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Indoor golf venue, restaurant, and social club won't have 'sports bar vibe'
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Indoor golf venue, restaurant, and social club won't have 'sports bar vibe'

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Mann and Divall

Brent Mann and Michelle Duvall at the 2017 U.S. Open Championship at Erin Hills in Erin, northwest of Milwaukee.

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A couple with experience in golf and restaurants is opening an indoor golf club and restaurant near Garver Feed Mill on Madison's East Side.

Brent Mann, who turns 40 Saturday, and Michelle Duvall, 35, married in August, and are planning to open The Blind Shot Social Club, 177 S. Fair Oaks Ave., by late May.

Mann, who's been a golf pro and instructor for 20 years, and ran his own indoor facility in Beverly Hills, California, from 2009 to 2016, said they're planning a full bar and restaurant in a 5,560-square-foot space on the first level of the mixed-use Garver Point Apartments.

"It's a little unorthodox in the sense that it's not going to be a sports bar vibe," Mann said, noting that the staff will be made of people who have worked in the golf business or the restaurant business, "but usually not both simultaneously."

Indoor golf uses camera-based, computer software to track the ball flight. The Blind Spot will use golf simulators from the company TrackMan Golf. It's what's used at PGA tour events, Mann said, and will allow customers to play 18 holes at famed courses like Pebble Beach in 45 minutes.

Like a country club, The Blind Shot Social Club will offer memberships. Mann said $150 a month will get members free off-peak golfing (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays) and 50% off during peak hours (5 p.m. to close on weekends). Members also get 20% off food, drinks, lessons and apparel.

Memberships are detailed on The Blind Shot's website. The menu online hasn't been finalized, but Mann describes it as "high-low," giving the example of a deviled egg appetizer that has caviar and is served with house-made potato chips. "It's combining some traditional things that people are accustomed to, but kind of stepping it up a notch."

Mann said he and Duvall are looking for a chef with whom to collaborate. He said the bar will have an expansive cocktail menu with non-alcoholic versions of all its signature drinks.

Duvall has worked as a bartender, and has been general manager at Bassett Street Brunch Club for the last six years. Mann taught golf in Arizona and in Santa Monica, California, before moving back to Wisconsin and meeting Duvall. He was most recently director of instruction at the Oaks Golf Course, an 18-hole public course in Cottage Grove. He's also worked at Monona Golf Course, a 9-hole regulation course, near where the couple lives on Madison's East Side.

Brent Mann and Michelle Duvall

Brent Mann and Michelle Duvall, who wed in August, are planning to open The Blind Shot Social Club, 177 S. Fair Oaks Ave., by late May.

Mann said they looked at locations for The Blind Shot all over Madison for almost three years. They considered places on the West Side, but they were too close to Vitense Golfland. He said they love their location in the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara (SASY) neighborhood for its demographics.

"Different areas have different things going for them, but we really like the East Side and especially over by the Garver Feed Mill. In that area, you've got two pizza places essentially, and then nothing," Mann said.

The SASY area and the apartment building that houses The Blind Spot has lots of young professionals and families, Mann said. "In my opinion, it's one of the better locations we saw around the whole city. We're providing something for people who don't really have a lot of options in the area, both for food and recreation."

The Blind Shot's capacity is 234, including 40 seats on an outdoor terrace that will feature a fire pit and putting green. 

Most of the indoor golf establishments Mann has visited are bar-themed and serve fried food, he said. He and Duvall want "an atmosphere that's counter to the traditional bar atmosphere."

They've hired the Madison design firm Art & Sons, which has done high-profile projects including Bar Corallini and Tavernakaya. "They're going with more of a Frank Lloyd Wright, mid-century modern theme for the whole facility," Mann said. "We're going a bit more high-end, with a modern country club feel as opposed to neon signs and mystery shots."

The main area will have five full swing simulators. Golfers can come by themselves, with others or play with a traditional foursome. "It's kind of like bowling, you can have four to eight people, it'll just take a little longer to play, but there's no real cap on it," said Mann, who will offer lessons for adults and children.

Mann said he wants to attract people who've never golfed before. The Blind Shot will also offer PuttView, an augmented reality putting green where customers can play games using a digital projector that shoots images down onto the putting green.

A Blind Shot is a shot into a green where the golfer can't see the green, "so, you're kind of trusting your shot," Mann said, adding that the name is a play on the type of shot a person drinks at a bar. The Blind Shot's logo is a deer wearing a blindfold, which Mann said is a nod to the Midwest.

"Golfers are the low hanging fruit," Mann said. "That's kind of the obvious thing that people think we're about."

He said he wants The Blind Shot to be inclusive, "giving people the private country club feel without having had any exposure to golf."

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