Saving Strokes with Science

With so many limits and restrictions being placed on golf club manufacturers these days it's amazing to see what really smart people can do, within the legal lines, to help us save strokes. This is a prime example from the engineers at Ping. Watch...

What the people at Ping found was that the depth of the grooves on the face of a putter played a tangible role in determining ball speed and thus how far the ball travelled off the face. They also knew that off-center strikes tended to travel shorter, so they used the groove depth to actually help maintain the intended ball speeds on off-center strikes.

All of the six balls pictured above were struck with a putting robot and the exact same stroke. The three circled/striped balls were hit with a variable depth grooved putter, with one being hit out the center, another 0.75" out the heel and the other 0.75" out the toe. The three non-circled balls were struck in the same fashion, but they did not have the advantage of the variable depth grooves. Notice the massive difference in dispersion!

We all hit off-center putts. We all despise three putts. The answer seems pretty simple to me! Please know, this is not a sales pitch for Ping putters, but before you go out and buy your next golf club learn about the science behind the design.

Thanks for reading.

Which Driver Shaft Length?

testshaft
testshaft

When I tested my old college driver a few weeks ago my interest was piqued by how close my swing speed with the 43.5 inch club was to my current 45 inch driver. I have heard that altering the shaft length of your driver by an inch can/should alter the club speed by up to 4 mph. This called for a test.....

Using TrackMan my idea was to test the same golfer, clubhead and golf ball, but change the shaft length. I took my current driver, which is the Titleist D3 8.5 degree (B1) with a 45" Motore F3 70 gram stiff shaft and tested it alongside the same head (B1) with a 43" Project X 82 gram stiff shaft. Essentially a driver shaft versus a 3 wood shaft. I had recently came across a 42.5" well kept old Wilson Staff JP persimmon driver with a steel shaft and decided to include that in the testing.

persimmon
persimmon

I hit 11 shots with each club and eliminated the data for the poorest shot with each club. I was using fresh Titleist NXT Tour golf balls and it was a perfect 80 degree day with little wind. The results were astounding!

With all three clubs my tendency was to hit up on the ball with a slight in to out club path. My swing plane was very consistent from shot to shot (which surprised me a little actually) and the clubface was almost always slightly open at impact. This path and face relationship led to an average shot shape of a slight draw. Here are the numbers:

45" Driver Shaft

  • Club Speed 101.3 mph
  • Ball Speed 151.6 mph
  • Spin Rate 2697 rpm
  • Launch Angle 11.3 degrees
  • Carry 245 yards
  • Total 272.2 yards
  • Height 76 feet

43" Three Wood Shaft

  • Club Speed 101.1 mph
  • Ball Speed 150.0 mph
  • Spin Rate 2100 rpm
  • Launch Angle 14.0 degrees
  • Carry 249 yards
  • Total 278.7 yards
  • Height 84.3 feet

42.5" Persimmon Driver with Steel Shaft

  • Club Speed 93.4 mph
  • Ball Speed 141.2 mph
  • Spin Rate 2115 rpm
  • Launch Angle 10.3 degrees
  • Carry 206.4 yards
  • Total 246.4 yards
  • Height 48 feet
shafttestavg
shafttestavg

I couldn't believe it! I hit my driver with a 3 wood shaft further, higher, with less spin and above all else - straighter. Take a look at how much straighter: (yellow - driver shaft/purple - 3 wood shaft/ white - persimmon)

dispersion
dispersion

I also totaled the distance (after roll) the ten shots with each club finished from the center line:

  • Persimmon - 182 feet (average 18" off line)
  • Three wood shaft - 234 feet (average 23" feet off line)
  • Driver shaft - 315 feet (average 31" off line)

On my Andrew Rice Golf Facebook page I asked readers if they had any experience with shortening the shaft of their driver and here are a few of their responses:

"I just went to a 44" and am loving it! Longer then my 45.5" and straighter too!" GT

"Went to 44" and more consistent with no loss in distance" AvS

"44" Callaway...more fairways AND more distance!!!" CL

"Went to 44" and I hit it more solid further and straighter" PW

"44" this year. I agree it is far better. Middle of the face more often." SF

"I found it made me less steep through attack so I have lowered my spin rate and launched it about a degree higher" AB

By the way - most of the above quotes are from full-time professional golf instructors. So what can we learn from this research?

