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Indoor golf goes global, starting with The Bunker at the Grand Sierra in Reno


Indoor golf goes global, starting with The Bunker at the Grand Sierra in Reno

At The Bunker, inside the GSR, you can play tournament golf against people all over the world

Courtesy of Reno-Gazette Journal.

Wayne Williams’ livelihood revolves around golf, so naturally he yearns for rain, snow, hail, sleet and fierce winds. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always post-sundown.

“There are a lot of ways to market it,” Williams said Monday. “But one key thing you need is snow.”

Williams isn’t in the conventional golf biz. He has been the general manager at The Bunker, the indoor golf facility at the Grand Sierra Resort, since it opened in 1998.

“Last (winter) it was terrible,” he said, lamenting a slow season. “The weather was so nice.”

In the golf world, Williams is kind of like a mortician. You don’t want to have to do business with him, but you’re grateful for him when you do.

And now, the indoor golf game offers more than ever.

The Bunker, whose six simulators were acquired through Full Swing Golf in San Diego, is offering iLeague, a Full Swing Golf tournament that allows players from all over the world to compete via the Internet.

Two of the six bays at The Bunker have Internet technology.

“We might add a third if there’s a big league turnout,” said Williams, who was off Monday and was playing in a three-man scramble competition with five of his friends. “It’s amazing how far simulators have come.”

The simulators measure ball speed, trajectory and direction to determine a shot’s landing point. The lasers pick up the direction of the bounce off of the screen to determine if a shot has a draw or fade.

iLeague had a bit of a soft opening in its inaugural season last winter — there were 135 teams internationally and five or six in Reno — but Williams hopes to grow it this year. As of a week ago, 190 teams had signed up at 24 worldwide facilities for the 2012-13 iLeague.

The concept is simple: iLeague sets up divisions of up to eight two-player teams who play 16 nine-hole matches from December through March. Players must play five rounds before tournament play to establish a handicap. The teams of two (a $40 entry fee goes to the prize fund) play one of the 40 or so courses (like Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, Kapalua) offered at The Bunker.

The team’s designated “A” player competes against the opponent’s “A” player, “B” takes on “B” and the total makes up for three possible points. The winning team advances in a bracket format.

Division winners receive prizes and advance to the finals. Last year, the prize pool was $2,700. The first-place team won $525. Division winners won $100.

One of the benefits of iLeague is a team can schedule its round at any time during a playing period.

The registration period continues through Dec. 20, and play can begin as early as Dec. 3.

The only cost above the entry fee is the hourly usage of the facility. Williams said it takes two players about one hour to play nine holes. With the 20 percent discount for locals, that works out to about $12 per person.

Players can go online and track their progress, the divisional standings and even such things as greens in regulation, driving distance and putts per round.

Williams said Full Swing Golf plans to expand iLeague to partner it with PGA Tour events, so tournament players can play the same course the pros are playing on any given week.

About the only thing you can’t do is talk smack to your Canadian or Scandinavian opponents, like Williams and his friends did Monday.

“Get your deposit slips ready,” one of his friends said after a close approach shot. “We’re going to the bank.”

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