Written by Shaun Tolson & Southern Distinction
November 12, 2018
Since the inception of the PGA Tour almost 90 years ago, a divide separating professionals from everyday amateurs has gradually grown wider. For decades, this estrangement could best be seen through the availability of game-changing equipment, as well as accessibility to facilities dedicated to personalized instruction (using the most advanced swing-analysis technology), as well as club modification and customization. Recreational golfers—from weekend hackers to players with single-digit handicaps—could only fantasize about the “tour player experience,” wondering how those perks and training aids might improve their own games.
The Reynolds Kingdom of Golf presented by TaylorMade in Greensboro, Georgia., has turned those dreams into a reality. Located 70 miles from downtown Atlanta, the full-service golf facility, operated through a partnership with TaylorMade, was built in 2007 and initially served only Tour professionals. In 2013, however, the Kingdom opened its doors to the public. Since then, the facility has steadily evolved, growing more advanced and more refined each year. Today, the Kingdom of Golf provides resort guests and Reynolds Lake Oconee members with a facility dedicated to complete game improvement, one that rivals and—in some cases exceeds—the amenities that tour players enjoy at TaylorMade’s headquarters in Southern California.
The tour player experience that is provided by the Kingdom of Golf hinges on three key areas: precise club-fitting, on-site club-building, and an instructional program centered on a teaching philosophy that emphasizes a player’s unique strengths and natural, biomechanical tendencies.
A Perfect Fit
Thanks to its innovative drivers made from advanced composite materials—not to mention its strong-lofted irons that produce superior distance and high-launching ball flights—TaylorMade enjoys a spot on golf’s podium as one of the sport’s top club manufacturers. For that reason alone, golfers have made pilgrimages to the Kingdom of Golf to be fit for a custom set of clubs since it opened to the public in 2013. The facility’s allure as a premier TaylorMade outfitter is even stronger now, thanks to TaylorMade’s revolutionary new drivers, which feature the brand’s proprietary TwistFace technology.
“We learned that the most common impact locations on a driver’s face forms an ellipse; so we twisted the club face to be slightly more open with higher loft on the toe and slightly closed with lower loft in the heel,” explains Todd Beach, TaylorMade’s senior vice president of R&D and engineering. “The result allows you to hit off-center shots that go farther and straighter than they used to.”
The Kingdom’s master club builder, Jeff Hinshaw, not only concurs, he effusively praises the engineers’ achievements. “In my 40 years in the golf business, I thought I’d seen most everything,” he says. “Every 10 or 15 years, what goes around comes around. But when I saw that technology, I was blown away by it. I never saw that coming.”
While the Reynolds Kingdom of Golf connection to TaylorMade makes it a popular destination among golfers who are looking for an advantage through their equipment, the facility’s lead club-fitter, Alan Stone—who previously worked at the Kingdom at TaylorMade’s headquarters in Carlsbad, California.—explains that the Reynolds facility’s greatest asset is the facility itself. The Kingdom spans 16 acres and features a 7,600-square-foot instructional center complete with four, enclosed, heated hitting bays and three open hitting bays. “At Reynolds, we have a larger practice facility, larger range, and a larger short game area where you can hit a variety of specialty shots,” says Stone, explaining that the West Coast Kingdom lacked an environment to practice all those facets of the game. “In Carlsbad, we’d pack up and go to a nearby golf course,” he says, “but we have everything on site right here.”
Equipped with TrackMan launch monitors and Quintic putting analysis software, the Kingdom of Golf is armed with the latest technology that allows club-fitters to measure and analyze the point of impact between the club and the ball, as well as how the ball travels—from tee shots to putts. The Kingdom’s club-fitters—all of whom have worked with top-level tour players throughout their careers—are further assisted by GEARS, a full-swing, club-and-body-tracking system that produces a three-dimensional image of a player and the golf club during the swing. The system reveals players’ swing tendencies and body positions, as well as the club’s lie angle, degree of loft, orientation of the clubface, and how the shaft flexes and bends during the swing.
“I want to know what a player does,” say Stone, “and GEARS show us what they’re doing and how the club is reacting down to a tenth of a degree and a couple hundredths of a millimeter.”
GEARS is more than just the world’s most advanced motion capture solution designed specifically for golf; it’s also the most exclusive system of its kind. Only 100 facilities throughout the world use the system. “These new technologies that allow us to see better what the club is doing through the swing and at impact, they’re more and more valuable,” says Beach. “That’s how TwistFace came about. It’s important to know what your body is doing through the swing. That’s where GEARS is helpful, not only through a fitting standpoint but also a teaching standpoint. At Reynolds, they’re not only implementing a great fitting experience but also utilizing that technology into their lessons.”
