The unpredictability of the weather in Ithaca can be a barrier when it comes to athletes’ practicing their craft, particularly when spring sports begin their season while there is still snow on the ground.
However, for the women’s golf team, this is no longer an issue, and it’s all because of one machine.
The aboutGolf simulator machine was donated to the team by private, anonymous donors, and since the unveiling March 2, it has proved to be an asset.
Head coach Molly Braid said the simulator gives the women a wide range of opportunities that they did not have before.
“There are unlimited ways to practice in the simulator. We cannot only play on 26 different courses around the world, but we can hit balls on a range where every shot is analyzed and tracked,” Braid said.
The aboutGolf uses a launch monitor to precisely measure both ball and club data, which it then projects onto the screen. In addition to this feature, there are also three high-speed cameras used for video analysis of the data recorded by the simulator and a force plate for balance analysis of the golfer.
Susan Bassett, director of the Office of Intercollegiate Athletics, said she is very familiar with the aboutGolf brand of golf simulators, having installed one into the men’s golf program when she worked at Carnegie Mellon University from 2005–13.
She said the simulator is used on the PGA Tour and that it gives impeccable feedback toward the golfer’s swing, trajectory and ball speed, among other characteristics.
While sophomore Kyra Denish said she was overjoyed about all the new features, her initial reaction was about her team’s newfound freedom.
“It’s specifically for us,” Denish said. “We used to share the throwing cage with the track team, so our ability was limited because they had their own set hours, so we couldn’t go in whenever we wanted.”
This is a luxury that the players said has proved to be beneficial, especially when it comes to the amount of time they can practice.
Denish said the team used to practice in the track and field throwing cages before receiving the simulator. She also said the the team’s practice times were limited before it was donated the simulator machine.
“We could only hit in there for about 45 minutes to an hour. Now it’s free will and range… all hours the A&E is open,” Denish said. “Even if a teammate comes at the same time, you can do it with them.”
Aside from the simulator’s being a breath of fresh air for training purposes, it also allows teammates to receive immediate feedback on the yardage of how far a ball is carried and how much it will roll with each club, as if they were outside with a coach.
“The precise information is so important for the women to have when they are in tournament situations,” Braid said.
Denish also said it helps to connect between the seasons.
“It’s always tough to transition into offseason because you can’t get that feedback, but now the simulator screen gives you it, without having to be outdoors,” Denish said.
Braid said that during the squad’s offseason, the team will be able to self-manage its games much more accurately with the assistance of the simulator.
Graduate assistant coach Sharon Li said the simulators’ abilities surpass anything she had used when she was a member of the team from 2011–15.
“I’m a little bit more ‘old school’ where I learned using mirrors and video recording. But a simulator far surpasses using mirrors and video recording,” Li said. “It’s a great educational tool for our players to better understanding the mechanics of the golf swing.”
With the numerous high-tech features, this new machine has really amped up the practice experience for the team. Even though it’s not the real thing, Braid said, she believes it’s the next best option for the team.
“Nothing takes the place of walking 18 holes. This is as close as it gets. … The accuracy of this simulator is matched by none,” Braid said. “We can play and practice when it’s snowing or lightening or dark outside, three things that you really cannot do when you are fully dependent on a traditional golf course.”