As chilly winter temperatures become the norm and Chicagoans (who are masked and vaccinated) seek out indoor entertainment, gaming bar chain Five Iron Golf presents a new outlet in the Loop. The East Coast-based brand last week opened its long-awaited second Chicago outpost inside Block 37 with high-tech golf simulators, a full bar, and a menu of casual bar fare.
Five Iron Golf, which operates similar facilities in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Vegas, has unveiled a sprawling 11,000-square-foot space inside the four-story mall at 108 N. State Street. The company is continuing to grow at a rapid pace, and plans to introduce its third Chicago location in March in Lincoln Park, says co-founder and CEO Jared Solomon.
The space in Block 37 features 11 golf simulator bays with comfy seating and HD video-enabled TrackMan technology that allows users to track data like ball speed and club path. They also allow golfers to choose among real PGA courses and imaginary settings like Jurassic World.
There’s a lighthearted aesthetic with colorful murals, faux ivy-covered walls, and neon signs bearing dad-level golf puns like “talk birdie to me.” That sense of fun translates neatly to the bar area with more than a dozen seats and a menu of cocktail riffs like the John Daley — a boozy Arnold Palmer — plus beers, seltzers, ciders, and wine. The chain tweaks its food menu based on its city, so Chicagoans will be unsurprised to find local hits like Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches alongside hot pretzels, sliders, flatbreads and more.
Food and drink menus will rotate seasonally as they do at all Five Iron locations, and Solomon says in that in coming year he hopes to operate scratch kitchens in every outpost across the country. To do so, however, staffing levels will need to improve as the hospitality industry continues to struggle with a labor shortage.
Five Iron made its Chicago debut in late 2019 with a ground-floor space at the Millennium Centre residential tower in River North. That timing wasn’t ideal, as it was only open for a few months before the city and state began instituting COVID-19 mitigations. Nevertheless, Solomon says he was surprised to find that the shift toward working from home has created flexibility for patrons to come take a lesson or practice their swing during the day — an impossibility for office workers in a pre-COVID era.
Chicagoans have still shown an affinity for golf-like experiences, virtual and otherwise, during the pandemic. International chain TopGolf is still operating with simulator bays in the Loop as well as suburban Naperville and Schaumburg; indie operation Big Mini Putt Club in Wicker Park and Chicago-based brand Puttshack in suburban Oak Brook debuted during the pandemic to great fanfare.
That’s good news for Five Iron, which in November secured a $30 million minority investment from golf giant Callaway (also a prominent investor in TopGolf). Solomon has ambitious plans for the coming year, with additional openings slated for Philadelphia, Seattle, and Detroit.
Explore Five Iron’s expansive new playground and menu items in the photographs below.
Five Iron Golf at Block 37, 108 N. State Street, Open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.