out of 4 GT logos.
We didn't make use of the practice green, the range, or the chipping area (because, frankly, practice does us little good, if any), so we can't really comment on them. What we can do is make two observations: 1) The two practice bunkers at Fore Seasons probably have more pliable sand in them than all of the traps at the four courses in the GT Minor Event rotation combined, and 2) The ball washer next to the practice green was a nice touch. On many Tracks that we play, finding a ball washer is about as common as a bald eagle sighting, but Fore Seasons managed to plunk one that serves no practical purpose right next to the putting green. Well done.
No one in our group has ever tried it on Wii or X-BOX, but as any self-respecting Tracker knows, you can only take "suspended disbelief" so far and if you're not using your own sticks, you're missing an important part of the "fake golf experience." Although it's still basically a video game, the Fore Seasons experience comes closer to providing a true Tracking experience. We're not experts on seasonal affective disorder, but there's something to be said for the routine of golf; taking the clubs out of the trunk, putting on the golf glove, etc. that can temporarily trick one's mind into going into summer Tracking mode. Wii can't come within a Jamie Sadlowski drive of that.
Fore Seasons provides many courses to choose from. We generally prefer island/resort courses for sim. As Sherpa JB noted, "If you're going to play fake golf, you may as well go international to a warm climate." Good point. The weather on the screen is always great.
Simulator Shortcomings...if you're looking for something to complain about...
Putting: We were advised beforehand that the software makes virtual putting even more frustrating than real putting, so that was programmed out; approach shots within 10 feet of the pin were one-putts (if only that were true on non-virtual Tracks); out to 35 feet were two-putts (not likely, but thanks); and anything longer than that was a well-deserved three-putt. (Actually, the lack of putting is one of FSGC's best features; every other sim place we've played just wears us out with putting nonsense; it's a pace of play killer)
Chipping: During our round there were several "finesse shots" that either ended up short or were completely air-mailed. Obviously that doesn't differ much from any other round we've played, but we'd like to think that after a few more rounds at FSGC, we'd get a better feel for it. We all thought we got shafted on at least a couple of occasions, so it probably evened out. On the flip side, we can see where the occasionally unpredictable putting and chipping aspects of the simulator could make some wagers very contentious ("Let's make it 40, Judge," to quote Ty Webb [unfortunately the Caddyshack clip we linked to on youtube got pulled] ).
Driving: This can be both one of the most amusing and most frustrating aspects of the simulator. On the inaugural trip to Grey Wolf, Sherpa JB did a pretty good job of showing us the way by popping the ball straight into the canvas overhead a few times, narrowly missing the overhead light directly above the sensors under the driving mat, yet those drives clocked in at an average of 260 yards. The return trip to FSGC (playing the "Teeth of the Dog" course) provided an opportunity to further explore that "club contact anomaly" and/or "game the system." Golfer Number Two and Rabbit Ears were intent on taking Sherpa JB's field research to a higher level.
We came up with three "alternative means" to achieving good drives: 1) [demonstrated by Rabbit Ears] pop the ball up a couple of feet in the air off the tee and get it to land approximately four feet in front of the tee before playing the next shot from about 240 yards out; just brilliant, 2) [Golfer Number Two's approach] swing so hard and so clean as to barely graze the bottom of the ball with the top of the driver, sweeping the tee from underneath, advancing the ball four inches, and gazing at a 240+ yard drive into the short grass, impressive, 3) the piece d' resistance (or something like that), Rabbit Ears leveraged what he learned from Golfer Number Two, hitting a "mammoth" drive that dribbled four inches behind where he hit it from and landed an immaculate 259 yards out into the fairway on screen; absolutely jaw-dropping.
Once you separate "real golf" from the "simulated driving experience" and/or separate the logic of "solid contact" from "good distance," virtual golf can be a lot of fun, especially when your opponents are stupefied and/or pissed off by how consistently you can deliver great results with piss-poor execution.
Set-up: When we arrived, we had no idea that Martin owned the place, but we should have. He made sure that everything was set up properly, gave us the info we needed not to screw it up too badly, and was generally accessible during our round.
