it’s all part time. Which, in other environments I’ve seen, can be quite a challenge from the emotional investment factor. But I’m so very lucky with the staff that we have. More than half of them don’t golf, they don’t know anything about golf, and I don’t care, because we’re selling something better than that. We’re selling just a really really enjoyable experience and that starts with personality and authenticity. So when you come here, this is a place that is meant to be enjoyable as a staff member as well. And a lot of the staff that I have are working at other golf courses, or other facilities, and it’s just a chance for them to work for someplace cool and someplace fun, and be social and hangout and enjoy work.”
What makes Iron & Wood unique?
“I’ve been in golf my whole life and I can truly say that this layout and design is exceptionally unique. Typically, a golf simulator business is a pub or a restaurant first, and then they have simulator cubicles down the side. But they usually have a VIP bay somewhere. I remember being at one that was really well-done, and I thought well why not just give the VIP private experience. So we are a golf simulator first, with only private bays, only your environment, that has bluetooth speakers and TVs and all the technology, and couches with the comfort from home, but in this private space. So even in the environment of a golf simulator business, we’re even a little bit more micro in trying to leverage the best parts of golf simulator businesses with the great technology, private rooms, triple A platinum service which we hang our hat on. I mean, I’m really proud of our staff, and we’re all trying to do great things for the people that come through the door. Our number one priority is that if you’re a foot inside the door you should feel welcome. So taking all of that, putting it together, tossing it into Victoria and having some fun with it. That’s what we do.”
“For example the toilet paper has little triangles in them—always. It’s attention to detail. It’s intended. You know we’ve done it. The washrooms are clean, it smells nice, it feels good. It’s the details that really matter and we’re going to hang our hat on. And to see the staff get excited about interactions and people when they come out and notice the little triangle on the toilet paper; they notice the little details. It’s like getting caught doing something great. And myself, and the staff—we enjoy it quite a bit.”
Do you have any favourite memories as a business owner?
“I did like the idea of opening the business. It’s very daunting as anyone who’s ever tried to do it is aware. And around that time you started to hear about Covid, that’s when we got the keys to this building. But if that is the worst thing to happen, and it wasn’t easy, but if that was the obstacle to get through and then we get to do our dream, then I’d do it all day long. And we’re still here three years later, and the lights are on, and we’re having a good time. So I take that emotion as a core win because it was the people, the staff, and those who supported the business that helped us ascend through it.”
For Derek, another key highlight for him is all the people he gets to see in his job as a business owner every day.
“On top of that, a core favourite part of the business or a favourite memory—it always comes back to the people. When I see someone I haven’t seen since high school come in the door and get, a ‘Derek I saw your business online, I wanted to come in and say hello, you’re doing a great job!’ And they don’t even come in to play, they just want to come in and say hi. So events like that are very very rewarding memories because that is a further reminder that this is a very small, big town. And being able to connect with the people is amazing”
If someone had never heard of Iron & Wood before what is one thing you wish you could tell them?
“I would say just come in. The one thing I could say to someone who’s never been here, seen it, doesn’t know what it is: this is the place for you to be comfortable in a golfing environment, to learn, to play, to practice, to socialize with friends. We offer lots of sports, so there’s lots to do. But if you’re just looking to have fun doing something, especially in today’s day and age, that marries up activity, technology, and comfort and relatability, this is the spot. I grew up here and I know that it’s a very word-of-mouth community, and that’s part of my marketing plan and I’m okay with that. Our growth is strong, a bit slower, but way more authentic. And I would far rather you come in and experience it than get a coupon or something. Because I promise you this is as fun of a time you can have playing golf, even than playing golf on the golf course. Anyway, it’s a good environment.”