LIMA — Earlier this month, a few short days after heavy rains had fallen on Allen County, a group of friends and former co-workers gathered for a rousing round of golf, sprinkled liberally with a few brews.
There wasn’t a single ball lost in a water hazard during the round, and there were no soggy golf shoes in sight. These merry linksters were inside the Swing Rite Golf Center, having the times of their lives.
The center, located across North Stevick Road from Tamarac Golf Course, has been owned and operated by golf professional Mike Harmon for the last dozen years. It is home to Lima’s only simulated course, where golfers — using their own clubs and balls — swing their clubs and then wait for a computer to show the results.
A hook or a slice will soon be evident on the 15-by-10-foot projection screen. So, too, will a 300-yard drive down the middle of the fairway. The computer will tell each golfer the number of yards remaining to the flag, the wind speed and direction and the elevation of the hole. Getting your ball on the green ends the hole.
“We’d be here all day if it weren’t for the ‘auto putt’ feature” provided by the computer, joked Shelby County resident Steve Huelskamp.
Huelskamp and his playing partners are retired from Honda and look forward to spending time every couple of weeks during the winter catching up and polishing their golf games. When weather conditions permit, the game will be moved outside. But until then, “it’s just good seeing the people you worked with and enjoying some camaraderie,” fellow golfer Bill Amweg said.
Harmon said the golf simulator serves three primary purposes.
“It gives people a chance to come in and hit some balls to work on their game. And it allows the guys to come in and gather together with their friends and drink a few beers, or come in with the wives or kids during the evenings,” Harmon said. “And it allows me to give some golf lessons and sell a few golf clubs during the winter.”
Tee times are recommended for the golf simulator, just like outdoor golf, and can be made through the center’s website, swingritegolf.com.
Golfers can choose from 87 different courses, including some that are famous throughout the golfing world. Harmon said the computerized golf game “isn’t perfect — no simulator ever is — but it’s accurate enough to have fun with.”
The indoor golf business, by its very nature, is also extremely seasonal.
“As soon as it gets warm out, it’s like flipping a switch,” Harmon said. “But we used to close the shop in the winter, and this has proven to be a perfect fit for us.”