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By Mark Beale

WHITSUNDAY residents are about to reap the benefits of a new land-based activity when the Regatta Waters driving range officially opens next week.

From next Thursday, October 23, the range will be open seven days a week, from 6am-6pm, with plans already underway for kids golf classes and weekend clinics.

The driving range marks the return of golfing facilities to the Airlie Beach area and the first stage of the community’s $500 million professionally designed golf course.

Regatta Waters Whitsundays project marketing manager Steve Marks said the area occupied by the driving range would actually be the second and fifth holes when the golf course was eventually complete.

“But rather than having two holes complete and no-one able to use them, we’ve turned this into a temporary range,” he said.

Mr Marks said aside from being an asset for the project, the driving range would provide an affordable land-based activity for the region’s residents and visitors.

“As an iconic tourist destination the Whitsundays has been in need of more land-based recreational pursuits for some time,” he said.

“There’s a big focus on water but not so much on land, so this facility will go some way towards addressing that deficit.”

Executive Director of Whitsundays Marketing and Development Limited (WMDL), Jeff Aquilina, agreed it was great to see another land-based attraction opening up.

“The new driving range will provide another fantastic facility and will add to the great range of visitor experiences on the Whitsunday coast,” he said.

Airlie Beach Chamber of Commerce president Tony Laurent, also congratulated the developers, Latitude Development Group (LDG) on their overall vision.

“The thing that’s always impressed me, and I drive past it every day, is that it’s a great open space at the entrance into Cannonvale and Airlie Beach, where there’s always something going on,” he said.

Local golf pro Andrew Farrow is just one of the many residents excited by what now lies ahead.

Mr Farrow described the driving range as a “desperately needed” sporting option for Cannonvale and Airlie Beach.

“Not only are we going to be able to use the range to introduce kids and school groups to the game, but also people who do know how to play golf can come and take advantage of the facilities for improving their game,” he said.

Mr Farrow is planning a program for kids and beginner lessons that he hopes to establish on weekends.

He said the benefits of a driving range were “real golf balls, real results and a real chance to improve”.

A practice green is currently under construction and will be complete in six to eight weeks.

Meanwhile visitors and locals can start practising their swing before the completion of the course in 2016. A bucket of 75 balls will cost $15.

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