April 12, 2019 — It’s a chilly spring day, but NMH varsity golfer Mike Kennedy ’19 is warm and dry as he tees up a practice shot. Using a nine-iron, Kennedy hits it 165 yards. He knows the precise distance — along with the ball speed, club speed, and the ball’s loft, spin, and trajectory — because he’s indoors, using a computerized golf simulator.
The family of a current team member donated the Trackman indoor golf simulator to NMH this spring, and it’s already making a difference to the Kennedy and his fellow golfers.
They take turns hitting from one end of a 15-by-19-foot space in the basement of Forslund Gym, facing a screen on which a course’s fairway is projected. Using a real club, each golfer’s swing sends a ball into the screen with a large thwap. Unlike playing on a real course, however, golfers instantly see customized data about their performance after each shot. That feedback helps them perfect their strokes and improve their overall game.
“Practicing here gives me more confidence when I get on an actual course,” says team captain Luke Lonergan ’20. “Here, we get exact numbers with a specific club and stroke. So if I hit seven shots at 80 yards, it builds muscle memory and becomes automatic when I get on the course.”
Thomas Zhang ’20 (above, with Coach Mace Foehl-Hemphill) says the simulator helps him see what works and what doesn’t. “For example, it shows me the angle of the ball on impact, and from that, I can see whether I’m doing what the coach suggested. I can also practice hitting a specific distance, and it helps me with my wedge control.”
The simulator is also programmed with visuals from actual golf courses, so team members can compete in virtual games on courses such as the Silverleaf Club in Arizona. Each course view is accurate down to the size of the green and the location of course-side vegetation. The simulator can also be programmed for specific weather conditions, and whether the ball travels quickly or slowly on the green.
Head Coach Mace Foehl-Hemphill says, “It’s very unusual for a high school to have this equipment; even some college golf programs don’t have it.” The simulator’s data help her understand the players’ games better, she adds. That, in turn, enables her to coach them more effectively. And in New England, an indoor practice option makes sense. “It’s really hard to wait for the snow to melt, and you don’t want to play in the pouring rain,” she says. “This makes our training easier and more fun.”