In January 2013, former coach, noted southeast Wisconsin instructor, and scratch golfer Tim Grogan took a financial swing and tried to wedge an indoor golfing range into the Third Ward. Not 18 months later, the owner took a mulligan on the large Menomonee St. property, preferring to sacrifice square footage for a better lie for “downtown’s only indoor golf simulators and instructional facility.” On June 12, Fore! Milwaukee (530 N. Water St., 414-272-3673) was re-opened on one of Milwaukee’s most noted (and infamous, to some) causeways. With outdoor golf season in full swing, perhaps the timing was a bit premature. Still, Milwaukee Record wanted to take some early cracks at the virtual golf range/bar.
The space: Besides being smack dab in Milwaukee’s downtown, the Water Street locale is impossible to miss. An open garage door serves as an especially welcoming entrance. A golf cart parked in the opening assures passersby that, yes, this is the golf place. Inside, such assertions aren’t as obvious. A small putting green blends into mismatched marble flooring. Ceilings dip lower than one would expect at an indoor golf range, and the majority of lightning duty is entrusted to the artificial glare of beer coolers, a small amount of wall-mounted flat screen TVs, the four simulators, and whatever light creeps in from the ajar front garage door. Essentially, the space is a long and thin room set to accommodate a small clubhouse worth of 19th hole drinkers and four modest golfing groups. Time will certainly bring updates to the space and its decor—though classic photos of Arnold Palmer and iconic holes already found their way to the wall—but don’t come in expecting a spacious warehouse-sized place to perfect your drive.
The service: Despite the somewhat limited space, Fore! Milwaukee’s size didn’t impact us on our early afternoon visit just before the long holiday weekend. We were the only people in the place besides Grogan and a chipper, helpful bartender named Kara, both of whom welcomed us the instant we walked in. As Grogan put his experience as a longtime golf coach and PGA pro to use and brought us some clubs to fit our needs, his counterpart programmed our desired course into the simulator.
Milwaukee Record‘s game: The simulator offers dozens of options that vary in location and in difficulty. Not exactly avid golfers, we kept it simple and went with a par three course in Hawaii. Essentially, the golfer just hits a ball against a screen, and sensors do the rest. Simulators are rented according to time, not the number of customers or the amount of holes played. A half-hour block runs $10, with $4 escalators between 45 and 75 minutes, and a $2 bump between the 90- and 120-minute mark. Clubs are available to use free on site, and (at least we were made to feel as if) all skill levels are welcome. We figured a half hour was enough to knock off three years of rust. After trying one hole, we were having trouble changing the position of shots (a problem Kara said she’d never encountered), so we, instead, took some rips at the virtual driving range for the remaining 20-some minutes. With two rows of sensors, the virtual simulator was able to calculate the distance of the shot, as well as the spin and the curve.
Fore! also offers golfers 25 beer options. Like a golf course beer cart’s selection, expected items like Coors Light, Miller Lite, PBR, Guinness, Heineken, High Life, Stella, Leine’s Summer Shandy, Blue Moon, and Rolling Rock are in the clubhouse cooler. With those, beers like Lakefront IPA, Riverwest Stein, Lagunitas IPA, and Crispin cider bolsters the selection. Since we were hitting the virtual links, we stuck with something light…or Lite, rather, with a Miller Lite tallboy ($5).
The verdict: Fore! Milwaukee’s fun and high-tech virtual range will be a haven for golfers come winter time. In the same spirit, it could pose a fun between-bar or after-dinner change of pace for novices. If Downtown B.I.D. won’t wise up and open a strip club in the neighborhood already, at least Fore! advances an area of the city that’s wont for something different, opposed to some forced high dining concept.