Dozens of offerings are out there – from one-bay sports bars to spacious clubs
by Jim Bebbington
Indoor golf bars, clubs, and lounges have been popping up throughout Colorado for the past seven years and entrepreneurs are still trying to find out how large the interest for indoor golf can grow.
There are more than 25 locations around the state that offer drinks, food and have indoor golf simulators as an entertainment option, with more on the way.
They run the gamut. Some long-standing sports bars have added one or two hitting bays along side foosball and pool tables and TVs tuned to the latest games.
But others are ground-up concepts with indoor golf as the main attraction. They offer simulators powered by the biggest brands in golf technology and are engaged in an arms race fought with good cocktails, great food and comfortable ambiance. They’re a lot like outdoor golf, but you go to the cart girl instead of her coming to you.
One of the newest additions is also one of the largest. The Hangar Club, built in a former Air Force building in Denver’s Lowry neighborhood, features 10 enormous hitting lounges with Trackman systems.
Comfortable arrays of couches and chairs enable large groups of friends to gather in each hitting bay and participate in leagues or play simulations of some of the greatest courses in the world.
The Hangar Club is an enormous undertaking. Its founders – PGA professional James Love and Denver developer Daren Schmidt – have spent more than a year in planning and construction. The facility makes great use of the Air Force architecture, with soaring girders holding up the 20-foot ceiling above. They are planning to open to the public this October. The space is designed with alcoves, TVs, sitting areas, a library and small nooks that bring the large space down to comfortable scale. The team is also opening a full kitchen and bar and is working hard on the events market; hundreds of people can comfortably fit inside and there is a full floor of indoor parking available downstairs.
“If you think of playing with four of your closest friends at a city of Denver (course) or going out to a country club or taking a golf trip, it’s all about that camaraderie in the community,” said Daren Schmidt.
“So I think that’s one of the biggest selling points. And then for us to have the square footage that we have, to be able to come here and not just play golf, but to sit on our beautiful custom couches that were just delivered and you’ll get some work done here.”
The phenomenon is going on across the country. The PGA of America reports that it is aware of nearly 700 facilities in the country that have an indoor bay either for practice or as entertainment.
The trend here began in 2016 with the South Broadway Country Club, opened by Kelly Huff in Denver’s Overland neighborhood. South Broadway now has four locations – two in Denver and one each in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs.
Bays at many of the facilities cost around $50 an hour to rent. Depending on the technology, different locations offer games or matches on courses locally or from around the globe. Some systems provide deep statistical analysis of swing and ball speeds and several of the largest facilities have affiliations with teaching professionals. League play is common during the fall and winter months.
In Denver’s RINO neighborhood, partners Joe Lynch and Winston Manley opened the five-bay Local Drive Cocktail Bar and Golf Lounge in summer of 2022 on Brighton Boulevard, and are expanding this fall with a second location in Thornton.
“We were playing golf on an indoor sim and watching the Super Bowl and we really enjoyed what we were doing and we thought ‘this makes sense – this combination makes sense – especially when there is snow on the ground,’ ” Manley said.
Manley said the indoor golf phenomenon has not yet showed any signs of peaking. With Colorado winters an iffy proposition – some years you can play outdoors year-round; other years (like 2022) not so much – the number of people interested in leagues or a night-out of golf still seems to be growing.
“Two years ago you could open a golf sim and draw a five mile radius and know you could be safe – that this is the only place a golfer can go to for six months out of the year,” he said. “Now its more intentional. We’re not even close to saturation. There’s still a ton of golfers out there who haven’t hit from a simulator and don’t know this opportunity exists. Right now I relish the fact that more people are coming in to this new version.”
As they are waiting to open, the Hangar Club founders are holding small private gatherings to get a feel for how people are reacting to the new 22,000 square-foot space.
“The reception when you come into this space is mine and Darren’s favorite thing to see,” Love said. “Because when you do walk in and see how grandiose and how kind of different this is from the other places, that’s (the reaction) we enjoy the most.”
Colorado AvidGolfer Magazine is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it, publishing eight issues annually and proudly delivering daily content via coloradoavidgolfer.com.