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V Golf becoming a big hit for off-season golfers in Cranston

By John Cardullo, sportswriter

When I first heard of playing V (virtual) Golf, an image flashed through my mind as I pictured playing Wii golf. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Walking into the facility which is located at 60 Walnut Grove Ave in Cranston, it is very unassuming, and you feel as if you’re walking into a doctor’s office. We were greeted at the front desk by Dennis Parrillo, who is the owner, operator, and partner with his father Dennis Parrillo, Sr. (it is a family owned and run business). Parrillo confirms your “tee” time and the number of players in your group. The impression may be that you just got into a doctor’s office, however that quickly vanishes when you hear the distinct sound of the impact the golf club makes when meeting the golf ball.

We were led to our own room where a wall-length screen covered the back wall. In the middle of the floor there is a metal box which I found out later is the device that measures club head speed, club angle, launch angle, ball speed, ball spin; basically all the stats that you hear on any televised PGA golf event, is right there in front of you. Before you begin, Parrillo goes through the do’s and don’ts of playing V Golf – “safety is our number one priority, fun and enjoyment is our second. If you do the first, the second will follow.”

There are currently 3 golf rooms that are rented constantly, as well as a putting green in the reception area. At the end of the building there is a section where lessons are conducted. “We are in the process of setting up a fourth virtual golf room. The popularity and demand have been overwhelming. People love golf and this gives them the closest natural experience other than being outside”. “Plus, said Parrillo, who is a golf enthusiast, “where else can you play every major golf course the world has to offer without breaking the bank and leaving the area?”

My group was given some time on the “range” to hit some balls and to get accustomed to the surroundings. Adjusting to the depth of field and to get settled took a few swings. We were asked what course we wanted to play. They offer over 240 golf courses to choose from, like Augusta National, Winged Foot, TPC Sawgrass, Trump National, Spyglass, Pinehurst #2, Oakmont and Olympia, Doral, the Dunes, Bay Hill, and Bethpage Black to name a few. We chose St. Andrews, the Old Course. It was a good choice because of the “link style design”; it would be open and have less hazards. After choosing the course, you can choose the wind, both speed and direction, and what tee box color you want to hit from. I must say that playing virtual golf seemed like a video game at first, but it wasn’t long before the competitive juices got flowing and we were in Scotland playing the Old Course.

The time you have in your room is dictated by the number of golfers in your group. We had four so our blocked off time was 5 hours, including warm up. Initially I thought 5 hours was very excessive to play a “video” game. That thought process left when we were playing out of very thick rough (yes, the computer factors that in), or sand traps (which, like the real St. Andrews are all over the place and deep). There are hazards and out of bound areas everywhere.

It truly was like playing a full 18-hole round; you use every club in your bag except for the putter. Because the putting stroke is too light to register on the screen, if you get on the green the computer adds two strokes for you to put out unless you are within 5 feet and it gives you only one stroke. That is very generous seeing the computer has never seen me putt!

Our session expired as we completed the last putt, and it felt as though we played St. Andrews without the walking. I finished with a 124 which for never playing the course before was pretty good.

Talking to Parrillo afterward, he said “people just love playing golf and this is the closest thing to real golf you can play when there is two feet of snow on the ground in the middle of January, because weather isn’t a factor here. He explained that unlike other venues like TopGolf which is coming to Cranston soon, V Golf is more for the golfing enthusiast who want to keep their games sharp in the off-season months. TopGolf will be more of a social interacting venue.”

He goes on to say, “We have club members who book weekly tee times just to play around and they’ve created their own virtual league, just as they do outside. It’s both fun and competitive for them. We host birthday parties, corporate events, virtual tournaments, and even bachelor and bachelorette parties.”

It’s obvious right away how much Parrillo loves the sport of golf. He says that he has grown up around the game and has a passion and a vision. He welcomes competition such as the TopGolf complex that is heading into Cranston within a year or so, and he believes that he went to great lengths to study what the consumer wants. He feels confident that V Golf will hold up against them, and all other competitors.

V Golf has a membership package that includes a complimentary 18-hole round for your birthday, V Golf swag, and special event deals throughout the year. For those golfers who take their games a little bit more seriously, or for the beginner who wants to get into the sport, golf pro Russel Johnson is available for lessons.

If you would like to check out V Golf you can look them up on line at www.V.GOLF365.com or call them at 401-366-2350, or just swing by and take a tour of the facility at 60 Walnut Grove Ave. Cranston, RI 02920. They book tee times from 12 noon to 9:00 pm. One thing for sure is that V Golf has something for every golfer at every level.

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