Golf Clubs and Robotics Club: A New Life for Borden Memorial Gym Squash Courts

Due to the renovation of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library, the robotics lab is now located in a Borden Memorial Gym squash court.

The squash courts in Borden Memorial Gym are usually whirring with the sounds of racquets and squash balls. But recently, two of the courts in Borden have taken on a new purpose: transforming into spaces for the golf and robotics teams.

After 12 new squash courts opened in the Snyder Center, many of the courts in Borden have been repurposed. One court now has a golf simulator, installed last spring, which allows the golf team to practice indoors during the off-season and in inclement weather. Another court houses the robotics lab, which relocated because of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) renovation.

The VEX Robotics team, which used to work in a room on the third floor of the OWHL, now uses the robotics lab in the squash courts. Nathan Wang ’19, Co-Head of VEX Robotics, said that the club had been looking for different spaces since the end of last year.

“Towards the end of Spring Term last year, we knew that the library was closing down for this year so we had to look for alternatives, and one of our club members suggested, ‘Hey, they built the Snyder Center, so there’s a bunch of old squash courts around, and they already converted one of them into a golf simulator, so maybe we can take another on,’ ” said Nathan Wang. “We talked to [Michael Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information, and Library Services,] about it, and then he was able to work out a deal.”

Bill Qin ’19, a member of VEX Robotics, explained how the shift in space has come with unexpected challenges, including space, noise, and accessibility.

“Squash is a very loud sport, and sometimes when we’re trying to discuss something… you can just hear the ball… A challenge has [definitely] been space and noise. Space has been very tight, and we’re not used to being constrained to a singular squash court, so oftentimes we would… take over another one, temporarily. Another issue is that new members have found it hard to find the squash courts, because it’s somewhere new people wouldn’t know where it is,” said Qin.

Qin, however, also noted that despite these new constraints, VEX Robotics has adapted well to the new space.

Qin said,“It’s nice and cozy. I think it’s a little smaller than our old home on the third floor of the library, but it’s still nice, and we can still manage.”

Another use of the courts is a golf simulator, which was installed to address the lack of practice options for members of the golf team during the fall and winter, according to Brian Faulk, Coach of Andover Golf.

“We wanted to practice during the winter months. Golf is one of the few sports that we have to go off campus, so [it was installed] to provide access to our student athletes to practice during the winter months when it was cold outside. Also it was something where we could stay on campus, which we thought was important. We also thought it would be a good team bonding exercise,” said Faulk.

Toby Wang ’21, a member of the golf team, said, “I’m using [the simulator in Borden]. I feel like people are going to use it a lot in the winter, and hopefully it’s going to be helpful.”

In addition to providing critical practice opportunities for the golf team, the golf simulator also tracks data such as swing speed and club face angle, which can be used to analyze a player’s areas for improvement.

Faulk said, “One of the cool things of the machine is… there’s a lot of technical data that you can glean and analyze over time which, I think, as students learn more about their swings in games, they can apply on the course.”

Faulk says he hopes that the simulator will help his team improve its skills over the course of the year.

Faulk continued, “The data that we’re able to glean from this, it’s called the track data, [and it’s] for students to be able to perfect their swings mechanically and also get a sense of how far they hit each club. I think it’s certainly nice; it’s a really cool device and fun to play with, so I hope kids have fun.”

Although the simulator is open to the public, it is only available during gym hours and for at least two people, according to Wang. Those who wish to use the simulator who are not on the golf team must meet with Faulk beforehand.