KIRKLAND — There was a time when the 129 consecutive days of rain in Seattle (give or take 100 days) would not have stopped Craig and me from playing golf. But we have become the fair-weather golfers we used to like to make fun of.
That doesn’t mean we don’t want to play, so we played Pebble Beach. Seven holes of it. Kind of.
The weather outside might have been frightful, but it was just fine inside the recently opened Lounge by Topgolf in Kirkland, where plenty of virtual golf opportunities await. We spent an hour in one of five virtual bays, laughed a lot, and hit a lot of mediocre shots, just like we would on a real course.
What it is
You “play” golf by hitting a ball against a video screen showing what you would see if you were at the course. The simulated flight of the ball is shown on the screen. Clubs are provided or you can bring your own. Information is flashed after each shot, showing how far the ball went, clubhead speed, launch angle, distance to pin and other data. Each bay also is equipped for other games, such as baseball and football throwing accuracy, a hockey puck shoot and dodgeball. There also is a video driving range target shoot contest. Up to eight people can use a bay at the same time.
Scott: The chance to swing a club without freezing hands. The lounge provides a decent set of clubs and while it never felt like I was really playing Pebble Beach, I did find myself getting competitive and taking it seriously. I would like to think that the 155-yard approach I hit to a few feet from the hole for a gimme birdie was the result of a good swing. I felt better when the guys in the bay next to us (better players than us) thought the results of their virtual shots matched up with the swings they made.
Glad we made it past the famed par-3 seventh before our one hour expired. Surprisingly, neither of us hit in the ocean.
Craig and I surely brought the median age up during our Monday morning visit, but all ages can feel comfortable at the facility.
Craig: Selection of courses to choose from is impressive and you can play Bethpage Black if you really want a test. … This is probably the closest we will come to playing Pebble Beach because greens fees at the California course are more than $500. … No problems with bad weather, slow group ahead of you or actual lost balls. …“Screen golf” is a lot more fun than hitting balls into a net.
Two bays down from us were three guys better than us who brought their own clubs (“courses are too wet to play,” one fellow explained). They were hooting and hollering and sounded as if they were having as much fun as being on a real course.
I took my wife there for a drink and appetizers a few nights later and she was impressed. One entertaining feature is the ceiling “digital sky” that is constantly changing colors and had an outer-space theme. Food ranges from appetizers to dinners. A guy at the next table was falling in love with his hamburger. A friend who has owned good restaurants gave the food an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Plenty of TVs to watch live sporting events.
Scott: Craig and I hit several shots that were not detected by the sensors, so we had to hit again. On the positive side, it was like getting a free practice shot, but a couple of times I felt like I wasted good swings. It struck me that it’s much cheaper to play golf at just about any course than it is to play here.
Craig: The putting felt like the most contrived part of video golf. It felt like “hit and hope.” … Bunker shots are just chip shots. . … Allow four hours to find your car and an exit in the confusing underground Kirkland Urban garage. OK, I’m kidding, but the garage is a pain.
Truth or fiction?
Scott: I played six of the seven holes in 5 over. I don’t want to talk about the par-5 second hole where I made a 10. For me, that is very good golf. Did I really swing it that well? Did Craig really deserve to go back and forth over the green about seven times on the sixth hole?
I did get satisfaction making a par on the third hole and a birdie on the fourth. But I don’t feel like I made a birdie at Pebble Beach, and am not sure I wouldn’t be happier with a birdie at Interbay.
“At least you’re getting a lot of shots for your money,” Scott to Craig, after he reached his 12-shot limit on a hole.
“You’re going to write that this is the greatest thing ever,” Craig to Scott after his birdie.
Scott: 2½ stars.
I had fun and we laughed a lot. It’s worth going once, but not sure I would go often at the price.
Craig: 2 stars.
OK, play it once for the experience, but there is no substitute for grass and fresh air. I’ll go back, but it will be for food and drink.