Mar 5, 2024 - News

Golf simulation bars spread through Cleveland

Side by side images of two building frontages: West Bank Golf Club and Five Iron Golf

West Bank Golf Club in the Flats (L) and Five Iron Golf on Euclid downtown (R). Photos: Sam Allard/Axios

Is the proliferation of golf simulator bars getting a little out of control?

Why it matters: If TopGolf is like a sports bar with a driving range, this new breed of golf lounge is like a sports bar with a full course.

  • They appeal both to novice golfers who don't want to spend time and money on 18-hole rounds and to addicted degenerates (like yours truly) who convince themselves that continuing to swing during winter will improve their scores.

Flashback: TopGolf arrived in the Cleveland market in 2020, ushering in a slew of new simulators, including expanding regional brands like 1899 Indoor Golf (Canton, Twinsburg, Shaker Heights) and Five Iron Golf (downtown), both of which opened locations in 2023.

My take: My favorite in the suddenly crowded market is West Bank Golf Club in the Flats, which opened in 2022. I recently had a blast with members of my burgeoning men's league.

  • The vibe: Pure bachelor pad. Garage door, pop-a-shot, bring-your-own-food, etc.
  • Not necessarily a date-night gem on the one hand, but no overpriced, poorly made appetizers jacking up an already sizable bill on the other.

What I drank: Two tall-boy Miller High Lifes, though I was tempted by the selection of craft beer, seltzers and spirits.

By the numbers: An hour on a sim, roughly the time it takes one person to play 18 holes, can range from $40-$60.

  • If you're making an evening of it, enjoying an adult beverage or two and the aforementioned apps, be prepared for a jolt when you close your tab.

Reality check: Actual golf is expensive, too. But a simulated experience should never cost as much as the real McCoy.

What's next: Outdoor golf season is just around the corner.

  • In the meantime, the second season of "Full Swing" Netflix's surprisingly absorbing documentary series on the PGA Tour, premieres Wednesday.
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