Having tested a few golfers with shorter shafts it seems to me that each golfer has a 'threshold' length - an ideal length that gives them the optimal combination of speed and accuracy. For some that threshold could be 46"  while for others they perform best with a 42" driver. The only way to find out is to get yourself with a teacher or fitter that has access to Trackman and various shafts.

Another point to note is that while the 3 wood shaft had a slightly slower club and ball speed the shots were longer...why? Notice how the launch angle was higher while the spin rate was lower. A perfect illustration of the term 'high launch low spin'. Launch the ball higher to get more out of your tee shots.

persimmon1
persimmon1

What can we learn from the 'persimmon' data? While that shaft was even shorter than the 3 wood shaft it was substantially heavier. I believe the 3 wood graphite shaft was almost 50 grams lighter than it's steel counterpart which would explain the almost 7 mph difference in club speed. The size, or lack there of, of the head was intimidating in the beginning, but as I went through the shots I became more comfortable. I believe that practicing with a smaller clubhead like this can only be beneficial in the long term for any serious golfer.

My feeling standing over the shorter club was better and almost every golfer I tested reported the same sense. The club feels easier to control and many golfers have reported a feel that they can 'get through' the shot better. I really felt like I could smash it without it going off line - a nice feeling!

Physics says that longer shaft + lighter shaft = faster club speed = more distance. On paper that might be true, but when the human element is involved everything changes. The next time I tee it up it will be with a substantially shorter shaft in my driver...but that's just me!

What Can Your Driver Tell You?

One of the first things I do when I teach a golfer for the first time is I go through their clubs and take a look for certain tendencies as we're having our introductory chat. I have seen so many drivers that look like the one in this article that I had to write about it and share what your driver is attempting to tell you!

The first place to look for answers as to what might be going on is to check the face....

 Driver Face

Driver Face

Notice here how the black paint is being worn off the bottom of the face and there are numerous impact marks on the upper portion of the face where sand is caught between the ball and the face.

Secondly, inspect where the crown of the club meets the face....

 Driver Top Edge

Driver Top Edge

Here, the wear pattern indicates numerous pop-ups.  A few balls must have almost been missed to get them that far up on the crown.  Keep in mind that the only way to hit a pop-up is to have a descending blow where the top edge descends below the equator of the ball.

Finally, take a look at the sole of the club....

 Sole of the Driver

Sole of the Driver

It is apparent here that the club is making contact with the ground on almost every shot.  The attack angle is very much down - to such a degree that both the paint and lettering are being buffed off the sole of this club.

The golfer who owns this club hit down on the ball with an attack angle of -11 degrees.  Keep in mind that optimally we would like to hit up on the ball for maximum efficiency.  I am pleased to report that he is working hard at his new attack angle and he is fairly comfortable in the -3 degree range - not perfect but better. Oh, and he just might extend this poor clubs lifespan at the same time.

Clearly I have selected an extreme example to show you here, but take a minute and inspect these three key areas on your driver.  I believe you will learn a fair deal about your angle of attack and why your golf ball is doing what it does.  Keep in mind that the only time a driver should ever contact the ground is when you are addressing the ball.  It should never contact the ground after the first foot or so of the swing. The only marks on it should be tee marks running along the sole and perhaps a ball mark or two in the center of the face!

Here are a few resources to help you hit more up on the ball:

Getting More Out of Your Driver

Titleist's New 915's vs the Old 913 Driver

We recently received the 915 stock for our fitting cart here at Berkeley Hall and I thought it would be a good opportunity to test both the new 915 series drivers - the D2 and D3 against the older 913 series D3 driver I've used for the past few years. I was excited to see if there are any positive changes with the new line. 

