Clint Ables has a solution for those Tri-City golfers wanting to play when it’s too cold out or there’s snow on the ground this coming winter:
Come to Zintel Creek Golf Club.
Ables, the general manager and head golf pro at Zintel Creek in Kennewick, has a new toy called the Full Swing Golf Simulator that was just installed last week.
The club has turned an old meeting room, just off The Edge sports lounge, into a simulator room.
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For as little as $35 an hour for one person up to $65 an hour for a foursome (divided evenly to $16.25 per person if your playing partners aren’t cheap), golfers can play legendary courses such as Troon, Spyglass or Pebble Beach, and never get cold.
Ables himself has played with the simulator for over a week now.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said as he demonstrated how it works.
In this instance, Ables picked Pebble Beach, and was getting ready to tee off on a par-3 hole next to the Pacific Ocean.
The big screen shows the hole view from what would be the tee box if you were actually at Pebble Beach. The screen then gives you an overhead fly-by for a better scope of your virtual surroundings.
Then it goes back to the tee box view.
Setting up 15 feet away, Ables takes a full swing and hits the ball into the screen. Two sensors overhead pick up the club swing and the ball, immediately measuring the trajectory, club head speed, how much the club head was open or closed, and other data.
Statistics pop up on the screen as Ables watches the flight of his virtual ball, and eventually, where it lands and rolls to a stop.
If he’s on the green, the simulator tells him how far away from the cup it is and how many strokes it would take for him to make the putt.
“It’s a crapshoot on putting,” said Ables. “It tells you how many putts you had to take on a hole. And it varies.”
Sensors can be enabled to allow putting. But Ables cautions that a foursome planning on playing a full round on a virtual course should expect a two-hour round without the putting.
Ables is a part of a group who bought the old Tri-City Country Club about a year ago when it was floundering financially. The group made improvements to the actual course, turned the private restaurant into a sports bar on one side and a steakhouse on the other side, opened it up to the public, and rebranded it all Zintel Creek Golf Club back in January.
The simulator has been on Ables’ mind as an addition for a long time.
“I thought that this would always be a great fit for the lounge,” he said. “Spokane has a lot of these. Highlander in East Wenatchee put two in. Boise has several indoor places. Several of our owners, 11 of them, ponied up to buy this. The club will pay them back as we go along.”
It cost $50,000.
The simulator has 55 golf courses from around the world. More could be added, but those don’t come cheap either.
“It costs $1,500 for a pack of six or seven golf courses,” Ables said.
Don’t expect Augusta – home of The Masters – to be one of them.
But don’t expect to be golfing at The Masters anytime soon. The Augusta membership is keeping that course off the digital market.
“I expect Pebble Beach to be one of the most popular courses people will play,” said Ables. “Spyglass and Pinehurst No. 2 will be popular too.”
Troon of Scotland, periodic home to the British Open, is also available.
The simulator room has a dining table in it and some easy chairs nearby.
The Edge staff has been trained on the simulator and how to work it, and is expected to check on the players every five minutes, said Ables.
He anticipates that golfers using the simulator will also want to be eating and drinking while they play.
“My goal is to have this paid off in eight months,” said Ables.
With roughly four months of the year being too cold for the less hardy-type golfers, and the fact that it gets dark out earlier, Ables sees this as an attraction for those still wanting to play.
“We’re planning a winter league in December, with two-person teams playing nine holes,” he said.
But Ables sees other possibilities.
“It’s a great way to give lessons,” he said. “Millennials like this now more than going to the driving range. This gives you pretty accurate information and quickly.
“I’d do a full lesson here. It gives you instant feedback. But if you want things like course management or work on your short game, we’d do that out on the (real) course.”
Ables also sees some people using it in the spring and summer months to warm up before going out on the actual course.
It can be set up as a driving range. In this instance, Ables set up smaller targets 130 virtual yards away – kind of like a video Topgolf.
Topgolf – a three- to four-story driving range with loud music, food and drink, in which golfers hit balls aiming for targets (colored, lighted targets at night) – has helped draw in more golfers. Normally located near major cities, it’s very popular with golfers and non-golfers alike.
“Topgolf did a study two years ago that said 10 percent of new golfers got started at Topgolf,” said Ables.
That survey, conducted for Topgolf by the National Golf Foundation, said that 94 percent of non-golfers felt comfortable about playing at a Topgolf. And 99 percent of those non-golfers stated they would return.
Ables believes simulators can also be an attraction for first-time golfers to pick up the sport.
He’s already helped a woman in her 80s pick up the game through the simulator.
And it’s helped him with his own game.
“I know I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “And I can get a lot better.”
That’s bad news for the region’s golf professionals. Ables was the Central Washington Chapter of the PGA golf professional of the year for 2018, based on his tournament performance.
Besides the hourly rates, people can purchase hourly punch cards or simulator season passes.
“The public will be able to get a tee time on it a week in advance,” said Ables. “Zintel Creek members get two weeks in advance tee times. Season online holders can get three weeks out.”
The simulator will be open when the restaurant is – 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays.
People can reserve their tee times through ZintelCreek.com.
“Everybody thinks it’s really cool,” said Ables. “I expect weekends to fill up. I expect this to be big.”