It’s no secret that hard-core golfers are ready to play their sport year-round – even in our northern climate – provided they can find a place to play.
Despite their willingness to brave almost any weather conditions, however, Michigan golfers must typically settle for hitting balls at indoor ranges during the winter.
But eager golfers now have another indoor choice, located in downtown Birmingham. This latest option carries year-round appeal, hence the name – 4 Seasons Golf.
The new club is owned by golf instructor and former pro player Bob Krause, best known locally as the resident golf expert at WDIV-TV (Channel 4).
“I really wanted to build a top-shelf training center here in Michigan, with a great location,” Krause said. “I’ve got a lot of clients in Birmingham (who already take lessons) and the 555 Building (on South Woodward) came up. We decided to put a world-class training center in the heart of Birmingham. And so far, it’s been really good.”
The 4,000-square-foot facility features many country club-style amenities, such as a pro shop, lockers and a lounge with a large-screen TV.
Additionally, 4 Seasons boasts three practice bays in which golfers hit balls into nets, plus two state-of-the art golf simulators, on which you can play a virtual round of golf.
The trio of practice bays not only serves as an indoor driving range, but they’re equipped with video equipment so you can replay your swing to see what you did right or wrong. The two simulators – which are programmed to replicate more than 30 of the world’s best courses – also contain video cameras, but additionally, feature computer software that analyzes every possible detail of each swing you make. For example, the large monitor will show the exact spot on your club face that you strike the ball, along with statistics on items such as club head speed and launch angle, as well as the distance your ball travels, among other things.
“We use Foresight launch monitors,” Krause said, “the same ones the Golf Channel uses and 90 of the top 100 (PGA) Tour players use that same software to build their swings. … (pro golfer) Rickie Fowler uses it, (swing coach) Butch Harmon uses it at his facilities. This stuff is the best of the best. It’s accurate to within a yard and it just picks up every angle of the club face, it picks up the club head speed – it really is the best way to train.”
After you step in the simulator room and select your course, the large video screen displays a computerized view, as if you were standing on the course’s first tee. You set a real golf ball on the tee or on the artificial turf – just as you would at an outdoor range – and take your swing. The ball you hit goes into the net, at which point you’ll see a virtual ball fly above the simulated course on the video screen and then land and roll on the virtual course. You then place another ball on the hitting surface and play your next shot.
Meanwhile, the statistics pop up on the monitor, to the side of the video screen, after each swing. The dizzying array of numbers “can be overwhelming if you look at it in its entirety,” Krause said, “but it’s my job to make sure that you individualize each (statistic) and then pick the appropriate one for what you’re working on that day.”
‘Your own teacher’
Krause typically takes a “one-thing-at-a-time” approach to instruction. Say, for example, that you’re not turning your shoulders far enough on your back swing. He’ll video your swing, demonstrate the flaw and show you how to correct it. You’ll then work on that aspect of your game for the rest of the lesson. Then, armed with the knowledge of what you need to correct, you can work on the flaw by yourself between lessons.
“What I do is, I give you something to look at and I say, ‘When you hit a golf ball on the range, here’s what to look for,'” he said. “So you become basically your own teacher at that point. And you know exactly what to look for, so that when you come in the following week to get (another) lesson, you’re ahead of the game, so we can progress. We can move forward, we don’t have to continue to work on the same thing.”
The 4 Seasons Golf facility is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. The club’s members, who pay a monthly fee, can book lessons, plus “tee times” at the simulators and practice bays. Non-members are welcome to use the pro shop and can also book lessons. Additionally, members can invite guests to play at the club for an additional fee.
As the club’s membership grows, Krause plans to expand the facility. For now, local golf junkies have a place they can go whenever their golf itch needs scratching – and perhaps improve enough to become scratch golfers themselves.
For more information, go online to 4-seasonsgolf.com or bobkrausegolf.com.