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Simulator places golfers in virtual heaven

Normally, I try to limit my indoor golf, even during the winter months, to a couple of putt-putt rounds with the grandkids at Bumpers on North Division.

But with the wickedly wet weather we’ve been forced to endure this spring, I broke down on Friday and took Randy Henry up on his offer to check out the state-of-the-art simulator that is the centerpiece of Randy Henry’s Dynamic Golf Center, located in the middle of The Resort Plaza Shops in downtown Coeur d’Alene, just across the street from the Coeur d’Alene Resort.

And I was floored by the technological wizardry of the aboutGolf PGA TOUR Simulator, which takes virtual golf – and golf instruction – to a level I didn’t realize existed.

There were far too many things that the simulator, with its three-dimensional, 180-degree SimSurround graphics, was able to analyze about my golf swing to mention. But among them were balance, weight shift, swing speed, ball speed, launch angle, ball flight, carry distance and overall distance.

There was even a way to visually demonstrate the spin on my golf ball, all while videotaping each of the 70-plus swings I made.

Henry, who is also a world-renowned teaching professional and founder of the custom club-fitting company Henry-Griffitts, wasn’t able to meet me at his Center, but one of his certified instructors, Maria Kostina, did a splendid job of putting me through my simulator paces.

The simulator, which was programmed to simulate windless conditions on a flat practice range, provided immediate feedback – via a graph charting the pressure on both my right and left feet during my swing – about my weight shift, or lack thereof.

And, not surprisingly, the ball flight indicator showed the majority of the shots I hit with a driver drifting high and to the right for just a little more than 200 yards, with little roll.

As Kostina, who is also a certified club fitter, patiently worked with me on getting more weight transferred to my left side during my swing, she also experimented with various driver lofts – all of which were much higher than the 9-degree draw-biased TaylorMade I’m still hitting high and right these days.

At one point, I think I was swinging a driver with a 16-degree loft, and, after being instructed by Kostina to aim right, square my shoulders and roll my hands over at impact, I starting hitting drives that moved from right to left on a much lower trajectory than to which I am accustomed, and rolled out nearly 250 yards.

I was impressed, especially since the video of my swing failed to show any miraculous weight-shift changes.

At the end of my impromptu lesson, Kostina gave me just a couple of swing thoughts to hold on to, and explained that the Center is working on being able to compile the data from each client’s shot, with each individual club, into a notebook that can track progress.

“If you come in here with a swing problem, we’re going to fix it,” she said.

And then Kostina treated me to the additional wonders of the simulator, letting me play a couple of holes at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, which are two of the 54 world-famous courses it has stored in its memory.

The courses unfold like a Disneyland ride, giving you an ultrarealistic 360-degree look at each hole.

The graphics are so precise that you can read street signs along the Road Hole at St. Andrews. And if you spray a drive hard to the right, you can see – and hear – glass shattering as your ball blasts through a window in one of the brick buildings that abut the fairway.

“It’s remarkably realistic,” said Kostina, who went on to demonstrate the simulator’s ability to visually create the 18 fictional “Infamous Holes” that are the subjects of color paintings done by Loyal H. Chapman and feature holes that play alongside waterfalls, off the side of a glacier and from atop a skyscraper.

Use of the simulator, at $50 an hour, is not cheap.

But anything that is so entertaining, and effective at easing the pangs of cabin fever that golfers in our region are suffering this spring, probably shouldn’t be.

Tags: golf

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