Open House at a Great Golf Training Center
Effective Long Game Practice, Top Tracer Feedback, Putting Greens, Bunkers and New Wedges/Pitching Range
Virginia Golf Center in Clifton, Virginia is a great teaching and practice facility featuring a pretty 9-hole Par 3 course, for working on your game. By wonderful chance it is just 15 minutes from my home. Last year, with only Putt-Putt experience previously, the first time I set foot on their beautiful countoured expanse of a putting green, I marveled at the carpet-like cropped-grass surface. I asked a seasoned golfer there practicing with me how it compared to a "real golf course," and he said this was on a level with any private club's green he'd ever played on.
They've built a separate chipping green, so that chipping is not allowed on their putting-only green. And further up that hill are several challenging, always-raked sand bunkers and rougher green/flag areas for lobs and greenside sand shots.
Just a couple of months back they invested in a Top Tracer Technology installation for their 38 covered driving range bays, with monitors which allow golfers to log-in through their smart phone apps. The affordability of their hourly-metered sessions plus their generously-filled large buckets of balls saved me months of labored hand-written notes and guesstimations and video with a telescopic lens, which was how I started my beta-testing. I was able to not only see the computerized Traces of the shots, but I was able to emulate the ranges of individual clubs with the shots I was taking with the SafeTee AirDriver prototypes.
They also just completed a pitching or wedges range area to the far right of their outdoor drive bays.
I came early and entered the Long Drive competition for fun and to open up the high
end of the Safe-Tee-Air Driver's (STAD's) operating pressure. Going back to the clubhouse,
by the time I left no one else had tried it yet! My user name was ToMarket, and when I left,
my longest, a 340 yard total drive (about 320 yards "carry" distance in the air) with the
Safe-Tee-Air Driver was still the only one posted.
I felt bad and told a staff member I should be disqualified from the contest, and
hoped that high number hadn't discouraged traditional golfers from entering. I had
an unfair advantage after all! But my goal was to just avoid slowing down play on
the golf course, and fit in with more experienced golfers. Not isolate myself - or
There are some really athletic long drivers among the clientele there so was sure one of
them can beat that - and one finally did. Still I was comforted that the Safe-Tee-Air Driver
had proved itself as a "Golf Equalizer," allowing a disabled or injured senior golfer to play
alongside much younger and more athletic players. I had played 18 holes with two
different foursomes and everyone was supportive of our efforts with the invention and my
application of it -- on a real course.
After the Top Tracer session in the covered bay, I had looked forward to trying out the
new Wedges Range - a pitch-training area. I was using the STAD alongside Connor,
the employee whom I learned had actually designed the new pitching range and built
and painted the targets and sticks. He had invited his mom to try his new contribution to
the training center. She was pitching next to us and they played a game of Horse,
progressing through all the targets. I tried to follow along and actually did pretty well.
This was before I understood my STAD could fire at much lower pressure levels.
Connor had lots of questions too and asked me to try a really steep, really high short
shot. I replied that this would probably be easier to dial-in with the new "shorty"
wedges/pop-up barrel that would be arriving next week. But I complied, and my very,
very high demonstration shot with the new optimal-curved (general-purpose) barrel
went over the 40 yard marker, landing closer to 50 yards out, and rolling another 10
However, throughout that session I drew compliments after I hit several targets, a
couple in the air, and a couple after the first bounce. They made a nice-sounding "thud"
on the painted wood signs. So this confirmed what I had seen on the course and on the
Top Tracer range.
And I learned that although at these pressures, it may not make for ideal pitch and lob
shots that "stick" close to the pin. (This was before my realization that, now that my S.T.A.D.
was "broken in," I could drop the pressure much lower!) But at their Open House on VGC's
new pitching range, I was encouraged that my S.T.A.D. could be used at shorter distances
to effectively hit the green. And that made me feel even better about our decision to offer
our first Safe-Tee-Air Driver with that general-purpose optimum-curved barrel, which I had
been testing for a couple of weeks.
In the back of my mind, I had been hoping to replicate my success in my Virtual golfing
play on my computer, with an Electronic Arts golf game that shortened the learning curve
as a new player, by allowing me to select a Pro avatar. The computer essentially leveled
the onboard playing field among the pro avatars built into the game, modeled after
famous PGA players. It straightened out the drives and approach shots I was able
to simulate and watch on my computer screen. And it gave the simulated "golf shots"
more virtual ball speed and distance as it helped me emulate a smooth, powerful swing
that accurately struck the "ball." I only ever played the Beginner level, because I liked
"winning" golf tournaments against the virtual avatars.
My vision had been to facilitate my own shots with a real golf ball, without hurting myself
trying to learn how to strike the ball perfectly. I never had to risk hurting my arthritic neck
or twist my back by swinging badly or too hard, which almost all new golfers are prone to
do. So I had managed to pretty much replicate an Assisted Golfing experience with a real
ball on a real golf course. At least, I was able to join and play along with much, much
better golfers, without slowing down their game or taking the fun out of their own play.
I also reflected, looking at all the receipts I had gathered from the Virginia Golf Center.
A year ago I would never have imagined I would be budgeting for so many practice
sessions, 9-hole rounds, or actual 18-hole Tee Times I had paid for in the past 3 months!
When the managing partner had asked me how often I was coming to the Golf Center, I
reflected that, since I got the first prototype in my hands, it had been at least 2 or 3 times
a week. Then later, even with an exhausting warehouse job, I had gone on every day off.
So 8 times a month. I had become a regular paying customer, and looked forward to
being able to join the VIP plan to enjoy discounts on buckets of balls and rounds of golf.
Surely this invention could help golf courses build up their revenue and get more golfers
onto their courses!
Tellingly, this could inspire other new senior golfers like me, as well as even older players
whose play had dwindled, plagued with injuries and pain that came with getting older.
And the most personally-rewarding contribution I hoped to make could just be glimpsed
up ahead of me. To be allowed to enable and empower disabled veterans and others,
with lower-body injuries, with mobility issues, even those confined to wheelchairs, to be
able to play the game of golf.
The Safe-Tee-Air Driver carried on a golf cart would allow someone so confined, with just
some quick help from a fellow golfer, to be positioned to tee up and drive the ball even
from a golf cart. Surely accommodations could be made with the help of golf course staff
for Wounded Warrior Tournaments. Even an "Enabled Golfers' Championship" !
With my co-inventor Frank's stalwart and generous guidance, patient problem-solving
in response to my experiences and challenges on the driving ranges and on actual
golf courses, and all his innovative mechanical applications, we could quite possibly
help others and help forward and expand the game of golf itself.
Make it more accessible, even help make it more affordable, for more players, with a
shorter, less daunting learning curve. Maybe even help make it more profitable for
those entrepreneurs and investors in golf courses, and sponsors of tournaments, to
reward them for the risks and sacrifices they have been making. They could have
chosen other less costly, less land-and-infrastructure-dependent, less labor-intensive
fields to invest in.
They had to love golf, somewhere near the heart of their decisions.
Because there's gotta be an "easier" way to make a living.
All in all, a great day personally, with confirmations of support by the partners and
staff at Virginia Golf Center. And a great day for future Safe-Tee-Air Golfers to come.