Hidden away on West 117th Street in Harlem, the Bridge Golf Foundation is setting local schoolboys on the straight and narrow—and down the fairway. Packed into 2,400 square feet, the facility boasts three state-of-the-art golf simulators, a putting green, a 3-D printer, and space for a kitchen, an office, a bathroom, and teaching areas.
On weekdays from three until six, an after-school program brings students from the Eagle Academy for Young Men of Harlem to the foundation’s “Learning Center.” Upon arrival, the boys receive a healthy snack and then go off to engage in either golf or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) classes.
Tasked with coalescing the plethora of programs within the (relatively) diminutive space was Gordon Kipping, principal of New York studio G TECTS. “We wanted the space to be able to accommodate many things either simultaneously or consecutively,” he said. “I was looking at the programming in visits to the Harlem YMCA where it was already underway. [While the location on West 117th Street was being constructed, the foundation used a YMCA to host programming in its initial months of operation.] I saw the kids taking instruction in golf and in the classroom. I projected how that might take place in the space where we were working. We had considerably less space to work with, so the space is open, flexible, and tailored for the multitude of functions that are taking place in it. It actually works better than a big gym.”
Chairman, cofounder, and principal owner of the Bridge, Robert Rubin, spoke of the “architectural challenge” of making the space a place the boys “would be proud of, and that told the story of the foundation to people that come in off the street, but also something that was attractive to New York City golfers.”
TrackMan golf simulators, capable of compiling 27 different parameters relating to your golf swing (or in this author’s case, 27 things wrong), makes the facility a viable venue for professional golf classes. Being the only facility of its kind north of 42nd Street, the Bridge faces little local competition.
Golf also works its way into the curriculum. Data sent in from the TrackMan can be translated into a means of STEM learning. To cater to the other programs that take place on site, netting that divides the golf ranges can be pulled back to create a much more open feel.
Here, the Bridge can double as a venue for parties, though the primary use is for teaching. Using a collection of Node chairs from seating manufacturer Steelcase (who worked withan educational consultant company to conceive this particular chair), boys can work in a more traditional class layout or in small groups.
Colors found in the Bridge’s logo (G TECTS designed a full identity package for the foundation) also correspond to different areas within the facility, such as the simulator, teaching kitchen, and office spaces.
“The response has been very positive,” said Kipping. “A lot of the golfers who rent out the bays are pleasantly surprised because they are not accustomed to seeing an integrated space designed for golf. The kids love the space and have been making full use of it.”