Get to know the CEO of this Beaumont golf center

Golf has done more for Austin Williams than he can ask for.

It is his passion. It kept him going. And the lessons he took to heart from the game itself immediately transitioned to business ownership upon launching 5 Under Golf Center in Beaumont back in November 2019.

Over the past few years, he has noticed a growing interest in golf from Southeast Texans, especially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And he wanted to provide a place for professionals and novices alike to swing away.

The Enterprise sat down with Williams to discuss 5 Under Golf Center and how his years of playing competitive golf helped him learn to run his establishment today.

RELATED: What’s New: 5 Under Golf Center opens Friday

Q: What is the interest in golf like here in Southeast Texas?

A: Golf has grown at leaps and bounds through COVID. There’s data that supports that from the National Golf Foundation. 

It’s at an unprecedented high right now in terms of participation. It’s starting to flatten out a little bit now that COVID’s gone away, but people were looking for things to do outdoors. We were able to actually thrive during COVID as a result. 

We’ve seen new people get into the game through TopGolf Swing Suite … through our products that we offer outside.

RELATED: 5 Under Golf completes outside range

Q: You’ve won multiple Beaumont City Golf Championship titles over the years. What was that experience like?

A: Growing up as a kid, there (were) a couple tournaments in town (like the) Tyrrell Garth Invitational and the Beaumont City Championship, which I would consider the two major championships in town.

I knew that was always a childhood dream of mine to be a city champion. When I won my first one, I thought ‘Oh, I might not ever win this ever again,’ because a lot of times people don’t. 

I love it. For whatever reason, I’ve been able to elevate my game in that tournament. I’ve had so many great memories. I won my first one in 1998. I’m 44 now, and I won my last I think at 42.

I love the tournament, I think it has a rich history. That’s what you live for — to have your name on that trophy every year.

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Q: What makes Beaumont a good place to play golf?

A: It’s affordable. It’s not always the best in terms of golf courses being manicured… but also, people get what they pay for. What I mean by that is, it’s very, very affordable.

We (also) have a lot of public golf courses. We have Bayou Din. We have Henry Homberg, which is our city course. We have Babe Zaharias in Port Arthur.

Those are the things that make it appealing to other people. It’s cheap entertainment at the end of the day.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the game of golf?

A: There’s so much. I think golf is a lot like life. It has a lot of parallels.

It’s opened every door for me, personally. It’s given me more than I could ever give back.

You can try playing it literally at the age of 6, and you can play to the day you die.

It introduces you to all sorts of people, all walks of life of people.

It’s just a great game. It has a ton of integrity, hard work. You’ve got to practice to get better. I think it instills all those attributes, which you can use later in life, whether it’s in your job, whether it’s being a parent… It’s the greatest game ever played.

Q: How did your experiences playing golf help shape your approach as business owner overseeing 5 Under Center?

A: When you play golf, and you play competitive golf, you’ve got to prepare and you’ve got to work at it.

I hire a lot of former athletes, and there’s two to three things I know: One, most good athletes didn’t get there by accident. They got there with hard work. Two, they usually hate to lose, so I know they have a competitive fire. 

Those are two things for me personally. I try to take everything that I learned on the course in terms of preparation, hard work, determination, perseverance, all that stuff, and apply it to business.

Q: How did 5 Under Golf Center get started?

A: I’ve been in the (golf facility) business for 20 years. My parents started (a facility), and I came into their business in 2002 — worked in that for about 16 years. My parents were transitioning out of business and retiring.

I just think the game of golf was evolving. The days of hitting golf ball on the regular driving range, there’s new technology.

I got a call from Topgolf, saw that there was a need for that in Beaumont and tried to offer something back to community that I thought there was a need for.

We lease the technology from Topgolf. Basically, it’s a franchise. The concept is that it allows people like our investment group to come in and do a mini-Topgolf by leasing the equipment in the name. They have like seven different brands that are under that umbrella.

Q: The premise of 5 Under Golf Center, who does it appeal to the most?

A: They announced at our PGA show in Orlando that for the first time ever there’s more golf being played off-course than on-course.

Southeast Texas gets a ton of rain. So, you can come in here with a group of guys if you get rained out.

We also offer a premium product outside that when you’re hitting range balls, you can see the data that will actually help you improve your swing without getting a lesson.

This has (also) been a great (introduction) to the game because it allows children and women in all walks of life to come out here and hit a golf ball. 
It appeals to all audiences.

Then I have a (really good amateur golfer). They want to come in and they want to see data, and they want to see how good they’re (getting). We can provide all that, whether it’s indoor or outdoor.