The new Golf Performance Center was designed to improve every aspect of your golf game, whether you are a PGA TOUR player or newcomer to the sport.
By Dale Leatherman
The past two years have brought remarkable changes to the golf scene at Sea Island, including the addition of the 18-hole Speedway putting course; six cottages, a pool, pool house and ocean-view golf practice facilities at The Lodge; and the redesign of the Plantation Course, which will debut at the RSM Classic. Yet the pièce de résistance for instruction and improvement is the new Golf Performance Center.
“The GPC is dedicated to helping players play better and enjoy the game of golf with a holistic, comprehensive approach, regardless of their skill level, from beginning golfers to competitive juniors, touring professionals and everyone in between,” says Director of Golf Brannen Veal. “This new facility combines the latest cutting-edge technology with the finest teachers in the country, taking what we provide to an even higher level than before.”
Within the 17,000-square-foot facility are six instruction and club-fitting bays, a putting studio designed by world-renowned putting instructor Phil Kenyon, a fully equipped golf club workshop, a fitness center with locker rooms, a spacious retail area and both indoor and outdoor meeting and event spaces for groups.
“Years ago, a decision was made to take a holistic approach to golf performance and to use experts in every area of the game to give our students the same kind of experience TOUR players get on a weekly basis,” says Craig Allan, master club fitter and GPC manager. “We outgrew our facilities from a space and capability perspective—in terms of being able to provide the level of service and technology required to remain a leader in this industry.” This left two options: start over in the existing facility, or build something brand-new. After collaborating with the team and determining their long-term goals, it became clear that a new facility was needed.
“Everyone on our team was involved and had the opportunity to make requests for their areas of expertise,” Allan says. “The new building has the latest technology, but it was very important that it remained light and airy and has an atmosphere of inclusiveness. We want people to feel energized about golf when they come here. We want to take golfers who are just starting the game all the way to TOUR professionals through our program as well as incorporating the new technology in the bays in order to help them reach their goals whatever they may be. Our goal is to help all golfers.”
Allan was determined that the facility’s layout be convenient to navigate, with a logical progression from the moment a person checked in.
“If you intend to work out, the locker room is immediately across the hall,” Allan explains. “If you’re in the putting studio and want to go to the putting green, it’s next to the building on that side. If you’re in the club-fitting area and want to go out under the canopy, it’s adjacent to that side of the building. If you’re on the group veranda and want to go to the group bay to enjoy the simulator, it’s conveniently located down the stairs, right below.”
Irish-born instructor Justin Parsons joined the GPC staff as an Elite Instructor after nearly a decade as director of instruction at the Butch Harmon School of Golf in Dubai. A specialist in 3D analysis and functional movement screening, he has worked with leading players on the PGA, European and Asian tours.
“What I’ve always wanted was for golfers to be able to undertake whatever discipline they need in a professional setting,” Parsons says. “At the GPC, a player can do that, working on fitness in the morning, moving onto swing analysis or some in-depth putting work or club fitting. The physical, technical and mental aspects of the game are interlinked. I take a keen interest in all of them, but I like the fact that I can hand people over to experts such as Dr. Morris Pickens, our sports psychologist. I like our ability to be multifaceted in our approach to someone’s instruction.”
He adds that the facility’s aesthetic and relaxing atmosphere help golfers get into the right frame of mind. “That’s where GPC personnel factor in—great instructors like Jack Lumpkin and Gale Peterson,” he says. “When I see them interacting with students and putting them at ease, I realize why the center has been so successful. They have the capacity to humanize what we do, to make people comfortable very quickly.”
The combination of expert insight and modern technology is also essential in the putting studio. “We hired Phil Kenyon, arguably the world’s best putting instructor, as our director of putting, and we collaborated with him to design our new state-of-the-art studio,” Allan explains. “His right-hand man, David Angelotti, operates the studio on a daily basis and provides people with an experience they can’t get anywhere else—from the standpoint of technology, experience and level of instruction.” The putting studio has a Zen Greenstage platform that re-creates various slopes a player can encounter, along with cameras to analyze the putting stroke and subsequent roll of the ball. The PuttView system projects the correct track for the ball, a valuable tool in learning to read greens.
Brian Harman, two-time PGA TOUR winner, has a relationship with Sea Island that dates back to his junior days with Lumpkin, who serves as senior director of instruction. Harman continues to work with Lumpkin, Parsons and Allan. “Sea Island has always been at the forefront of golf destinations and golf instruction,” Harman says. “Now they have a golf instruction facility on the forefront as far as technology.”