The test I conducted involved the same shaft in each club (44.5' Motore Speeder VC 6.0 S) along with the same setting (B1) and the same loft (9.5). I hit seven shots (kept all shots) with each club on TrackMan. Here is the data:

Old Titleist 913 D3 9.5 with 44.5' Motore Speeder VC 6.0 S (B1)

Speed 99.8 - Smash Factor 1.48 - Launch 11.9 - Spin 2523 - Carry 226.7 - Total 248.6

New Titleist 915 D3 9.5 with 44.5' Motore Speeder VC 6.0 S (B1)

Speed 98.9 - Smash Factor 1.48 - Launch 13.1 - Spin 2341 - Carry 226.8 - Total 247.5

New Titleist 915 D2 9.5 44.5' Motore Speeder VC 6.0 S (B1)

Speed 100.5 - Smash Factor 1.47 - Launch 12.8 - Spin 2478 - Carry 232.9 - Total 254.3

My thoughts and observations:

  • The first thing I noticed was the appearance of the newer club - from the golfer's perspective the clubhead has quite a different look than Titleist drivers of the past. The toe seems a little more pronounced and the head didn't seem quite as sleek as previous models. It didn't look bad, just different.
  • The next thing that caught my attention was the sound. Definitely louder than the 913 model, but not to the point where it was offensive. 
  • As you can tell the spin rates fell right where I anticipated them to fall. Word on the street is that the 915's spin the ball less and the results illustrated that.
  • I did notice that mishits with the 915's seemed to do marginally better than commensurate mishits with the 913 model and there were a few mishits in each set.
  • I was surprised to see the difference in launch angle as I had anticipated that the 915's would launch the ball lower - not so in this case! 
  • Ball speed and smash were very similar for the three clubs.

As I looked over these numbers I noticed a few factors that are vital for longer tee shots - higher launch, lower spin and better performance on mishits. I liked the new club and also liked the fact that Titleist did not change the sleeve on the new model so older shafts can easily cross over into the 915 clubheads.

It does appear that Titleist has finally stepped up to the plate and joined Callaway, Ping and TaylorMade in the driver game.

To Mill or Not to Mill?

My three test subjects...

I must be honest and write that I did this test in the hopes of proving a few people wrong. Instead, I have proven myself wrong. With my research for the Wedge Project I put my "stake in the ground" on what I believed regarding milling on the clubface. All the tests I performed using TrackMan and various wedges always showed that a wedge without a milled face generated less spin (albeit slightly) than wedges with the fine "corduroy" look of milling between the grooves.

I looked up a person I believe to be very knowledgeable when it comes to equipment, Tom Wishon. I read all that he had to say on the matter of grooves and surface roughness and his findings aligned with the results I was seeing in my tests.

Based on what I had available to me I had done my homework and had placed my "stake in the sand" in favor of milling on the clubface. It just made sense to me. Until this....

David Neville and the crew from Vokey Wedges have been kind enough to let me have access to a few test wedges. They sent me six wedges of which I chose to use three for this test.

No grooves and no milling

No grooves and milling

All three wedges have the same grip, shaft (DG S200), length, grind (M) and a stated loft of 56 degrees. I did not check their weight, actual loft, lie angle or bounce measurements. I hit 60 shots off a mat (to eliminate ground interference) with the no groove, no milling club and 60 shots off a mat with the no groove, milled club. I then eliminated the 15 lowest spinning shots to leave the remaining 45 highest spinning shots with each club. I used slightly used ProV1X balls and attempted to carry each shot 50 yards. I wiped or cleaned the clubface between every 3rd or 4th shot. Here are the results:

Titleist SM4 TVD M 56 degree Chrome Fly Cut without Grooves or Milling

Titleist SM5 56.10 M 56 degree Raw Surface without Grooves/Milling Only

As you can see the club that had surface milling or roughness actually generated less spin - 6009 RPM to 6229 RPM. While the difference between the two is negligible and most golfers would have a hard time telling the difference between the ball flight of one versus the other (myself included), the result is significant to me in that I firmly believed the outcome would be reversed.

Keep in mind this is a test involving one golfer hitting a limited number of shots to one distance. The results might be a slightly different with multiple golfers at different distances, but I don't believe different enough to sway the outcome of this test.

I recently posted this quote by Martin Palmer on Twitter: "The secret to mastery in any field is to forever be a student." Today my "stake in the sand" moved - I was a student and I learned something. I think it is vital as a coach, or even as a golfer, to place your "stake in the sand" and firmly believe in a method, approach or theory. Stand by it and argue in its favor. That is, until you uncover sound evidence or reasoning against your viewpoint - then you pick up your stake, admit you were wrong and adjust your approach.

