PRAIRIE GROVE – Just past a railway bridge at Pleasant Hill and Bay roads, Jim Buenzli tees up an iron and hits a golf ball 100 yards away.
Outside, Buenzli’s shot wouldn’t have traveled far with nearly a foot of snow on the ground and the thermometer reading 0 degrees. But the elements were no match for Buenzli, who took his swing in a video simulator inside his year-round golf training business.
The simulator measured the distance of his shot, the angle of his club head and showed the trajectory of his golf ball on a videogame-style fairway.
With amenities like that and the expertise of his staff, Buenzli said he hopes the Golf Academy at Terra Cotta can become a place for golf enthusiants to perfect their game even when a polar vortex is causing subzero temperatures.
“I think the people who really like golf don’t stop being addicts during the winter. They just haven’t had a place to go,” said Buenzli, who owns the academy. “Now ... they can practice during the winter and stay close to the game.”
The Golf Academy at Terra Cotta officially opened its doors in early November. Inside, the business features two golf simulators and two practice bays that can instantly record a golfer’s swing and provide data on a golfer’s footing, posture and grip.
The academy rests on roughly 20 acres, and sports a outdoor driving green and concrete mats for driving and chipping. The business also plans to add a short game area this spring for players to work on chipping, pitching and hitting in sand traps.
Buenzli, a McHenry native who has taught golf for the last 27 years, said he wanted the Golf Academy to be a “one-stop shop” for golfers of any experience interested in improving their game no matter the time of year.
The academy features a golf fitness room where players can do golf workouts designed to improve balance, speed and power. A massage therapist is on staff to help golfers relax.
Players also can visit the academy’s pro shop to buy custom-fitted clubs or turn in their old clubs for repairs. Buenzli and two other trainers provide year-round lessons for individuals and groups, and programs for junior golfers.
“A driving range is a place where you go to hit a bucket of balls,” Buenzli said. “This is trying to be an actual practice facility that you can come and get services for any of your needs when it comes to golf.”
Similar year-round training academies have been opening throughout the Midwest, said Robert Markionni, executive director of the Chicago District Golf Association.
The businesses complement the traditional golf clubhouses that boomed in the early 2000s but have financially struggled since the economic recession, he said.
“It’s an evolution to the business that this option is available to individual players,” Markionni said. “It allows them to work on their game year round.”
The Golf Academy at Terra Cotta
What: Year-round training facility that features indoor golf simulators and practice bays, outdoor driving and chipping areas, golf fitness and massage rooms and a pro shop
Where: 5200 Pleasant Hill Rd., Prairie Grove
Information: 815-355-4225 or www.golfacademytc.com