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Published: Tuesday, 1/21/2014 - Updated: 2 years ago

Simulators keep golfers on course despite snow, cold

Regional indoor centers have greens on screens

Justin Rist, owner of Fore Golfers, started business in November. With 42 simulations available, he doesn’t mind long winters. Justin Rist, owner of Fore Golfers, started business in November. With 42 simulations available, he doesn’t mind long winters.

The wind chill in Toledo was hovering at about 6 below zero Tuesday afternoon, so Burt Williams decided to play golf with his buddies.

What else are you going to do when it’s that cold? It’s not like you want to spend any time outside.

“I walked in wearing gloves and a hat, and now I’m playing a course out in California,” Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Williams is not a devotee of the Polar Bear Plunge, nor is he delusional. No more than any other golfer, anyway. But he was teeing it up at Spyglass Hill Golf Club. Sort of.

The course, located on the Monterey Peninsula in California, is one of 42 simulations available to players at Fore Golfers, an indoor golfing center in Holland.

Days like Tuesday keep owner Justin Rist happy.

“I’m hoping for a long winter,” he said. “I’m hoping for snow in April.”

Fore Golfers opened in November, five years — and much number-crunching — after Mr. Rist first played a simulated round of golf and thought it might make for a good business venture.

“It started real slow, which was nice because I got used to everything. Then I started getting a little nervous there, but it just took off,” he said. “We’re real happy with how well it’s been going.”

All four of the simulators were in use Tuesday.

Steve Anglemyre of Holland plays a round of golf Tuesday at Fore Golfers, a 4,500-square-foot golf simulator in Holland. Steve Anglemyre of Holland plays a round of golf Tuesday at Fore Golfers, a 4,500-square-foot golf simulator in Holland.

Fore Golfers uses simulators built by Maumee-based aboutGolf Ltd., one of the leaders in golf simulation technology. Golfers use their own clubs and hit a real ball into a giant screen. The ball has been specially marked so the simulator’s camera can pick up its spin.

The cameras also compute things such as clubhead speed and launch angle.

That’s relayed onto a large screen where the players can watch an extremely detailed display of their shot.

“It’s a lot more real than I thought it was going to be,” said Mr. Williams of Swanton.

“The way it picks the spin up, and the distance [I hit each club] from what I play outside to coming in here, it’s almost exact. It’s within five or six yards.”

Hit one thin and the simulator dutifully will show your ball plunging into the water. Hit it sweet and you can watch your shot drop onto the green and sit down like a well-trained dog.

“It’s amazing how accurate they are,” Mr. Rist said.

All that comes at a price, however, as the wide-screen simulators start at about $60,000 apiece.

Even so, Fore Golfers isn’t the only game in town.

Blue Skies Fore Ever, off Shoreland Avenue in Point Place, opened in 2011 with six simulators.

David Gigax, daytime manager at Blue Skies, said business has been good, especially this time of the year.

“Any time there’s snow on the ground, that helps,” he said Tuesday.

Inside, it’s 65 degrees. Some guys come in to play in shorts and T-shirts.

A PGA golf pro, Mr. Gigax said the technology is impressive.

“My yardages are right on when I make a good swing,” he said. “It’s as close as you can get to real golf without playing outside.”

Because of the distance between the two facilities, Mr. Gigax doesn’t think one will pull many customers from the other. Golfers can play a simulated round at other places in the area, including Tamaron Country Club on West Alexis Road.

Once the weather improves enough for players to enjoy a comfortable round of golf outside, the indoor facilities look mainly to special events, such as bachelor parties.

Steve Anglemyre, who golfs regularly during the summer, said playing the simulator is a good way to keep sharp and avoid losing your swing through the winter drought.

“I play all the time up here,” he said Tuesday at Fore Golfers. “I just live right down the road, so this was like a godsend for me when it opened up.”

Like outdoor golf courses, the rates vary based on when you play. Golfers get an hour for 18 holes. The facilities also offer leagues.

Mr. Rist said the most popular courses are Pebble Beach Golf Links and TPC at Sawgrass

“That’s the best thing about it here,” he said. “You’re getting to play courses you’re never going to get to play outside.”

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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