By Jim Davis Herald Business Journal
LYNNWOOD — It’s a miserable, overcast day outside, but that’s not stopping Corey Osborn and Phillip James from taking in a round of golf.
Instead of heading to a rain-soaked course, the pair went in early January to Clubhouse Golf Center, a new business that features six golf simulators with 3D-rendered courses from around the world.
“I like it a lot,” Osborn said. “I brought my buddy down here. We love playing golf, but, in the Pacific Northwest, you only have a couple of months to play a year. This is great.”
And the Clubhouse Golf Center has the added bonus of having a bar and kitchen — and seven big screen televisions — just feet away from the golfers.
“This is the first time I ever did something like this,” James said. “You’ve got beer and food coming right to the hole.”
Owners Steve and Terra Levy opened the business Nov. 25 at 3105 Alderwood Mall Blvd. at the Alderwood Towne Center.
The six golf simulators from a San Diego company called Full Swing Golf sit in six bays. Golfers drive, pitch and putt from a strip of artificial turf, hitting balls onto a giant screen loaded with hundreds of sensors that measure where the ball lands.
“You don’t have to be a great golfer to enjoy this experience,” Steve Levy said. “You don’t feel the pressure or the anxiety that some people would feel going to the golf course and having people watch them feeling like you’re slowing the game up looking for lost balls.
“It’s kind of like bowling with the bumpers on.”
The cost is $40 to rent a bay for the first hour and $30 for every hour afterward. Every additional person in the bay pays an extra $10 no matter how long they play.
Levy, who was raised in Arlington, said he came up with the idea a few years ago while he and his friends celebrated a buddy’s birthday.
They stayed in downtown Seattle at Hotel 1000, which has a couple of golf simulators in the basement.
“I remember thinking if somebody did this right, it would be really cool,” Levy said. “I didn’t know at the time that flash forward three of four years I would be doing it.”
Levy worked for Microsoft and later in the video game industry. He was most recently the chief publishing officer for Meteor Entertainment. In early 2013, he and his wife were at crossroads in their lives when they decided to start their own business.
“You start thinking about the things that you enjoy and you love and golf is one of those things that I enjoy,” Levy said. “I never had enough time to play as much golf as I’d like to.”
One of the attractions of the golf simulators is that they feature 44 of the best courses in the world from Hawaii, Spain, Puerto Rico, Japan, England and Scotland.
The courses include Pebble Beach in California, Harbour Town in South Carolina and Bay Hill in Florida.
“The odds of playing Pebble Beach and spending $400 for green fees is slim to none, but I can do that here for a fraction of the cost here,” Levy said.
Levy said people have also rented the bays to use as big screen TVs to watch Seattle Seahawks games.
Paul Bonorden went to shoot around with his brother at the Clubhouse Golf Center last month.
The Mill Creek man said his girlfriend spotted the business and told him about it. He said he enjoyed the experience:
“I’ve seen simulators, but I’ve never seen it full bore where this is all they’re going to do and then serving drinks and food also.”
Bonorden said the simulator wasn’t perfect.
“It’s nice to swing the club in a dry environment and picture your shot, but it’s not the most accurate thing,” Bonorden said. “It’s not the real thing.”
Osborn and James said they enjoyed their golf. Osborn said that the simulator’s long-game was very accurate, but he said that putting was a little bit off. He noted that golfers have to putt the ball over two sets of sensor wires.
James said the same frustrations he experiences on a real course pop up at Clubhouse Golf Center.
“If you shank a shot in real life, you’re going to shank it here,” James said. “For the most part, it’s pretty realistic.”
Since they started the business, the Levys have found a steady stream of people walking in to check out the business.
And it’s gotten so that people usually need to make reservations for the weekend.
“We’re still waiting for our first hole in one,” Levy said. “That will happen.”