Golfing in a winter wonderland
Golf simulator gives Wandering Creek a unique winter attraction
The newest addition to Wandering Creek Golf Club is not just an additional wing to the recently-renovated clubhouse and bar area, which has been there since the 1980s. It’s not just an additional revenue stream for the golf course to help better make use of the winter months, which makes outdoor golf unplayable in the state of Iowa.
It’s something course owner Terry Buzbee hopes will give Bobcat golf a boost and help an initiative he’s been spearheading to make Marshalltown a more attractive place for young adults and new families.
“I’ve been here for a long time, and young people say ‘Marshalltown doesn’t have enough to do,'” Buzbee said. “I’m saying we’re trying to knock that in the head.”
The idea really came to the forefront of Buzbee’s mind after discussions with Clubhouse Director Katie Lynch in September, and it wasn’t long before a plan was put into action to develop the clubhouse and add two rooms with virtual golf capabilities. The construction of the new wing was done in less than two months, and the rooms were opened for business on the 15th of December.
The clubhouse now holds this new area with high-tech simulation software projected onto big screens, where avid golfers and newcomers alike will have the opportunity to hit golf balls in the winter months on over 100 courses around the world, Buzbee said. There is a removable wall in between the rooms, so parties can rent out both and occupy them at the same time. Due to COVID-19, masks are required in the common areas of the clubhouse.
The screens use Full Swing Pro Series software — a company that partners with TopGolf, the PGA Tour and Tiger Woods, among others. The course also utilizes two different full-course simulators in the Full Swing simulator and e6’s golf simulator. The total number of courses between the two apps is 101, according to Lynch. Some of those courses include PGA Tour mainstays such as TPC Sawgrass, Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach. Lynch said it’s the same technology that NBC’s Golf Channel uses for its simulators and on-air teaching programs.
“On the Full Swing software we have at least 15,” Lynch said. “And on the e6 software there are 86. We get at least one if not two new courses through the Full Swing software per month.”
The game picks up swing movement and speed, calculates how far the drive would go, and then provides the user with immediate feedback on their swing.
The software also provides users the option to fly over holes on courses before deciding if they’d like to play that course, which Buzbee said is a beautiful tool and adds another dimension to the experience.
But golf games aren’t the only option available to customers who rent one or both of the rooms (at a $35/hour rate) — There’s soccer, bocce ball, carnival games, football, basketball and more in a list of apps offered by the software. In one game, participants can test their soccer skills by attempting penalty kicks against an AI goalkeeper at three different levels of difficulty.
Buzbee said he’s hoping to have the Marshalltown boys’ and girls’ golf teams — coached by his son-in-law, Lucas Johnson — working in the simulators during the winter to help keep their games sharp ahead of their respective seasons. As a big MHS and MCC fan and advocate, he said he wants to help in any way possible to keep the local teams sharp.
The reception to the new additions has been very positive, Lynch said. Wandering Creek is opening up a two-person, best-shot league January 4, and 18 teams have signed up to take part, she added. Reservations for league spots and for regular play at the simulators can be done online.
The golf simulators at Wandering Creek have the potential to change the game for the nine-hole course, and Buzbee is aiming high.
“It’s this whole scenario of ‘Marshalltown More Than Ever,'” Buzbee said. “I started this whole deal by thinking, ‘How do I make Marshalltown a place my kids would want to live?'”