This is Part Two of Gedman’s Series, “The Frost Delay: A Winter Golf Survival Plan.” Click here to read Part 1.
When I was in high school I used to carry an old Wilson Staff 4 wood with a ridiculously whippy aluminum shaft. I loved it because I could hit a big, high 215-yard fade that would check in a couple feet or a low bullet hook that would often roll out north of 250 yards (that was a big poke in the days of the Maxfli HT). Looking back, I might have been way ahead of the curve on this whole hybrid thing, but I digress.
The actual point of this anecdote is what this 4 wood did to the ceiling of my childhood bedroom. I’m not sure if this was just the club I always grabbed when I was working on my swing or if the Staff’s black paint just left the most convincing marks, but my ceiling looked like pit row at a NASCAR track. In fact, I still blame my tendency to go flat on my parent’s lack of foresight in not building 9 foot ceilings into my childhood bedroom, which brings us neatly to the first thing I learned when trying to put my indoor hitting area together.
Make sure you have enough space to do it.
After a couple dings and mild cussings from my normally lovely wife, I swiftly realized that there is no place in my current house that I can safely swing anything longer than a wedge. On to plan B. My business is headquartered in an old barrel building in downtown Kansas City with 20 foot ceilings. We have a 5000 square foot room we use for video production, making it the perfect candidate for my range. But using shared space came with its on batch of problems: I needed a net that was large enough to catch any ball fired at it (the last thing I need is a drunk intern shanking an 8 iron off a 25K camera lens) and portable enough that I can bag it in five minutes.
I started by shopping at my usual local haunts (Golf Galaxy, Edwin Watts and Golfsmith), and both had a pretty limited selection in-store. After taking my search online I quickly landed on something called the Izzo Giant Hitting net on ebay.
This thing is, in fact, giant. I’m not sure that I needed to go this big (the poles are easily 20 feet before you bend them to shape), but like I said, while space wasn’t a limitation, catching moron shanks was. It goes up and down in under 5, so all in all, the net felt like a win. When it arrived via UPS we were in the middle of an Indian Summer, so I set it up in my driveway. I quickly ran to Target to grab a mat (for $15) and grabbed a wedge to hit a couple warm up shots. It took me two balls (and the resulting pain they sent up my tendinitis-prone elbow) to realize that a mat from Target wasn’t even a short-term solution.
Assuming that I wasn’t the first person to find this a problem, I popped on the old internets in an attempt to dig a bit deeper into hitting mats. Truth be told, I had never even considered the fact that there were different kind of mats — I thought it was a one-size fits all kind of thing. Wow, was I ever wrong. Nets go from $15 on ebay to thousands of dollars from several specialty manufacturers. Some are large enough to take over a backyard, some are as little as the strip I bought from target.
My research told me that I need something sturdy enough so that it wouldn’t move when I hit it, soft enough that it wouldn’t destroy my joints and engineered well enough that I’d get realistic feedback on fat shots. In addition, I knew that I needed it to be portable (and not $500).
I settled in on a two-mat system from a company called Birdie Ball. By all accounts, their birdieturf mat system met all my needs and was available on Amazon for $100. It arrived a couple days ago and it’s almost perfect. My only complaint is its interaction with 8-PW — it’s a bit on the firm side. It was an easy problem to fix, though.
While searching for mats, I had previously come across the Real Feel Country Club Elite mats. As a single solution, they didn’t quite work for me (not super portable and they were a bit out of my price range), but after digging down on the page, I noticed that they sell 10-inch by 30-inch hitting strips for $46. This worked out as a perfect solution for two reasons: First off, the interaction with the turf on this mat with wedges is significantly more realistic, and second, by setting this on the inside of the dual mat Birdieturf setup, I can move through my golf bag without ever having to move the foot mat. All in all, I’m extremely happy with the setup, and after some clever shopping came it at under $250 (without shipping).
Now I’m just waiting for it to cool down again as I’m binging on as much fall golf as I can right now. I’m hitting the ball better than I have in years, and I’m finally seeing the results of my swing changes translate to better scoring. My last two rounds have been a respectable 77 and 78 with plenty of shots left out on the course.
Next column: Developing a golf-specific workout for a dude that hates working out.