Sultans of Swing: Science Major
With his wire-rimmed spectacles and professorial demeanor, Eric Alpenfels seems as though he should be conducting research projects in a collegiate chemistry lab. Instead, the 42-year-old director of Pinehurst Resort’s Golf Advantage School in Pinehurst, N.C., performs his experiments on a double-sided driving range and eight championship golf courses.
Alpenfels’ Golf Advantage School, in conjunction with Golf magazine and other industry entities, hosts a number of clinical trials that analyze golfers’ behaviors and swings to better understand the steps toward a superior game. In recent years, the school has conducted experiments involving as many as 135 golfers, testing ways to improve clubhead speed, the backswing, and what Alpenfels calls “transfer skills,” or the ability to take your good shots from the driving range to the golf course.
Because most golfers are incapable of translating data from research projects into fewer strokes on the course, Alpenfels has developed a teacher training program to help his instructors apply the school’s findings in a variety of scenarios. The instructors guide their charges through chipping, putting, bunker play, and other drills, and accompany them for 18 holes on one or more of Pinehurst’s courses. Pinehurst No. 2, the resort’s 1907 masterpiece by designer Donald Ross, is the site of this summer’s U.S. Open, so Golf Advantage classes will be held in a temporary facility for the season (and will not be available during the month of June). However, in 2006, Pinehurst plans to unveil a revamped golf school with a new double-sided driving range, indoor hitting bays, situational shot areas (for learning how to cope with bad lies), and three practice greens.
As the Golf Advantage School’s facilities expand, so too will its research capabilities. Still, the school’s director understands that, for his students, score is more important than science. “We can sit here and talk about the angular deflection of the spine all day,” says Alpenfels, “but all the guy wants to do is break 80.”
Golf Advantage School
Location: Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, N.C.
Instructors: Eric Alpenfels directs a staff of 12 PGA-certified professionals.
Format: From March through November, the school offers weekend programs, four-day morning classes, six-day comprehensive programs, short-game clinics, golf fitness schools, parent/child schools, and more. All programs include on-course instruction at one or more of Pinehurst’s eight championship layouts.
Rates: From $1,300 for a four-day morning school to $2,820 for the six-day program.
Accommodations: All golf-school packages include lodging at the Carolina, Pinehurst’s 210-room, Southern mansion–style hotel.
Contact: 866.291.4427, www.pinehurst.com