There is a new indoor home for local golfers.
Northern Swing, which is the only indoor golf simulation in the city, re-opened at Jake’s Bar and Grill in South Porcupine just after Christmas.
Mat Vachon, owner of Northern Swing, opened his business on Wilson Avenue in Timmins in 2006. The indoor golf simulation drew a loyal following, particularly in the winter. The retail side of the store, combined with slow summers for the indoor game, made it difficult to justify a standalone business. So, Vachon moved it.
“We were at Neo Laser Tag for three seasons,” he explained. “After they shut their doors, it left the simulators and the golfers that use them without a home.
“I went on a little bit of a mission to find a partnership that could accommodate them. They take a lot of room. We needed an established business that was looking to increase revenue to their current setup.”
Vahon’s Facebook posts on the subject caught the eye of Tom Vlaad, owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill.
“I saw a post on Facebook that Mat had placed and thought that might be something we’d want to do at Jake’s,” Vlaad said. “I remember when Mat had first opened his business, it interested me and thought about something like that for the bar.
“I thought here’s a fantastic opportunity to join the two businesses together and provide something in the east end that we don’t have.”
The simulators allow golfers to play a full round of golf on their choice of 28 courses. Course selections include famous spots like Pebble Beach and some northern Michigan courses local golfers may be familiar with like Boyne. There is even a PGA tour course from China. The simulator allows courses to be set at various levels from easy to hard. Golfers can also select settings allowing them to fine tune their swing on a driving range, or practice chipping or putting.
“We have quite a few regular players who play on the machines year round and have been playing for 12 or 13 years as part of their regular routine,” Vachon said. “The weather is always perfect in here. The course is always in immaculate condition.
“Golfers play with their own golf clubs and a real golf ball. They have to learn distances and have to think about putting. You have to think and play, just like you would outside.”
During the holiday season, there is a special going on. The simulator can be rented for $20 an hour, instead of the usual $25. That price is not per person, but for the entire party using it, be it two, three, four or more golfers.
“We’re just finalizing exactly which days we’ll open,” Vachon said. “We’re going to look at being open two days a week in the morning on a weekday, to accommodate those who play in the mornings.”
He said it is likely they will open most weekdays at 2 p.m. to start.
“Right now, our hours are based on having one simulator set up, with plans to do a second one as well,” he said. “There will be a little bit of renovations to get the second simulator in, around February or so.”
Vachon is excited about the move. He realized a long time ago that he didn’t need to have retail space for golf supplies to provide the simulators for his customers. And moving to Jake’s opens up more possibilities.
“We have to look at it like a bowling alley,” he said. “A bowling alley has a liquor licence. Kids and families use the bowling alley even though there is a liquor licence.
“We are going to be adjusting so families can enjoy the simulators. We are going to limit the hours in terms of the age times, so a father and son can still come and play.”
Being a golf instructor, Vachon offers more than just the opportunity to play indoors. He can help others improve their golf game.
“Down the road may have youth play and learn sessions,” he said. “Previously, we had instruction days, golf leagues, men’s nights and ladies’ nights.
“This area wants more activities. They want something to do here rather than go to the other end of town. It can be a date night or a night with their buddies or just working on their swings. For me that was an exciting part of the idea.”
He said it helps that Jake’s already has a variety of existing activities in place.
Vlaad also expect opportunities to grow with Northern Swing moving into Jake’s.
“Once the kitchen is operational again, that will change in the sense that we will be offering lunch and supper,” Vlaad said. “So, those hours will probably bump up a little bit as well.
“I think this is going to work out really well and provide a nice new service in the East End.”
Northern Swing is located inside Jake’s Bar and Grill at 61 Bruce St. in South Porcupine.