On Grand Strand Golf: Golf Dimensions has embraced club fitting options

ablondin@thesunnews.comAugust 27, 2012 

Custom fitting is the informed and advanced route many golfers have been choosing when buying a new set of clubs, and Golf Dimensions has raced to the forefront of that trend on the Grand Strand.

The 23-year family-run business has partnered with equipment manufacturers Ping and Callaway to feature the most up-to-date fitting systems the two companies offer.

The Callaway Performance Center at Barefoot Golf Resort’s driving range features the Callaway Performance Analysis System (CPAS), and the Golf Dimensions location on U.S. 501 just west of the Intracoastal Waterway contains the Ping nFlight Fitting and Performance Center.

“Certainly the game is becoming fitting,” Golf Dimensions president Bobby Smith Jr. said. “More specialized technology is available. Now we can get it affordable to get it to the layman golfer.”

The Callaway CPAS center encompasses the entire Barefoot store and opened in July 2011 and the 3,600-square-foot Ping performance center opened in November.

The general goal of both performance centers is to help players maximize results from their swing and be fit to equipment that complements their swing characteristics.

“When a tour pro goes to their headquarters they’re going through the same fit as they go through in our stores,” said Golf Dimensions general manager Chris Smith, Bobby Smith Jr.’s son.

The Callaway CPAS can produce recommendations for irons, hybrids, woods, drivers and balls that can be taken to other brands if the client so chooses. A computer screen displays snapshots of the clubhead angle coming into impact, and a swing can be replayed from three camera angles of top, back and side.

For each shot, software records clubhead speed, ball speed, back spin, side spin, launch angle, swing path, angle of attack, and the efficiency of contact.

At the conclusion of the fitting a player receives a synopsis of his swing specs and recommendations for equipment to match it.

“Of all the years I’ve been doing club fitting, this is the best system I’ve worked with,” said Wrennie Love of the Barefoot store, who has been fitting for either Titleist, Nike or Callaway for 17 years.

A CPAS fitting for one form of club such as an iron or driver is $65, and a two-club combo-fit is $100. Specials are available during the week of the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship.

The idea to have nFlight in Myrtle Beach was first broached in October 2010 when the Smiths went to Ping headquarters in Phoenix for a week of seminars. In February 2011, Ping representatives made a presentation to bring it to Golf Dimensions.

The original idea was to have just a 400-square-foot hitting bay with the system, but the idea quickly became a full-fledged fitting center. Bobby Smith says it is the nation’s largest Ping fitting center at a retail location.

“Myrtle Beach is unique in the number of golf courses, the number of rounds, the diverse group from locals to tourists,” he said. “When you look at the golf activity that takes place here, that’s what really lended the support to go big and do this thing on par with what we did with the Callaway Performance Center.”

The Callaway performance center took a year to develop, and Ping officials saw what was in the works during their February 2011 visit. They saw its potential in subsequent visits.

“Basically the success we had in July and August with Callaway, that confirmed to Ping the decision was right to go bigger, and we went way bigger with the project,” Bobby Smith said.

Ping nFlight software can take results of swings with one club and determine which clubs a player should carry in the bag – irons or hybrids.

“Ping’s proprietary software is about gapping and distance spreads between clubs,” Bobby Smith said. “So basically what Ping has done is they’ve tested every conceivable shot-clubhead option, so when a golfer goes through the fit experience the software will plug in and recommend whether that golfer needs a 3-iron and 4-iron, or whether he should be in a 3-hybrid and 4-hybrid.

“… Their software will actually space and gap out all the clubs that the golfer can maximize his golfing experience with.”

Hunt back in game

Lauren Hunt thought she was out, but the game sucked her back in.

Hunt, 25, planned to take a break from golf after she chose to give up on her playing career in the midst of her third year on the Symetra Tour – the feeder circuit of the LPGA Tour formerly known as the Futures Tour. Her last event was a U.S. Women’s Open qualifier on May 28.

But the North Myrtle Beach High and University of North Carolina grad received an offer she couldn’t refuse – a job as an assistant golf pro at the private Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, Va.

“It’s a really good opportunity that came available to me,” Hunt said. “They found me for the most part and made me an offer. It’s a great opportunity to be an assistant in a private atmosphere, so when they made me the offer I jumped on it.”

Hunt, who has been living in Wilmington, N.C., was unable to find a job outside of golf this summer and accepted a part-time job four weeks ago in the pro shop at Magnolia Greens in Leland, N.C.

“This all happened fast,” Hunt said. “I kind of wanted to get out of the golf business but I really wasn’t quite sure which direction I was going in. I have really enjoyed working three weeks out there [at Magnolia] and I thought, ‘Maybe this is really for me.’ I’m enjoying it right now. I’m real excited about the whole situation.”

One of Hunt’s friends on the Symetra Tour gave her name to Farmington head pro Rob McNamara. “I said, ‘That’s fine but I really don’t want to move,’ ” Hunt recalled. “After saying that I looked up Farmington Country Club on the Internet and thought, ‘Whoa, I hope this guy calls me.’ ”

He did, she was at the club for an interview the next day and offered the position two days later.

Hunt is moving to Charlottesville on Sept. 6 and begins work Sept. 11. She said she will run tournaments and events, play with members, give member lessons and clinics, manage the club’s outside staff, and have a hand in merchandising.

She plans to begin LPGA teaching certification this year and be certified by the end of 2013, and also wants to begin apprenticeship in the PGA of America thereafter.

She has family within a two-hour drive of her club in the Williamsburg and Richmond areas.

Pros on the move

National Golf Management has orchestrated a shifting of head golf professionals at many of its properties in the past couple weeks.

Arcadian Shores head pro Jason Mitchell is adding head pro duties at Waterway Hills Golf Club, Michael Burnside has left Myrtle Beach National Golf Club after more than a decade to take over head pro duties at Long Bay Club and Aberdeen Country Club, Rick Schultz has replaced Burnside at the three-course MBN property after 27 years at Myrtlewood Golf Club, and former Blackmoor Golf Club head pro Matt Daly has joined the company and is the head pro at Pine Lakes and Myrtlewood.

“We obviously consolidated some golf professional roles and got some people to where we felt their talents would be utilized the best in those locations,” said Scott Justman, vice president of golf operations.

A head pro hasn’t been named yet at Blackmoor, which is managed by National Golf Management.

Former Pine Lakes head pro Michael Abraham left the course recently for a private club opportunity out of state. Former Waterway Hills pro Dick LeSieur and Long Bay/Aberdeen pro Jim Fellner, who had been at their locations for more than a decade each, are no longer with National Golf Management.

A new Chief

North Myrtle Beach High School is gaining a pretty good player for its boys golf team via transfer, though sophomore Vijay Mishra isn’t new to the area.

The 14-year-old North Myrtle Beach resident is transferring from the Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach, and is coming off some impressive performances this summer.

Mishra won the 11-14 age division of the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour’s College Prep Series tournament at Lonnie Poole Golf Course at N.C. State two weeks ago with rounds of 78 and 73. The final round included a 3-under 33 on the front nine, and Mishra made six birdies over the two rounds.

That qualifies him for Dec. 8-9 Hurricane Tour Championship at ChampionsGate outside Orlando, Fla., an event that earned ranking points by Golfweek, the AJGA and Junior Golf Scoreboard. He also recently won a 10-player South Carolina Summer Tour event on the National Junior Golf Tour at Crown Park Golf Club with a 78.

Mishra is a student of teaching professional Jim Campbell, who has been an instructor at Beachwood Golf Club for more than a decade and had a golf school at Gator Hole before the course closed in 1999.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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