I’m on the first tee at Pebble Beach.
Sun and blue skies atop immaculate green fairways, the slightest touch of breeze rustling through tree branches—postcard weather. A couple practice swings and then I address the ball. It smacks off the clubface and follows a looping arc to the right, settling 193 yards down the fairway. Even my characteristic slice looks prettier here.
And to think, six minutes ago I was putting a neon yellow ball up an Astroturf incline into a glow-in-the-dark barrel.
The truth—I’ve never golfed Pebble Beach.
Instead, I was at Caddy’s Delight in Grandview. The virtual golf lounge—and its sister facility, Miner 49er Mini Golf—opened to the public around the beginning of May, fulfilling a vision that owner Bob Caudy first had about two years ago.
Course-themed murals—courtesy of local painter Bonie Bolen—adorn the walls. A bar showcases 12 tap handles, representing a dozen local brews. General Manager Adam Birchfield described a featured cocktail called The Fairway—muddled lemons and thyme, Watershed vodka, house-infused thyme syrup, house-made lemonade, topped with soda. He also rattled off a host of dishes from the kitchen with golf-inspired names, like The PAR (a take on a BLT) and The Slow Roll (slow-roasted pork loin).
“It’s hard to get on any course and get through 18 holes
after 6 o’clock before the sun goes down. Here, it’s always
sunny, never rainy, and the wind is nonexistent.”
The main attractions are three large bays for virtual golf, with immense projection screens separated by black curtains. They rent for $35 an hour, and each features a screw-in tee, two patches of thick-cut “rough,” two patches of fluffy white “sand,” and a large expanse of green fabric for putting. There are three cameras at each bay to capture the speed and trajectory of the ball and project its flight path onto the screen. Golfers can choose from one of 27 virtual courses—23 of which are replicas of the world’s best, like St. Andrews, Bethpage Black, and Torrey Pines. All three stations have a small screen to display in-depth stats about the most recent swing, including a club-path tracker that shows where it made impact with the ball. The first bay also offers a swing analyzer that records and then compares swings to the ideal range of motion.
For those more interested in a leisurely, family-friendly game of putt putt, Miner 49er is just a short walk down the hallway. The 18-hole course is a menagerie of themed murals and blacklight paint, allowing mini duffers to play through a Western frontier village and a darkened underground mine. The course caters to kids in particular, with a dining room for party rentals off to the side, but the Caddy’s Delight team hopes to attract daycare centers and youth sports camps to virtual golf, too.
“If I can spark interest in the sport of golf by providing a facility like this, that just is the bonus of what we’re trying to do,” Caudy said. He and Birchfield hope to lure pretty much anyone and everyone, from diehard golfers looking to preserve muscle memory during winter leagues to white-collar businesspeople hoping to close a deal over lunch and a quick round.
The virtual golf plays fairly similar to the real thing, especially for those accustomed to hitting from the indoor stalls at ranges. Putting is the biggest challenge, evidenced by my attempt to steal a long-range bogey at the first at Pebble, which rolled a mere 60 feet by the hole. The putt has to travel several feet to reach the screen with the right touch and pace, a much tougher mental adjustment than driving. Also, these are not unkempt tracks off the side of the highway; the greens are calibrated to match the conditions of world-class courses frequented by PGA stars.
Regardless of talent level, it provides a convenient place for anyone to practice with ease, and Birchfield said that the biggest advantage for the weekday warrior-types is that a round only takes an hour if golfing solo. “It’s hard to get on a public course, or any course really, and get through 18 holes after 6 o’clock before the sun goes down,” he said. “Here, it’s always sunny, never rainy, and the wind is nonexistent.”
A golfer’s paradise—and for one glorious hour, you’re on at Pebble.
For more information about Caddy’s Delight, check out caddysdelight.com.