State Tech brings high-tech driving range to Linn
The “click” of a golf ball being struck echoes through the chilly winter air. The weather might be a little too crisp to hit links for nine holes this afternoon, but golf enthusiasts in mid-Missouri now have the perfect opportunity to scratch their golf itch year-round thanks to a new high-tech driving range in Linn.
The State Technical College of Missouri recently installed state-of-the-art hitting bays at the State Tech Golf Center, their 9-hole golf course 3 miles from campus. The heated bays feature Toptracer technology allowing golfers immediate access to in-depth stats for each swing.
The college got into the golf market in 2020 when it struck a deal to take over the struggling Osage County Country Club, according to Brandon McElwain, the college’s director of marketing.
“With the golf course it was just kind of a perfect situation,” he says. “This was going to be a great asset for our commercial turf and grounds program to get real-world experience, but also be a huge benefit for the community. And this will just be another recruiting tool for us in the future.”
One of the first additions they made to the course was an academic building used for classes and the driving range with the new bays in the back. When picking a design, officials at the college wanted to make sure their driving range stood out.
“We didn’t want to do anything small,” Brandon says. “Our thought was, ‘What could we do that would differentiate our driving range from the one 20 or 30 miles down the road?’ And that’s where the Toptracer technology comes in. You’re not getting this unless you drive to Kansas City, St. Louis or Springfield, and we’ve got it right in our own backyard for our students and community.”
The technology is similar to what you might find at a Topgolf or the ball tracker you see watching golf on television. Representatives from Toptracer visited Linn to determine how to best utilize the technology in the space. At this driving range, that started with four high-speed cameras which capture every ball hit out of the 12 bays.
This generates instant results that can be of interest and use to the most avid golfer or just fun information for a weekend duffer. Stats include how far the ball carried, the speed at which the ball left the club, launch and landing angles, shot height and how far the ball curved left or right. Each bay has four televisions, with two devoted to the gameplay, one an interactive touchscreen and one tuned to DirecTV. Each bay is shaded for use in the summer and includes an overhead heater for the winter.
If you’re not just looking to work on your swing, there are different games from which to choose according to event and entertainment director Renee Braun.
“There are virtual courses so you can play Pebble Beach or other popular courses from across the country,” she says. “There’s also individual games. A really popular one with our students is the long drive game. Even if they’re not avid golfers, they just come out with their buddies to have fun and see who can hit it the farthest.”
Other options include closest to the pin, a version of Go Fish, approach challenge and a points game that rewards players for their accuracy when shooting for a target.
The technology in the bays can accommodate up to six golfers at a time. “Obviously, the more people you have, the slower the game will go,” Renee says. “But we’ve had bigger groups come out and if there’s room, they can use multiple bays and have a great time.”
Players are charged per bucket of balls with the smallest bucket of 40 balls costing $10 and the largest bucket of 130 balls costing $25. Students enrolled at State Tech get a 50% discount.
The driving range is just a small part of what the college is building for its students and community at the golf course. A new 31,000-square-foot clubhouse is being constructed to include an event space, 50-seat theater, golf simulators, duckpin bowling, restaurant, pool and lazy river. Brandon says the clubhouse is set to open in time for when students return for the fall semester.
On top of the entertainment value for the students and community, the course has proven an excellent teaching tool for the commercial turf and grounds program according to instructor Nick Rackers. “We’re turning this into a living lab like we did on the main campus and that’s a point of pride for us,” he says. “At campus it was mostly staff and students who would see the work and be able to appreciate it. But out here the golfers and community members who stop by can see the improvements that our students have made and the great work they can accomplish.”
For more on the State Tech Golf Center call 573-897-5174 or visit www.statetechmo.edu.