ARLINGTON, Va. – Despite the winter weather in Colorado, and the COVID-19 pandemic, Soldiers assigned to the Fort Carson Soldier Recovery Unit can enjoy 18 holes of golf. In fact, they can play at courses around the world from the comforts of Colorado Springs.
Winter in Colorado is often accompanied by ice and snow that can hamper certain outdoor activities, like golf. This prevents Soldiers from heading to a course, said Marc Cattapan, adaptive reconditioning support specialist at the Fort Carson SRU.
The situation would keep Army Recovery Care Program Soldiers who enjoy the sport sidelined – if it weren’t for indoor golf.
This is the second year that Soldiers played indoors on virtual courses while being instructed by a Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) coach. It’s part of the SRU’s adaptive reconditioning program that helps wounded, ill and injured Soldiers reach their goals and return to active lifestyles.
The six-week program was scheduled in the winter to help Soldiers prepare to compete in Army Trials, but those who want to learn the sport are also welcome, Cattapan said. While they play, they can improve their performance though a simulator that uses Doppler radar to track player data.
The simulator offers thousands of courses, complete with visually accurate aspects, such as sand traps and trees, Cattapan explained. Some things can’t be replicated, such as wind and grass length, which means that players have to adjust their swings while on the artificial grass.
Lt. Anna Marie Walker, a Soldier assigned to the Fort Carson SRU, had never played golf before the program. Now, she truly really enjoys the sport and wishes she had more time for it.
“It was really nice to go inside because you always know that’s reliable,” she said.
Maj. Scott Robison also tried indoor golf lessons for the first time via the adaptive reconditioning program. He appreciates this chance to perform specialized training and looks forward to it.
When it comes to golf, Walker said that the most challenging part was getting the technique down because there’s a lot to it. In fact, the level of difficulty surprised her. This is where the instruction comes in handy. And for Robison, that was the best part.
“The instructor – he was very patient with us,” Robison said.
The simulator gathers data that informs the instruction. When a Soldier hits a golf ball, it strikes a screen that illuminates its flight and tracks its path, Cattapan explained. It compiles information, such as ball speed and club face swing angle. PGA Coach Leighton Smith uses the data to lessen orthopedic injury stress while enhancing performance.
The coach works with the Soldiers as a group and individually, which Cattapan noted adds a social benefit. Bonds form as the Soldiers push each other to improve, and as they learn and golf together.
“It felt like a golf team,” Cattapan said.