Play the world’s greatest courses at The Clubhouse in Middleton
By BILL BROTHERTON
Bob Bowman takes a mighty swing and splits the fairway with his tee shot. His playing partners, Mike Bondanza, Marc Jean and Jim Varzakis, applaud his effort, but not without a bit of good-natured ribbing. The foursome is about halfway through their round at Wildstone Golf Course in Cranbrook, British Columbia.
But they are not in Canada. They are golfing indoors at The Clubhouse Golf & Entertainment center in Middleton, hitting their balls at a wall-size screen. The state-of-the-art simulators give local linksmen and linkswomen the chance to play such iconic courses as Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, Harbour Town and TPC Sawgrass – about 70 championship courses in all – without the hassles of traveling. You can even plug in weather conditions, wind speed and eight other variables. Cost is $15 per hour per person. Tee times can be reserved one week in advance.
The Clubhouse is an indoor golf/ entertainment facility on Route 114 in Middleton. The former Optigolf site has been transformed into a massive, 12,000-square-foot family-friendly sports and entertainment complex. In addition to nine aboutGolf brand simulators and an indoor driving range, the venue has three billiard tables, three ping-pong tables, six leagueapproved dart boards, four custom cornhole courts, foosball and shuffleboard tables, Skee Ball games, and 19 TVs, including three ginormous 14-footers. There are ample lounge areas for relaxing and a 19th hole that has food service, a full bar, craft beers and premium wine. It is a perfect spot to host corporate events and parties of all kinds,including birthday, bachelor and bachelorette. The Clubhouse can host functions for up to 150 on one side without disturbing any of its golf or bar customers on the other side.
Eric Karpinski, CEO and director of golf operations and one of The Clubhouse’s teaching pros, is jazzed to demonstrate the computer he uses while giving lessons. The teaching module, the only one of its kind in the Northeast, measures and displays on a screen everything from setup, alignment, balance and weight distribution to the distance the ball travels, the club and ball speed and vertical launch. It’s an important part of his teaching regime, Karpinski said.
Karpinski, a former caddie and caddie master at Vesper CC and a PGA Certified Golf Instructor, said March is typically his and The Clubhouse’s busiest month. “We’re slammed. The weather is getting good and golfers are overly ready to practice and play.” He is committed to getting kids and women more interested in golf. The Tuesday noontime ladies group lesson and a series of junior clinics he and other PGA certified instructors teach are very popular.
The owner Dr. Wayne Pasanen, an Andover resident, said The Clubhouse offers “golf without intimidation. … You play at your own pace and you never lose a ball.”
Pasanen, an 18-handicap member at Salem CC and Vesper, two Donald Ross-designed gems, said neither course is available via simulator. In fact, there are no Massachusetts courses offered at this time but he’s hopeful that will change. There is a Donald Ross Memorial course, comprised of 18 of the designer’s classic holes, including the 13th at Salem.
There’s also the “Infamous 18,” a wild course that brings to life the absurd paintings of “Bud” Chapman. Imagine hitting your drive over the Grand Canyon and whacking the ball around Victoria Falls or the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu; this’ll have you laughing even if you’re playing badly.
Let’s check in on Bob Bowman and his pals, who play in a league at Mt. Hood in Melrose and try to get together at The Clubhouse at least once a week.
“It helps my game, and it’s pretty accurate,” said Bowman, who lives in Malden. Marc Jean of Danvers looks through a book that has intricate details about Wildstone Golf Course, including distance and pin placements: he grabs a club from his bag and swings away. He’s just short of the green.
Mike Bondanza of Danvers said the simulators are remarkably similar to playing on a real course. “The first times we played, we played the famous courses, TPC Scottsdale for its par-3 16th hole, and Pebble Beach and St. Andrew’s.”
Varzakis pipes in “and one time we made it rain, just to make it more challenging. It hurt our scores but at least we didn’t get wet.”
Photos: Mark Lorenz
The Clubhouse Golf & Entertainment complex is at 220 South Main St. in Middleton. For information or reservations, go to www.theclubhousege.com or call 978-539-8725.