Staying the Course

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INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR GOLF ACADEMY FINDS NEW LIFE

Andrew Summers had big dreams when he bought Bluffton’s Old Carolina Golf Club: The club and golf course would become home base for an academy for junior golfers. The dream is closer to fruition thanks to a recent $2 million renovation that has reimagined the International Junior Golf Academy and set it apart from the competition.

A former horse barn has been transformed into the 20,000-square-foot Performance Training Center and equipped with cutting-edge technology like the Swing Catalyst 3-D Motion Plate, which analyzes students’ swings; a 5,000-square-foot indoor putting and chipping center; and five hitting bays equipped with Power Tees, TrackMan, and K-Motion vests.

IJGA’s on-site amenities also include a 3,500-square-foot fitness center, a large recreation center, a learning center with five classrooms, and Fuel, a dining hall where students and staff enjoy meals together.

And that’s just the indoor facility.

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The former ninth and 18th holes at Old Carolina have been developed into the 18-hole Himalayas putting green, which covers nearly three acres, and a nine-hole par-3 challenge course that can be played in two directions for a total of 18 holes. Both outdoor elements are modeled after Summers’ beloved St. Andrews Links in Scotland — the “home of golf” and where he honed his skill and love for the game.

Next door to the newly reimagined Old Carolina, IJGA’s partner golf course Pinecrest Golf Club also has made improvements that benefit the academy, expanding its range to 90,000 square feet with multiple tees, putting and chipping greens, and labeled stations designed to support the IJGA’s pod-based system of coaching.

“This is where the students do their range work, with two or three coaches in each pod managing the students’ development, each with the full complement of stations, which allows students to individualize their training program,” said IJGA director of instruction Jonathan Yarwood. “It’s a unique setup.”

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Today, Yarwood said, top golfers are more athletic than ever and in peak physical condition, which is why IJGA’s new amenities are so important to developing young players.

“All of the best players have played multiple sports, which is key to playing a dexterous sport like golf,” Yarwood said. “Take care of the process and development skills, and the outcome will take care of itself. We work with the latest technology, which shows us the facts of what’s going on — like having an MRI and then receiving a precise prescription.”

The new amenities soon will be available to a new generation of golfers with the launch of IJGA’s new after-school program this month.

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“There are clubs that offer golf lessons for juniors, but no one has a dedicated program after school where the kids can come and get lessons and training,” said IJGA marketing manager Beth Patton, who is rolling out the after-school program. “This is a wonderful place for 6- to 12-year-olds to get into the game.”

IJGA also is planning to move its student athletes — who attend classes at Heritage Academy on Hilton Head Island — out of rental apartments in greater Bluffton and onto the IJGA campus. The academy has been approved to build more than 50 homes in Old Carolina over the next several years. In addition to IJGA’s excellent golf facilities, the family-oriented neighborhood has a small nature preserve, where residents, jog, cycle and walk their dogs. Summers enjoys this aspect of Old Carolina, and has an evening ritual of driving his golf cart through the property with his beloved Coton de Tuléar, Snuffles.

“It would be so much better to have students living on campus with easy access to all of these incredible facilities,” Summers said. “Although our primary work is in supporting students in their academic and golf development, and in finding the right college fit for them, a wonderful outcome of the golf academy is the exceptional peer group of students from around the world who share the experience of making a great sacrifice to come to IJGA, show courage in studying in a foreign language, and all have great ambition to be a professional golfer or at least have an exceptional college golf career.”

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IJGA OPEN HOUSE

Play golf for free at IJGA’s grand opening event from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 3 at the academy’s Old Carolina campus in Bluffton. Try out the new par-3 Challenge Course and Himalayas putting green, tee off in the Performance Training Center’s indoor hitting bays, practice your short game and enjoy a cookout — at at no cost. Just be sure to bring your own clubs.