NEW BERLIN – If you want to take a deep dive into the numbers unique to your golf swing – launch angle, spin rate, ball speed, club head speed, trajectory – you can do what PGA Tour players do and shell out $18,995 for a portable TrackMan unit.
Or, you can go to The Practice Station in New Berlin and shell out $8 for a small bucket of balls.
Owner John Bauer has installed TrackMan Range at his one-of-a-kind practice facility, formerly The Preserve at Deer Creek golf course. It’s the first TrackMan Range in Wisconsin and only the 18th in the United States, he said.
“It’s the same technology the military uses for the speed of missiles and bullets, so to track a few golf balls, it’s simple math,” Bauer said as we drove in a cart out to the range, a couple hundred yards from the clubhouse. “Wait until you see it in action. I think it’s going to blow your mind.”
If anything, he undersold it. TrackMan Range is a game-changer and it couldn’t be more user friendly – just download a free app, create a profile and you’re ready to go. Designate which of the 33 bays you’re hitting from and which club you’re using and start hitting balls.
Three unobtrusive poles on the range do the rest. TrackMan works on Doppler radar, and the units mounted on the poles triangulate to provide extremely precise information. Trackman Range is accurate to within 18 inches on 150-yard shots, so you can “dial in” your clubs, regardless of your handicap, just like the pros do. The information is stored in your smartphone forever.
“Most people don’t know how far they hit their clubs,” Bauer said. “Everybody thinks they hit them farther than they do. If you’re hitting 7-iron, you go to ‘club selection’ (on the app) and then it’s going to catalog all your 7-iron shots for that day. Same thing with whatever club you’re hitting. So then you’ll know exactly how far on average you carry your 7-iron, your 8-iron, your 9-iron. Every single club.”
Admittedly, I’m a short hitter but I was surprised and slightly disappointed when I learned my average 7-iron shot goes 133.8 yards, my average 5-hybrid goes 157.4 and my average drive goes 209.6 (though I did smash one out there 221.2). Bryson DeChambeau, I’m not.
It was a valuable learning experience, though, because now when I have a 145-yard shot into a green, I’m going to pull 6-iron instead of the 7-iron I normally would use. No wonder I so often came up short.
An interesting feature on the app converts your numbers to what they would be if you were using a premium golf ball such as the Titleist Pro V1 in optimal conditions. Using this feature, my carry numbers bumped up a few yards.
Another great thing about TrackMan range is that no matter which of the 33 bays you use, the distance is precise to each of the 10 target greens. No more guessing if the 100-yard marker at your old stop-and-sock really is 100 yards.
“You don’t know where that was measured from,” Bauer said. “You don’t know when it was measured. When we pull up the app here, you’re going to know exactly how far each target is. If you’re hitting from Bay 3 it’s a different yardage from the guy hitting in Bay 20.
“You think about the tournament player, they need to know their yardages like the back of their hand. You think about the beginner, they need to know what different yardages look like and they need to start understanding how far they hit each shot.
“I want people to get better. You don’t get better hitting in a wide-open field.”
If you’re not interested in TrackMan and just want to beat balls, no problem. Buckets cost $8 (small), $10 (medium) and $12 (large). The price is the same whether or not you’re using the technology.
“The thing I love about this, we have the best technology in the world but we’re not ramming it down your throat,” Bauer said. “If you come out and you just want to hit balls, you can hit balls right there and I can be on the app right here, all over the technology, and we’re not affecting each other.”
For now, golfers must hit off artificial turf, but a huge bentgrass teeing area – 300 feet wide and 76 feet deep – is scheduled to open Aug. 1.
The Practice Station also sells memberships for its situational practice areas on the former golf course. You use your own golf balls and practice any shot you want – the flop over a bunker, the 50-yard pitch, the 6-iron over water, the drive between trees.
Between the situational practice areas and TrackMan Range, Bauer’s facility is second to none in Wisconsin. He has tentative plans to install 20 to 25 heated bays this fall so people can practice in cold weather.
“There’s a lot of places that people can go hit balls,” he said. “I just want to create a unique, one-of-a-kind experience and have people come see it, come try it and from there make your decision if you want to come here or go elsewhere. I think we’ve created a beautiful product that’s going to help people get truly better.”