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Sidney Strong grabbed a driver, reared back and slammed his first golf ball 243 yards; it settled a football field or so away from the green.
So what if the ground was covered with snow and it was freezing outside? The 59-year-old village resident felt like playing a couple of holes.
Unless someone starts bulldozing buildings around here, it would be unlikely to see a round of golf anywhere in Oak Park. But Strong, an avid golfer, plans to change the sports landscape of the village.
On Feb. 24, he's opening Stinger Golf at 200 W. Lake, in a storefront that formerly housed Blockbuster Video. Strong gutted the space, painted the walls bright green and filled it with five high-tech golf simulators, which go for about $50,000 a pop.
Each 375-square-foot golf room contains a giant, 15-foot-wide screen for players to stare at. Golfers can choose whether to play half a course for $15 or do the whole 18 for $25. Each room can hold up to six Tiger Woods wannabes, five on the couch, while one takes his or her swings.
An automatic machine loads each ball onto a mechanical tee, and customers can pick from 38 different courses around the world, with new ones added to the list every few months. Three circular buttons near ground level let players push the tee up and down to the desired level.
A laser sensor to the right of the tee picks up the force of your swing and trajectory of your ball, as the screen displays the distance and landing spot of your shot.
After Strong's first shot slammed against the screen, he grabbed another ball and placed it in the same spot, this time without a tee. Using an iron, he knocked the ball onto the green. The machine then switches to its "Eyeputt" mode — as the ground forms undulations to match the course, and a hole pops out of the turf in front of you.
"It's pretty realistic," Strong said before tapping in a putt.
Golfers can bring in their own clubs or borrow one of the five sets available at Stinger. Those who want to just get in and out can also practice putts or mess around on a simulated driving range for an hourly rate, according to Strong.
The business was originally slated to open this week but got pushed back as they address some wiring issues that a village inspector found recently. Strong is considering eventually offering beer to go with tee time, but first he wants to get the courses up and running. More immediately, he plans to sell sports drinks and smaller golf equipment in the lobby.
Golf leagues will eventually be organized. While they wait, customers can knock around a few putts on the green in the lobby, or catch the latest on a lobby flat-screen TV, tuned in to the Golf Channel.
Strong quit his job working at an office equipment company in October in order to retire and open his own business. The 12-year Oak Park resident is an avid golfer who modeled Stinger after a similar establishment in Niles. The pricey simulators are made in Korea.
"This is real big over there," he said.
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