Bethpage Black slipped into its annual winter hibernation earlier this month, but inside a small St. James strip mall, the fairway leading up to the Black's famous fourth-hole glacier bunker is still a deep, healthy green and the air is a May-like 72 degrees.
Conditions are the same at Pebble Beach, Pinehurst and more than a dozen other renowned golf courses available for virtual play in the High Definition Golf simulator at the new 1st Tee Fitness & Performance facility in St. James, where brothers Jason and Richard Greco hope to make indoor golf -- including leagues, tournaments, lessons and physical therapy -- a healthy and recreational outlet for Long Island golfers. Jason and Richard are golf fitness instructors certified through the Titleist Performance Institute with more than 25 combined years of experience working with and rehabilitating patients. (Their primary office, Greco Physical Therapy and Sports Performance, PLLC, is located in Greenvale.)
At 1st Tee Fitness -- which opened in December 2011 -- the Grecos use much of the space to exercise and rehabilitate the muscles and joints that work together to swing the golf club, while the rest is reserved for the swing itself. In the back of the facility, a two-person practice net is available for simulator warm-ups and private lessons conducted by professionals from several area courses, including nearby Smithtown Landing.
But the main attraction is up front, where the High Definition Golf simulator leads frost-delayed Long Island golfers on a virtual excursion to nearly 20 world-class golf courses. At its most basic level, the simulator simply recreates the local driving range. It offers a technical breakdown of each swing with recordings of club and ball speeds, launch angle, swing path, clubface position, spin and more -- all useful information for the on-site professionals to translate into real-world results for their students.
League play and tournaments will be scheduled throughout the winter months to hold eager Long Island golfers over until they can push a peg into an actual teebox. Players can take part in leagues run by 1st Tee, or create their own group of family and friends, compete at their leisure and set their own rules and prizes.
"It takes about an hour for two people to play nine holes," Jason says. "We envision a scenario where players book their simulator tee times online, arrive early to warm up in the practice net, play for as long as they wish and have their results recorded in the league and available online."
Jason says simulator tournaments range from 18 to 72 holes and can include contests like closest to the pin and longest drive. "The simulator tracks everything," he says.
Indoor league and tournament information is announced by e-mail and at www.grecopt.com. The simulator is open for general and league play until 9 p.m. during the week and 4 p.m. on weekends. Rates vary based on length and time of play.
For more information, visit the First Tee website or call (631) 686-6600. You can also follow First Tee on Facebook and Twitter. The St. James facility is located at 430-7 North Country Road, about five minutes east of the public Smithtown Landing Golf Course.