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Review: Innergolf — Even Better than the Real Thing?

I’ve never been one for golf simulators. If I’m going to play Pebble, or the Old Course, or Kiawah, well I want to play the real thing.

Fortunately for me, Innergolf.ca, a new simulator located in West Toronto may not be better than the real thing, but it still offered a remarkably life-like experience of playing great golf courses which didn’t require a flight to Cali.

The whole system was pretty user-friendly right out of the gate. Innergolf’s simulator features a driving range warmup area that allows golfers to hit a bucket before heading out on the course. It also gives players a great sense of how they are hitting it, since the system tracks each shot, providing details like ball flight and path.

After 10 minutes, I made the move to the simulator. I’ve always wanted to play Pete Dye’s Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic, but I’m always a bit worried about the impact being in a Caribbean country might have on my delicate digestive system. So after a few seconds of pushing buttons on a display screen, I was hitting it off the first hole at Teeth of the Dog.

That’s where Innergolf became really impressive. The simulator utilizes a military system that was designed to track bullets to follow your golf ball, measuring each shot 8,000 times before the pill connects with the screen only a few yards in front. It apparently creates a very accurate perspective on your ball flight and distance, and the simulator, created by the company behind Microsoft Golf, offers you options like firming up fairways and greens to match your desires in course set up.

I played 18 holes quite rapidly (in just over an hour, including warmup). The experience of playing Teeth of the Dog was quite intriguing, with my high draw remaining relatively consistent throughout the round, though a couple of blocks did manage to find the water. I followed this with a few holes at Pebble Beach (1 through 9), which appeared to feature more elevation and depth change and was, in fact, a more interesting playing experience than Teeth of the Dog, at least in the simulator.

I found the tee shots were an accurate distance for me (I average about 280 off the tee), with the correct trajectory and ball path. The imaging was impressive (I’ve spent some time at Pebble in the past), and the shot selection seemed representative of the course.

So what doesn’t quite work? I found chipping to be pretty tricky to gauge, though the use of different synthetic materials to replicate sand and grass proved interesting. But chipping is largley about depth and feel, coupled with one’s ability to determine the correct slope. Over 27 holes I never really figured this one out. The indications would be the chip should come in at 17 yards — but that’s a pretty tough distance to gauge in your head (or at least my head) without actually being able to see it. It made it clear to me that my I’ve become accustomed to looking at certain shots and playing them entirely by feel; I don’t automatically have a 30 yard shot in me, which made these shots on the simulator very difficult.

The other tricky bit was putting. I’m sure some can understand the lines that indicated slopes, but to me, at least for more than a dozen holes, it was all like Grade 11 Drafting — kind of baffling to me, though I’m sure some would just cruise through it.

Overall, Innergolf is aiming to offer a warm atmosphere (more golf photos guys… make the place like a small, charming clubhouse and less like a warehouse), reasonable pricing ($45 per hour regardless of how many players are using one system, making it quite affordable) and a state-of-the-art computerized system that allows you to play some of the best golf in the world. With such a playable and authentic feeling simulator, this would seem like a viable option to standing under a heater in the winter pounding balls out of doors.

Innergolf is located on Sudbury, just south of the noted Toronto restaurant Mildred Pierce, and is part of an ambitious project that will eventually include a gym, club, and hotel.

The details:

Innergolf.ca

416-538-GOLF (4653)

Pricing: $45 per hour per simulator (cost can be split among multiple players)

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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  • Wanted to tell you all about my experience with Teambuy’s Innergolf deal (one of the first Teambuy offers, as I recall). I should make a couple of things clear off the top. One is that I had no problem on the Teambuy end; everything went as could be expected there, and I know they’re not to blame for Innergolf’s incompetence and idiocy. I have used Teambuy a number of times and everything has been great, and I appreciate what they’re doing.

    Second, the two people I actually dealt with face-to-face at Innergolf today were both totally fine and accommodating. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for the various people I spoke to on the phone.

    Anyway, here’s my recap:

    November 4: I visit Teambuy and see the Innergolf deal. $5 for a 1-hour swing analysis package, regular price $40. I was looking for something to do with my girlfriend’s family and I know they’re all golf fans, so I order 5 packages, total price $25. All good so far. Deal does not expire until end of February, so I give it to them for Christmas and it takes us awhile to find a date that works for everyone, but we finally agree on February 13.

    January 26: I do an online reservation request on Innergolf’s homepage (innergolf.ca — although I can’t find the online form anymore so they may have disabled it). I state quite clearly that it’s for 5 people and it’s the Teambuy swing analysis package, and I even provide the confirmation number. The website says to request at least 3 days in advance, so I’ve given plenty of notice.

