AITKIN -- Allen Johnson is an 86-year-old retired farmer and resort owner who loves to shoot guns. Because of his age, Johnson's hobby had become harder to enjoy -- until now.
Johnson, a member of the Wealthwood Gun and Rod Club on Highway 18 north of Garrison on the north shore of Mille Lacs Lake, overheard a conversation that would allow him to enjoy shooting without having to leave a chair.
That conversation spurred the purchase of the Double Eagle indoor golf and firearms simulator, one of the most advanced simulators from Par T golf.
"Allen Johnson purchased it for the club and we'll pay him back with the profits," said Bill Carroll, manager of Wealthwood. "He wanted to see the club expand. One day we started talking about shooting in a rocking chair. We checked on it and then one day he called me up and said he'd purchase it for the club."
The simulator offers a realistic indoor golf game and firearms system. The system uses cameras and sensors to produce an accurate and visual display. The sensors are used to determine the trajectory and speed of the golf ball or bullet while the camera shows the course or field in full splendor.
For $20 an hour for members and $25 for non-members, up to four people can enjoy a round of golf on either Mauna Lani Resort Golf Course, Firestone Country Club, Doral Resort and Country Club, Coeur d'Alene, Iron Links, Pebble Beach or Spyglass Hill.
But why a golf simulator at a gun and rod club?
"It's got a firearms add on," said Carroll. "It's the only way we could get the gun machine was to get the golf machine. This one here has 10 shooting stations. It has two sporting clays. You can hunt elk, deer, duck and geese. It's also got what they call Top Gun were you can use a pistol or a rifle and the targets will pop up and you're timed and counted on your accuracy."
Carroll said the club might do a league with the Top Gun game, as well as the golf game.
In a temperature controlled climate, members and visitors to the club can enjoy a realistic round of golf. With three different forms of putting and nearly-naturalistic fairway, rough and sand to hit out of, Weathwood's new purchase will give any level golfer an enjoyable outing plus a realistic game.
Because of the time constraints, Carroll is recommending reservations. To set up a tee time call (218) 678-2281 or 1-800-691-6883. The club's hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Wealthwood has clubs for rent, including right- and left-handed, men's and women's and juniors clubs.
The gun portion of the game is coming March 16 but until then the golf game is fully operational.
Not only will the gun game give hunters a place to tune up for the season, it will also serve as a gun training program for children.
"With the gun portion we can have gun safety year-round," said Carroll. "We don't have to take them out on the course. We can do it on this machine.
"It is nice because you don't have to put a live gun in their hand. That makes a lot of difference when you can see what a kid is going to do with a gun before you put a bullet in it."
The user of the firearm simulator will experience situations that are as realistic as being out in the field. The decisions to shoot or not, pick your spot and the instant feedback on placement of the shot are just a few elements built into this machine.
If you're in the mood for golf or planning to take a spring break somewhere warm, Wealthwood is now a nice place to dust the clubs off and regain that golf swing.
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