Golf center helps clients get into swing

Indoor, simulator-based G.A.S.P Golf using tech as an instructional tool
2013-05-23T00:00:00Z Golf center helps clients get into swingPhil Villarreal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Bob Durham, a 65-year-old retiree, says he enjoys golfing whether he completes a course in 102 or 83 strokes.

To see if he could refine his game to the point where he was enjoying more rounds of 83 than 102, he sought out G.A.S.P. Golf Center, 3605 W. Cortaro Farms Road.

The indoor facility in Marana allows duffers to hone their games in a technology-heavy area, free of the distractions of wind, sun and chatter from other golfers.

Players hit off a tee into a screen, where a digital version of the ball near-seamlessly continues to soar to its destination. Staffers can add variables such as wind and humidity. Video cameras capture swings from different angles, allowing the golfer and instructor to analyze the mechanics.

"One of the things that's nice about it is, it's not outdoors," Durham said. "You're not affected by the weather and wind and all that other stuff. Cameras are there, and monitors kind of show you your swing so you can correct it. It's kind of nice."

Golfers say the technology is functional as well as visually impressive.

"I liked the concept of using the simulator for initial practicing. You get instant feedback," said 62-year-old retiree Bill Davis, who has taken classes at G.A.S.P. for two months along with his wife, 58-year-old Ellen.

"They broke down the fundamentals," Ellen added. "It was very easy to learn and very easy to execute what you learned on the course."

Durham said instruction and custom-fitted clubs he's bought at the facility have boosted his driving distance by 10 to 15 yards and sharpened his accuracy.

That sort of success story is what owner Mike Lenius had in mind when he opened the 2,300-square- foot facility last year.

Lenius hails from Wisconsin, where indoor golf practice facilities are plentiful due to the weather. He decided to import the concept while attending the Golf Academy of America in the Phoenix area in 2010 and 2011.

There Lenius befriended classmate Tyson Mason, whom he recruited to become the house golf instructor for G.A.S.P., which stands for the fundamentals of a swing: grip, aim, setup and posture.

Lenius says he aims for a clinical approach, envisioning G.A.S.P. as a sort of medical facility golfers can visit to fix what ails them.

"We treat every lesson more like a doctor's office visit," Lenius said. "It's very private. There are no people looking over your shoulder. We try to take most of the nerves away. Once you're taking your lesson, we set aside the whole facility for you."

Mason, 26, said the ball flight technology at G.A.S.P. helps distinguish it from other local indoor facilities, which have students tee off into nets.

"Simply the fact that you can see ball flight gives us a big advantage as an indoor facility," he said. "We can go to video right away and correlate things in your swing to ball flight, using video. Everything correlates."

Mason golfed briefly at the University of Texas at San Antonio before focusing on academics and instruction. He credits Lenius' vision and is grateful for the opportunity to run the show, in terms of instruction. He said students respond to the intimacy of the facility.

"They like it because it's really personal and private. Especially when it comes to women, who can feel pretty self-conscious about those things" Mason said. "I would say we are a more controlled environment than a driving range."

Lenius said he wants golfers who enroll to get the most out of their games.

"We don't focus so much on making your swing look like Tiger Woods. It's just not possible," he said. "Everyone has their own swing, and we focus on the basics. Staying in good balance throughout the swing, being in good posture and giving you the proper tools to align yourself properly."

Lenius said the facility is slowly growing in popularity - drawing 180 students so far, ranging from age 4 to those in their 80s - and he hopes it will become profitable this year.

"We're hoping for a good summer," he said. "It's been tough to get the word out. What's worked best for us is word of mouth."

That's what golfers like Durham provide.

When asked what areas of his game he's improved upon in the three weeks he's been taking classes at G.A.S.P., he chuckles.

"The easy answer is," he said, "everything."

IF YOU GO

• What: G.A.S.P. Golf Center

• Where: 3605 W. Cortaro Farms Road, Suite 145.

• Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Sundays by appointment.

• Contact: 812-7172.

• Online: www.gaspgolflearningcenter.com

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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