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Indoor options: As snow flies, clubs and facilities turn to indoor practice

The renovated Golf Lab in Vaughan.

I spent part of Monday touring the recently renovated Golf Lab in Vaughan – a snazzy facility that probably has no real peer for indoor practice in Canada – and few outside of the country as well.

Golf Lab, which operates like gym, with memberships, and utilizes a group of top PGA of Canada pros, tweaked its 13,000 foot facility to add a larger chipping area and some sand for bunker play. It is impressive.

I’ve rarely practiced much in the off-season. I’m not a fan of golf domes where you mindlessly pound balls into a net 40 yards away with little feedback and the constant worry you’ll have your noggin knocked by one of those smacking shots standing next to you. And then there’s the likes of Launch, which only works if the wind is blowing with the shot. Otherwise you spend time removing icicles from your clubs.

I wasn’t sure I’d find a place in London that worked. Years ago there used to be a dome at Greenhills, and it was one of few options in an area that was more golf courses than practically any other mid-sized city in the country. Then an ad popped up in the local newspaper for a new facility at Greenhills, which is just outside of London in Lambeth. I can’t say I expected much, but I knew one of the pros involved from a course I played while I was at university. Figured I’d take a chance on it.

Turns out that outside of Toronto practicing indoors can actually work – and not break your bank.

The Lambeth Golf Academy in London, Ont.

What I like about  the Lambeth Golf Academy, aside from the two pros running it (Chris Yeoman and Matt Dominski), is that the integration of technology has really changed the art of practicing indoors. Chris and Matt use Flightscope – just like Golf Lab uses Trackman. That means you can practice while the software extrapolates your ball flight and tells you the key numbers you need – spin, swing path, etc. It allows you to combine instruction with real-time feedback, which is really valuable to me. And since Lambeth Golf Academy is in a under-utilized tennis facility, there’s plenty of room to actually see your flight (once again, the same is the case at Golf Lab.)

These elements really change the concept of practicing in the three or four months when most Canadian golfers are indoors. Instructors always told me you could get more out of working on technique indoors than you do outdoors, but I can’t say I ever really bought into the notion. Since Lambeth GA, like Golf Lab, is using a one-time system that gets you lesson time with Flightscope and time to hit balls, it is also pretty cost effective. So for the first time in years, I’m going to set aside a couple of hours a week and practice. God knows I need it…

But these facilities aren’t alone. Increasingly private clubs are picking up on the notion, and employing PGA members off-season to work with members. Hamilton has an indoor facility, as does Weston. The concept is usually inexpensive for the members and allows them an area — though somewhat limited in space — to hit balls and work with the professional staff. To my way of thinking it is a smart move that keeps staff affiliated with the club over the winter and strengthens the connection to members — always a key.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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  • There is another top notch PGA Tour indoor centre in North Burlington where you get even more feedback while practicing and get accurate spin to all 4 dimensions of the golf ball rather than a calculated 2 side of the golf ball using flightscope and trackman. You can even play 56 of some of the worlds top courses to make it more interesting, its the best way to keep working on the game in the winter. The owner is passionate about golf and is a scratch player himself as well they have a full 4000 sq’ fitness facility on site so you get the best of both worlds. The CJGTA Elite Junior team trains out of this facility throughout the winter months. Great teaching professionals and a professional fitness trainer that was on the international tour in the UK. Top notch and professional indoor golf centre http://www.thegolfersacademy.com

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