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Review: Inside Edge Golf Course Simulators and Practice Green
If you are anything like me, you have asked yourself many times during March and April “When is winter going end?!” (Expletives deleted of course.) Everything seems delayed this year…most notably the start of golf season, and without a tour sponsorship or a healthy travel budget, the closest we have got to golf is watching The Masters on Golf Channel. From the cold depths of winter there is a beacon of hope for the seriously golf-challenged. Technology has created the possibility to play golf indoors!! Now before you skewer me and run me up the Augusta National flagpole, hear me out: the folks over at Inside Edge Golf in Eden Prairie, Minn., have put together a top notch golfing experience for the player that likes to keep the game sharp all year long, even in the coldest cold of a long north country winter, for way less than a plane ticket to Pebble Beach.
I am a bit of a geek at heart, so my curiosity demands, “how do they do that?” Inside edge uses About Golf® PGA Tour Simulators in all of their hitting bays. The simulators use an array of 3D cameras to track the movement of your club and the ball, allowing the system to accurately measure and project ball flight. Information such as ball spin, launch angle, carry distance, and roll is recorded and fed back to the user after each shot. In addition, these statistics can be tracked and recorded, accessible via the web. Combined with rich graphics, an image of the golf course and the flight of your ball within it are projected on a large screen in the simulator bay. It is a more enlightening and richer experience than just hitting into a practice net as it gives great feedback on what is actually happening with the ball.
Hitting Bays and Practice areas
Inside Edge has nine simulator bays; seven classic bays, one SimSurround (three screens instead of one, this one is incredible!), and one wide screen. There are 50 famous courses to choose from, and each can be tailored to the skill level of the golfer. Each bay has an individually controlled HDTV to watch while waiting your turn. Want to work on chipping/putting; they have that covered too with an 1800-square-foot Nicklaus Design practice green with chipping areas and a mini flop wall.
Inside Edge is located in a strip mall with plenty of parking. The facility itself is clean and nicely laid out, with comfortable seating areas and a snack bar on par with most golf courses I am used to. The staff is friendly and professional. There is a PGA Pro on staff, Kevin Williams, who provides lessons and lesson packages. There are bays that are setup for group sessions or events that have more seating and are somewhat separated from the other hitting areas.
I chose to try out the SimSurround simulator, and I must say, this is a very immersive golf experience. The projection screens are set up on three sides and the graphics are quite realistic. The hitting mats are plush enough that hitting an iron off the deck doesn’t feel like hitting from the cart path, and a variable height tee allows some realism when hitting tee shots. Specially marked balls are provided that work correctly in the simulator. There are Practice Range Scenes available for warm up, and many courses to choose from, I chose the waterfall range for a little warm up. The simulator displays your ball flight as it would appear if you were hitting it on an outdoor range, then displays the individual data for that hit on the screen. The system also keeps track of all shots and related data. After a bit of warm up, I had Kevin set me up on Pebble Beach Golf Links, and away I went. An 18-hole round of golf can be played by one person in about an hour. Putting in the simulator is a little different, but with a little trial and error, you can putt fairly predictably. I found myself forgetting about the nasty weather outside and just enjoying the golf (watch out for the par-5 6th hole…a slice will go in the ocean).
The folks at Inside Edge have put together a great golf facility for those of us that refuse to be ruled by the weather. The choice of courses from the most challenging to forgiving allows the individual golfer to sculpt a round based on his or her skill level. The feedback provided by the system allows the golfer to work on game improvement in a way that isn’t possible at the range. The bottom line is, “any day playing golf is better than any day not!” and Inside Edge lets you do just that, come rain, sleet, or snow!