Inside Colorado’s Post-Pandemic Golf Goldrush

At South Broadway Country Club, Kelly Huff is preparing to franchise his five-year-old business combining TrackMan bays, instruction and a cocktail bar. Joe Lynch and Winston Manley are so jazzed with the inaugural year of The Local Drive in RiNo, they’re set for expanding this year into Longmont and beyond. And still to open in Lowry, developers of the Hangar Club have drawn up plans for a whopping 10 bays in Colorado’s biggest entry to golf’s new indoor phenomenon, the golf lounge.

The well-documented, post-pandemic golf rush seems to have evolved into a gold rush for entrepreneurs eager to capitalize on Colorado’s long, cold winters.

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“Indoor golf is evolving,” says Lynch, a former hotel executive. “It’s more approachable now for golfers to come in and be introduced to it. A lot of places that have been built for the golfer were not as inviting. They’re more dungeon-esque and male-dominated. We’re designed for social networking.”

What’s happening in Colorado mirrors statistics released by the National Golf Foundation in January showing that off-course golf engagement, measured at 27.9 million, has surpassed participation on green grass courses, 25.6 million. Those stats, both rising annually over the last three years, encompass driving ranges, entertainment venues like Topgolf, and any businesses with simulators.

READ: Topgolf Eyes Growth Beyond the Front Range

There are already too many Colorado bars featuring simulators to count. TrackMan, the Doppler radar powered device best known for its traction with PGA Tour telecasts and players, lists seven locations between RiNo and Littleton’s Superfly Golf Lounge. And there are also at least three alternative technologies in play.

X-Golf has its own proprietary technology in 75-and-counting U.S. locations. Represented in Denver at Landmark in Greenwood Village, X-Golf shuns cushy seating areas and sleek design touches to create an appeal more along the lines of a macho sports bar than a co-ed lounge. Topgolf also has a proprietary system, Toptracer, on a scale with its large outdoor facilities.

Uneekor Eye XO was the choice of newcomer Stick and Feather, which opened five big, bright bays under three chandeliers in the York Street Yards in 2022 but was still awaiting its liquor permits in 2023; the young owners have had to jump through some hoops, including installing a pizza kitchen. 

Their Korean technology has also been in play at Optimum Golf. The golf minds behind the old Park Hill Golf Course launched Optimum as an indoor golf center without permits for liquor; they offer lessons, host events and run leagues, plus the bay-by-the-hour model that is proving profitable in the lounges.

Insider Tips

Each technology has a bit of a learning curve, though TrackMan fans say it is a quick study for anyone who already plays golf. But as with golf, there’s a certain culture surrounding golf lounge accessibility. Here’s how it works:

  • For somewhere around $50 an hour, depending on day of the week and time, you can book simulator time in advance online. This will give you sole possession of a bay with all the fixings: mat, golf ball dispenser and big screen. You can bring friends (kids too); as with golf, foursomes are preferred but, unlike with golf, even more can play.
  • Generally, you’ll bring your own clubs, though some facilities have free clubs handy, and some offer rentals. 
  • You’ll decide whether you want to practice your golf swing, thus accessing all sorts of measurements, or play a target game, or play a particular golf course. (Pebble Beach and TPC-Colorado ranked at the top of the state’s TrackMan stats this winter.)
  • If you’re playing a round, various formats are accessible, including a scramble where each player tries each shot. Don’t be shy about asking the staff for guidance. Even the bartender has tech training, and, says South Broadway Country Club founder Kelly Huff, “We definitely do not suggest tight, tree-lined courses when it’s a brand-new golfer, because being in the trees on a simulator is not very fun.”
  • Rule of thumb is that 18 holes take one player an hour, two players two hours, and so on. Of course, accomplished players should take less time to play. Setting a wide gimme range on putts moves things along; most players find simulator putting wastes time – except, of course, at those golf lounges like Urban Golf, which specialize in minigolf.

Drinks are optional, though who could resist a Green Jacket at the Crow’s Nest or, at SBCC, a concoction named after the player who most famously crashed and burned in a British Open, the Van de Velde? 

Food is often not even on the menu, probably because it’s surely better enjoyed before or after simulator time. Think about the last time you went to Topgolf. Not only did you pay hourly for your time at a table with a hitting bay, you bought food and drink you were expected to consume during that same window of time. Kind of like dining at Dazzle while playing your trumpet rather than listening to a quartet.

“Topgolf has a phenomenal concept,” says Local Drive’s Lynch. “And their world is evolving too, to indoors, with Swing Suites like at Tom’s Watch Bar. Even at that, it’s still very much oriented to people who want to go play for fun. Not what you see here or at South Broadway.”

READ: A Musing on Golf’s Pace of Play Dilemma

Practice and Profit

Mostly what you see in the golf lounges transforms after work, from quiet nondrinkers working on their games in ones or twos by day to lively parties of four or more playing for fun in the evenings and especially on weekends. Lessons, tournaments and membership packages draw the early crowd, while the later crowd is fair game for leagues and seminars served with cocktails—“Whiskey and Wedges,” for instance, an easy sell at The Local Drive.

The appeal to both audiences pays for those simulators quickly. A TrackMan that costs $26,000 has made its money back in 520 hours, as little as two months at a lounge booking bays 10 hours a day. After that there’s just a $2,000 annual software maintenance fee. Especially without kitchen overhead, says Manley, “Margins are good.”

There’s more money to be made with corporate meetings and events, and Lynch and Manley have added income with a traveling TrackMan, a hit at former Nuggets star Dikembe Mutombo’s birthday party last year.

Of course, there’s one problem with this business model: Spring is here. Stick and Feather can open its rollup doors to the patio, but who’s going to play even those big, gorgeous simulators when there’s a tee time open at Fossil Trace?

South Broadway Country Club has survived five years of changing seasons, and Huff says, “The longer three- or four-hour simulator rentals do go down a bit. People will come in more to look at their numbers and work on their game. It becomes a little more of a game-improvement facility, and I definitely teach more in the summer. It’s not as much of a ‘I can’t get outside and play, I need to play Pebble Beach right now’ facility.”

Huff is packaging everything he’s learned into a playbook for franchises. Whatever the season, he’s convinced that he could be on to the new Starbucks.

“I don’t think indoor golf is going away, and I think it’s just going to keep getting more realistic,” he says. “I don’t really know what that entails, but I’m excited to see it.”


Susan Fornoff has covered golf for the San Francisco Chronicle, regional golf associations and her own She is a member of the Overland Park Golf Course and Links at Highlands Ranch women’s clubs. This is her seventh Executive Golf Guide for ColoradoBiz.