Stroke of Genius

photo courtesy of Golf in the Pearl

Upping your game with Golf in the Pearl’s high-tech simulator

If you’ve strolled along Northwest 10th Avenue lately, past the courtyard on the east side of the street between Everett and Flanders, tucked back a bit behind a pair of iconic Lovejoy Columns, you’ve already come within steps of the best golf course in downtown Portland.

To be fair, the “course” inside Golf in the Pearl (320 NW 10th Ave, 503-224-9899) is virtual, but the Trackman Indoor Golf Simulator is also a technological marvel—”about 90% of tour professionals use this device,” says Randy Bell, director of golf at this highly personalized instruction clinic and retail shop. You can even program the Trackman with the layout of a famous course. Ever dreamed of playing Pebble Beach or St. Andrews? Here’s your chance, without having to hop onto a plane.

Opened in January 2015 by PGA Instructor Brian Nosler, who specializes in club fitting and repair, and Bell, a veteran golf professional and instructor, the well-lighted, climate-controlled space offers a slew of golfing services, many of them hard to come by in heart of a major city. If you live in or near the Pearl, and you’re looking for expert instruction and the opportunity to drive or chip a few dozen balls on your lunch hour, this centrally located shop is an invaluable resource.

 “We can compare your swing with a video footage of a tour professional and then determine exactly what we need to work on and how.”

With the state-of-the-art Trackman Simulator, the Golf in the Pearl provides a practice experience that simply can’t be matched at a conventional driving range. You can use your own clubs or try some of those sold at the shop, if perhaps you’re in the market for a new driver or set of irons—Golf in the Pearl carries top-of-the-line Callaway and TaylorMade equipment. After each shot, the simulator’s massive HD screen shows you where your ball landed and displays a dazzling list of important metrics and analytics, from ball speed to spin rate to launch angle.  It’s an amazing tool, whether you’re a few-times-a-year casual duffer, a scratch golfer, or simply fascinated by the intersection of technology and athletics.

Trackman uses radar to determine the exact trajectory and distance of every shot, and you can also watch front- and side-view video, with freeze-frame, to better assess your swing. “I can create split screen,” says Bell, “so that we can compare your swing next to footage of a tour professional to determine exactly what we need to work on and how.”

“Customers come in for lessons and to use Trackman themselves,” says Bell, “but we also use it extensively to fit clubs. Say you want to try four or five different drivers—you can hit a few balls with each one, watch the footage on the screen, and see which club gave you the most distance.” Golf in the Pearl carries a small but well-curated selection of additional equipment—including balls, gloves, visors, and popular Jones Golf Bags—as well as high-performance apparel by brands including Linksoul and Matte Grey.

And then there’s simply the fun factor. For $250 (for up to four hours), you and a few friends can book your own simulated round at one of the world’s most famous golf courses in the evening, after the shop has closed. The cost of other services is quite reasonable—one-hour lessons cost $60, but discounted packages of 5 and 10 lessons are available for $250 and $400 respectively. You can also come down and use the simulator on your own for 30 minutes ($15) or an hour ($30), or buy a membership for $100 that allows you 60 minutes of simulator time per day, during regular hours (Tuesday–Saturday, 10 am–6 pm), for 30 days.

In addition to the Trackman simulator, the shop is outfitted with a five-hole putting green, and a monitor routinely airs pro golfing events in the background. It’s very easy to get into the spirit of the game here, even if you haven’t swung a club in a while and are simply seeking the inspiration to pick up the sport again. After all, with the U.S. Open having taken place in the Pacific Northwest for the first time ever in 2015, at Chambers Bay Golf Course outside Tacoma, the region is currently experiencing a pretty strong case of golf fever. –Andrew Collins