While most other Penn teams can practice at facilities located near the heart of campus, golf is a bit more complicated. Due to the absence of full-size golf courses nearby in West Philadelphia, the team can often find itself traveling upwards of half an hour just to access a nearby course.
According to men's golf coach Clay White, this burden adds a significant time commitment to the workload of a golf student-athlete.
“The time commitment for a golf student-athlete to get in practice is, I feel, a lot more significant than other sports,” he said.
Not only is the commute an extra burden, but the team plays at several different courses. The team routinely plays at Bala Golf Club, located around 20 to 30 minutes in traffic. Additionally, the team has practiced at Applebrook Golf Club in Malvern, Pa., the 1912 Club in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., and some of the Ron Jaworski courses near Philadelphia.
To utilize these courses, White has relied on connections that came with the job at Penn.
“Brian Quinn from Temple has been gracious enough to let us play [at the 1912 Club],” he said. “We have a lot of alumni that help us get onto spots.”
Just like the locale, what players focus on during practice can vary. Some golfers will play nine holes during one practice, while others will spend the entire time working on specific aspects of golf, such as putting or chipping. White’s role during this time is also unique compared to coaches in other sports.
“I kind of just walk around and … I won't really instruct players,” he said. “I feel like most players have their own swing coaches [that] they're comfortable with,” he continued. “So me trying to throw my two cents in really [isn’t] worth that much.”
Yet another way in which golf practice differs from some other sports is the lack of lift sessions. White said that during the fall season, which concluded last weekend, he didn’t schedule strength training due to the grueling tournament schedule. However, during the offseason, he anticipated starting the players on a program of lifts with strength and conditioning coach Cory Walts.
Despite the emphasis on practicing on real courses, Penn still has a space for the program on campus. Tucked away in the Tse Sports Center, the Dave F. Posnick Family Golf Center provides space for golfers to improve their game. In addition to White’s office, the center also features a putting green and a pair of Trackman golf simulators, where players can work on their swing in a controlled indoor environment.
However, for White, nothing can beat playing on a real course and its real natural grass.
“You need to play on the surfaces that you are going to compete on,” he said. “For golf, we only play on natural grass.”
Therefore, to White, the team must practice on grass as often as possible, despite the extra commute time that adds to the schedules of golf student-athletes.