Golf lovers who want to get their fix even when the weather in central Illinois isn’t cooperative will soon have a new option. The Back 9 is a golf simulation course scheduled to open in Rochester on Nov. 1.
“Essentially, you can come to Rochester and play Pebble Beach, Augusta, or other very high-end golf courses from around the world. There are 150 different courses to choose from,” said Ryan Buckles, who co-owns the new venture along with his longtime friend, Andrew Bartashies.
Buckles works in finance and is employed as the area manager at Ag Resource Management. He will handle the administrative side of the business, while Bartashies, who previously owned Gusto’s Pizzeria in Dawson, will handle the day-to-day operations.
Buckles noted that The Back 9 will be virtual reality, not a video game, and it will take approximately the same amount of time to complete a course as it would in real life.
“The simulators don’t make you a better golfer; I’m still no good at it,” he said. “But you can hone your skills or learn to play golf. We’re looking for people who enjoy golf, whether they’re good at it or not.”
The former Lunt’s IGA in Rochester, 445 S. State St., has been converted into a strip center, and The Back 9 will occupy a 2,300 sq. ft. suite that has been vacant. There will initially be two simulators, but the plan is to have as many as five, based on demand, to accommodate more tee times.
According to Buckles, the interior will have the “same look and feel of a clubhouse” and include table seating with bar service and some food, similar to what you would find at a golf course.
“We anticipate the majority of our business will be golf leagues, golf outings and fundraisers,” he said, noting that that climate-controlled environment will allow for year-round play. He also hopes to attract those who enjoy the sport but are limited by central Illinois’ weather.
“There are a lot of people who like to go to Florida or Arizona and play golf in the wintertime,” Buckles said. “It’s always going to be 70 degrees here.”