By Art Stricklin
THACKERVILLE, Oklahoma – Michael Ferguson has spent more than two decades working in the golf business, overseeing some of the most prestigious clubs in the country including Scottsdale (Arizona) Country Club and PGA West in Palm Springs.
But he said the recent improvements to the WinStar Golf Academy are as impressive as anything he has ever seen or worked at.
"I made it one of my missions when I got here to enhance the golf academy and practice areas at WinStar and that has really come along and we’ve added upgrades after upgrades.
"With the amount of gear we have and the top notch people we have at the academy we are as nice as anywhere in the country. I would put our people and equipment against anyone."
While the 27-hole D.A. Weibring/Steve Wolfard designed course, with nine additional holes scheduled to be ready this fall, is open to all, Ferguson said what sets the facility apart is the amount of cutting edge technology in the golf academy, which is available to everyone.
"When I was working at PGA West, I saw what a difference the practice facility made and I have seen how people love it now."
Among the practice gear available at the WinStar Academy is the
– SAM (Science and Motion) Putter Fitting & Practice Studio
– GEARS 3D Swing Analysis
– Portable Trackman
– TPI/LifeFitness Fitness Room
– 2 PGA TOUR AboutGolf Simulating Studios
Ferguson said the most impressive bit of new practice gear, which all debuted in the winter of 2015 is the GEARS systems.
"We were only the eighth facility in the entire world to have this. It’s a body suit that you put on and it gives you eight different angles to capture your swing. You can discover more down force for your swing to be able to hit it farther. It’s like an MRI for your golf swing," Ferguson said.
The facility recently served as the headquarters for the Long Drivers of America World Championship which aired on The Golf Channel and NBC. Several players tried out the GEARS which allows you to see your swing from several different angles.
"It allows you to analyze your swing much faster and you can tell in 1-2 swings what your swing problems are, how to address them and what the plan to fix the problem is."
Also included in the academy is the TrackMan system which is used extensively on the PGA Tour and at top teaching facilities. Winstar has two, which are portable, and can be moved to different positions on the range to let golfers see the arc, spin rate and swing speed of their shots.
Ferguson grew up in Oklahoma where his grandfather U.C. Ferguson served as head professional at Lincoln Park in Oklahoma City for 30 years, so he knows the state and what attracts golfers. He said golfing at WinStar, which bills itself as the largest casino in America, is more than just an add-on to non-stop gambling, but a true resort experience.
"I think this appeals to anyone who wants a great experience from the course conditions to the state of the art carts, to the golf academy.
‘We take all comers here, but after people play here and wander over to the casino, they are amazed by how they can do both and have a quality experience at both places.
"The (resort) VIPs, just love it, we can appeal to who is here."
Among those likely to come by earlier this year the national ranked Oklahoma State golf team. Ferguson, an OSU grad, has been in touch with the team and its coaches about coming down and using the practice technology to aid their upcoming season.
"You’re not going to find a better system anywhere in the country. I will stand by that statement against anyone."
Later this year, WinStar will have a new nine holes designed by Weibring and his partner Steve Wolfard which will give the facility a complete 36 holes of golf.
The new nine has been sodded, the greens will be covered over this winter and grown in this spring with everything likely ready for play in the fall.
"I never dreamed I could have this much fun working at a golf facility," Ferguson said. "I’m sure ole Fergie (grandfather) is looking down from above and smiling because I’m able to do all of this from Thackerville, Oklahoma at WinStar."