By Ken Jackson
One of the area’s newest and most unique entertainment options is (finally) now open.
Drivers along State Road 417 headed north (or east, the expressway authority has little sense of direction) through the Lake Nona area just northeast of Kissimmee and northwest of St. Cloud have seen Drive Shack being built for over a year now; in fact it’s been ready for folks to walk through the door for weeks.
Those glass doors finally swung open last weekend to a three-story facility with 90 golf driving range bays, a full bar and restaurant, meeting space, arcade games and multiple patios and lounges as part of a soft opening.
Drive Shack isn’t exclusively about golf, or food, or beverages, or just hanging out and watching a game on multiple TVs — it’s about all of that.
Billed as “a place for everyone,” by General Manager Chuck Beyer, it’s about entertainment.
At it’s heart, Drive Shack Orlando, the first of a handful of locations to be built around the Southeast, wraps itself around the driving range, where guests aren’t limited to just flailing away downrange at targets. Drive Shack created its own game technology, so serious players can track their swing speed, ball speed and spin rate stats, while those looking for it to be fun can play games like Shackjack (targets are cards and you can’t go over 21) and Monster Hunt, best described as “Pokemon Go with clubs.” Simulations of real golf courses are also available offering a “nearly-real” golf experience.
A climate-controlled driving range bay is rented for $30-50 per hour (clubs are provided) depending on time of day, and can be used by up to six players, who may be distracted by planes inbound to Orlando International depending on the day’s flight pattern.
For those less entertained by golf, there is a free game lounge on the third floor, offering Skee-ball, table-top shuffleboard and a basketball shooting game, and full-service bars and lounges on the second and third floors, where you can’t go more than a couple steps without seeing a television. Outdoor patios on the first and third floors, spacious enough to host live music, offer views of a growing Lake Nona community.
The grill on the second floor, which could very nearly be a stand-alone restaurant, offers an extensive menu of drinks, appetizers and fun food like burgers, wings and flatbreads — and they do brunch until 2 p.m. on the weekends.
Drive Shack has a competitor in the industry, TopGolf, which opened closer to the tourist corridor. While the offerings are similar with subtle differences, Beyer said Drive Shack’s niche is creating a laid-back inviting culture that welcomes anyone looking to have a nice night out.
“The second floor is where the families hang out, and the third floor it what I call the party zone,” he said. “When I came on board we dug into the culture we create for our team, which drives everything we do. And the golf games we offer are addicting — I wasn’t working Saturday but I came in to learn the games. I was going to be here for an hour, and spent over four just playing.”
Drive Shack employed hundreds of workers, and those who open the other locations in Atlanta, West Palm Beach and New Orleans will train at the Lake Nona location.
“We’ve got great partners in Tavistock (Lake Nona’s development company), and this community has been so welcoming, so it’s a perfect first location,” Beyer said.
Located just off Lake Nona Boulevard on the north side of 417 (7285 Corner Drive for your GPS apps), Drive Shack is planning a grand opening within the month. It’s about 20-25 minutes from downtown Kissimmee.