Over the last year and a half, Washingtonians have been on a roller coaster ride trying to find safe indoor entertainment options in the city. With movie theaters, concert venues, and museums all closed, it’s been necessary to get creative and expand our entertainment horizons beyond favorite dining spots and local watering holes. We now have unique options in the form of indoor golf venues around the city.
The pandemic gave local golf enthusiasts the opportunity to get outside in a safe and socially distant manner when so much of the city felt like a breeding ground for the virus. However, as temperatures got cooler and we were forced back inside, so many were left feeling cooped up again. That is where Five Iron Golf in Chinatown comes in. Opened July of this year, this new indoor golf location is the perfect space for anyone looking to have a good time. General Manager, Mike Sensenig, also tells me that it is a natural place for a golfer.
“We cater to the serious golfer,” Sensenig says. “Everything from the technology we use, like the TrackMan, to the rental clubs that we have, to the putting green and in house golf pro — for a golfer, there is really no better place to hang out.”
Sensenig isn’t lying. When I visited it was a golfer’s dream. Five Iron Golf gives you the opportunity to work on your swing with several interactive golf courses set from all over the world, varying in difficulty levels. You can come alone or with friends and use the state-of-the-art rental clubs, all included in the rental price. With an updated business policy that limits six golfers per simulator, regular golf club cleanings, and strict cleaning procedures for their furniture, Sensenig is confident that Five Iron can offer a safe and relaxed indoor entertainment alternative to Washingtonians.
The venue divides their reservation slots between peak and off-peak times. Off-peak times are anywhere between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the week and 8 p.m. to close on Sundays for $50 per hour. Peak rental times are 4 p.m. to close during the week, and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays for $65 per hour. With a full bar and weekly rotating menu that features elevated health conscious bar food, Five Iron stands out among local golfing options like East Potomac, Rock Creek Park, and Langston.
“We have all of the amenities and all of the technology of a high-end country club, but we offer it in an urban location with a cool vibe and a fun setting.”
Five Iron’s accessible location downtown, decorated with unique neon light installations, locally sourced mural art, and fun bathroom décor makes it feel worlds away from a traditional country club as well. Their downtown location is one of nine in the country, with other locations in Baltimore, Chicago, Las Vegas, New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.
“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” Sensenig says. “We are already seeing a ton of reservations for office holidays… and there are a ton of D.C. natives and transplants who are loving coming here.”
In the near future, Five Iron will be launching a fitting lab, where they will work with their golf pro to do custom club fittings and bag fittings for the more dedicated golfer.
If you are looking for a more amateur and playful golfing experience, Swingers Crazy Golf has got you covered. Located in the former Buffalo Billiards space in Dupont Circle, Swingers opened its door earlier this summer with two mini golf courses, full-service bar, and diverse dining options. Originating in the U.K., this indoor mini golf location is not the pirate-themed course you visited with your family at the beach.
“We had this idea of ‘what if you could play mini golf but with great food and dining?’” CEO Matt Grech-Smith says. “We did a pop-up in London that went viral and decided to open a permanent location that looked like an English country club.”
After doing a market study in the U.S., Grech-Smith brought Swingers to the East Coast with their Dupont Circle location.
There are two mini golf courses consisting of nine holes each with varying degrees of difficulty, with one being the waterwheel course and the other being the clocktower course. True to Grech-Smith’s description, the venue looks like a 1920’s English country club turned garden club. Guests can keep track of their score on a scorecard that also doubles as a course map while you are on the floor. The onsite DJ also guarantees entertainment with a great mix of old school and contemporary tunes, keeping guests on their feet. Swingers will also be expanding in D.C. with a new location in Navy Yard coming Summer 2022.
Like Five Iron, Swingers also operates through a peak and off-peak tee-off system that starts at $19 per person during off-peak times and $24 per person during peak times. You can select a time slot on their website and customize your experience to your preference. Guests are able to sign up for just mini golf, or they can add food and drinks to their ticket. Prices range from $19 per person to $78 per person, and the host provides you with beverage, food, and dessert vouchers (when applicable) upon arrival. Swingers has also honored their mission to represent the D.C. food scene in their dining options.
Grech-Smith says, “Our model is to always work with local food partners, so we partnered with KNEAD Hospitality + Design,” Grech Smith says. “The food is very representative of D.C.”
Though different in their approach, both businesses are sure to be a hole in one whether you are a golf pro or just looking for a swinging good time.