Oregon Golf Academy

Golfers get schooled at Pronghorn's Jack Nicklaus Academy near Bend

By: By Liz Brown

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Beautiful Bend, Ore., has broad appeal as a year-round vacation destination, and it’s no wonder. The area boasts 300 days of sunshine a year, the nearby Cascade Mountains, abundant outdoor adventure options and excellent golf courses. One of the best is Pronghorn, a golf community located just outside of Bend, renowned for its Jack Nicklaus signature and Tom Fazio championship courses (the latter is available to members only). The property’s Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf, which opened in 2007, enables clients of all ages not merely to play the game, but to take it to the next level.


The teaching academy makes use of the latest high-tech tools. // © 2009 Pronghorn

The Jack Nicklaus-developed curriculum at the academy utilizes a comprehensive approach that goes beyond merely analyzing a golfer’s swing. It covers mental training, technology, physical assessments and a philosophy focused on impact, ball-flight control and shooting lower scores. The academy’s holistic wellness approach (deemed the Pro360 system) emphasizes nutrition and fitness, as well as mind/body health. And the instruction doesn’t end when clients go home; there’s follow-up in the form of e-mails with fitness tips, video analysis and feedback to help them continue on their path.

Data geeks especially will enjoy the high-tech offerings housed in the coaching studio, but golfers of all kinds can benefit and have fun doing it. Nicklaus-proprietary video-capture software — integrated with a 1,200-point pressure/balance mat and launch monitors — tracks club and ball speed, spin rate, launch angle, distance and more. The academy also features a TaylorMade MATT system, which captures and analyzes golf swings, enabling staff to better understand a client’s swing motion and fit him or her for clubs.

Additional analysis and learning tools include a putting lab, which captures and times the motions of the putter in 3-D and plots the data into user-friendly charts and graphs, and a mobile interactive training program combining 3-D and video analysis with real-time feedback.

Of course, without top-notch instruction, all the equipment and data in the world won’t help you play like a pro. Fortunately, Nicklaus Academy staff members possess a wealth of experience, a passion for the game and unflinching patience. Director of instruction Mike Lewis boasts more than 20 years’ teaching experience and has numerous accolades to show for it, including best teacher rankings from Golf Digest. Lewis has overseen the academy since its opening and helped put together the technologies in use at Pronghorn.

Worldwide director of instruction Mike Malaska is listed 28th among Golf Digest’s 50 Greatest Teachers in America and is included in Golf magazine’s top 100 teachers in America. (If he looks familiar, it’s probably due to his appearances on magazine covers and the Golf Channel.) The staff also includes a sports psychologist, a short-game specialist and a master club-fitting pro.

When it’s time to try out new skills, golfers can hit the firm- and fast-playing Jack Nicklaus Signature course. Surrounded by 20,000 acres of federally protected land, mountain peaks and abundant juniper, sage and pine, it’s hard to imagine a more pristine setting upon which to play the game.

Not that golf is the only thing happening at this 640-acre property. The grand-lodge-style, 55,000-square-foot clubhouse offers Northwest cuisine and wines at Chanterelle restaurant, as well as panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Outdoor and indoor stone fireplaces and a four-season lounge with decks outside the clubhouse are ideal places to gather, relax, read and soak up the sun.

Tennis, swimming, casual dining and kids’ activities are available at the adjacent Trailhead Lodge, while a spa and wellness center offers a respite and rejuvenating treatments. Pronghorn Adventures can arrange off-site excursions, as well.

At the end of the day, clients can always just hole up in their comfy Residence Club guestroom, and daydream about the next day’s perfect round of golf or high-desert adventure.