The most significant change in a decade in high level golf instruction and expert golf club fitting is at hand in the proliferation of sophisticated 3-D ball flight and club measuring equipment. Henri Johnson, a South African electronic engineer developed the Flightscope 3D doppler golf radar in 2001 followed by Trackman in 2003 and it fast became the expensive standard of this type of technology in the golf industry.  Having money and reason to use it, equipment manufacturers embraced it first as a way of doing statistical research for development of new products.

For ball, shaft, and club head testing this data proved invaluable.

For ball, shaft, and club head testing this data proved invaluable.

More recently the high end teaching professionals adopted this technology as a major game improvement tool in working with their touring pros.  They have become so popular that you see these $25,000 devices being pulled out as often as iPhones on practice ranges each week on the PGA Tour.  Sean Foley has been quoted as saying he doesn’t need video feedback anymore from his clients, an email with the latest Trackman numbers is sufficient for him to monitor and council the likes of Justin Rose from afar.

An impressive array of statistics on ball flight.

An impressive array of statistics on ball action and flight are now available.

Flightscope has introduced a less expensive version at about $13 K that uses 3-D Doppler Radar tracking technology to do much the same thing.  At about half the cost it brings this sophisticated capability into the wheelhouse of country clubs, club fitters, and independent teaching professionals.  They even have a personal model for about $2,500 which will make it’s way very shortly into the homes and offices of well heeled single-digit players.

The output of these systems is a blend of raw swing and ball flight data, graphic depictions of swing motions and ball flight, and live swing video.  This puts in the hands of qualified teachers support information that can take to a new level teaching instruction and, more importantly, student comprehension.

3-D depiction of your swing path confirms the teacher's diagnosis.

3-D depiction of your swing path confirms the teacher’s diagnosis.

I recently had the opportunity to experience a Flightscope session with Rob Stocke, the director of instruction at the Golf Club of Georgia, whose strong aptitude for integrating this technology into our lesson made me a believer.  In about 30 minutes I confess I was awed by the efficacy of the feedback this system provided in comprehending and applying the changes to my grizzled old swing that he was suggesting.

The Flightscope provides what seems like a couple of dozen stats on every swing and ball flight.  Carry distance, total distance, lateral dispersion, club head speed, ball speed, smash factor, spin rate, spin axis, launch angle, decent angle, height, hang time, roll out, etc…..etc….etc.  And in my session all of this in the comfort of an temperature control  bay hitting into a net.

Ball flight shape and dispersion from the target line is great feedback for the student.

Ball flight shape and dispersion from the target line with numbers to explain it.

It generated graphic depictions of dynamic loft, face angle at impact, 3-D swing path, ball flight, flight dispersion, and other cool stuff to support the numeric data.  It even let Rob integrate real time video to tie it all together.  Used in the proper way by a discerning teaching professional this was anything but overload to the student (me) it was tremendously elucidating.

Dynamic loft-the combination of your club head and angle of attack.

Widen the stance, more weight to the right. more Dynamic Loft at impact, greater ball carry.

In your typical lesson, even if you are a veteran of these affairs, the teacher diagnoses a problem, suggests some minor swing alterations to address it, and you proceed to hit a gross of shots trying to ingrain the changes into your old grey mare swing.  It usually goes like this.

Student:  Hits the shot

Teaching Guru:  How did that one feel?

Student:  That was better.

Teaching Guru:  Yeah, it looked much better….could you feel that difference in your swing path?

Student:  Sure

Student: Hits another shot

A half hour to an hour later the student may have gotten it, or maybe thinks they have internalized it, but is not real confident that it is actually a part of their new swing mojo.

The difference I found with this supporting technology was that after a number of swings we could look at the layered numbers, graphic images, and the video and see the effect of the change in real time.

The face angle at impact was open-with this image no refuting that.

The face angle at impact was open send the shot to the right-with this image no arguing the point.

If the swing adjustment was to fix an impact face angle causing a hook, the graphic image of the face angle at impact, the launch horizontal number, and the video depicting my wrists and shaft angle at impact made the improvement on each shot irrefutable.

Layered data of subsequent swings shows a pattern of improvement in key numbers.

Layered data of subsequent swings shows a pattern of improvement in key numbers.

This is science!  My confidence in the efficacy of the suggested fix became assertive in a matter of minutes.  By the end of the session I felt for sure I got it and I was taking it home with me.

This just scratches the surface on the capability of this technology.  The depictions of successive ball flight profiles, dispersions, and launch, decent trajectories, and swing path silhouettes  from shot to shot are almost déjà vu to the experienced range rat.  No launch monitor or computer video alone is giving you this kind of feedback.

Needless to say that for proper club fitting this type of information in the hands of a qualified club fitting professional should make the match of player, swing, and equipment a shitach made in heaven, or at least the upper atmosphere.

I dare say that within two years there is not a credible teaching professional or club fitter worth their salt who won’t be using this type of technology to help their clients.  It behooves you to seek out the early adopters and get the benefit of this stuff sooner rather than later.

You may not be able to afford Butch Harmon but you might well be able to afford a guy with the technological tools to make it a much more Butch-like experience.

March, 2014


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