Ah....Nature.... : To be sure, the screen and sound at Fore Seasons will never be mistaken for IMAX with Dolby digital surround sound, but it works. The computer speakers in the simulator provided sounds of birds chirping in the background, the splash of hazard-bound approach shots, and announced whose turn it was to hit; more than enough to keep us entertained. Two possible upgrades that would've been amusing: 1) we were hoping that errant shots into the trees would produce some sounds from screeching birds or squirrels ducking for cover, but no such luck, 2) a Jim Nantz voice over announcing whose turn it was to hit would've been hilarious, but we understand that he doesn't work cheap.
The Simulated Tee Box: What really brought this home was the divot in the carpet at the front of the hitting area. It was almost like hitting off our favorite Goat Track tee boxes (Goodwin and Copper Hill come to mind), minus the concern about popping a nut while pegging up in hardpan. (on our return trip, played in a different sim room, we were somewhere between shocked and disappointed to see that Martin was fixing the "carpet divot" that we enjoyed on our first trip there, so much for Track maintenance).
Grippin' and Rippin': One huge advantage of the Fore Seasons experience is that there's no need to look for your ball in the woods. That said, those not swinging hard enough (based on the simulator's calculated swing speed) were chastised for less than manly efforts, which leads to...
What the Fore Seasons experience does best: It's been said that golf is 90% mental (although it may drive you 100% mental on occasion, but that's another topic). If the "90% theory" is true, then Fore Seasons excels by providing a great way to work on such critical aspects of your game as the ability to talk smack, break balls, and hone your gamesmanship skills. By the end of our round, it seemed that our ability to rip on each other may have been closer to midseason form than our swings.
Revisiting the "sound system," we couldn't quite figure out why everyone in the group other than "Golfer Number Two" was announced by name during our round, but the constant reinforcement of hearing "now playing, golfer number two," definitely added to the group's amusement, for three of the four anyway.
Fore Seasons is unquestionably a bargain. True golf junkies (who haven't headed south for the winter) would probably pay more, but at $15/person to use a simulator, it's an absolute steal and an experience that, while not perfect, just can't be duplicated during the winter doldrums.
(If you call the contact number listed on the FSGC site, you'll find that, although they keep pretty convenient hours for most Trackers, Martin will accommodate groups that want to use the simulators outside of that schedule. That earns exceptionally high marks with us.)
Although it may not please everyone with its no-frills approach, Fore Seasons Golf Club must be doing something right because it's still our benchmark off season fake golf destination, earning a solid...
Fore Seasons Golf Club - Indoor Golf Facility (Bethany, Conn.), reviewed January, 2009 with input from esteemed Goat Trackers Sherpa JB, Wink, and Rabbit Ears (kudos to Sherpa JB and Wink for unearthing this nugget to help pass the time during the Tracking off season).
Fore Seasons is located in Bethany, between Ansonia and New Haven, about an hour's drive from the GT.com nerve center west of Hartford; so although it may not be the most accessible place to get to, if you've got an itch to get your hacks in, it's well within reach. This place has been open under current management since the mid '90's. Shame on us for not finding it sooner.
This was uncharted territory for our entire group and there was a lot to take in. First, Fore Seasons is located in a converted light industrial/warehouse building alongside several similar structures, which makes it inconspicuous and is good Goat Track form, since we like our Tracks "as unassuming as a $4 box of wine," to borrow a term from Sherpa JB. There was some initial concern about playing here, based on the owner's claim that "this [place] gets a cross-section of golfers, but I'd say it's more top-heavy with the serious guy" (quoted from a New Haven Register article, 2/13/03). Based on that, we shouldn't have been allowed near the place, but as it turns out, it's more than Tracker-friendly.
Once through the door, the layout is definitely something that any well-schooled Tracker can appreciate; with vintage framed pictures from PGA events of the '70's and '80's hanging in the simulator rooms and the pro shop, including several featuring some "conversation-inspiring female fans," other offbeat memorabilia, and vast expanses of exposed corrugated metal throughout. It didn't hurt that each simulator room had a couch and enough chairs to accommodate a typical 1st green gallery at the GHO (Travelers Championship). As Wink noted, "If i could smoke in here, I'd probably never leave." If that's not a ringing endorsement, we don't know what is.