Doors swing open on new golf teaching and research lab

University Park, Pa. -- Walk into 5 Keller Building on Penn State's University Park campus and you might think you’re on the production set of a sports video game. A person stands in the middle of the room, covered in shiny sensors and moving a golf club back and forth slowly. He pulls the club back, then blasts a golf ball into the net directly in front of him. Eight motion sensor cameras stationed around the room register his movements, and a complex stick person replicates the swing on high-definition monitors at either side of the room. This motion capture system is the same type of technology used to give the video game version of Tiger Woods realistic movement. But in Keller Building, the technology becomes a teaching tool.

Designed to advance golf research and instruction, the Golf Teaching and Research Center (GTRC) opened its doors on Nov. 11, 2009, with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The center provides a cutting-edge, high-quality learning environment for Penn State students in the Professional Golf Management (PGM) option of the Recreation, Park and Tourism Management undergraduate degree program.

The GTRC would not have been possible without the financial support of many individuals and companies, whose confidence in the PGM program made them invaluable partners in this project. Peter Tombros, volunteer chair of “For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students,” and his wife, Ann, chose to contribute by creating a matching gift initiative, and their support was the driving force behind the successful fundraising effort. Likewise, individuals such as Richard Althouse, Frank Guadagnolo former director of the PGM program) and Deborah Kerstetter, Jon and Judy Mills, William and Susan Naylor, and Raymond Rogers made significant contributions towards the GTRC. Qualisys North America and FlightScope contributed camera and radar equipment, respectively, for this project.

In addition to the motion capture system, the GTRC boasts a three-dimensional Doppler radar ball-flight machine that predicts the trajectory and distance of the ball, a putting green, and several pieces of equipment to modify clubs. The center also has a space in which physical assessment tests are conducted with help from faculty members in the Department of Kinesiology.

“We are excited about the Golf Teaching and Research Center because it is further educating our students to become better teachers of the game, which will allow them to be more marketable after graduation,” said Burch Wilkes, director of the PGM program and instructor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management.

By breaking down the finer points of how a golfer moves and swings, the center will give students a new perspective on golf and golf instruction.

“The equipment in the Golf Teaching and Research Center is more advanced than most other teaching institutions right now, which will give students a real advantage when they graduate,” said Eric Handley, director of the GTRC and instructor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management.

Because it is indoors, the center also provides year-round education, which is a huge asset when snow-covered fairways prevent golfers from practicing and learning.

“We typically like our students to learn outdoors, in the environment they’ll be working in, but it’s not always easy in the northeast,” said Handley.

“We hope to serve the golf community through the center,” said Handley. “The instruction techniques we’ll be creating and developing will not only benefit students, but the entire golfing industry as well.”

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Last Updated November 18, 2010