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Opinion: ASU golf is truly No. 1 in innovation

ASU golf has lived up to the University's No.1 in innovation title through its state-of-the-art facilities that challenge golfers to improve

Thunderbird garage.jpg

The garage of the Thunderbird Golf Complex at Papago Golf Club in Phoenix on Monday, March 18, 2019.

For a long time now — seven years, to be exact — ASU has been known as the "innovation" school. We’ve all seen the signs around campus and plastered on buses that ASU is “No. 1 in innovation,” but when it comes to athletics, one program leads the way in innovation: golf. 

ASU golf moved into a new practice facility in 2018 at Papago Golf Club, called Thunderbirds Golf Complex, which was designed by PGA Tour professional and ASU alumnus Phil Mickelson. The facility is full of state-of-the-art labs and practice areas to help the Sun Devils improve their golf game.

“The practice facility has a lot of unique traits," said graduate student ASU golfer Mason Andersen. "Everything is kind of designed to be difficult.” Over-preparing is a great strategy, especially when it comes to the game of golf, because you never know what shot is going to come next.

In golf, you never truly know where the ball is going to land. You could hit an absolutely gorgeous shot, but the wind might carry the ball an extra 20 yards and end up wedged underneath a cactus. Unfortunately, ASU doesn’t have a practice area to hit a shot from underneath a cactus, but Andersen commended the practice facility for its uniqueness.

“There are some cool designs, like our putting greens are percentage-based, so we have one slope that’s 1%, another slope that’s 2%, etc … You’ve got a lot of options, and that’s what I think was the goal, to leave no stone unturned,” Andersen said. 

What is truly innovative about the design of the practice facility is that it trains golfers to do anything they might need to in a round of golf, from short game to approaching shots. Another aspect of innovation is new technology.

According to Andersen, the Thunderbird Complex is equipped with “a really cool golf lab” that has a putting platform that tilts to give the golfer different angles for their putts, a putting lab that tells the golfer how good their putting stroke is, and a balance lab that measures where the golfer’s weight is displaced while they take a swing. 

All of this technology has helped the ASU men’s and women’s golf teams remain near the top of the NCAA rankings in the sport. As of right now, the men are ranked No. 2 in the nation, and the women are ranked No. 13.

But at the end of the day, a lot of what makes ASU golf so consistent is repetition. Being able to go into the practice facility and choose what kind of shot you want to work on is paramount in making a good golfer. Repeating the same motion over and over again until that motion is ingrained in your head and makes you better.

Innovation makes things better, and it has surely set the ASU golf team up for success. 

Reach the reporter at and follow @JeffreyHinkle_ on Twitter.

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Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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