Simulated golf in Hudson helps players tune up

Mike Camunas hits his 7 iron during a round at the P3Pro Simulator, a computer system at the Indoor Golf Center in Hudson.

Courtesy of Steve LaFalce

Mike Camunas hits his 7 iron during a round at the P3Pro Simulator, a computer system at the Indoor Golf Center in Hudson.

HUDSON

I didn't need a computer to tell me that my golf game is subpar.

But it told me anyway.

It's the P3Pro Simulator, a computer system that allows golfers to play indoors. It has holes and it tells you how to improve your game and make better shots.

Steve LaFalce, owner and instructor at Indoor Golf Center in Hudson, was gracious enough to play four holes with me.

"Half of the people who come here come to play golf on the setup," LaFalce said. "It is like a video game. …Young guys like to come, but there are some older ones, the ones who (are retired). But I'd say it's a good setup for guys who don't want to spend a lot of money and just come out (to golf).

"It's a learning tool. That's why I brought it in here. You get feedback."

That I did. LaFalce and I took to the virtual course, set up on a projection screen that we hit real golf balls into. Throughout the game, it suggests what club to use, your shot distance, angle, club speed and tempo — everything and anything that could be useful. And unlike on a real course, I actually saw improvement.

Still, LaFalce and his six handicap — which he was bragging (modestly) about — beat me by a few strokes.

I didn't start off well, that's for sure. I had to learn the system with all its nooks, crannies and tendencies. There are a few tricks to it, but you catch on very quickly. Such as the distance the ball is actually hit. LaFalce says the system probably has about 85 percent of the actual distance right, but doesn't calculate roll into your shots.

On the first hole I had a triple bogey.

I had a par on the third hole: a beautiful shot onto a par 3, but the putting was haunting me. It can be finicky until you get a grasp of how hard to swing. However, it is pretty accurate.

That's when I started playing well. I crushed the ball 237 yards on the fourth hole, a par 4. I hit an even better second shot, landing just 31/2 feet from the hole.

And, as if I were in the Masters, I picked up an easy birdie.

Four holes and I was ready to roll.

It's a remarkable setup, and for me, of the so-called YouTube, video game generation (rolling my eyes as I download video to my Facebook profile) it does have appeal.

We look for new ways to play — different ways since we can already play as Tiger Woods on a Nintendo Wii.

This setup lets you swing the club at a real golf ball. It's not so virtual when you break a sweat.

There are actually two setups. One lets you play golf; the other tapes your swing from two angles. That way, LaFalce can analyze it.

He did mine. Let's just say there was a lot to be desired.

"You don't have a bad swing. It's actually very athletic," LaFalce tells me. "It just needs a few tweaks like a lot of people. That's what this is here for."

I have a natural fade, LaFalce says, and I reluctantly watched myself take a horrendous swing on video, in which I nearly came out of my shoes.

LaFalce then drew lines on me, going over my club and the angle of my spine. Where they came together is known as the shaft plane, and it turns out I needed to straighten out my left arm and fix my stance.

Then, after applying the tips LaFalce gave me and going through another swing, I actually saw the a difference. I picked up an extra 20 to 30 yards on my drive.

LaFalce says there are a lot of places in the North that are very similar to his learning facility.

Places where golfers go to hang out, have a drink and play rounds of golf when cold weather forces them inside.

"They can also come inside on a hot afternoon and play golf," LaFalce said. "It doesn't have to be just limited to cold weather because that's not exactly what's down here.

"But they can also buy a beer downstairs and play a few holes. That's just beautiful. … It's not a golf hangout yet. I hope that someday it will be. I'm not in a mega metropolitan area, so it's going to take a little longer for this to catch on."

It'll happen quicker than you think.

Community sports editor Mike Camunas can be reached at mcamu

nas@sptimes.com or (352) 544-9480.

>>Fast facts

Indoor Golf Center

12410 Ramfis Road, Hudson

Owner: Steve LaFalce

Phone: (727) 233-1018

Amenities: P3Pro Simulators/Analyzers, professional instruction, practice putting green, video analysis, golf shop, members club

Rates: $10 per hour on simulator; $15 daily rate with access to all amenities

Simulated golf in Hudson helps players tune up 04/22/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 7:25pm]

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