There are six Sega Genesis units tucked into a corner, and to the delight of the adolescent set that uses them, the 10-minute maximum is not strictly enforced. But the youngsters' enthusiasm pales in comparison with that of the grownups who are taken in by the swing analyzer and the golf simulator.
The analyzer is every muddled hacker's dream. A sophisticated series of infrared sensors breaks down any golfer's swing and displays the information on an adjacent computer screen. Club-head speed, angle of impact, the path of the club and point of impact on the face are all revealed in an enlightening display of swing mechanics.
The golf simulator is even more impressive. A would-be golfer can play any hole from 13 world-class courses, including Pinehurst Number 2, Firestone Country Club and the Belfry. At the press of a button the image of the hole is beamed onto a 9-by-10-foot high-resolution projection screen. Participants then whack actual golf balls toward the screen, and a computerized tracking system takes some 60,000 measurements during the split-second that the ball is in the air, determining, among other things, its speed, rotation, distance and flight path. The shot's outcome is then beamed onto the screen with a potentially depressing realism that includes splashes in the water and ricochets off trees.
The 19th Hole can be set up in 10 to 12 hours and folded up in four to live, into a 53-foot trailer. It has appeared at 25 tournaments this year and will wrap up the season at the Tour Championship at San Francisco's Olympic Club this week. There is no charge to use any of the displays, though voluntary donations are taken for local charities.
Notice to all wannabe PGA Tour stars: Forget foreign tours, mini-tours and the college tour. The Nike Tour, formerly the Hogan Tour, has become the place to hone your game.
"Five years from now we are going to see the PGA Tour filled with Nike Tour players," says Tom Lehman, who played that tour in 1990 and '91. "And in 10 years, Nike alumni are going to be the dominant players on the PGA Tour."
Lehman isn't just a giddy alumnus gloating about his alma mater. The PGA Tour already has a lot of Nike alumni. Of the 125 players who made enough money this season to keep their PGA Tour playing cards for 1995, 25 have Nike experience.
Nike alums are already among the dominant players on the PGA Tour. This season three of the Top 10 money winners on the Tour—Lehman (third), Jeff Maggert (ninth) and Mike Springer (10th)—are Nike alums, and eight of the 42 events on the Tour were won by former Nike players, including the U.S. Open ( Ernie Els), the Memorial ( Lehman), the BellSouth Classic ( John Daly) and the Greater Greensboro and Milwaukee opens (both by Springer).
Despite its plethora of talent, the Nike Tour has existed in relative obscurity since it began in 1990. The only event ever televised was this year's Nike Tour Championship, on ESPN. That will change in 1995, when The Golf Channel will broadcast from 10 to 18 Nike events.