Last Updated on Thursday, 26 January 2017 19:27 Thursday, 26 January 2017 18:44
CALGARY, Alberta (Gord Montgomery/iG) — No matter that Santa Claus got beaten to the punch on the Calgary golf scene this past December, it’s unlikely the jolly old elf was too upset about the gift that Larry Dafoe deposited in the laps of the city’s divot diggers.
Dafoe, the owner and general manager of the newest indoor golf facility in Calgary, said he decided to play Santa by venturing into this field for one very simple reason: “We can do it all,” he said of his shining new virtual reality/short game practice centre, the Grand Slam Golf Academy, that is already seeing an amazing amount of use.
“Right now, everybody that’s come in here, we haven’t had a single negative comment. They’re saying the simulators are playing as expected; like pro golfers, PGA instructors, scratch handicappers coming in and saying it’s exactly what they expect to see outside, which you don’t get everywhere.”
The system being used at Grand Slam Golf Academy is TruGolf for both the hardware and software. That company is seen as the state-of-the-art technology experts in indoor golf simulation. The six TruGolf golf simulators are regarded as the most accurate on the market by running on E6Golf cloud-based software, allowing for global competitions and prizes.
“It’s a hitting mat with sensors and then microphones that pick up the ball flight,” Dafoe said, launching into an explanation of what sets this system apart from others. “The sen-sors pick up the club and the microphones pick up the ball speed, trajectory, all those things and puts them all together and then paints your shot on the screen. It can be as pre-cise as a one-foot draw over 300 yards.”
What sets the TruGolf system apart in another way, Dafoe continued, is that other sys-tems use high-speed cameras to record and display ball flight.
While that appears fine to the uninitiated they “won’t give you those little incremental draws or fades that you might want if you’re a high-end golfer,” adding “the Swing-ViewPro high-speed swing analysis, captures your swing at 200 frames per second and the SAM PuttLab analyzes your putting stroke from all angles.”
As for the simulators, five that are always open for public use and the other one that is somewhat larger than the others and is used primarily for teaching by one of the four Al-berta PGA pros on staff.
The RoboSwingPro Is A State Of The Art Training Aid That Can Benefit Everyone From Beginner To Advanced Player In Perfecting The Perfect Swing. (Photo/Grand Slam Golf Academy)
To top off those living, breathing pros, the Grand Slam Golf Academy has a mechanical pro to lend a hand in refining your swing. The RoboGolfPro is designed to actually lend you a virtual hand in getting that “made for TV swing” down pat.
“It’s the most advanced swing trainer on the planet,” enthused Dafoe of the high-end teaching aid. “There’s nothing else like it out there. It will give you immediate feedback, immediate improvement in your swing and will create muscle memory that will help either build the swing for a beginning golfer or take a pro golfer, such as Vaughn Taylor and Bryson DeChambeau, who have both won on (the PGA) tour after using the Ro-boGolfPro. It’s a piece of equipment that can take any level of golfer, or a brand new be-ginning golfer, and help them in some way, shape or form.”
PGA Players Bryson DeChambeau and Vaughn Taylor Have Both Used The RoboGolfPro To Aid In Improving Their Swings. (Photo/PGA TOUR)
Simply, the RoboGolfPro holds the shaft of your club while you hold the handle. The “instructor” then takes you through the proper mechanicsof anything from a full swing down to a short chip. As well, it can assist in mending a broken take away with that in-formation diagrammed for you on a computer in a 3-D model.
“In a sense, you’re there for the ride but your body is getting a sense of where those movements need to be and that’s creating the muscle memory,” Dafoe explained of the premise of the mechanical pro.
Aside from the half dozen top-end simulators, this facility also offers up an indoor prac-tice area for short game improvement. The centre has a massive 3,000 square foot put-ting/chipping area with sand-filled greens, the only one of these in Calgary, as well as an actual bunker. Golfers can use the short game area all they want for a fee of $10 for the entire day if they don’t use a simulator beforehand or free of charge if they come off a sim and want to sharpen up that particular part of their game.
The View Across The Putting Area At Grand Slam Golf Academy Shows Golfers Plenty Of Room To Work On One Of The Most Important Parts Of Their Game, Plus A Section Of The Comfortable Lounge Area. (Photo/Grand Slam Golf Academy)
Dafoe pointed out that the putting surface inside at the Grand Slam Golf Academy is as good as the natural grass ones outside, even if his are based on pretend grass. “The artifi-cial turf is packed with sand, just like a real green outdoors is. We can control the speed by packing, rolling, adding more sand. We have different contours so everyone’s found it’s very realistic.”
Chip shots in this area are played to a two-tiered green that rises “about four feet to the upper tier,” encompassing about 30 feet of space. If you’re chipping the length of the put-ting green, that’s closer to close to 60 or 70 feet, from one end to the other.
“It is artificial turf but it’s a very specific turf with a certain length and texture,” said Dafoe in regard to some people still having trouble believing plastic grass is similar to its real cousin. “Sand is packed in so you’re just seeing the tips of the grass on the green. It’s a synthetic green that plays just like an outdoor green … the only difference is we don’t have to cut it!”
Asked what sets his centre apart from the other similar businesses in Calgary, Dafoe pointed out that his offers everything a golfer could want in an indoor facility.
“The one thing that differentiates us is the high tech equipment and the full package of what we can offer everybody. This place is unique. There are other simulators in town but it’s not done in the way we’re doing it here. This is as realistic to what you’re going to get outdoors as we can make it.”
The Aftermath Of Every Shot Is Displayed For Each Player So They Can Come To Better Understand The Good Parts, And Yes The Weak Spots, In Their Swings. (Photo/Grand Slam Golf Academy)
Reservations are recommended but not necessary, the owner said. “Just like a golf course we’ll accept somebody if they just walk up, but of course if we don’t have an open time, we might not be able to serve them, so we do recommend you go online. Our online booking system is very easy, user friendly.”
Beginning 2017, they’ll be offering full coaching programs, including skill training, on-course strategy, fitness, flexibility, nutrition and sports psychology to help turn you into the best player you can be. Gift Cards available for both personal and corporate use with the pricing listed on their website. There is also event catering for companies, families, and friends along with weekly Men’s and Women’s League nights with different games and themes each week. Again, see their website for dates and to register. The centre is open year-round, seven days a week and there will be in-house offers and online tourna-ments and challenges with prizes in the coming weeks and months.
And who knows? This early Christmas present may be just the thing you need to go out-side, when the weather warms, and let you play your best ever. And that’s something that not even Santa could put under your Christmas tree.
To top off the practice area, Grand Slam Golf Academy offers patrons a spot to relax and reflect after a session as it is a fully licensed lounge complete with 70-inch UHD televi-sions.
For more on the Grand Slam Golf Academy, which is located at 512 Manitou Rd. SE in Calgary, go to their website at gsga.ca. You can also phone them at 403-270-4524.
By Gord Montgomery
Gord Montgomery is a retired sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He is now in his ninth year of writing for Inside Golf. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s also on Twitter at @gordinsidegolf and on Instagram at @gordinsidegolf2.