FARGO — Massive 40-foot black poles, placed by a yellow Industrial Builders crane that appeared to be about 60 feet tall, are being stuck in the ground on a bare piece of property at the northeast corner of 52nd Avenue South and Interstate 29.
The cylinders are sunk 25 feet into the dirt. More pieces will be added to them, eventually stretching their height to 150 feet. Netting will hung from the poles.
On another piece of the property located just west of Cash Wise Foods, footings are going into the soil and a foundation is being poured.
A year from now, golfers will be smacking shots at the site while enjoying beverages, food, flat-screen TVs and all the swing technology they can handle.
This is the location of Suite Shots, a Topgolf-like facility recently under construction in Fargo. It is the first business of its kind in North Dakota, modeled after a similar golf entertainment facility in Sioux Falls, S.D.
"Our facility is going to be a little different than that one," said Tyler Brandt, a local developer and one of the partners in Suite Shots. "We recently visited the facility in Sioux Falls and said, 'Gosh, should we scale ours back.'"
Brandt said that with a chuckle, using a promoter's flair to say Suite Shots is going to be bigger and better than Great Shots, the Sanford Health-affiliated complex in Sioux Falls.
It will be called Suite Shots because each hitting area will be a separate "suite," Brandt said.
"Golf entertainment facilities" are the hot commodity in a sport long connected to four-hour rounds, acres of green grass, warm weather and — frankly — high-brow snootiness. A major step up from indoor virtual simulators, facilities like the Suite Shots allow people to hit golf balls from indoor bays into the great outdoors. They can watch the full flight of their ball and still use the latest technology and virtual simulations to "play" famous courses.
Dallas-based Topgolf began the trend about 20 years ago and is still the industry leader. But Suite Shots will be different from a Topgolf because Fargo's facility will use real golf balls while Topgolf uses low-compression balls that don't fly as far.
That doesn't mean Topgolf doesn't have a hand in Suite Shots. The facility is partnering with Toptracer, a subsidiary of Topgolf, which will provide camera-based ball-tracking technology to show the flight and distance of shots. It's the same technology shown on PGA Tour television broadcasts that helps viewers follow the track of the ball with colored lines.
"It only has to follow a shot for the first 30 yards, so if there is fog or something the technology still works," Brandt said. "It is still able to simulate a full shot because it measures swing speed, ball speed, spin and all those things."
The netting, when completed, will be 250 yards long, stretching east from the three-tiered hitting bays. There will be a total of 60 hitting areas, 20 on each level. It'll take a drive that would carry 350 yards in the air to clear the netting at the end of the range, an unlikely feat for anybody but long-drive champions.
And if somebody is hitting balls over the net, either the end or the sides, technology will alert employees in a command center and a staffer will ask the golfers to cease.
Suite Shots will include a golf teaching academy, five indoor simulators, a restaurant and bar, banquet facilities that can handle up to 300 people, locker rooms and an outdoor patio on the third level.
It'll be open year-around, with the "suites" heated in the winter. Temperatures can be around zero outside with the hitting bays still comfortable enough to use.
Brandt said Suite Shots will be geared less toward hard-core golfers and more toward people looking for an evening of entertainment.
"It'll be for everybody. It will be a major entertainment facility in our town, like going to a movie or going bowling. It is another entertainment option," Brandt said. "I envision couples meeting other couples there to have dinner and a couple of drinks while they hit some golf balls. I see a group of women having a 'girls night out.' It's that kind of place, much more than just strictly golf."