Sean Cain, the new lead instructor at Reynolds Kingdom of Golf, grew up not far from the property, frequently visiting the facility with his students when they needed to be fit for new clubs. “We would come here because it’s a TaylorMade-exclusive facility with tour-quality fitting components,” he says. “It’s the best facility, by far, for what we were looking for.”
Since taking over as the Kingdom’s lead instructor, Cain has brought a teaching method structured around BioSwing Dynamics, an approach that places the most emphasis on a player’s natural tendencies and strengths during the swinging motion and tailors subsequent instruction and coaching around those tendencies. In that regard, every lesson that he and his team gives is highly personalized to the individual student. Beyond that, Cain has witnessed all the ways that the Kingdom, itself, can positively impact golf instruction, from the use of TrackMan and GEARS, to the diversity of hitting areas, including bays that are enclosed and heated, as well as others that are covered but otherwise exposed to the elements. “It is very versatile all the way around to provide the best learning environment for each client,” says Cain.
Beyond all the technology at an instructor’s fingertips, the Kingdom’s greatest strength may be its short-game area, a sprawling collection of greens, bunkers, and chipping areas designed years ago by David Pelz. It is, as Cain describes it, “an amazing short game and putting landscape.”
How could the Kingdom’s short game area trump even the facility’s highly advanced amenities? As Cain explains, the greatest measured differential between players’ ability levels on the PGA Tour is from five yards to 20 yards away from the hole. “If the best players in the world have the biggest discrepancy of talent in short game execution, what does that say about the rest of us?” he asks. In fact, one of Cain’s top-ranked collegiate players recently visited the facility and was astounded by the premises. “He said that he felt like he got a month’s worth of work done in two hours there,” says Cain. “If it works for a player who’s that far ahead as far as his practice regiment goes, think about what it can do for the average amateur.”
Guests who dedicate some of their time to the short game area through the Kingdom’s clinics or individual lessons will benefit in more ways than one. Yes, they’ll likely develop skills to shave off at least a couple of strokes from their final-round scores; but they may also discover that other areas of their game also improve.
“We provide solution-based instruction,” says Cain, “and as they get better they’ll want to practice it more. We give them the fundamental building blocks to get better, and those short-game building blocks go into all aspects of the full swing, too.”
Built To Be Better
Beyond its club fitting and personalized instruction, the Reynolds Kingdom of Golf further strengthens players’ games by building golf clubs on site. Equipped with a TaylorMade tour trailer, the Kingdom’s team of club builders can deliver a club that is ready for action in fewer than 10 minutes. But, as Hinshaw explains, the benefits that guests receive when they order new clubs through The Kingdom go far beyond that. “General production doesn’t give you quite the same latitude that a facility like this does,” he says. “We’re able to accomplish the same things—the finite tuning—that a TaylorMade trailer can do out on the PGA Tour. That’s a huge advantage for a customer to come here.”
According to Hinshaw, most club tuning that he and his team implement is minor—slight adjustments to face angles and lofts or modifying a grip and its overall size, for example. However, he acknowledges that TaylorMade’s new drivers, especially the M4, offer more room for tinkering than most customers would think.
“The M3s have external weighting, so we can easily move those weights around to change ball flights; but we have other processes to fine tune ball flights with the M4. You can only make those adjustments in a tour van or at a tour shop, and most of our customers have never even heard about them.”
Perhaps the greatest advantage presented to golfers who have their clubs built at the Kingdom is everything around the facility, specifically the community’s five, distinct resort courses. As Stone explains, the ability to test a new club out on the course and tweak it immediately thereafter is one of those perks that come with a PGA Tour card.
“During a practice round on the tour, players will take a club out on the course and play a few holes with it, and then bring it back and say, ‘I need it to do something different,’” he says. At the Reynolds Kingdom of Golf, guests of all ability levels can enjoy a similar treatment. With their new clubs in hand, they can go play a round of golf on any of the five exceptional layouts and, should any of the clubs need modification, those changes can easily be made back at the Kingdom following their round. “They give us that same feedback,” Stone says, “and if it’s not quite right, we can make those minute little tweaks for somebody very quickly.”
Ready to take your game to the next level? Tour-player treatment awaits at the Reynolds Kingdom of Golf.
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