Golf: Oakbourne Country Club benefits from world-class golf facility
Dan McDonald, The Advertiser, August 16, 2017
The opening of UL’s new golf facility this summer provides a big boost for the Ragin’ Cajun program.
It also had another benefit that hasn’t been discussed a lot, but may be even more important to golfers in the Acadiana area: Oakbourne Country Club, the site of the facility, now has a world-class golf teaching and instruction facility.
One of the buildings in the new two-structure complex includes three fully equipped and technology-loaded practice hitting bays and two club-repair rooms. One of those bays and one of the repair rooms is dedicated for the use of Oakbourne head professional Cliff Wagner and club members and guests, as well as to accommodate Wagner’s highly regarded teaching and lessons program.
That was part of the “trade-out” that grants club membership to players in the Cajun program and provides a “win-win” for all involved. Wagner certainly sees the value of having that facility located on the Oakbourne practice range.
“I think it’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” Wagner said. “There’s a great opportunity there. It’s part of what we do, so why wouldn’t we want it to be utilized? It is a great thing for golf in this area.”
The facility that Wagner uses for instruction is just as gadget-loaded as the ones used by the Ragin’ Cajun players to work on and improve their games.
“It does everything,” he said. “What you have now is you have V1 video analysis which is 2D imagery, you have FlightScope that has the 3D readings and all that technology, and you have BodiTrak information, which simplified is the displacement of weight in your golf swing. You have all three of these things going and available at the same time during a golf swing.
“That’s the magic right there. It all comes up on two 55-inch TV screens that have all the data, and that’s unique because you normally don’t have all of that together. You’ll have just video, or just FlightScope or just BodiTrak, not all of them together. It’s the coolest thing in the world.”
Another feature in the practice bays, and one overlooked by most players seeking lessons, is the SAM PuttLab technology that provides the same type of data for putting that the other technologies produce for the full swing.
“It gives you the face path, rhythm, stroke, face angle closed or open, everything that FlightScope does but for putting,” Wagner said. “That’s a forgotten thing. I can sell a driver for $1,000 but I can’t give putters away, and you use a putter at least two times more and normally two and a half times more than you do a driver.”
The club repair and fitting area also has all the bells and whistles, including tools from Callaway, Titleist, Mizuno and others, giving a level of club services normally found in a Tour van.
Wagner is in his 26th year on the Oakbourne staff, the great majority of that time as head professional, and has been active in teaching and promoting golf all that time. Along the way, he’s earned certifications and quite a few honors from the PGA (certified teaching and coaching), the Titleist Performance Institute and US Kids Golf certification among many others.
But now, more than at any time in his career, he has a full toy box in which to indulge his passion of teaching. And just as importantly, he knows how to take all that technology and all those numbers and structure it into a usable format so that it helps players of all levels.
“We do not teach with numbers at all,” Wagner said. “The numbers help us get information to the players, but we don’t give them the raw numbers. We use that to give a drill or some technique to get the result they’re looking for. If we started telling people you need to be four degrees more on this plane and eight degrees open on the face, get six more degrees down, they’re going to say heck with this, I wanna go bowling.
“Visual learning is the best learning. You can show on video that your weight’s not far enough left or you’re not going down enough, but we also back out of that and tell them to do this particular drill and that will help.”
Many players (and most weekend golfers) are justifiably intimidated by the technology, and Wagner understands that and spends a lot of time away from the machinery.
“The first thing we do is talk,” he said. “We do an initial interview with everyone, regardless of their skill level. What are you doing, is there anything physically wrong, what’s your normal ball flight, and most importantly what are you trying to do right now, what brought you to this lesson. If someone has the goal to just not top their driver, that’s an easy goal to accomplish and we’re going to use this technology to show you how to do that.
“We never re-invent the wheel. Everybody brings something to the game we can use, everybody, even a person that’s never played. There’s something we can use and pull out of there and make them feel comfortable.”
The practice and teaching bay, as well as the practice range, are designed for Oakbourne members and guests. However, any golfer – regardless of ability level – who feels that the new facility and its equipment and its technology advances could help improve their game and make golf more fun … well, Wagner is only a phone call away at the Oakbourne pro shop at (337) 235-2324.
“Anything that’s out on the market right now that’s there to learn, we have now,” he said. “We’ve taken this to just about the highest level it can be. It’s great for golf around here and it’s great for golfers.”
Cajuns to Kauai
UL’s golf team will head to the Hawaiian islands for its fall wrapup tournament, and local Ragin’ Cajun supporters will have the opportunity to follow along.
The Cajuns will head to Kauai and one of Hawaii’s paradise spots for a six-night stay from Oct. 26-31, joining 19 other collegiate teams in the three-day Princeville Makai Invitational tournament, and coach Theo Sliman is encouraging Cajun fans, golfers and fans of beaches and sunshine to join in and spend extended time with team members.
Sliman and the UL squad did that last year and had a group of 10 followers join the team’s first visit to the Aloha state, and this year he’ll take his entire seven-man roster on the trip.
The tournament is played on the Princeville Makai Golf Club, a seaside venue that provides stunning views of Kauai’s north shore and the nearby mountains. Accommodations can be secured at the Wyndham Bali Hai Villas which run adjacent to the course and are walking distance from the beach, but there are also numerous options including an extensive number of VRBO condominiums in the same location.
Plans are for the team to fly into Kauai on Thursday, Oct. 26, and Friday’s itinerary has the team and its followers spending all day together. The team and all interested followers who choose to play will have an unofficial “practice” round with Sliman and the team, and then will drive to Kauai’s southern end to participate in the famed Kilohana Plantation Luau.
The team has its official practice round Saturday, and fans on the trip will play at another nearby course before another evening activity. The tournament itself runs Sunday-Tuesday with teams playing 18 holes daily and fans are invited to come and watch at no charge. All rounds are early, freeing up afternoons and evenings for fans to enjoy other ventures.
Members of the Vermilion Links Club, the official support organization for the Cajun golf program, will have the first chance at the trip. However, Sliman said that anyone interested can get more information and reserve a spot by contacting him at (337) 962-3348 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
“Making the Turn” appears each Wednesday from February-November in the Daily Advertiser. Clubs, courses and individuals with information about local golf events may email Dan McDonald, editorial director at Golfballs.com, at firstname.lastname@example.org, FAX to (337) 857-8763 or call (337) 857-8754 and leave a message with phone number.