When I was a kid — back sometime in the Middle Ages — my father tried to teach me to play golf. I was about 12 at the time. Having always favored baseballs over baby dolls, I guess I had shown a modicum of athletic ability, so Dad whisked me off to the driving range and putting green at Knollwood Country Club in Elmsford, where he played. With all the patience he could muster, he tried to perfect my rudimentary swing and teach me the finer points of reading a green — but his coaching fell on deaf ears. I was young, lacked patience — and just wasn’t interested.
It wasn’t until late last year that I finally decided to fulfill my destiny and take up the game of kings. Why destiny? My father was Willie Turnesa. Unless you are an old-timer or a golf historian, his name might not ring a bell. But Dad was one of the seven Turnesa brothers, all of whom — with the exception of Willie — were professional golfers from the 1920s through the ’50s. The youngest of the clan, Dad never turned pro — but after the legendary Bobby Jones, he is generally considered to have been the best amateur golfer in history. He won the U.S. Amateur twice, the British Amateur once — a victory that earned him a ticker tape parade down Broadway — and played on three winning Walker Cup teams (the amateur equivalent of the Ryder Cup). His six brothers competed in — and occasionally won — all of the major tournaments of the time, from the PGA Open (Jim, in 1952) to the Masters (no winners, but numerous appearances). It’s been said that the Turnesa family was to golf what the Kennedys were to politics.
HV editor Polly Sparling gamely tries to imitate her dad’s trademark swing — with little success. Willie Turnessa (right) shows how it’s done in front of the clubhouse at Knollwood Country Club in Elmsford
Turnessa photograph courtesy of Polly Sparling
So golf, you see, is in my DNA.
I signed up for lessons late last summer, and was starting to get a feel for the game by November — just in time to pack my clubs away until spring. That is, until I heard about DC Indoor Golf, which opened last September in downtown Poughkeepsie. Located in a 4,000-square-foot building that was once a paint store, this space — which houses four state-of-the-art computerized golf simulators — is a cold-weather-bound duffer’s paradise. So on a chilly morning in January, I decided to pay a visit.
Co-owner Dan Pizzarelli helps duffers and pros alike get the hang of the computerized tour simulators; below, the facility’s unique (and apropos) bar is covered with golf balls
Personable co-owner Dan Pizzarelli (who sports a handicap of “about eight”) met me at the door, and promptly ushered me to an empty simulator booth. Inside, I faced a floor-to-ceiling screen with a 3D depiction of the view from a driving range tee — green grass, trees to the left and right, yardage markers in the center. On the right of the booth was a computer, on which Dan entered instructions. The artificial-grass covered floor was strewn with real golf balls, each sporting thin bands of what looked like black electrical tape. Pizzarelli explained that these are sensors, which transmit data that is read by motion-tracking devices mounted on the wall above my head. After being given a few basic instructions on using the system, I was invited to swing away.
I teed up, and whacked one of the sensor-covered balls, which hit the fabric screen and fell harmlessly to the floor. Almost immediately, a computerized image of my shot was visible on the screen, first sailing through the cloudless blue sky, then landing and rolling on the 3D grass. In an equally short amount of time, all sorts of data appeared, including the distance of my shot (both in the air and on the ground), the speed the club was traveling when I hit the ball, and the amount of spin I put on it. Another graphic charted the path of my ball, indicating whether it traveled to the left or right of center (well to the right; gotta work on that slice).
After sending a few more shots into the virtual distance, Pizzarelli switched the screen to a putting green. When I miraculously sank two 15-footers, he made things more challenging by programming a 45-foot putt with a break from right to left; after multiple attempts left me nowhere near the hole, I decided to call it a day.
For more experienced golfers, DC Indoor Golf’s PGA Tour Simulators can be programmed to play any of 45 golf courses — including Pebble Beach and St. Andrews in Scotland (the two most popular choices, says Pizzarelli). Most of those who have tried the virtual game have enjoyed it, he says. “The best part is you’re using your own clubs and a real ball. Plus it’s the middle of winter, there’s snow on the ground, and you’re inside playing golf in 70-degree temperatures.” Throw in eight big-screen TVs, a full kitchen serving pub food, and a golf-ball topped bar where you can brag about your game over a glass of beer or wine, and what’s not to love?
Family lore has it that the seven Turnesa boys learned to play golf by constructing a makeshift course behind their Elmsford home. After my morning with Pizzarelli, I couldn’t help but wonder what Dad would have made of the simulated golf experience. More than likely, his advice would have been the same as it was at Knollwood all those years ago: “Keep your head down, stay steady on your feet, and don’t try to kill the ball.”
DC Indoor Golf
10 Crannell St., Poughkeepsie. Open Sun.-Thurs. 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 9 a.m.-10 p.m. One hour of playing time costs $30-$35. 845-486-4004 or www.dcindoorgolf.com
See golfers in action at DC Indoor Golf: