Sunday, January 24, 2016

Thoughts on Golf Specific Technology

I learned how to hit a golf ball as a young man. Now 50 years later, I will tell you that even though I can hit a golf ball, I am still trying to learn to play golf. For too long a time I believed if I could hit optimal golf shots, I could shoot lower scores. I spent too much time trying to hit my clubs farther or “better”, rather than working on my ability to hit them the distance I needed for the shot required.  I didn’t figure out until it was too late that I could be a great striker of the ball and shoot lousy scores. Most golf instruction today speaks to the concept of hitting the ball. Most golf measurement technology is created to define hitting the ball. Valuable information, but it does not teach you how to navigate the ball around the golf course.

With the advent of ball flight measurement and video technology, we now have the feedback required to build a swing that achieves the optimal numbers for each club. Every time I visit the indoor center where my colleagues teach, someone asks me what the optimal numbers are for a certain club in their bag. I try to tell them they will find that optimal ball flight does not always produce optimal results on the golf course. Also that you can hit a solid golf shot and not get the required results. Most of the shots you face on the golf course will require something in-between the optimal results. So as a player you have to ask yourself. Are you building a swing for optimal situations or one that can handle all situations?

What separates the skilled players from the optimal ball strikers is the ability to play those “tweeners”, the shots in between the optimal results. The great players of the generation prior to mine never worried about optimal results. Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino, would be two examples of players with golf swings that would not produce optimal numbers on a launch monitor, but produce wonderful results on the golf course.  As a former employee of Mr. Palmer, I often wonder how he would have utilized the technology available today. After many hours of watching him practice, I think it would be an educated guess to say if he executed the shot he wanted, like one he liked to hit I call a punch 9 iron, he would then turn to me and say, “How far did I hit that shot”. Then he would try to repeat the results, building a feel for the swing that produced that shot and that distance.  

Winter is the time when many avid players spend time indoors, utilizing launch monitors or simulators. Don’t make my mistake, looking for better numbers.  Spend your time like AP would, developing consistency, and predictability in your golf swing, building something of value to be used on the golf course and not as a goal to be achieved.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Using Ball Flight Technology

I learned how to hit a golf ball as a young man. That said, I am still learning to play the game of golf. If you wish to shoot lower scores it is important to realize the difference between the two. It has become a common practice to include ball flight and video technology in all club fitting and golf instruction. Ball flight and video technology measure how you "hit" the golf ball. They do not teach you how to navigate the golf course.

Many instructors and players use ball flight technology to identify the optimal ball flight for each club. In my opinion this is the wrong plan. The search for optimal ball flight is an inefficient goal in your endeavor to become a better player. The problem is that optimal ball flight doesn't always produce optimal results on the golf course.  There is only one optimal shot per golf club. With the exception of maybe your driver, it is unlikely you can go an entire round and have every shot require the optimal results for the club you have chosen.

What separates the really skilled players from the hitters, is the ability to play the shots in between the optimal numbers for each club. Ball flight and video technology can be quite valuable in learning these shots as well. You have to have knowledge of what measureable parameters a particular shot requires and what combination of club and technique produces the proper "math". In other words the true optimal numbers are determined by the shot shape and distance required, not by the maximum effort with each club.

As an old guy, I am concerned we are taking the information provided by technology too far. I got on the tech bandwagon pretty early. The thing I have learned is that feedback is a great thing, but  it doesn't define the result and more importantly it doesn't define the technique. The target is the goal, and the important numbers are the ones that get you there.