When the days grow short and the leaves turn brown, I feel a sense of foreboding common in the northeastern golfer. Soon those leaves, and then the snow, will fall. The game of golf will be gone for the year.
It was with that thought that I hopped a train recently from New York's Penn Station to Union Station in Washington. I was looking to extend my golf season just a little longer. I wound up in the oddest place for golfing nirvana: the carbon-neutral CharityWorks GreenHouse in McLean, Va., where a staircase led me into a room with a High Definition Golf Simulator.
With the press of a few buttons, I was standing on the seventh tee at Pebble Beach, hitting a sand wedge into the most scenic par 3 in the world. (I skulled my first attempt into the water, but I found land with my second). A few moments later, I was playing along the shores of Casa De Campo in the Dominican Republic. Still later, I was able to break some windows in an abandoned castle with a few well struck punch shots.
The 15-by-18 high definition golf room was created by Lynni Megginson, one of 19 designers who worked under design chairman Barry Dixon to transform the interior of the house by using eco-friendly materials. (The house, which was built by Mark Turner of GreenSpur, will be open through Friday, Oct. 30, with proceeds benefiting Friendship Public Charter School in Washington and the McLean Project for the Arts.)
Megginson's space has several nice touches an Astroturf tee box, the same kind of lockers used at Augusta National and even a tree-lined wall built from rescued Mahogany that was hand-rubbed with bees' wax. A baffle behind the HD screen softly repelled the balls back to my feet.
"I'm positioning myself as the virtual golf girl," Megginson said.
Inside a 4,000-square-foot space that had many beautiful rooms, Megginson's golf room was the busiest, happiest place in the house. On the day of my arrival, a reporter from the Washington Post watched me hit chip shots and flop shots and high-arcing drives. I even sank a few putts to the melody of chirping birds.
If I'd stuck around a little longer, I could have had my swing analyzed (ball speed, club speed, launch angle, swing path, etc.) and even tested a few clubs.
I realize that one of the joys of playing golf is being outside, feeling the wind on your face and seeing your shots fly. But in much of the country, that joy is cut short every year (as well as the chance for year-round improvement). We have to find other ways to keep our swings loose and limber.
While building an HD golf room can cost from $75,000 to $100,000, there are less-expensive options for winter, including golf-specific exercise programs or finding the local heated driving range.
This New Yorker will be doing everything he can to stay sharp during the colder months. (Considering my middling game, I'm in for a lot of work.) But it will be hard to duplicate the fun I had banging balls around the HD golf simulator and dreaming of warmer days ahead.