In a city renowned for the number and range of its hospitality venues – 850 at last count – a Wellington concept bar has carved out a slice of the market on the appeal of its virtual sports technology.

Birdies x Brews, which opened about 18 months ago in the midst of pandemic restrictions, has built a loyal following – attracting a mix of social and serious golfers keen to have a bit of fun or to hone their game, rain, hail or shine.

The Johnston Street venue, owned by businessman and social golfer Malcolm Woods, incorporates several golf bays with their long, short or on-green game.

Woods has installed the professional-grade Foresight Sports system, which allows players to select from a range of pre-loaded options – from famed Abu Dhabi and Pebble Beach courses, to Scotland’s Carnoustie or St Andrews. They can also simply practise or customise their own round.

He said there is also a mix of customers, and more women are coming through the door.

Pin high: Hamish Edwards hones his approach play. (Image: BusinessDesk)    

For patrons who take a more serious view on the golf aspect, the bar has done deals with local golf coaches, for whom the venue offers a ready-made facility; they're a growing part of Woods' clientele.

Hamish Edwards, for one, is sold. Edwards, the former business partner of tech entrepreneur and Xero founder Rod Drury, lives at Millbrook golf course near Arrowtown.

But, as a frequent visitor to the capital, he is one of Birdies x Brews' biggest supporters.

“When I’m here I want to keep my golf game moving, and the cool thing is it's only a few minutes by Uber from my flat. I can hit a few practice shots, then play a game. Put my headphones in and get a coffee if I want to. 

“I use this as a practice facility and I can play a full round in under an hour.” 

Unsurprisingly, the ability to digitise the shot-making part of the game appeals to Edwards, and he also videos and analyses his swing.

Bar manager Adam Harrison and Birdies x Brews owner Malcolm Woods: the system has various settings for people who want to try other sports. (Image: BusinessDesk)     

The layout of the bar, which has gone through a couple of iterations, includes a back area that can be booked for corporate team-building or birthdays. 

Time-slot bookings start at 30 minutes, at $1 a minute for the front and back bays (up to 12 guests) and a little less for the side bay (up to three). The capacity is about 50 players and guests.

Woods said interested parties from Auckland and Queenstown have been in to have a look at the model, but for now he's happy to operate one bar and "get it right".

Bar manager Adam Harrison said the system isn't just for golfers. It can be set for other sports; football penalty shots, for example, are popular.

But for Edwards, it's all about the golf. "I think simulator golf is a really good way for people who don’t play golf to pick up the game. You don’t have to go outside, you don’t have to trudge around looking for your ball, so it’s a really good way to have a go.”

Some of the bays can accommodate up to 12 players. (Image: Birdies x Brews)      

He thinks it beats practising on driving ranges, where you’re just “hitting into empty space”, primarily because you’re playing across different golf courses. 

Edwards plays off a seven handicap, and tends to shoot similar scores to those he records on his home course at Arrowtown.

The full bar includes a wide array of beers and wine as well as cocktails, backed by a pretty decent offering of pizza, "birdie, greenside, and eagle" burgers and its popular mac'n'cheese bites.

Golf, after all, can build up a healthy appetite.

Birdies x Brews,
11 Johnston Street,
Wellington Central.
Phone 027 309 8424.
Bookings recommended.