Golf is meeting baseball at Safeco Field.
Mariners fans can now not only watch baseball, but also take some virtual golf shots at the ballpark thanks to a new high-tech golf simulator that opened this week underneath the centerfield bleachers.
The new 800-square foot interactive center is operated by Gregg Rogers’ Golf Performance Center, a Bellevue-based company offering instruction, fitting, and retail products that inked a sponsorship deal with the Mariners to open the facility.
Founder Gregg Rogers, a 30-year golf industry vet, told GeekWire that he’s looking forward to reaching Mariners fans — 42 percent of which are golfers — who may want to take a few swings before or during a game.
“It’s a perfect fit for our business,” said Rogers, whose company is part of the Golf Channel Academy.
Fans can hit range balls into a 120-foot wide curved screen that features projected images of real holes on courses like Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, and TPC Sawgrass (Chambers Bay, home of this week’s U.S. Open being played just south of Seattle, may be coming soon). Swings are tracked by an aboutGolf device with high-speed 3D cameras that run at 2,300 frames per second which help detect how fast, far, and in what direction the ball travels.
“It takes an image of the golf ball leaving the club face and then extrapolates data to estimate where a shot would be,” Rogers explained.
The simulator opened on Wednesday and Rogers said there’s been a good amount of interest from fans.
“There was a guy who had front row seats and ended up taking swings and hanging out here for 30 minutes,” he said. “We must be doing something right.”
Rogers hopes that the new Safeco Field attraction helps grow the game of golf, which has seen decreased overall interest in the past decade among Americans.
“We are just trying to make it cool and fun,” he said. “We are reaching a lot of juniors, which is really cool. That’s our future.”
Fans aren’t the only ones who can use the simulator, either — Rogers said he wants to help Mariners staff and players improve their golf games, too.
“For example, pitchers who have an off-day but need to be at the ballpark can come up here and do some instruction,” he said. “It’s a cool concept.”
For this weekend, fans can take swings for free. After that, there will be a $5 fee, a portion of which will go to the Mariners’ non-profit foundation.
Fans can also pay $20 for three swings to enter a “closest to the pin competition” during each game. Daily winners will receive prizes like autographed gear, golf lessons, or club fittings. Winners this week from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday will have a chance to compete in a hole-in-one competition on Sunday and take home $25,000 if they sink a virtual ace.