Play like Tiger Woods: Try simulation at Proximity Golf Lounge

Robert “Bunk” McMahon lives and breathes golf. Growing up in Shaker Heights, he was the state golf champion during his senior year at University School and then played for Tufts University. McMahon and his wife, Meghan, a native Cleveland Heights resident and alumni, raise their two children in Cleveland Heights.

To the McMahons, the only thing missing from the inner ring eastern suburb is easy access to golf. That is, until now.

The couple will open Proximity Golf Lounge—offering an immersive golf experience in the Heights—in the historic 1931 Heights Rockefeller Building, 3109 Mayfield Road, as soon as Oct. 1. Proximity is in the 5,000-square-foot, second floor space and Cleveland Trust bank vault that previously was home to Rockefeller’s Restaurant until it closed in late May 2015. No other permanent tenant has occupied the space since then.

Robert “Bunk” McMahon showing off the Full Swing golf simulator at Proximity Golf When it opens in a few weeks, the lounge will feature five Full Swing golf simulators—the brand that pro golfers like Tiger Woods use in their homes—that have realistic play on 84 courses around the world. The simulators replicate the actual courses and can accommodate up to four players. Two of the simulators have a diameter of 16 feet, and three are 12 feet.

“The courses have been reproduced in such detail and the graphics are so good, and I’ve played a number of these courses, that they’re very accurate as far as the way the course looks,” says Bunk, adding that he and a friend recently tested the simulators. “We were sitting here and watching the Indians game and playing Pebble Beach in Cleveland Heights on a Tuesday night,” he says. “No one else was doing that. The thing about that is we have golf now in Cleveland Heights.”

Bunk says the simulators use infrared sensors and an ion camera to collect data on a player’s shot, collecting everything from club head analysis to launch angle, direction, and ball spin rate. Players can then save their data in the system.

“You can improve your game,” says Meghan. “If you’re a good golfer or a golfer who wants to improve, you can improve your game on this.”

Even though she is not a golfer, Meghan says the idea of the lounge appealed to her as soon as Bunk suggested it. “He said, ‘What do you think about an indoor golf simulator?’ and I said ‘Yeah,’’ she says. “You drive 45 minutes to Chagrin Falls and 45 minutes back to play for an hour. It’s a complete waste of time. There’s nothing really in the Heights, everyone goes out. So that’s one of the reasons why I said I really want to do it in the Heights, and he agreed. We have enough people to support it and need it, and it’s nice to have something here.”

For those who aren’t golf fans, the simulators also have 13 other interactive games—from football, baseball, soccer, and basketball to bocce and zombie dodgeball.

Play on the simulators will average about $50 per hour, the McMahons say, with the price per person decreasing with additional people in a group.They are also putting together family packages and will offer memberships.

Patrons can bring their own clubs or use provided equipment. They are trying to install an awning at the building entrance to protect guests and their equipment from the elements, Meghan says. They will also have an employee on hand to carry customers’ equipment up the stairs, she says.

Proximity will serve “golf inspired” food and have a full bar. Meghan and Bunk say they are going to start with a limited menu and build it around customer demand.

“Some of the courses have signature dishes or signature sandwiches, so we’re going to have maybe half a dozen of those, where there’s information on the menu of where the sandwich comes from,” says Bunk. “Like the Masters, which is one of the big tournaments in golf that happens at Augusta [Georgia], their most famous sandwich is their pimento cheese sandwich on white bread.”

The full-service bar and kitchen will be staffed by friends and overseen by the McMahons' nephew for now, employing a total of about 10 people, says Meghan.

A projection television in the lounge will broadcast all the local sports games, they say, and customers can broadcast whatever they want for private kids parties and events.

Proximity will also offer league golf play, private parties, and corporate events. Two private lounge areas near the simulators provide secluded space to hang out or order food after play, while the main room will also consist of soft seating, coffee tables and an overall relaxed atmosphere.

They wanted to preserve the historic beauty of the Rockefeller space, creating a unique blend of high tech and historic beauty with the room’s chandeliers, working fireplace, and stone arches, Meghan says. “We didn’t have to do much, we didn’t have to change any historic detail in here,” she says, adding that the three smaller simulators fit perfectly between the stone arches. “It’s such a cool space.”

Reservations for the simulators will be made on Proximity’s website, so people can reserve a time remotely. The McMahons say they are looking at using a portion of the back patio space in the summer months for an area where customers can relax and get a drink before or after play.

Proximity Golf will be open seven days a week, and the McMahons say they will begin by opening at 9 a.m. and closing at 9 p.m. They will adjust according to demand. No grand opening is planned. They say they are looking for a slow rollout to iron out the initial kinks. Check Proximity Golf's Instagram page for opening updates.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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