Golf uses practice tech to gain edge
Published: Friday, April 6, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
Every winter, golf teams in the northern United States are at a disadvantage due to the snow and cold that keep them off of the links. Now, thanks to technology, DePaul University’s team has found a way to help bridge the talent gap between the north and the south.
Inside of room 313A of DePaul’s McGaw Hall, the DePaul golf team is dressed in blue DePaul golf T-shirts and either shorts or sweat pants. The players are taking turns driving and putting on some of the most famous golf courses in the world such as Pebble Beach and TPC Sawgrass.
They are able to do so thanks to their aboutGolf PGA tour indoor golf simulator the university installed at the beginning of this year, that allows players to hit into a medium-sized movie theater screen that is designed to take the abuse of being repeatedly hit by golf balls and projects a variety of different places to play.
According to Head Coach Betty Kaufmann, it has allowed her to do more teaching in a few weeks than she has done in her entire 14-year tenure at DePaul. This is because she can now have one-on-one time with all 10 members of the team since they have access to the room from 7 a.m. to midnight.
“I really live in this room,” said Kaufmann.
Before they got the simulator, the team had to travel 45 minutes to and from school to hit golf balls in a dome, which took up a large portion of their practice time. Then, once practice began, the whole team would line up on the driving range causing Kaufmann and her assistant, Ryan Jamison, to have to teach each player at once, during a short period of time.
With the simulator, the players can hit any shot they want as many times as they want, and DePaul players agree that the extra work has paid off. “Last weekend I went to Arizona to play golf,” said John Pavelko, a junior Minnesota native. “I have never come out of a winter with more confidence in my game.”
The extra practice time is not the only edge the simulator gives the team. Because of the cameras and balance plates under the Astroturf, the machine is able to place all types of information on the screen that is not available on a typical golf course, including the balls’ spin rates, the players’ balance, the level of the club at impact, and other statistics that fill up the majority of the screen.
The simulator also has a few features that the players find fun.
“The sound effects are pretty awesome,” said Russell Budd. He mentioned one instance playing with Pavelko when he hit it into a bunker, the simulator made a “clank sound” when the ball hit a virtual rake before it popped out of the sand.
However, the authenticity of certain common course characteristics, such as sand, is responsible for the few troubles the teams says they have with the simulator. The simulator does not have the technology to emulate deep sand, rough grass, or the feeling of a strong wind. So when it comes to practicing in these types of conditions the players have to wait for warmer weather.
In addition to the simulator, the golf team has added astroturf chipping and putting greens in the room next door, which Kaufmann says is just as important to the team. In fact, players such as Pavelko spend more of their time practicing in the new rooms with their wedges and putters than they do with their drivers. Another advantage Kaufmann says both of the new practice rooms give the team is that they have a place where they can “let their hair down.” This is because the players used to have to practice at facilities belonging to other programs, and Kaufmann says that made it hard for them to relax. DePaul’s golf team has won the past two Academic National Championships but is ranked around 100th in the country in Division 1, which they say is not bad for a team from Chicago. With the addition of their simulator, the team has high hopes that their performance on the course can catch up to their achievements in the classroom, starting with their match play this week at the Reunion Resort in Orlando, Fla.