Photos by Patricia PuccinelliLinks & Drinks extra-wide screen golf simulator bay
By Patricia Puccinelli
St. Andrews. Pebble Beach. Muirfield. Great Northern. Whether you want to experience these top-rated golf courses without traveling, hone your skills no matter your level of play or simply enjoy time and a little friendly competition with family and friends, it’s always golf season at Oconomowoc’s Links & Drinks Indoor Golf Bar.
Karissa and Scott Paar, together with co-owners Kris and Paul Liebe, wanted to create an environment where guests feel as though they are walking into a golf club. Scott Paar said, “Links & Drinks is a way cool golf atmosphere and not an intimidating environment to learn. People of all ages come here to try it out. We don’t have age restrictions – even little ones come in to golf.”
Links & Drinks offers four standard screen and two extra-wide screen golf bays fitted with Full Swing® simulators. These highly-rated simulators, designed by professional golfers Tiger Woods and John Rahm, give guests the option to play 52 different courses from around the world. The course selection is updated every three to four months. The simulators use overhead cameras to take measurements at the time the club impacts the ball and infrared technology to record in-flight measurements, including club head speed, ball speed, flight distance, path, smash factor, backspin, sidespin and distance to pin.
Paar indicated some people use the simulators as private driving ranges. While we were on site, a man in one of the standard bays methodically hit the same shot nearly 50 times to improve his range and consistency. Paar also mentioned another benefit of the simulators is that they provide golfers with more efficient game times than regular courses. He commented that golfers can “squeeze in 18 holes in an hour.”
To experience Links & Drinks first-hand, I booked a tee time in an extra-wide screen bay for a party of four golfers. The online registration is simple and straightforward. As a quick aside, due to unexpected conflicts, I had to call the golf bar to cancel and re-book our reservation three times. The person who spoke with me over the phone was helpful and understanding, with a good sense of humor, as I learned he had dubbed me “Bigfoot” as I appeared to be a mythical creature.
Our foursome’s skill set ranged from beginner to experienced golfer, so our host and bartender recommended we play Payne’s Valley Golf Course located near Branson, Missouri. Per the course’s website, “Through the creation of Payne’s Valley Golf Course, Tiger Woods and Big Cedar Lodge offer a course where players of all skill levels are invited to come together to experience the breathtaking Ozark Mountain landscape. Enjoy the game’s pristine water features, large fairways and greens, and spectacular 19th hole – the Big Rock at Payne’s Valley.” This was a solid choice for us.
Given the disparity of our skill sets, we opted to play a “best ball” competition in teams of two golfers. During our two-hour time slot, including set-up and brief instruction, we were able to finish nine holes. Here’s a quick recap of our thoughts about the experience:
It’s awesome to be able to choose to play a wide range of top-rated golf courses.
Spot-on metrics and visualization of golf swing are significant aids to modifying your swing to improve your game rather than having to figure it out on a course.
Distances and trajectories are accurate for landing on the green. Within 30 yards of the green, it was easy to plan where the ball would land, so the game was good for honing distances with gap wedges and irons. For distances longer than 30 yards to the green, distance clubs, longer hybrids and higher velocity clubs showed incredible accuracy.
Putting felt more like a video game, but was fun regardless.
With only six golf bays, the experience felt special and intimate.
More Than Golf
As its name implies, Links & Drinks offers more than an awesome golf experience. Their menu includes a breakfast sandwich, appetizers and handhelds, pizzas and a cookie sundae dessert. In addition to beer, wine and cocktails, Scott Paar was proud to point out they carry a great selection of bourbon and are now serving Clover bourbon flights from the Bobby Jones whiskey collection, which was previously only available in private golf courses.
According to Paar, “We want to be an experience.” He encourages guests to not only come for golf but to also enjoy Packers, Badgers, Bucks or Brewers games at the golf bar. He recommends the extra-wide screen bays for parties and noted the two wide-screen bays can be combined for larger groups. In fact, the entire facility can be rented out for big parties. Sponsored contests for parties may be arranged and include those typically found on golf courses, such as “closest to the pin.”
Their 2024 winter league golf runs for ten weeks from January 8th to March 15th, and costs $225 per golfer. Daily tee times start at 10 a.m., with the last reservation at 9 p.m. Guests need to bring their own golf clubs and balls, but in a pinch, there are a few left- and right-handed golf club sets available to rent. Golf spikes are not allowed to be worn in the building as they damage the flooring. So, a set of clubs, clean athletic shoes and clean white golf balls are all you need for a fun-filled golf experience at Links & Drinks!
Scott Paar quipped as we wrapped up our conversation, “I don’t lose any golf balls here.” Neither did I. That’s a first.