The Putt Club eyes spring opening for East Peoria venue

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

The Putt Club is a multiuse family entertainment destination combining food, drink, games and indoor/outdoor professionally designed golf putting courses. This is a bird’s eye view of the 18,000-square-foot building along with part of the outdoor entertainment area. (Photo courtesy of The Putt Club)

A group of investors with local ties are confident their new golf putting course venture under construction next to Bass Pro Shop in East Peoria will be an “ace” for the community.

The Putt Club, an 18,000-square-foot family entertainment destination combining food, drinks, games and two indoor-outdoor professionally designed golf putting courses should be ready to open by next spring, according to JR Runkel, one of the local investors.

“The interior will be much like a sports bar with a lot of TVs. We’ll also have a patio outdoors where you can get a great view of the outdoor putting course looking back under the bridge at the city of Peoria,” Runkel said. “We’re going to offer good quality food with a focus on speed and quality. We’ve spent a lot of time developing the menu.”

To prepare the site, developers have cleared massive amounts of brush and other obstructions to increase road traffic visibility from Interstate 74, while improving the westward view for customers. Investors say the location will be visible to around 60,000 vehicles daily from the interstate, placing The Putt Club in a prime location for success.

“A group of around 10 investors and a local bank have helped us put this project together,” said Runkel, who works as president of Fortner Insurance Agency in Peoria Heights. “Three of our investors have been involved in the food industry for the last 20 years, so they are bringing in a bunch of knowledge. Through this, we have created a state-of-the-art kitchen with modern cooking technology and a really nice bar.”

While not disclosing the entirety of the food menu, Runkel said The Putt Club will definitely offer a host of “shareable” appetizers and dips, a fresh-made pizza with hand-tossed dough and some gluten-free items.

Runkel and the other investors envision The Putt Club as an attractive meeting destination for area corporations and businesses looking for a fun and full-service place to hold conferences and parties. Its patio will be available to rent for small groups of 10-12 people who want to get together for a fun evening of golf, high-end food and drink.

The two putting courses, both 18 holes, were designed by Turf Solutions Group, a Peoria company that designs both natural and synthetic-surfaced golf development projects and athletic stadiums.

“I don’t want to call these putt-putt courses; these are professionally designed holes that have water features, hazards and real high-quality turf,” said Runkel.

“The great thing is that this project is designed for the Midwest with 18 indoor and 18 outdoor golf holes. We think that people are going to love the fact they’ll be able to come in during the middle of winter to have fun on the putting course, while having a place to also eat and drink.”

Though the venue will attract a largely adult crowd, investors hope to appeal to families and folks of all ages. For example, a family with kids could allow their young ones to safely play on one of the putting courses while parents relax in the lounge area in full view of their youngsters, according to Runkel.

The business, at least for now, will not operate as a retail outlet for golfing equipment including clubs, balls and other accessories. A small retail kiosk offering Putt Club T-shirts and souvenirs will be located within the venue.

Runkel sees The Putt Club becoming a top area gathering spot for area golf enthusiasts to gather and watch Professional Golf Association tournaments, including the Masters, U.S. Open and the Ryder Cup.

“The Putt Club is going to be a first-class bar, restaurant and gathering place for the area,” he said.

Investors are shooting for a March 2024 ribbon cutting.