Ever wonder whether you're getting a decent workout at the range?

If you spend much time at the range, like most avid golfers, you're bound to begin to realize the limitations of hitting off the mat. If you're anything like me, you're constantly in search of some space where you can either tee it up with a real tee, or hit off real grass somewhere at the range and many facilities provide this type of area as a benefit to their customers. Part of the reason I do this, as you would expect, is to try and recreate the most realistic scenario or environment with which to practice. Obviously, the closer you can simulate the real thing, the more effective your workouts will be. Sometimes you can't find that real turf area at your range. It might not exist at all, or as is normal at a range I frequent, it's constantly under repair. Enter the FairwayPro.

Developed by Jim McFarlin, the FairwayPro Ultimate Divot Simulator was developed to address common problems many golfers face when practicing, including the absence of a down-and-through motion that can not only more accurately simulate a swing, but can prevent injuries as well. The FairwayPro really simulates the way it feels to hit off a fairway and take a divot. Featured for the first time at this year's PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida, the FairwayPro received a lot of attention and was featured in the New Product Center amongst other venues. Some of the published benefits of this great new tool include the fact that the turf pad slides forward when the ball is struck with the club, which reduces shock to the golfers body. Additionally, the FairwayPro gives better feedback to golfers who are practicing at the range, as many mis-hits on the green carpet can actually turn out to be decent shots and are not giving you the information you need in your practice session. A mis-hit on the FairwayPro, by contrast, will create much less force behind the ball as the pad slides forward more accurately recreating the feeling and results of a poorly executed swing.

The construction of this unit is well thought out. For starters, there's a handle and panel assembly that not only makes the unit easy to transport, but provides an added measure of stabilization as it can slide under an existing golf practice mat or pad. Additionally, this handle and panel assembly is reversible for left handed golfers. The spring loaded sliding mechanism that the whole unit is built around is patented and built for years of rugged, heavy use. The premium turf used on the sliding launch pad will generally experience less wear as it moves with the club head, so there is less resistance. It's thick enough to hold a regular tee for driver practice and is ultimately replaceable if you do happen to wear it out. Finally, the casing is built from high-strength aircraft aluminum, which will stand up to years of use and abuse while being relatively light in weight.

During the live testing phase of our review, our first challenge was that the FairwayPro did not fit well under the octagonal, sunken mats at the closest range to our office. Therefore our first experience with it was limited to placing it on top of the existing mat, and using our bodyweight as the primary stabilization. In addition to some occasional slippage, this also created a situation where the ball was approximately a half to three-quarters of an inch higher than it would have been in a normal scenario. Definitely not an ideal situation. While we quickly determined we needed to find a traditional range to properly test this product, or at least a traditional mat scenario, we felt this was important to mention for those of you who may be considering it for your local range. Another thought this triggered for us was, if you plan on using this unit at home, you're going to want something to use it "with." Again, some type of pad or mat that can be laid over the stabilization platform will be important - and should be of similar height relative to the height of the FairwayPro unit.

After settling in at a different range, however, we were able to get down to business with the FairwayPro. This unit is slick. The re-loading action of the grass pad is pretty amazing and although the construction is mechanical, when you actually hit down and through the ball it really does feel like you're hitting off the fairway. Even though the unit is mechanical, it doesn't "feel" mechanical when you strike the ball. The recoil or reloading sound of the spring and mat is really the only clue that you're using a machine as a platform. With the FairwayPro, gone are the days of looking around at the range for a suitable place to practice on natural turf - as long as you can find a place to position the unit, you'll be good to go with a much improved workout session for your swing. I hit ninety balls off the FairwayPro with various clubs, and I clearly did not have that joint stress that can sometimes occur after a long session at the range. In addition to using just about any club in your bag, practicing shots where you need to work the ball can also be done on the FairwayPro. You can even get a tee in the mat if necessary, but be prepared for the occasional stabilization issue.

Overall, the unit is well designed and built to last. The feedback gained from a practice session with the FairwayPro is invaluable, really. Poorly struck shots lend themselves to a complete loss of force due to the nature of the unit to give like the ground would when you take a divot. This means that contrary to what you might experience on a normal practice mat the FairwayPro will not let you get away with a clubhead bounce that still gives you enough momentum to skull the ball out to the 200 yard marker. Similarly, those of us that may have developed a tendency to "pick" the ball off the carpet would be better served by a practice unit that let's us go down and through on the ball - something you just can't do on a standard driving range mat. While these habits are hard to break, the FairwayPro can be the tool you use to practice them. We think the unit is pretty ingenious, although the price will set you back $229.95. If you're serious about your game, then you're quite likely serious about your practice sessions as well. You'd spend more than that without thinking about it on this year’s newest driver to save a stroke or get 10 more yards. Wouldn't you do the same to better your swing? At this price point, we think some folks will, and some folks won’t – although we’d certainly recommend it based on our experience with the review unit.

P.S. For those of you who are a little more cost conscious, please be aware that if you register today at the site, you will receive an email as soon as the FairwayPro is available. In addition, you will receive a limited-time $30 discount valid until June 30.

P.S.S. We've just been informed by Jim McFarlin, that the folks at will be offering an inexpensive light weight 18" X 36" stance mat (same height as FaiirwayPro) for home use so people won't have to look around to much, or pay a lot for a matching mat.

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