The PXG STEM Experience

Golf Beyond the Course

Most businesses in the golf space – from tournaments to OEMs – like to promote their charity work.  The PGA Tour tallies nearly $4 billion in “lifetime” donations.  But while money is good, investing time and effort is something on an entirely different scale.  To quote Jay-Z, “Sure, I ponied up a mil’ but I didn’t give my time.  So in reality, I didn’t give a dime.”

This past week, I got to see a company putting their time and money behind a cause that’s making a real difference.  I got to see the PXG S.T.E.M. Experience.

What is STEM and How Does It Connect to Golf?

For those not ensconced in modern educational acronyms, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  And STEM is everywhere in golf, though most people don’t necessarily think about it.  From the physics of propelling a ball with a club to the engineering used to design the latest drivers, golf is wall-to-wall STEM (with a healthy side of psychology).

PXG Partners with Lumity

To bring the connections between golf and STEM to life, PXG partnered with Lumity.  According to Amber Taylor, Lumity’s Corporate & Volunteer Relationship Manager, “[Lumity’s] mission [is] to provide transformational STEM experiences for under-resourced communities in the Chicagoland area, and our goal is to prepare them for lifelong STEM careers.”

Students enroll in Lumity as freshmen and stay with the program for four years.  During that time, they get weekly classroom lessons on STEM topics.  Additionally, Taylor said, “We also like to get them outside the classroom to corporate events, career site visits, STEM talk speakers.  We try to take their interests into consideration for things like job shadowing.”

The PXG STEM Experience

Over 20 student from Chicago Vocational Career Academy gathered at PXG Oakbrook, in the western suburbs, to learn about STEM’s connection to golf, and, for most, to experience golf for the first time.  The event was headed by PXG engineer, Chicago-area native, and Duke alum Caleb Kroloff (above).  Things kicked off with an introduction to the game and the equipment with an eye toward breaking down some of the misconceptions about the sport.

Next, the students broke out to four stations to get in-depth experiences on STEM in golf.  Each lesson was taught by a PXG fitter or engineer and gave students a dual lesson in golf and STEM.  Caleb taught a lesson on COR, dropping golf balls on different surfaces and measuring the energy return.  This was used as a springboard to discuss the different materials that are used in golf clubs and the engineering behind making a club as forgiving and fast as possible.

A second station had students hitting drivers on a launch monitor and calculating smash factor.  While the math wasn’t too challenging for this group, they learned a lesson that most golfers struggle to internalize: centered contact trumps speed.

In the putting fitting studio, there was a lesson that used trigonometry to determine the margin of error in putting.  Students also got to try the putt to see what that 2 degree margin felt like in real life.

The final station, let the students experience the joys of competitive golf with a long drive contest.  This was, predictably, the most boisterous spot, filled with laughter and taunting as the bar kept being raised.  With just a couple tips from the PXG fitters, several of these first-timers hit drives over 200 yards!

Growing Golf and Making a Difference

PXG produced this event with the goals of “reshaping perceptions of golf, fostering inclusivity, and inspiring young adults to explore the opportunities within the industry.”  They checked every box.  Each of the students left with a new enthusiasm about the game of golf and their eyes opened to a world of STEM careers.  All the idle talkers who trumpet “growing the game” should be taking notes.  As Amber Taylor told me, “This was so fun.  We’ve been planning it for four months, and it turned out great.  To see the students take a real interest in golf, especially since a lot of them have never played golf before, they wanted to keep swinging the club.”

Matt Saternus
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