LYNNWOOD — Just like on a real golf course, players take big swings, miss close putts and get lucky breaks.
Just like on a real golf course, the place resounds with the smack of balls hit from from the tee box and the laughter of friends ribbing each other over shanked drives and balls in the bunker.
But there isn’t a blade of manicured grass anywhere. That’s because they’re not playing “real golf.”
Fair-weather golfers store their clubs away for the winter. Playing in the cold, rain and mud isn’t fun. But what can golfers do if they want to improve their game during the off-season?
They could go to Back9 Parlor in Lynnwood, where golfers can swing away in virtual simulator stalls, grab a bite and — because it wouldn’t be golf otherwise — imbibe.
Think of it as a bowling alley for golfers.
“The place is packed with golfers, a lot of energy and a lot of camaraderie,” said Rian Cool, one of Back9 Parlor’s four owners. “There’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek trash talking. Nobody takes it too seriously, yet they’re out there to compete and win.”
Players, who can bring their own clubs or rent from Back9 Parlor, have competed in two-person leagues since it opened in March at Alderwood Towne Center. A new fall league recently kicked off on Mondays and Tuesdays, and more players are needed to fill out Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Teams square off over 18 holes and alternate shots between players. Men and women tee off at different lengths from the hole to even the odds. After about 13 weeks of playing, champions will be crowned.
Mukilteo’s Janne Hammer and Gina Deutsch play Tuesdays. They were welcomed with a cheer when they signed up for the league because they were Back9’s first female pairing. Most teams consist of two men, though there are some men-and-women teams.
Hammer, 40, a superintendent at Boeing, said it’s a place to have fun, socialize and get better at golf.
“The first time I walked in here, I was like, ‘This is cool,’ ” she said. “Golf is a very mental game. For me, I’m very competitive against myself, so that’s why I love this atmosphere. You are kind of playing against them, but you’re not.”
Back9 Parlor is owned by four friends from Edmonds: In addition to Cool, there’s Scott Taffera, Brian Remington and David Bowman. Cool, 40, runs a digital marketing business, Remington and Taffera, both 40, organize golf tournaments, and Bowman, 44, is a finance manager for Darigold.
They all like to golf, but Washington’s inclement weather makes them think twice about playing outdoors.
Since the next closest virtual golf center is more than 30 miles away in Tukwila, they pooled their resources and bought the former Clubhouse Golf Center, which also featured golf simulators.
The friends remodeled the building and brought in new simulators made by Full Swing.
“Golfers demand really good tracking,” Cool said. “It’s a great way to not only train and enjoy a round with friends, you also know when you hit the ball, it’s flying how it’s supposed to fly.”
Players stand on a green patch that replicates a tee box. High-speed cameras and infrared light waves track the ball’s flight and projects its path in real-time onto a screen. Each shot comes with ball data — such as clubhead speed, path and ball spin — that gives players instant feedback. It’s the same technology that professionals like Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day have at home.
The system can also be adjusted to mimic real-world conditions, such as weather, altitude and even wildlife. There are 85 playable courses, including famous destinations like Torrey Pines, Kapalua and Devil’s Island.
“The other day we played Pebble Beach (Golf Course), and we did it in like an hour-and-a-half because you don’t have to hop in a cart,” Hammer said. “Plus, I love the virtual aspect of seeing how your club hits the ball, so you can see if you had an open face or closed.”
Those who don’t feel like teeing off can play other virtual games such as basketball, football and baseball, which are kid-friendly.
Back9 Parlor owner Brian Remington said virtual golf is already popular overseas, and that its popularity could be on the rise in the U.S.
“I’m a traditional golfer, and golfing outdoors is what I like to do,” he said. “But I think there’s a trend in golf where you can spend less time out there, and this fills that void indoors, and you don’t have to commit to five hours to do it.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, email@example.com. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
If you go
Back9 Parlor, 3105 Alderwood Mall Blvd., Suite A, Lynnwood, is open 1 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Pay $25-$50 for an hour on the simulator.
Call 425-582-9813 or go to www.back9parlor.com to book a tee time or register for the Wednesdays and Thursdays fall league. First come, first serve.