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The Cave in Estero

As outdoor golf driving ranges have been vanishing across Southwest Florida, indoor golf simulators have been flourishing.

The owners of The Cave, 9250 Corkscrew Road, Suite 13, in Estero took the trend to heart and to another level by opening a bar serving food with three golf simulators.

Karen Nicoletti, a professional golfer with the LPGA and her husband Brad Swearingen, a former professional golf caddy, opened The Cave on Feb. 4, offering free women’s golf clinics on Mondays and specials for veterans, police, firefighters, emergency medical services and educators.

The Cave is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and costs $50 an hour to use one of the simulators, which can accommodate up to six people. The menu features pizza, wings and appetizers.The Cave in Estero

“The pandemic was great for the game of golf,” Nicoletti said. “Public golf courses are hitting their all-time high. But it’s tough for the average person to be able to afford the sport. There are a lot of people who love the game, but there are very few places to play.”

Whereas it costs just less than $800 to play the actual Pebble Beach course, it costs far less to try the virtual version at The Cave.

In recent years, a driving range off Alico Road was bought and became an Amazon distribution warehouse. Another one, off Daniels Parkway, became a Whole Foods Market. Acres of land aren’t needed to install a golf simulator as only a few hundred square feet are required.

After Swearingen suffered a back injury that prevented him from continuing his caddying career, he devised The Cave.

“When he was recovering, he needed a Plan B,” Nicoletti said. “He opened up The Cave. The Man Cave. He pretty much built it with his own two hands.”

They plan on building two indoor pickleball courts later this year. Until then, they are drawing patrons with golf and offering lessons as well. The Cave in Estero

“Coming here, you don’t have to worry about being intimidated,” Nicoletti said. “This is a place where beginners, advanced, intermediate can come and enjoy themselves without that intimidation factor. We have great games on our simulators for kids.”

Swearingen demonstrated by driving a ball into a simulator screen. As the real ball smacked into the screen, the virtual ball continued the simulated trajectory, landing on the green. Golfers also can hit simulated shots from sand traps or putting greens.

“It might take a little getting used to,” Swearingen said. “Maybe a hole or two, because there’s no horizon to give you depth. But it’s so accurate and so realistic that you soon think you’re really out on the golf course. You’ll see. It’s super realistic.”

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