Golf Gals: A Story of Virtual Games and Friendship
When Andrew Siebert, Community Wellness Manager for The Hill at Whitemarsh, noticed that some residents had canceled their country club memberships out of pandemic concerns, he decided to do something about it. As an avid golfer himself, Andrew knew there had to be a solution that would allow residents of The Hill to continue to enjoy and practice their golf game, despite the circumstances.
That solution? Virtual golf.
“Virtual golf is a great option that retains all the same feelings of a round of golf—such as physical activity, laughter, and comradery,” says Andrew. “Although it’s not the same as the real thing, our residents have surprised me in their ability to bring the joy, joking, and relaxation that I experience during a round of golf to our simulator setup.”
There’s a particular group of residents who enjoy the experience on a weekly basis: the Golf Gals.
Janet Evans, Suzi Foster, Suzi Gerber, and Lynn Lewis are neighbors and friends who meet every Thursday to play virtual golf.
“We love playing golf together, although everyone else is so much better than me! Really, we just have so many laughs together,” says Suzi Gerber, who has played golf for most of her life.
“And it feels so real, it’s not at all like playing a video game. You play with real clubs and you’re engaged in the whole process,” says Lynn, who started playing golf as a kid because her father loved to play. She took a break from the sport when her kids were young, but picked it up again after they left the house. She estimates that she’s been playing golf for nearly 30 years.
Janet has also been playing golf for about 30 years, but the cold weather has sidelined her from the outdoor course. “It’s a wonderful game,” she says. “I love playing with other people and being outside. It was really one of the only ways we could still safely socialize this year, but with the weather turning, it’s simply not an option.”
Suzi Foster, who picked up golf while vacationing with her husband years ago, was a reluctant golfer at first, but she ended up learning to love the game even more than he did. She’s been golfing with her friends ever since.
“Virtual golf is a great indoor activity,” says Suzi Foster. “You don’t have to depend on the weather to enjoy the experience and can improve your game every time you play.”
Virtual golf consists of twisting, bending, lunging, squatting, as well as standing from a chair multiple times within an hour-long period, which makes it a great form of physical activity, especially during the winter months. It also allows you to keep your skills sharp since according to Andrew, the virtual golf simulator allows you to make full swings and provides real-time information about your technique.
“Swing path, club head speed, and club face angle are all measured during a virtual golf experience,” says Andrew. “So you can pinpoint your weaknesses and learn what to focus on.”
Andrew or a member of his staff is always on hand to facilitate the technology and act as a “caddy” to remove any possible source of frustration for residents as they play.
“There is a large learning curve for these advanced technologies, but we are able to make sure the experience is beyond decent—we want residents to get maximum enjoyment from the golf simulator,” says Andrew.
“We have so many options with virtual golf; we can choose different courses to play,” says Suzi Gerber. “We played the back nine of the Masters Course last week. It was almost as good as being there in person.”
“Our instructors have been wonderful, and it’s been so uplifting to have this activity to do together every week,” adds Janet. “Of course, it’s very disappointing when a ball ends up in the water.”
“Andrew and his team are so good at helping us figure out what we’re doing wrong, which no one will do on an actual golf course,” Suzi Foster says. “It’s really a wonderful way to improve your game.”
The Golf Gals all report that the virtual golf experience has all the same benefits of golfing out on a real course: a little bit of exercise, socializing, and perfecting your game. That was all by design, according to Andrew. The virtual golf game exemplifies The Hill’s philosophy towards fitness: that good-quality physical activity and exercise should be fun, enjoyable, and accessible.