Going for the green


Professional Golf Management student, Alex Hughes at Humber practices at the Golf Lab. The screen shows the ball speed and how far it went. (Kateryna Horina)

Kateryna Horina

Playing the game of golf competitively takes practice, coordination, focus and — most importantly — money.

According to the Professional Golf Association of Canada (PGA), golf remains the most popular sport in the country with the play rate being one of the highest per capita in the world.

A virtual shopping trip to an online golf shop shows items can add up. It can cost $3,000 to buy basic equipment, which can include $270 for Footjoys, more than $2,500 for a set of Titleist clubs, $64 for a package of balls, $30 for TaylorMade Gloves and $95 for the Nike golf polo shirt.

“It’s definitely not cheap,” says Tyler Martin, the coach of Durham College’s varsity golf team. 

“If you want to play on a higher level, you need some of the better equipment. It’s quite pricey,” he says. 

Martin played professional golf for five years, and before that he played for Durham College varsity team when he was attending school. He says, however, what makes golf stand out among other sports isn’t the price. It’s the kind of sport where you have to analyze every little thing.

“It’s not a reactionary sport like hockey, or football, or baseball. You have more time to think about what you’re doing, so it takes different skills to do it, “ Martin says. “To me it’s awesome and it’s like no other sport, as far as I’m concerned.” 

Lucas Pichl, a golfer on the Durham varsity team trained by Martin, agrees. However, he says as a college team player he doesn’t have to spend quite as much.

“The school is great in covering a lot of fees regarding the actual fees of playing, and even a range of balls and gear,” he says.

The only thing not included in the price is golf clubs, which Pichl says doesn’t bother him.

“Technically, really, I don’t spend that much. Playing with the golf team, I only spend maybe a bit on a new club here and there but that’s not much to me. But a membership in my home course is around a grand a year [which] I pay out of my own pocket. That’s quite a bit for a student.” 

He says that a great way to spend less is to have a course membership. 

“I play a couple courses and have memberships, so I just pay a flat fee for the year and play as much as I can so it saves me money in the end.” 

Pichl started playing golf since he was three and he’s continuously played since. He’s also been playing on Durham’s team for the past three years. He says that he likes how golf is changing with the newest technologies.

“A lot of new clubs are coming out on average every six months and technology greatly improves that,” he says. “There’re electronic devices, carts, clubs obviously, even clothing.” 

Coach Martin says today’s technologies in golf have changed a lot, especially in the last 10 years.

“It’s changing so much that it’s changing golf as a whole, unfortunately,” he says. 

He adds that what has especially changed is the ability of players to find the clubs that are perfect for them. 

“It allows players so much more control,” Martin says.  

According to Global Golf Canada, the rules of golf limit the player to carry no more than 14 clubs in the golf bag, but for a good start, the baseline set only needs to include six main kinds of clubs. There are drivers, woods, hybrids, irons, wedges and putters. Starting with this set, an athlete can then start selecting equipment based on their level of play and personal preferences.

For many players, the investment is well worth it to help improve the game they love.

There are also opportunities to invest in new, game-changing technologies. Some of these advancements have provided players with the edge they need to help develop their game play, strengthen on weaknesses and choose the right equipment. 

This is what Humber’s Golf Lab was created for. 

The Golf Lab is a new on-campus golf facility that is one-of-a-kind in Canada. According to their website, it is equipped with the best performance development technology available including a launch monitor, 3D swing analysis, video swing analysis and a putting system. 

The Golf Lab website also states more than $100,000 has been invested in this lab and the player development program, which prepares students to pass the PGA of Canada’s Playing Ability Test (PAT). 

In order to register as a candidate for membership, players who pass the PAT test  will be able to join the PGA of Canada and can then work to become a PGA of Canada Class “A” member. 

Andrew Vento, Professor and Program Coordinator of the Professional Golf Management program at Humber, works at the Humber’s new Golf Lab.

“It gives us the ability to teach, club fit, maybe some guys just want to play golf, so it gives us the ability to do a bunch of different things,” Vento says. 

The Golf Lab has three rooms. Each featuring different technologies.

For example, there’s a simulation room where Vento says students can play and practice, give lessons, fit clubs, teach and coach.

This is what Humber Golf Lab looks like at this time:

“Our golf team would be here as well, using this facility to improve their skills so the golf team can play to their best ability,” Vento says. 

Vento shows and explains how the putting system works. 

“You basically hit a shot,” he says and he swings a club, “and it shows your shot there [on a display] and usually it will give you some numbers, too.” 

The putting system shows the ball’s speed and how far it went. 

“So you know, if you were coaching me, I would hit 10 or 12 shots, or more, and you’ll get an average number and you’ll be able to tell me how far I’m hitting it and what I need to do based on my numbers. Or based on equipment.” 

Vento says that if the equipment a golfer uses isn’t right for them — based on the given numbers — they are able to see that too.

“Maybe I need a lighter club, or one that bends more, or different angles. There’s a bunch of things we can do here to be able to fit the right equipment to the person who is hitting the shot,” Vento says. 

“Once we know, let’s say, what equipment you need, in this room — and this is our workshop — we can pull this club apart, put the different heads on it, we can test the club to see if it’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing,” he says. 

The biggest simulation room at the Golf Lab is the one with the cameras in it. There are two cameras on the sides and a bigger camera in the end of the room.

“Not only are we getting results from the software, but we’re also going to get a camera angle,” Vento says. 

“As you’re swinging, the camera will pick up where you are from different positions, and that way we can critique the golfer and help them improve,” he says. 

In the third room there is a K-motion, which is wearable technology where a golfer puts on a vest and then it shows his or her moves on the computer screen.

“So when you’re golfing, a lot of times you swing pretty quickly, so that’s why we have the cameras and this equipment — because it’s hard to see what your body’s actually doing, because it’s moving so fast. With this equipment, after you actually make a golf swing, we can show you what your body exactly did exactly on the screen. We can see where your hands are, where your shoulders are, how much you’re turning in relation to your hips,” Vento says. 

At this time, the Golf Lab is only available to use for Humber Professional Golf Management students, but Vento says they are planning to open the lab for other students too.

“When we’re ready, that’s our goal — to get to that point where we’re outside, when any student or staff can come in and get a golf lesson, fit clubs, maybe even order some clubs, buy shirts and our students will provide them all those services,” Vento says. 

“And as we go through the semester, hopefully, we’ll get better and be showing what we’re doing.”