Bradley Wohlers has always dreaded winter. It meant the golf season was over.
He would drive to a heated outdoor shooting range in Chaska for off-season practice when he golfed for Mahtomedi High School and the University of Wisconsin-Stout, but it was far and inconvenient.
“I always thought someone would build an indoor golf course on the east side,” Wohlers recalled. “Well, the winter of 2018 came and there still wasn’t a good option for year-round golf in that area. That’s when I decided to build one myself.
A year later, he and his business partner/girlfriend Laurie Barger are set to open Element Indoor Golf Club in Vadnais Heights. The co-owners will celebrate their new club with a grand opening on January 19 at the facility, 4255 White Bear Pkwy, Suite 2100. They believe the slogan sums up what the indoor facility means to golfers in Minnesota: “You can be in your element, against all elements.
The club offers five luxury Golfzon simulators and a large 3,000 square foot chipping and putting green. They knew the space was a perfect fit as soon as they saw it. Down the road from Smarte Carte, the building had everything they were looking for: high ceilings, square footage, open space to put, and proper zoning to serve food and drink.
Wohlers played golf for Mahtomedi High School from 2008 to 2010 and currently helps coach the men’s team as an assistant. He doesn’t know when he started playing this sport, but he knows it was before he could tie his shoes.
“I immediately fell in love with golf,” Wohlers said. It helped that his next door neighbor growing up was Mark Foley, a golf pro at Manitou Ridge in White Bear Lake. Foley let the youngster hit balls and play the course for free. He also had a putting green in his basement and let Wohlers practice there. When Wohlers was 15, Foley hired him at Manitou Ridge, where he worked until he was 21. He followed Foley to the Keller Golf Club in Maplewood when his mentor got a job there as the head golf professional.
“I don’t know if I would be the golfer I am today without Mark Foley,” Wohlers said. “He allowed me to play and practice on a real golf course at a young age.”
Gambling is on the rise again after plunging a decade ago into the economic downturn, according to Wohlers. “Golf is getting cool again,” he said. “The big youth movement on the PGA Tour with guys like Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth is helping him improve.
“I can’t overemphasize the impact golf can have on a young person’s life. Golf teaches you determination, focus, patience, emotional self-control and honesty. It motivates you to build your integrity on and off the golf course.
Wohler’s mother, Peggy, and father, Gregg, were strong supporters, but they were apprehensive at first. “They weren’t completely on board,” he said. “I gave up a job with a high salary and incredibly good benefits to pursue my dream. So giving it up was a shock to them, but they knew I had a void in my life.
Peggy said Bradley was passionate about the game of golf and the idea of a high-end indoor golf course. “He has been working feverishly for a year and a half to achieve his dream,” she said. Gregg has been the “master painter” of the renovation now that he has retired from Boston Scientific. “And I didn’t have to pay for it,” his son joked.
Element offers memberships but will remain 100% open to the public. For more information, visit elementindoorgolf.com.