    February 7: It’s now been almost two weeks and I never got a reply to my request (although I have a confirmation email that they received it). So I give them a call. The guy who answers the phone is unaware that they even take online reservation requests, and confirms that they have no booking listed for me. However, he says that there is availability on the requested date (February 13). He wants to book all 5 of us in one simulator, which means it would take 5 hours. I convince him to book us for two simulators (Innergolf has five simulators altogether), so he books us for 2.5 hours (from 2 to 4:30). By now I’m too tired to bother pointing out that it would actually take 3 hours, since one person can’t use two simulators at once. I figure we’ll sort that out once we get there.

    February 13: I go in with my girlfriend, her father, and her two brothers prepared for one or both of two distinct fails. I figure there’s a strong possibility that 1) they’ll have no reservation for me or 2) they won’t have any idea what/who Teambuy is. As it turns out neither of these things is a problem. But the fun is just beginning. It seems that “Jeff,” our guide/pro/swing analyzer, has not yet arrived, so we stand around for about 25 minutes waiting.

    Finally, the girl at the counter says that she spoke with Jeff and he was unaware that he had even been booked in (surprise!), so now he’s “not available.” So we can’t do a swing analysis, but she offers to just let us go in and play a regular round for our time block, which seems fair. Keep in mind we’ve driven from Mississauga and waited for half an hour so we’re not likely to turn around and go home at this point. So, we play from 2:30 until about 4:00, and then things go south again …

    Guy comes up to me and says “the owner would like to have a word with you on the phone.” I think, well, fair enough, that’s good of him to apologize. Certainly if it were my business and I were aware that a customer had gotten this much of a run-around I’d be apologizing and probably offering some free stuff to smooth things over. So I get on the phone with “Oliver,” the Innergolf owner, and the conversation doesn’t go exactly how I might have thought. His tone is confrontational and aggressive. He asks me “how long” the Teambuy deal is for. I’m not really sure whether he means when we booked it, the actual time block we’re supposed to be there, or the expiry date. So we go around in circles for a minute or so and then he starts asking about how long we’ve been playing. I say, well, we started around 2:30 and it’s now 4:00.

    He starts yelling about how it’s supposed to be an hour, and the simulators normally cost 45 dollars an hour, and this Teambuy thing is ripping him off and *I’m* ripping him off. I have no patience for fools, and I’m certainly not about to get intimidated by some pansy who can’t run his business properly and instead just yells at his customers over the phone like an idiot, so I cut him off and make a few things very clear:

    1) Hey, jerky: YOUR GUY DIDN’T SHOW UP. So we didn’t even get the swing analysis we paid for.
    2) THERE WERE FIVE OF US. Of course it would take longer than an hour, even if things had gone great. Right now three of us are playing in one sim and two in the other, and in 90 minutes we’ve done about 9 holes, which is probably equivalent to about an hour’s worth of golf each if we had been alone, maybe less.
    3) The girl at the counter had offered to let us play for our original time block, which was 2 to 4:30. Even though we were delayed half an hour getting going I wasn’t going to push too hard on that, seeing that for five bucks a head we were still getting our money’s worth.
    4) If you don’t want to do a deal, don’t sign up with Teambuy in the first place. But you did sign up with Teambuy, and you took the money they paid you, and you also altered the terms of the deal through your own incompetence, so now you’re going to honour the (altered) deal and you’re certainly not going to intimidate me and my friends into leaving early so you can make more money.

    He says he’s got “guys coming in” who want to play. Not sure how that’s my problem, and I’m looking around and not really seeing anyone in the waiting area. I tell him that I’ll see what my people want to do, but again, we’re not about to just pack up and run off because “Oliver” wants to welch on the deal. We end up playing for another 15 or 20 minutes and then we leave.

    Executive summary:

    1) Innergolf is completely incompetent when it comes to taking reservations or having their employees show up for work;
    2) Innergolf doesn’t want to honour the deals it agreed to;
    3) “Oliver” the owner thinks that yelling at customers, insinuating that they’re criminals, and trying to intimidate them into leaving early is good business practice.

    I notice that Teambuy runs a lot of repeats (justifiably so in many cases because some of the regular deals are pretty good) but it’s interesting to see that they haven’t featured Innergolf other than that one time in November. I hope that continues, and I’ve already spoken to RFD to let them know how Innergolf likes to play, just in case business slows down and “Oliver” gets the bright idea to run another bait-and-switch. And for those of you who want to just go in and play, consider the foregoing when making a reservation or assuming that they’ll honour whatever you may have set up. If there’s even the slightest possibility that someone else might show up and pay more, or Oliver changes his mind about what he’s agreed to, you might be the next contestant on “Which Customer is a Criminal?”

    Thanks again, TeamBuy. Innergolf counter staff, you’re good people and I know it wasn’t your fault. I feel sorry for you that you have to deal with such an ignoramus boss. Oliver, feel free to eat a d**k, and I really hope that you come on here to respond. I’ll happily send you my personal phone number if you’d like to get owned one more time. And just in case you’re thinking of claiming libel, I have written documentation of everything that happened as well as half a dozen witnesses to today’s folly, so good luck with that.

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