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ND Women’s Golf

Practice facility makeover provides golfers with new technology

| Tuesday, October 15, 2019

With the Golden Dome and “Touchdown Jesus” as a backdrop, the 2019 U.S. Senior Open Championship left its mark on Notre Dame — literally.

From June 27-30, Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course played host to the long-awaited event that was the culmination of almost three years of preparation. On a carefully manicured, championship-caliber course, golf fans watched Steve Stricker edge out defending champion David Toms to win his fifth senior tour event.

Ann Curtis | The Observer
Irish sophomore golfer Claire Albrecht putts during an exhibition match in her freshman year,at Warren Golf Course on Aug. 8, 2018. The golf team’s practice facility received updates following the 2019 U.S. Senior Open Championship.

What wasn’t in championship condition, however, was the practice facility visible across the driving range, utilized by both the Notre Dame men’s and women’s golf teams.

An outdoor driving range, putting green, chipping green, bunker, two garage hitting bays and an indoor putting green provide multiple options to combat the often unpredictable weather South Bend provides.

There would be no practice sessions this week, however, as a four-foot high platform was constructed on top of the putting surface and 150 lockers were placed on top to serve as player locker rooms. Further erosion of the practice area was inevitable, but the USGA promised substantial monetary help – an estimated $60,000, according to Irish head women’s golf coach Susan Holt – to repair the damages and replace it with an entirely new surface when they were done.

They stayed true to their word. The event concluded by the first week of July, and the 12-day reconstruction process began two weeks later.

The surface has been re-done twice before to varying degrees, but this was the most extreme, Holt said.

“They had a bulldozer in there,” Holt said. “I was in here one day and I had stuff falling off the walls. It was a lot of work, but they did a great job and were extremely thorough.”

The technology complementing the new surface is also cutting-edge, with Notre Dame becoming the 15th school in the nation to have PuttView technology. While this new tool is predicted to help with recruiting, current players will also look to capitalize on this latest advancement in the game of golf also. The PuttView system projects a visual line of break onto the surface based on the undulation of the green, so players can work on stroking their putt on that line and feeling the speed needed to do so.

“This allows you to marry the two: the speed and the line,” Holt said. “And I think the visual aspect of it, the repeat motion and engraining — that feel is huge.”

Aside from a few rounds of loud and windy thunderstorms last week, Notre Dame has so far this fall had weather nice enough to allow for outdoor practice, so the new indoor facility has not been in use for an official practice yet. But the Irish golfers know what is coming, and look forward to the late fall, winter and early spring benefits of the new place.

“I didn’t ever think I’d say I was looking forward to being inside for extended periods of time, but I feel like this is really going to allow us to be more productive in our training,” Holt said.

As with anything artificial, no matter the technology involved, there is going to be a certain degree of adjustment between the indoor turf surface and a real green on the course. But Holt thinks there may be more benefit to practicing on the new indoor surface.

“It’s literally like standing on your yardage book,” she said. “It’ll show you the entire slope of the entire surface and put the arrows in for break.”

Technology like PuttView, especially in golf, is still a relatively new concept that continues to develop. Before the gizmos and gadgets, however, it was a completely different story. Holt said she often wonders how she ever played golf in college without all of it — even rangefinders to measure distance.

“I was just looking for a little bush that was 150 yards out,” she said.

There is an obvious forward progression of the game of golf as technology advances, but there is also an opinion among professionals and hackers alike that the newly implemented technologies have taken away pure feel.

“I really feel like if [the players] are 150 yards out, they don’t know what 150 yards looks like, they don’t feel it in their swings,” Holt said in agreement. “I mean, they are laser-ing everything; they’re 30 yards from the green pulling out a rangefinder.”

For many of today’s golfers, golfing without rangefinders, simulators or systems like TrackMan and PuttView is a far-fetched idea. For Holt and her players, it is also a necessity. To fail to adapt to change is to fall behind — so the Irish adapt.

“You know, I think you just almost have to surrender to it, because if you don’t, you might be losing the edge,” Holt said. “And we work on feel stuff out here in practice. But on the golf course, when everybody else has alignment books and all that information, it’s a lot. But if we’re not doing it, we are possibly doing our kids a disservice because they don’t have the same information that other people have when they are trying to compete.”

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