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Indoor golf enhances downtown

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Rusty Petunias Marketplace owner Laura Shearer adjusts the setting to the new golf simulator built on the second story of her store in downtown Alpena. People can choose from dozens of golf courses, work on their drives or short game, or even have scrambles.

ALPENA — Golfers who have a craving to hit the links, but are unable due to the winter weather, have a new option to play a round of golf in downtown Alpena.

Upstairs in Rusty Petunias Marketplace, there is a new golf simulator attraction where golfers of all skill levels can play dozens of courses, practice on a driving range, or work on their short game.

People who want to try the unit can book tee times on the Rusty Petunias Marketplace’s Facebook page, on its website (www.rustypetuniasmarketplace.com), or by calling the store at 989-340-2194.

Owner Laura Shearer said the idea came to her when she and her daughter wanted to go golfing, but it was rainy and nasty outdoors. She said that’s when she realized the area needed an indoor golf option and decided to include one in her renovations to the upstairs of the gift shop.

“I had a lot of room and didn’t want to use it all for inventory, so I decided why not?” she said. “I will give people another thing to do in the winter, plus help bring people into the store in the winter because from January to April, it is pretty slow.”

Since she opened it, Shearer said it has been well received and people are taking advantage of the virtual golf experience to host private parties, to burn time while others shop, and to raise money for charity.

So far, she said, people seem to be pleased with the format and features of the technology, which she spent a little more on to make it the best experience possible.

“Once people play it, they see how high-tech it is,” Shearer said. “We even have the Titleist balls with the radar inside of them, so it gives more of an accurate measurement. It is one of the highest simulators out there. I spent a little extra on that, but I wanted to have a more realistic feel to it than a video game.”

The programming allows for a foursome to tackle 52 different courses, where individual scores are tracked, or people can play a scramble. She said many different variables can be used.

“There is a driving range feature, short game challenges, and competition challenges,” she said. “You can’t get bored. You could play once a week for a year, and you’ll never play the same source or game.”

The simulator is rented by the hour and costs $40 an hour for up to four people. There are also party packages available for larger groups.

Shearer said an added benefit to having the golf simulator is it can be used for fundraising. Currently, the First Robotics team at the high school is having a longest-drive contest with the proceeds going to the Robotics Program.

Shearer said for $10 a person gets five drives and their longest drive is placed in one of three categories based on skill. She said the object is to record the longest drive. If a person has the longest drive, the person who had it prior can come back and pay another $10 for three drives to try to take the top spot back.

The fundraiser ends on Dec. 16, but Shearer said there are many available tee times for people to come and support the cause.

Shearer said the golf simulator could also be used for other fundraisers down the road.

“Anybody can approach us for any type of fundraiser and we can definitely work with them on it,” she said.

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