Foul-Weather Fairway

If you’re walking across campus this winter and think you see someone carrying a Muhlenberg golf bag through the snow (if it ever comes) into the Life Sports Center, don’t worry; you’re not going crazy.

Yes, the sub-freezing temperatures and occasional flaky white stuff may not be exactly what comes to mind when thinking of golf. But thanks to a new addition to the LSC, the Mule golfers can get the feel of playing some of the best courses in the world, even if Lehigh Country Club is a winter wonderland.

Click the picture to see a photo gallery for the simulator

Muhlenberg recently installed a P3ProSwing projection simulator to help the golf team stay on top of its game during the offseason. The system consists of a platform with sensors connected to a computer and a giant screen durable enough to take the full brunt of even the hardest of drives.

The sensors pick up the speed, trajectory and angle of the clubhead upon impact with the ball. The computer then takes that data and projects the ball’s flight onto the 9-foot-by-10-foot screen, almost like a life-sized video game.

But the simulator does a lot more than any Wii or Xbox. The computer also precisely measures key metrics of the swing, such as swing path, club face angle and club sweet spot, to help the golfers make precise corrections to their alignment and swing.

“It’s really important to be able to see where your club is at impact,” said sophomore Christopher Lucarelli. “It helps you visualize what’s off and what adjustments you need to make. It makes it a lot easier to make quick fixes to your swing.”

For the Mule golfers, winter used to be a time of waiting for the snow to melt and hoping their swings wouldn’t get too rusty during the time off. They could hit foam balls in the John Deitrich Field House and work on their short games, but it was a far cry from being out on the course or driving range.

The simulator may not have quite the same feel as being outside, but the players can actually hit real golf balls. They can also work on every club in the bag, something they could not do as easily before.

“It’s pretty cool to be able to come in here, even if it’s snowing outside, and be able to really work on your game,” said junior Brandon Davis. “Being able to hit real balls is huge, and this about as good as it gets in the winter without going to Florida.”

In addition to the driving range feature, the simulator also includes the option of playing 20 different courses from around the world, many of which are featured on various professional tours. A putting green was installed near the simulator, giving the Mules the chance to work on every part of their games.

The simulator may be plenty of fun, but senior Jon Heppen said it is an even more valuable tool. Everyone on the team is using the data gained to try to hone their swings for the start of the season.

And while the Mules’ first tournament may still be more than a month away, he said he can’t wait to see the results when the team heads to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to play a few rounds during Spring Break.

“I definitely think it’s going to help us this season,” said Heppen, who admitted he actually misses the novelty of hitting the foam golf balls from time to time. “It should be more of a smooth transition when we go outside, because we’ve been able to do a lot of work on our swings. It shouldn’t take as long for us to get readjusted when we can finally get out on the course, and hopefully that will lower our scores.

“And if we come back from Spring Break, and there’s snow on the ground, we’ll know exactly what to do.”