DCSIMG

Valderrama and Pebble Beach just a short drive for Scotland's virtual golfers

AT LEAST it's not a good walk spoiled. Scotland's first indoor golf centre will open later this year after a £1m investment.

The Clubhouse will allow groups of golfers to play the best courses in the world - without stepping outside - on six full-screen simulators.

Players will use real clubs to strike the ball onto a screen displaying holes from courses such as the legendary Old Course at St Andrews, the Centenary course at Gleneagles, Spain's Valderrama, and the famous Pebble Beach links in California.

Satellite mapping is used to chart every tee, fairway, green, bunker, patch of rough or water hazard on a course. The images are then projected onto a giant screen to give a realistic view of every shot. All shots, including putts, are played in the simulator and state-of-the-art ball-tracking equipment captures both good and bad, including hooks and slices. As balls can be played from anywhere inside the simulator, virtual sand bunkers and rough will make the game appear more lifelike.

The six-screen centre, with a choice of more than 50 courses, is being set up at Edinburgh Quay, the developing business and leisure district at Fountainbridge near the centre of the city. The simulator, which is expected to open in May, complete with bar, restaurant and golf shop, will cost 30 an hour for up to four players.

If the venture is successful, the company behind the project says it plans to open in two other Scottish locations. Andy Murray, a director of Clubhouse, said the Edinburgh project had taken 18 months to bring to fruition with financial backing from Lloyds TSB.

"The simulators are so good that they are used by the US Professional Golf Association for training and club fitting," he said. "They are completely accurate and, above all, good fun to play. Being indoors means that golfers can play or practise at any time and in any weather conditions, an obvious bonus for Scotland."

Murray, with partners Stephen McKenzie and Charlie Simpson, decided to open the business following the success of similar ventures in London.

The opening of the indoor simulator project reflects trends that show that while golf is increasing in popularity worldwide, among both men and women, membership of traditional golf clubs is at best static. Although about 264,000 players are registered with the Scottish Golf Union, the figure has hardly changed in the last five years. The average age of golfers is also increasing - it now stands at around 50 - and the number of teenagers joining clubs is going down. Many teenagers are put off the game by outmoded dress codes, which will not be in use at simulator venues.

Golf simulators are expected to appeal to players who no longer wish to spend between three and four hours playing a traditional 18-hole outdoor round in all weathers. One reason for a waning interest in club golf is the time a round takes.

The Edinburgh Quay project has also been deliberately sited near the city's business district to attract a lunchtime trade.

In a similar vein, another company, Playgolf, is currently searching for a 40-acre site in the Central Belt to construct Scotland's first six-hole golf course, to allow players to complete a round in an hour.

 
 
 

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