Growing the game: PGA instructor opens indoor Northwest Golf Academy in Barrington

PGA Class A member Brad Ray, an instructor at Makray Memorial Golf Club in Barrington for two decades, has opened his own indoor Northwest Golf Academy in the same village to help build and maintain the skills of players of all ages.

“We built this to grow the game of golf,” the Long Grove resident said. “It’s an appealing place. Barrington needed a place like this, especially in the winter months, to practice.”

But, he added, facilities of this type are rare enough for it to be a draw from across the Northwest suburbs.

The 6,000-square-foot space at 756 W. Northwest Highway includes five Trackman golf simulators with room for expansion soon, Callaway Custom club fitting services, personalized instruction from PGA golf professionals, practice memberships, and areas for putting, chipping and full-swing training.

The technology behind the simulators has improved dramatically in just the past decade, and can help even novices get a better handle on the game from an early age, Ray said.

His first crop of students includes kids as young as 7 years old.

  PGA golf instructor Brad Ray, who’s been coaching players at Makray Memorial Golf Club in Barrington for the past 20 years, recently opened the Northwest Golf Academy nearby. Joe Lewnard/

Learning the game young is a common element among those who master it and even go pro, Ray said. And that’s just as true of himself.

“Our family was a golfing family,” he said. “We’d do golf vacations rather than beach vacations. That’s how I got the bug.”

Now 47, Ray said he’s been working in some capacity in the golfing industry since the age of 16 and has been a Class A member of the PGA since 2007.

The Makray Memorial Golf Club, where he continues to provide instruction, already was the home course of his youth when it was still known as Thunderbird.

  Jack Bell, 14, of Palatine practices at the Northwest Golf Academy at 756 W. Northwest Highway in Barrington, recently opened by PGA golf instructor Brad Ray. Joe Lewnard/

While there will be a lot of emphasis on introduction to the game at Northwest Golf Academy, it’s not the kind of place any level of proficiency would outgrow, Ray said.

At any time of year, but especially during the winter months, players of all ages will find value in practicing their swings and measuring their skills scientifically on the Trackman simulators.

Nevertheless, for all golfers, it’s a place focused on their serious improvement.

“This is not an entertainment bar thing,” Ray said.

Though having done only a soft opening this spring, he expects the clientele to build through word-of-mouth over the summer and for activity to really take off in the fall.

More information is available at or by calling (224) 385-3066.

  Campbell Ray of Long Grove practices at Northwest Golf Academy, which recently was opened by her dad, PGA golf instructor Brad Ray. Joe Lewnard/
  Students practice on the putting green of the 6,000-square-foot Northwest Golf Academy, 756 W. Northwest Highway in Barrington. Joe Lewnard/
  The 6,000-square-foot Northwest Golf Academy at 756 W. Northwest Highway was opened this spring by PGA golf instructor Brad Ray. Joe Lewnard/
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