The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


January 19, 2013

Indoor Golf offers shot at world’s top courses

JOHNSTOWN — Marque Doucette stepped up to a tee, placed his golf ball and quickly launched it 120 yards down a digitized fairway at the famed Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh.

His previous drive, just moments earlier, came at the PGA course in Abu Dhabi, where some pros were playing last week.

It’s all part of a bigger shot Doucette is taking. He’s just days away from a Feb. 1 grand opening of Indoor Golf of Johns­town, a business that will feature state-of-the-art simulators allowing golfers to practice drives or play 18 holes on courses across the world year-round. It is located in the East Hills Plaza, anchored by Ollies Bargain Outlet.

“I originally wanted to open a driving range. But I kept thinking about the fact that once winter comes, you can’t play anymore,” he said, holding his club while standing in front of a 12 foot impact screen. “That’s where this idea came in. Indoor golf. All year long.”

The concept has been gaining steam in recent years.

The Alley near Central City has operated several machines in its bar for years.

“But this is the first place entirely dedicated to golf,” Doucette noted.

That’s where the Daisytown man hopes to fill a niche, providing a space where golfers can keep their game sharp even when snow is falling outside.

His four machines, which typically cost $20,000 or so each, utilize lights, cameras and other sensors to project ball speed, club angle, distance and a list of other stats.

Golfers can bring their own clubs and golf balls. When they strike the ball, it travels about 10 feet before hitting either the impact screen where the course is shown or the net surrounding it.

“There’s more than 135 courses from all over the world on these machines,” Doucette said.

Courses frequented by golf’s top pros and well-heeled amateurs are among them, including Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines and Augusta.

Golf will be offered by the hour at Indoor Golf of Johnstown, he said.

It costs $25 per hour. But for a group of five playing on the same course and screen, that breaks down to $5 an hour.

For two golfers playing 18 holes, with a few short breaks in between, a round typically takes two hours, said Pam Renowden, a partner in the venture.

Doucette is hoping to start leagues.

He soon will allow players to set up tee times online at indoorgolfofjohns­

Those who compete in leagues will play weekly at discounted rates, he added.

A small pro shop is being set up at the front of the 4,000-square-foot location.

Renowden said snacks will be sold but deals are being worked out with local restaurants, including Papa Johns, to allow players to place orders at the shop and have food delivered.

Doucette hopes to set up a golf-focused consignment shop at the rear of the location, where used clubs, shirts and other gear will be offered at a fraction of its retail cost.

Indoor Golf hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday – but there will be flexibility for players, Doucette said.

He hopes to have “early bird” hours during the summer golf season, opening at 5:30 a.m. to allow golfers to warm up indoors with a continental breakfast and drive balls at discounted rates.

“It’s something different,” he said.

“But I think people in this area will have a lot of fun with this.”

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