Woonsocket's Back 9 golf simulator stands as a 'success' for small town
After opening in November, people have flocked to Woonsocket for the golf simulator and sports bar, a rarity in a rural small town.
WOONSOCKET, S.D. — With subzero temperatures, snow on the ground and fleeting daylight, golfing in the midst of a South Dakota winter usually isn’t on the table.
But along with the streets of Woonsocket, nestled in the back of a business building lies a pair of state-of-the-art golf simulators that feature more than 40 championship courses at the Muddy Cup and Back 9.
The simulators create a unique experience in the town of 700 residents, drawing people from as far as Sioux Falls and Chamberlain to golf.
It’s more than just golf, though. With over 30 different games available, there’s the option to play football, baseball, hunting or even zombie dodgeball.
“Being in a small town, we kind of wanted to offer something for more than just golf,” said Rod Weber, who owns the business with his wife, Tara. “That's when we did research on what we thought would be the best all-around simulator that would have everything, but golf was one of the main attractions.”
The Back 9, which opened Nov. 1, isn’t the lone business in the complex, though. In fact, it isn’t the Webers' only endeavor.
In January 2018, they decided to buy the Sanborn Weekly Journal newspaper because they didn’t want to see it go out of business, and in October 2019, they moved the publication, along with their t-shirt design business, CreativeWEB Apparel, into their current location.
On Aug. 15, 2021, after additions to the building, they opened the Muddy Cup Coffeehouse and Pub. But the building also features a spa, a boutique, a massage parlor, a tanning salon and an insurance service.
“The other reason why we are successful in a small town is because you have other businesses in here that are also contributing to that,” Tara Weber said. “So a coffee shop might not happen without a spa and a boutique and a t-shirt business and the Back 9. Everything works together to be successful.”
The success of the Back 9 has been evident. There’s a weekly golf league, as well as a high school golf league that takes place, and reservations for the golf bays typically need to be made in advance due to the high demand.
“Starting winter league now, we’ve got 24 two-man, best-ball teams, so we’ve had great success to start off the first winter here,” Rod Weber said. “Next year, we hope to have more teams involved.”
But to get to this point, it took long days for both Tara and Rod. They both work full-time jobs — Tara as the city finance officer and Rod as a superintendent for Woonsocket School District.
Much, if not all, of the work for the Back 9 and their other businesses happened after their normal workday and on weekends. Tara said she works her normal job until 5 p.m. and then comes back to help around the business until 10 p.m. or so and has even opened the coffee shop at 7 a.m. before on top of everything else.
Part of that work was the interior design of the building. The Back 9 features an elbow bar — an angled design Rod said he put in intentionally so patrons can more easily talk to each other across the bar. On top of that, there are skylights designed to look like clouds and a blue sky to make it feel more like a round of golf.
The Webers noted the assistance of their employees as another reason they’ve been able to be successful. Whether it be behind the bar serving drinks or making pizza, or elsewhere in the office, the process is something they haven’t done alone.
As for the pizza and drinks, Rod Weber said adding to the food menu could come down the line, but keeping the process as streamlined as possible is the top goal, with the hopes of one person being able to run the show making food and serving drinks.
The Back 9 has seen success almost immediately in the small town. It’s a place people would more than likely guess is in a large city like Sioux Falls, if they were to only see the inside. And for the Webers, being able to bring people to Woonsocket has been one of the best parts about having the business.
“We're very community-minded people,” Tara Weber said. “We wanted something successful in our community also, to bring people to town because not only if they come here from out of town, they’re buying gas, they’re buying groceries. … All of it works together in a small town.”