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February 28, 2013

Golfers stay sharp with local indoor golf league

By Nico Rubello
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Brandon Delaney, 31, of Clinton Township, lines up his shot while golfing on a simulator at the Indoor Golf Club of Michigan, located at 18050 15 Mile in Fraser. He is part of a nine-hole indoor golf league that plays one evening per week.

FRASER — Outside, a heavy blanket of slushy snow was beginning to fall, but inside the Indoor Golf Club of Michigan, it was just another sunny day on an Austrian golf course.

Technically it was a golf course simulator. But perpetually perfect weather, even if virtual, is one of the benefits of participating in the Indoor Golf Club’s weekly nine-hole leagues.

“And you never lose a ball,” said Matt Benavides, who co-owns the Fraser golf pro shop and indoor range. “Golfers are fanatics. They want to play year-round, and you can’t do that in Michigan.”

This is the second winter for the leagues, which range from four to eight players playing a different nine-hole course once a week for 10 weeks. Each league plays once a week on a specified day, Monday through Thursday. The weekly cost is $25 per person.

“Unfortunately, I think I golf more indoors in the winter than I do outdoors in the summer,” said indoor golf leaguer Ryan Rivard. “I just don’t have a chance once a week in the summer. Either that or it’s too hot.”

Rivard, 30, of Sterling Heights, is on a Tuesday-night league, which he plays on with co-workers and family members.

“I love Tuesdays,” said his cousin, 25-year-old Darren Rivard, shortly after chipping the ball within 27 feet of the hole. “It’s just something to do. It’s fun.”

Fellow leaguer Marc Lindecker said participating in the indoor golf league helps golfers hone their game for warmer weather, when they head outdoors to hit the links.

“It keeps your swing intact,” the 55-year-old Macomb Township resident added. “It helps out because, come springtime, (you can) segue right into golf, and you’ve been doing it, so there’s no issue of being sore. People get injured in the spring … because they haven’t done anything all winter.”

Leaguers step inside one of two simulators and drive, chip and putt the ball against a large screen. Sensors measure the direction, speed and spin of the ball, and golfers get to drive their virtual golf balls across roughly 50 different championship golf courses of varying skill levels.

Stepping up to the ball, the sound of birds chirping gives them the feel of being outside while computer analytics gives them feedback on their swing.

The simulators are located next to a short-game putting area and netted driving range.

While this year’s indoor leagues are set to end next month, the simulators are still available for non-league play.

Ryan Rivard, for instance, occasionally brings his girlfriend to play putt-putt golf on the simulators, he said.

“Most people who play on these simulators love it,” Benavides added. “They’re amazed at how accurate, how realistic and how much fun they are.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Nico Rubello at nrubello@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1118.