WILLMAR — Given that golf is, at best, played five months out of the year here in Minnesota, Nathan Marthaler often has been forced to explore far-and-distant alternatives in hopes of improving his game.

Marthaler, a soon-to-be sophomore on the Willmar High School boys golf team, travels during the frigid winter months to Minneapolis to get some work done at indoor facilities. But with the official unveiling of the Community Christian School Golf Lab during an open house Thursday, Marthaler now can take his swings just mere minutes from his home rather than embarking on a 190-mile round-trip journey.

“I can see (myself) coming here with a group of my friends and we split the price,” said Marthaler, who began playing golf in third grade. “We can keep getting better over the winter.

“I’ll probably be using everything here to try it out and see what it’s like.”

After helping the Community Christian boys golf team capture the Class A state championship in 2019, the Golf Lab is open to the public for private lessons, supervised practices, rentals, adult programs and junior academies starting next week. The Lab is located behind the school's gymnasium.

Nathan Marthaler, a soon-to-be sophomore for the Willmar boys golf team, takes a putt using the PuttView system at the CCS Golf Lab located on Thursday inside Community Christian School in Willmar. 

Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune
Nathan Marthaler, a soon-to-be sophomore for the Willmar boys golf team, takes a putt using the PuttView system at the CCS Golf Lab located on Thursday inside Community Christian School in Willmar. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

The person in charge of running the facility is Katy Woelfel.

Hired to coach the Eagles girls golf program in 2021 and named Golf Lab manager, Woelfel is a Minnesota native who graduated from Osseo Senior High School in 2014 before playing golf for four years at Bemidji State University. She also was an instructor at Eagle Lake Golf Course in Plymouth and was an assistant golf pro at the Tonto Verde Golf Club in Rio Verde, Ariz.

“It’s a game-changer, for the school of course, but for anybody wanting to work on their golf game,” Woelfel said. “The winter is the best time to work on your golf game, so that you can just play in the summertime and not really have to change your swing a whole lot.”

The Golf Lab has two primary features: two Trackman systems and a Puttview system.

Each Trackman system offers more than just projected yardage and accuracy from your ordinary driving simulator. With projectors hung high above, the system’s multi-sensor technology helps golfers receive in-depth analysis on their every swing and the ball’s flight pattern. Additionally, the system’s software offers golfers the opportunity to play full rounds from more than 80 different virtual courses.

As for the Puttview system, four projectors hang high above an elevated putting green that has eight holes and takes up most of the space at the facility. There’s also a sand bunker and pads off the green where golfers can work on their chipping.

Through the projectors illuminating lines on the green to serve as guide, golfers can identify where the ball will break toward the hole. Through tablets, where the ball breaks can be adjusted, offering golfers the chance to change the level of putting difficulty.

“A lot of students have a hard time following through with aiming at a different spot than specifically at the hole,” Woelfel said. “So if you can see where the ball is going to break, you can program your mind a little bit better. You aim somewhere totally different, but you can trust that your golf ball is going on a different line.”

Aside from its player-development use, both the Puttview and Trackman systems each offer fun side games.

Locker rooms and nearby restrooms will be future additions to a facility that was roughly two years in the making. Now, Community Christian will begin to incorporate golf into its physical education curriculum, with Woelfel serving as a teacher.

“We’ve had some families that are passionate about golf. Their kids have grown up in the school doing golf,” CCS head administrator Tom Tuttle said. “They’re the ones who raised the money. ... It was a real neat blessing that our families helped put this together for the school and community.

“It starts with our younger kids, later elementary and junior high into early high school. The idea is to get them used to it and to love the game of golf.”

For additional information on the CCS Golf Lab, visit www.willmarccs.com/golf-lab.