Indoor Golf Game
A Nutmeg State winter can be particularly harsh on the golfer who doesn’t fly south to satisfy the urge or, even worse, is directed to the basement to whack away into a net or putt on a mat. But golf season will arrive months earlier than usual this year when virtual golf simulation lands in North Madison. Golfers will only need to travel as far as B-FIT Express Clubs to play (well, virtually) some of the highest-profile golf courses in the world.
Jon Wilson, PGA golf professional as well as owner and director of The Sound Approach Golf Academy, is the pro behind the new venture, which is expected to open in January. The name, at least right now, is Vintage Fitness and Golf Club.
Naturally, the target audience will include the golf enthusiast who may have to drive far to find access to a practice area, but “it’s also going to be a great vehicle for the newer player to get introduced to the golf course in regard to course management,” Wilson says.
Golf can be intimidating
While new golfers are excited and enthusiastic about those first few times on the course, the experience can also be intimidating. “What golf simulators have allowed is for individuals to gain that experience to have a little bit more comfort and confidence, so when they do go to the golf course, they’ve had several rounds and have encountered different situations.”
The other target audience for the new business is younger golfers. “In my opinion in the area we have a plethora of junior golfers who clearly are showing heightened interest in the game by the numbers in my Golf Academy,” Wilson noted.
Nine high schools in the area have golf programs. Says the pro, “In the winter, if they had an opportunity to practice and enhance their golf game, I am sure they’d take advantage of it.”
Accuracy of ball tracking important
In fact, the Daniel Hand High School’s Golf Team captain will be assisting from the beginning.
Wilson examined the systems of four golf simulator manufacturers and decided to go with Innovative Golf Systems (IGS). While there are many similarities among competitors, the accuracy of the ball tracking was important to Wilson, who has had considerable experience with simulators in the past, including owning an indoor facility in Norwalk.
“The IGS simulator’s ball tracking device uses cameras that take anywhere from 400 to 700 images per second and is much more realistic with real-time flight. And, being a newer company, they know they have to stay on the cutting edge of technology. They’re constantly tweaking, moving forward, and doing more,” he said. “We’ll have the latest software update at any particular time.”
Tee times available online
Other companies offer only 12 to 24 courses to start and, if you want more, you upgrade and pay for the additional courses. IGS includes more than 60 courses to start and upgrades are automatic and free.
Golfers will be able to book tee times online and see a full schedule of availablility. There will be block times where lessons will be given, and individuals can use a PayPal account or credit card to book tee times and schedule lessons. Booking can be done through Wilson’s website. There may also be a link through B-FIT’s website, as well as a website strictly for new business that can be utilized to reach the same schedule.
The new facility has an indoor putting green which is, well, green in the environmental sense.
“It’s really important that if you’re going to use an artificial surface, it’s got to be as green as possible. That’s difficult when you’re using an artificial, a synthetic, but there are a lot of issues with regard to artificial surfaces,” Wilson says. “The big issue is that some companies use a polymer that’s rubber-based. Rubber is oil-based and continues to give off fumes and carcinogens, as well as what rubber tends to do when it is exposed to sunlight – it tends to melt and absorb the heat so the playing surface can be hot.”
Infill FDA approved
The infill for putting green at the new facility, however, is 100 percent FDA approved. “There’s no lead, no rubber, and it’s 20 years before it starts to break down,” according to Wilson.
“For those who are waiting to use the simulator, it’s something to do.”
It will be suggested that people arrive 15 minutes to a half hour before their tee time so that they can start on time. There’s a five minute introduction on how to use the system.
“If they want to come a half hour to 45 minutes ahead of schedule, there will be golf-specific fitness equipment there for people to do a little workout, a little warm-up, stretching, they can get themselves ready,” he adds.
Unfortunately, the typical golfer, Wilson finds, “will drive to the golf course for an 11 o’clock tee time and show up at 10:50, literally run into the golf shop to register and pay their greens fee, and then jump on the golf course and they’re not ready to play. They’re so far from that.”
More vintage than high tech
The plan is to add more exercise equipment which is “more old school, more vintage rather than high-tech machinery.”
There will probably be a rack for putters for those who just want to come in to use the putting surface.
“I think everyone who comes in won’t always have a set of clubs so we want to make sure that if someone wants to come in and practice, they brought the wrong car and forgot the clubs, we will have extra equipment there.”
Wilson plans to be on site as much as possible along with other instructors, and he hopes that other golf professionals in the area will use the simulator to give lessons.
He has already had inquiries from individuals who would like to form a golf league. As the golf professional for the Shoreline Golf Society, which has 76 or so members, two-thirds of whom stay in Connecticut in the winter, he says this group is perfect for a league.
“They would have to make up their own teams and the league would play. There can either be a dedicated time that the leagues would have access or they can play have 6 or 7 days to get their round of 9 holes in depending on what fits their schedule.”
Leagues can include adults or high school kids.
The hours of operation will be slightly different than what B-Fit’s are.
Early bird special available
“If you go to any golf course at any time in the golf season, even at 5:30 in the morning, you’ll have 10 cars in the parking lot ready to get out first thing.”
For those wee hours, there may be an early bird special. As with a “real” golf course, the fees will differ depending on day and time. Pricing will be in the ballpark of $40 for one hour of golf.
While the new digs will be for anyone who is interested in the game, those who are avid golfers will probably be the first to take advantage of the simulator and use it on a regular basis. Soon, though, all of the coaches of the area teams will be contacted to get the word out to the captains who will, in turn, notify the team members.
“Every PGA golf professional’s primary responsibility is growing the game. I feel putting in this golf studio is my part in trying to grow the game in the off season,” he said.
For more information on Innovative Golf Systems, please visit www.igolfsys.com, and for additional information on B-FIT Vintage Fitness and Golf Club, please visit www.jonwilsongolf.com. A simulator demo can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujxYUVdrfm8