Get Your Swing On

A new destination for Friday-night fun opens in Mile Square.
Photography by Aden Vercelletto

AFTER A SOFT opening in December, Five Iron Golf, a high-tech entertainment venue designed for golfers and those who’ve never picked up a club alike, officially swung open its doors on February 29. The shiny, new building with its industrial-hip design replaced a parking lot across from the Indiana War Memorial & Museum.

The main draw is the golf simulator bays, where you can virtually practice your golf skills on a driving range, tackle a famous course like Pebble Beach, or play one of a slew of traditional games. A video just off to the side helps by showing areas of improvement in your position, stance, and swing. Succeeding at golf as a newbie is not easy, even in this setting. It’s not mini-golf. Wind up in the sand (or the lava, or the crocodile-infested swamp, depending on the game) one too many times, and the system reminds you, “The target is over there,” or offers a kindly, “Let’s add a pickup button, just for you.”

Food—sliders, pizza, boneless wings, and such—and drinks from a bar heavy on local brews and canned cocktails can be ordered right from your bay, and orders are brought to you.

With an abundance of neon, leather couches, low clubby tables, and continuous pop and hip-hop music, the space vibes young, but general manager Scott Schmelzer says most patrons fall between ages 25 and 55. “During the week, from opening to about 4 p.m., it’s a lot of middle-aged male golfers. Sometimes they come in groups. Other times, they bring their wives. Even though their wife would be bored on a golf course, they’ll come here and enjoy themselves,” he says. “It does get packed with a younger crowd from 10 p.m. to midnight.” Besides virtual golf, you can play pool, table shuffleboard, and air hockey. And since there is no admission fee, anyone can stop in, grab a drink at the bar, and chill.

Photography by Aden Vercelletto

This the first Five Iron Golf in Indiana, and being downtown was nonnegotiable. “It’s our business model. We’re built around downtown lifestyles,” says Schmelzer. The idea is to be a place to go after work to unwind or to congregate with friends on weekends. While the foot traffic downtown isn’t what it once was, admits Schmelzer, they’ve gotten a big boost from the Industry apartments directly above them. That said, a second location in Carmel is a strong possibility, eventually. “We’re getting a lot of inquiries from potential franchisees who want to open one there specifically.”

Playing traditional golf is not an option for many, given the overall cost of the sport and the obvious fact that golf courses are not in or near many urban centers. Part of the mission of Five Iron Golf is to introduce the sport to a wider audience. Schmelzer estimates the ratio of serious golfers to those just out for a good time with friends runs about 50-50.

Simulator bays for up to four players should be booked in advance, if possible. The rate is $65–$80 an hour depending on day and time. On Wednesdays throughout March, which is Women’s History Month, all women golf free. Limited free parking is available in a lot behind the building. Five Iron Golf, 421 N. Pennsylvania St., 800-513-5153