Golfers and wannabe golfers looking to get in some swings without getting outside have a new destination in Seattle. Five Iron Golf, a high-tech indoor golf experience with 10 other locations in the U.S., has opened on Capitol Hill.
Five Iron Golf is like a bar surrounded by golf simulators — 12 of them in fact — in a sprawling, 12,000-foot space at 1525 11th Ave. Located at the base of WeWork Capitol Hill, Five Iron is designed to be a hangout for golfers of all skill levels and others who are into eating and drinking around the game.
The decision to open in Seattle was apparently inspired by hip-hop star Macklemore (Ben Haggerty), an avid golfer who has taken an ownership stake in the company and will act as brand ambassador. Haggerty opened a pop-up golf fashion shop nearby called Bogey Boys that is slated to close this weekend.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve never played golf before or if you’re a scratch golfer, Five Iron’s mission is all about getting more people involved in the game,” Haggerty said in a news release. “I love having them in my city and I’m excited to work with the team to grow the game.”
Five Iron prides itself on bringing its signature “design aesthetic” to the neighborhood. There are graffiti murals, neon signs with clever golf puns, modern furniture and TVs throughout.
Visitors can play casually with friends, join a league, get custom fitted for clubs or take a private lesson.
During a visit on Wednesday evening, I stepped in front of a simulator with instructor Charles Lee, a professional golfer who toured in Asia and who said he’s taught way worse golfers than me.
We spent about 15 minutes working on my 9-iron stroke, smacking the ball into a screen. The simulators are by Trackman, the same $50,000-a-pop brand that Donald Trump reportedly had installed at The White House during his presidency.
I’d never in my uncelebrated golfing life had a pro lesson or considered some of the data being generated by the machine as it watched my swing and the simulated trajectory of the ball. Here I was, pondering such things as club speed, club path, spin loft, ball speed, spin rate, carry and more.
I could choose to hit balls on the top 100 courses in the world. The prospect of going to Capitol Hill with friends to play Pebble Beach sounded appealing, if only because I wouldn’t be leaving huge divots on the Five Iron artificial turf the way I would on the real course.
While parking can be tough on Capitol Hill, general manager David Kim said he thinks Five Iron is a great fit for the neighborhood. In three weeks they’ve attracted 30 members, at $250 per month. The place opens at 6 a.m. for golfers who want to hit some balls before heading to work.
Kim thinks techies who are more analytical will be drawn to the experience of getting all that data feedback from the simulator.
“You get results right there. You see how much further or how much [a club] is impacting your draw or your fade,” Kim said. “Every time you smack the ball, it gives a reading of the impact. Those kinds of tools are really helpful for [club] fittings and for lessons especially.”
It might not be a walk outdoors on a real course, but Kim called it good way to lose track of time and turn your mind off.
The Capitol Hill location will host a grand-opening event, with Macklemore, on March 30.
Aside from regular courses, Five Iron will eventually compete for customers with Topgolf, the chain which has turned a trip to the driving range into a higher-tech and entertaining affair. Topgolf is on schedule to open a facility in Renton, Wash., south of Seattle.
Five Iron Golf originated in New York City in 2017 and has expanded to Chicago, Baltimore, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C., with new locations coming to Detroit and Boston by this summer. The company in November landed a $30 million minority investment from golf giant Callaway, which supplies the clubs in Five Iron’s venues. Callaway last year acquired Topgolf in a deal valued around $2 billion.
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