The GPC’s gym was designed to inspire. Light and airy with thoughtfully placed equipment, its windows and doors open onto a patio that overlooks the driving range, St. Simons Sound and the ocean beyond. “It’s a very energizing setting and has been extremely well-received by golfers,” Allan says.
Created to resemble the TOUR Fitness Trailer that players utilize on the road, the gym is the domain of Director of Fitness Randy Myers. Because of its configuration, it’s only available by appointment. “We’ve created an environment in which golfers can be evaluated and put on a plan they can do at home,” Myers says. “Unlike a traditional gym, we have more space for functional movements with kettlebells, cable machines and tubing—or swinging a golf club. In addition, the Technogym fitness equipment allows us to monitor cardiovascular health and stamina. Golf is not a traditional aerobic sport, but there is a lot of stamina involved in maintaining your golf swing during a round and finishing strong.”
Parsons says he is convinced that fitness is “where some of the magic happens,” as coaches are able to make a person’s body more flexible, stable, stronger, faster—whatever is needed. “You can see a big transference over to the technical side of a person’s game when the physical side becomes more able,” he explains.
Mental fitness is also crucial to a successful round, and that is also addressed at the GPC. Pickens, a sports psychologist specializing in competitive performance enhancement, has his office there. His golf students have won four major championships, 27 PGA TOUR events, one NCAA championship and countless amateur victories.
The new GPC’s club-fitting space has a large double bay where two fitters can work side by side in an area that houses all the fitting tools in one place. The walls are lined with fitting clubs and a large array of custom shafts. Fitters can still take golfers out on the grass for a “real-world experience” too. Immediately across the hall from the bay is the workshop, so quick adjustments can easily be made during a fitting session. The new, larger workshop has all the machines necessary to dial in any club, from loft and lie to swing weight scales to grinders and everything in between. Most importantly, the team that uses them includes four full-time club fitters with more than 50 combined years of experience. Golf Digest named them among the Top 100 club fitters in America.
“One of the wonderful aspects of the club-fitting program is Craig Allan, who has a very diagnostic and honest approach to club fitting,” Parsons says. “He uses his expertise along with the latest technology to give to give clients information about what does and does not work for them. And Craig’s expertise is being passed on to a team of club fitters who have learned to value putting the right equipment in every player’s hands.”
While the GPC is well-equipped to provide each golfer with an individualized experience, the facility also offers spaces that were especially designed for groups. A meeting area and patio are located on the second floor, with views of the practice range and St. Simons Sound beyond that.
“Individuals are important to us and we help them on a daily basis, but, at the same time, we have small and large groups that want to experience the facility,” Allan says. “We incorporated this need into our plan. The group meeting space is beautiful, with a 12-seat table overlooking the sound. Adjacent to it is a veranda facing the sunset.”
It’s an ideal space for events, and it complements the other areas at the GPC that accommodate gatherings. For example, below is a double bay where players can hit out to the range through the large door or, inside, hit into a simulator. “Behind the simulator, we have comfortable seating and a bar-height table for 12,” Allan says. “It’s a fun space that can be used by individuals or groups during or after-hours.”
Two-time PGA TOUR winner Harris English, who works with Parsons and Sea Island fitness specialist Tom Hemmings, says that the “new GPC is incredible. From the technology in the hitting bays to the state-of-the-art putting studio to the club workshop and the gym, it’s all we need as professional golfers to hone our games when we are at home. We literally have everything we need right there in one building. In addition, having the best people working there is a huge advantage. From swing coaches, putting coaches and master club fitters to fitness trainers, they’re all right there.”
Stay and Play
There are many ways to enjoy a vacation at Sea Island, which has an extraordinary variety of accommodations and activities. The Inn at Sea Island provides casual, economical lodging that is perfect for families, especially those with junior golfers.
The 85-room Mediterranean-style inn on St. Simons Island is a destination in itself, with spacious rooms, a heated pool and an inviting outdoor social area for families to gather. There’s easy access to St. Simons’ shops, historical sites and beach. The purchase of a Resort Access Pass provides entry to all resort amenities (except the beach and Beach Club), including three championship golf courses and the world-class Golf Performance Center.
There’s a complimentary shuttle from The Inn to the golf club as well as resort restaurants, the spa and recreational venues. Also complimentary are BMW cars (available on a first-come, first-served basis), bicycles, a self-service laundry, Wi-Fi and continental breakfast.