Places & Faces
Virtual Golf at Gray Plantation Golf Academy
1/3/2019 11:23:49 AM
Virtual Golf

With a sweet swing, Zach Robertson launches an arc that stops within nine feet of the pin. Someone in the group whistles.

Jonathan Jester, head golf professional at Gray Plantation, offers a tip on Robertson’s grip that gets a nod of agreement. As a bird chirps somewhere nearby, Jester tees up for a shot of his own — a drive that’s deep and accurate but still earns his appraising eye.

Borrowing a left-handed club, southpaw Dakota Watson slams one that stays on the fairway, missing the sand trap and the trees to the left. Not bad, he figures, having not played in months.

It’s dark and raining outside, by the way. It’s early Monday morning and most people are still sleeping. It doesn’t matter. These guys are playing golf.

Specifically, they’re playing high-tech "virtual golf” — the only opportunity of its kind in Louisiana — at the Golf Academy at Gray Plantation Golf Club.

The game is an indoor computer simulation. The fairway is a floor-to-ceiling screen depicting the world’s great golf courses, hole by hole, complete with their signature quirks. (The chirping birds? They're sound effects.) You choose a course and take your best real-life swing at a real ball — and then the simulator takes over, assessing your swing’s angle, velocity and other factors, and depicting your drive in-flight over a 3-D virtual course.

The golf simulator is called TrackMan. It’s a radar-based unit that combines world-class technology and data collection with the feel of a video game. For some people, virtual golf is an opportunity to combine some golf lessons, as Jester and his team offer, with the chance to "see” their progress in real time. For others, it’s a way to fine-tune their game for competitive advantage by studying the detailed on-screen analytics for each swing of the club. But for most people, it’s simply a fun way to get together and play some golf — enjoying the company as much as the game. That’s why bookings of virtual golf parties are now "a thing” at the academy. 

People book time blocks for groups of friends — as well as clients and co-workers — to enjoy rainproof, sunset-proof, mosquito-free golf. Many also arrange for food and beverages.

The high-tech, all-weather aspect of virtual golf has made the Golf Academy a popular booking choice for corporate events, parties, and coaching sessions. The Golf Academy also has a floor-to-ceiling rollup door that offers the opportunity to tee off right onto the real golf course, if desired. People at any skill level can arrange one-on-one coaching and training with a Gray Plantation professional.

For virtual golf parties, the technology offers wall-sized bragging rights as players tee off and watch as a colorful computer-generated streak, based on their swing, sails above the course and touches down, displaying to all how well (or not-so-well) they performed.

For more information on Gray Plantation Golf Club, call 337-562-1663.
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