Sun City South Course simulator transports golfers to Royal Birkdale

Bruce Delumeau takes a swing while playing the Royal Birkdale Golf Club as part of the Sun City Open on July 15 at Sun City South Course Clubhouse in Sun City. [Jacob Stanek/Independent Newsmedia]

Richard Smith
Independent Newsmedia

During the week of The Open Championship, nearly 60 Sun City residents and guests played the British Open — Sun City Edition without hopping on a plane.

Instead, they brought their clubs into the remodeled South Golf Course pro shop and played all 18 holes of Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England on the Recreation Centers of Sun City’s new Trackman simulator.

RCSC Pro Shop Manager Chris Linam the rec centers have numerous tournaments with residents each year. This is the first one approximating the British Open and the simulator replicated the fabled course with precision.

“They’ve held nine, I believe, Open Championships there and three Ryder Cups. So it’s a very popular course,” Mr. Linam said. “This being a Trackman, it’s the best one out there. The courses are guaranteed within an inch elevation- and distance-wise. Everything you see is basically real life. It’s incredible. So for us this is a come and get to know the simulator event.”

Play was available July 15-19 with as many as four golfers at a time playing for two-hour blocks.

The timing was ideal, given that temperatures July 15 and 16 pushed 114 degrees and resulted in a heat advisory.

“We are looking forward to this event both as a way of showcasing the capabilities of the Trackman golf simulator and as way to provide some golfing excitement to our residents during the hot part of summer,” stated RCSC Director of Golf Brian Duthu.

Simulators are more commonplace in the Eastern United States, where avid golfers have to deal with the opposite weather extremes more often than Arizona golfers give in to the stifling heat.

“The simulators have been around for probably 10 or 15 years. They’re not real popular in Arizona because of our continued nice weather basically all year round. They’re more popular in the East Coast where there’s lots of rain,” Mr. Linam said. “With us building the new pro shop, we figured we would give something to our residents that they could use during the heat of the summer.”

Golf simulators of the Trackman’s caliber are rare in the Valley, he said particularly west of Phoenix.

Mr. Linam said he visited three or four different simulators in the Valley for ideas, mostly in or near Scottsdale.

“Simulators in the past have been very gimmicky, not really accurate on yardages. The visuals weren’t really good. So we want our residents to see this,” he said.

Trackman simulators go beyond photo-realistic course visuals. Humidity, temperature and elevation is already programmed in the when the simulator maps the course.

About the only moment where the simulator did not provide the Royal Birkdale experience was when the player reached the green.

“The biggest obstacle so far is chipping and putting. We auto-putt it so they don’t have to putt. It’s a little difficult putting from a map to a screen where your ball is on a screen and you have 12 feet from a ball on the screen to the hole but you have an additional 12 feet from where your ball is to the screen. You have a tendency to hit it harder than needed. So we’ve done away with putting,” Mr. Linam said on July 15.

So getting within 10 feet of the pin equaled an automatic one putt.

Entry was limited to Sun City residents and guests. Mr. Linam said the $15 tournament fees for Sun City residents are about half of what operators of simulators in Scottsdale charge.

Midway through the week, he said feedback was positive on the simulator. The Trackman should get more use in the future, for fundraisers and possibly for leagues — though Mr. Linam said league play works better with multiple simulators.

Other summer special events, possibly even into usually-scorching Septembers are likely if demand for play increases.

“This also can be turned into a theater. We can watch the U.S. Open here and do a whole bunch of different things with this setup,” Mr. Linam said.

Dave Kelley takes a swing while playing the Royal Birkdale Golf Club as part of the Sun City Open on July 15 at Sun City South Course Clubhouse in Sun City. [Jacob Stanek/Independent Newsmedia]

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