In an unassuming building on Pioneer Way, visitors will discover a sleekly designed interior and oddly, the sound of swinging golf clubs.
This new business called Puget Sound Golf Club opened in January and offers golf simulators, a high-tech system that allows people to practice golf indoors on virtually simulated courses and driving ranges. Projectors display realistic scenes on 16 foot by 10 foot screens. The simulator uses a technology called TrackMan which has two radar units and a camera. One radar unit tracks the golf club, the other tracks the ball.
“You can play on a virtual course here,” owner Josh Ray explained. “You bring your real clubs, hit real balls.”
The device shows how fast the ball was hit and how far it would have gone if it was outside on an actual golf course.
People simply swing as they normally would and the golf ball hits the projector screen.
Ray said professional golfers use the TrackMan technology to practice. The software provides 150 virtual courses and new courses are added every month. Some courses are duplicates of famous locales, such as Pebble Beach Golf Links in California and St. Andrews in Scotland, the world’s oldest golf course.
There are also more video game-like courses and games for kids. The software even has putt putt. Multiple people can enjoy a round of golf at once.
Ray was inspired to open the business because of his love of the sport. When he arrived in Oak Harbor almost two years ago, he noticed there wasn’t any indoor golf close by. He thought this was strange considering the weather in the region.
“You can golf year-round here but it gets muddy, and it’s just not as much fun,” he said.
Originally from University Place, Ray lived in Utah for about 15 years where he went to an indoor golf facility almost every day. His wife disliked the heat of Utah and wanted to return to Washington. They kept putting off the move until their 6-year-old son developed a tumor in his eye.
“That was a wake-up moment for our family of just how short life can be,” Ray recalled.
The couple decided to take the leap and finally moved to Washington, settling just outside of Oak Harbor. Thankfully, their son recovered.
Ray and his wife Brittany – who is responsible for the club’s tasteful decor – are passionate about getting involved in the community and hope their business adds to the short list of fun indoor activities available on the island.
Ray donates 10% of all revenue to charities that are important to his family including Seattle Children’s Hospital, where his son was treated, the Ronald McDonald House and local organizations on the island.
Aside from avoiding cold, rainy weather, another benefit of indoor golf is saving time. At a normal golf course, it can take 3 to 4 hours to play 18 holes. At the Puget Sound Golf Club, it only takes one hour. While it doesn’t replace golfing outside, for someone with a family and responsibilities, it’s nice to be able to enjoy a quick round of golf during the week.
Memberships at Puget Sound golf Club are $250 a month and military members get a 10% discount. It is month to month, so there is no long-term commitment. Guests of members golf for free and golf clubs are available free of charge for those who don’t have them.
The building is open 24 hours a day for members, who have an app on their phone that allows them to buzz in whenever they like. Online reservations are also available. Ray said they have members from all over the area who travel from Anacortes, Freeland and Mount Vernon.
For the general public, hours are 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights at $45 an hour, no matter how many people are playing.
For those using the facility for the first time, Ray likes to meet people there and walk them through using the technology. People can also request a tour and hit some balls for free to see if the membership is right for them.
For the future, Ray is planning to host local tournaments and a ladies’ nights.
He said the environment is great for those just learning how to play. TrackMan has artificial intelligence coaching. After you take about 10 or 15 swings, it will give advice on how to improve and suggest games and courses that suit your needs.
“You have a perfect place to hit off every time,” Ray added.