I lament the end of the golf season.
Seeing fairways covered in snow and tarps covering greens leaves me longing to hit the ball and wondering what to do on our cold winter weekends. Besides, of course, taking care of the chores my wife has compiled for me over the summer.
As I discovered, there are a number of options around the city available to golfers who want to hit a few balls and keep their game up to par or, in my case, bogey, over the long winter months.
My first stop was the newest addition to Saskatoon’s winter golf scene.
Jordan Orr, an avid golfer himself, told me he thought it was “weird” there were no golf simulators in the city.
“I did a little more digging and realized that every city had simulators,” Orr said.
“It just didn’t make sense, and one thing led to another, and now I’m here.”
Here is Orr’s new business, YXE Golf Lounge.
Customers can expect a relaxed, easy atmosphere while hitting balls on one of the 95 featured courses.
“It’s not like actual golf where you have to win,” he explained to me.
“When you’re actually playing golf, you want to try harder; you want to be serious about it. But here, you’re just hitting into a screen.”
I had the chance to hit a few balls and one thing that took some time getting used to was hitting balls into the screen.
Orr explained it takes time to adjust to the lack of depth of perception.
“But once they get used to it, they start hitting their normal shots and they start to like it more,” Orr said.
“I get lots of complaints on the first nine and then the back nine, people love it and they keep coming back and getting better at it.”
The engine powering the simulators is TruGolf. Orr told me sensors in the floor and three microphones around the screen helps determine the ball flight and distance.
The screen showed me not only the distance I was hitting the ball, but also the trajectory, side and backspin rates and the club’s angle of attack — all useful information for those, like me, who are looking to improve their game.
As for accuracy, Orr said it compares to TrackMan.
“When they used it with these (TruGolf) simulators, it was an average of two per cent off, sometimes dead-on,” Orr explained.
“I’ve also had someone in here with GPS … and the most it was off was 0.5 yards, so within the margin of error.”
YXE Golf Lounge opened on Thanksgiving weekend and Orr said he is looking at setting up leagues in the new year.
“We’ll start our first season after Christmas because more people will come in here by that time, try them out and want to join leagues,” Orr said, adding that people joining a league would be able to play their round anytime during the week.
He is also looking at staying open year-round for those rainy weekends.
Like many others, I have spent many a cold winter day swinging clubs at the Golf Dome.
The Dome offers up 37 bays for those looking to hit a bucket or two of balls, but changes are in store, according to Jon Equina, the facility’s new manager.
“We’re working with Callaway right now,” Equina said. “They have a couple of track master devices that we’re going to demo here in the next couple of months.”
Some of the statistics the device will record are exit velocity and depth, Equina said.
“It’s a huge advantage because it actually reads it like outdoor technology as opposed to when you’re using simulators,” said Equina.
“It actually reads it as a full flight.”
Although the dome has been great for working on my alignment, my biggest complaint was not knowing how far I was hitting my ball.
Equina told me I will be able to download my stats, which will be useful in knowing my distance for each club instead of the 75 yards to the back of the dome.
“You can track that on your phone and iPad and record everything,” he said.
Equina said he is looking at bringing in other manufacturers besides Callaway over the winter for demo days.
“I was just at a golf show and talked to Mizuno, I talked to TaylorMade, I talked to Ping,” he told me.
“So there are a bunch of groups (that will be) here in the next couple of months to try their new products, especially launching into the new year, that will have their demo days here.”
The Willows is another option I discovered for staying loose over the winter and getting in some swings.
“If you’re lucky enough to go south, do that, it’s the best option. If that doesn’t happen, come here and play,” said general manager Wayne Fairbairn.
This will be the third year golfers will be able to book the simulator to keep their game in shape.
“Your golf muscles seize up when you don’t touch a golf club for five months and it’s just a way to go hit shots,” Fairbairn explained to me.
“That’s the great thing about a simulator — you see a golf ball in front of you and you get to visualize a golf shot before you hit it.”
Fairbairn said the simulator system they use is from Golf In Sim.
“It’s been the most accurate system we can find without using FlightScope or TrackMan or one of those systems,” he said.
The Willows also offers lessons with teaching professional Clinton Schmaltz during the winter for those looking to improve their game and the simulator is also used for club fittings.
Fairbairn said their simulator is not busy at the moment, but that will change in the new year.
“Pretty much mid-January on, it’s pretty busy.”
Golf Town is also opening up its three hitting bays to golfers looking to get in some practice time using Foresight GC2 launch monitors.
The monitors use two high-speed cameras, which the company says provides the most accurate measurements of ball characteristics on every shot.
The bays can be booked for 25 minute or 55 minute sessions, and must be booked in advance.
Golf Town said on its website that staff will also be on hand in case anyone wants to try out any new clubs or sort through their launch numbers.