As a point of interest I wanted to see how a standard clubface might interact with the ball. I hit 25 shots (keeping the best 20) with the Titleist SM4 TVD M grind that has 17 standard grooves and a milled face. Here are those results:

Titleist SM4 TVD M 56 degree Black Oxide 17 Grooves with Surface Milling

As you can see this clubface with both grooves and surface roughness generated the highest spin rates of all three clubs. This leads me to believe that grooves play a larger, more important role on cleanly struck shots than I originally thought.

As I continue to learn and work towards providing my students with what I believe to be the best current information and knowledge available I know that I will continue to be wrong. The blessing is that each time I am wrong I will learn, adjust and be less wrong than I was before.

Get a Grip...On the Ball!

Grip the Road... What do racing tires have in common with wedge play in golf? Read on because there might be a lot more to this than you might think.

It's all about traction or friction, or more simply put - grip. The more the tires grip the road, the faster the driver can go and the more our clubface grips the ball, the lower the flight and the more the ball spins. Let's look at how these tires work and see if we can draw a few parallels to how the specialized clubface on our wedges interact with the golf ball....

On a dry, sunny day day a race car will have tires that are wide, soft and completely grooveless. The tires are wide and grooveless in order to get as much rubber in contact with the road. Any grooves simply decrease the amount of traction the tire exerts on the road. They are softer than normal tires to increase traction. In rainy conditions the drivers will switch to tires with grooves (as seen above). The grooves on the tires channel water away from the road and thus allow the flat portion of the tire to grip the road cleanly. Grooves reduce the amount of rubber in contact with the road, thus reducing traction.

Grip the Ball...

Club manufacturers now make their top tier wedges with a milled, legally grooved clubface. The milling on the clubface represents the softness of the racing tire as it allows the cover of the ball to settle into the mini grooves, even on these partial shots, and friction is increased. Our clubface needs grooves because we encounter many different lies during a round of golf. Many of those lies dictate that matter (grass/moisture) will be trapped between the face and the ball, greatly reducing friction. Grooves are not on the clubface for spin, but primarily as a channel to keep matter from being caught between the face and ball thus decreasing grip.  Race car drivers have the luxury of changing tires for rainy conditions, while golfers do not have the luxury of changing their clubface for a variety of lies.

If we hit all our pitch or partial wedge shots off a tee using a premium ball and there was no way any grass or moisture could interrupt friction I actually believe a non-grooved, yet milled clubface would actually spin the ball as much or slightly more than the current grooved clubface designs. Good luck trying to convince your playing partners to go for that idea, but isn't it helpful to know how the clubface is really designed to interact with the cover of the ball?

A milled clubface will increase friction in a similar fashion that softer racing tires will, but those milling lines also wear out like a softer tire does. If you are a competitive golfer have a practice set and a tournament set of wedges. This way you'll always have that lower, spinning wedge shot when it matters most....

Ultimate Spin Wedge Shootout | Andrew Rice Golf

Swingbyte vs TrackMan

swingbytevstrackman I was recently contacted by Swingbyte and asked to test their device to see how the data it generated held up against data generated by TrackMan. Please remember this is not a contest and I am not saying that TrackMan is perfect (I'm not sure there is such a thing), but I do believe TrackMan is the benchmark when it comes to reporting club and ball data in golf and I was interested to see how a $150 swing aid held up.

Swingbyte is a swing analyzing device that attaches to your club just below the grip and sends data to a mobile phone or tablet via Bluetooth. With a price point of $150 it provides a tremendous amount of data and sifting through the information on the App might be a little confusing at first, but with patience you will eventually find what you're looking for.

Having used TrackMan for a long time one of the notable things I've found with passionate golfers is that the direction the clubhead is travelling through impact (attack angle and club path) is generally quite consistent. When testing/comparing other devices to TrackMan, whenever I see a dramatic change from one swing to the next in either attack angle or club path numbers a red flag goes up. With the Swingbyte I hit pitching wedges, 7 irons and drivers and I primarily keyed in on club speed, attack angle, club path and face angle. Here are my ratings out of a possible 5 stars:

swingbyte

Club Speed:

If you purchased the device to simply know your club speed you are ahead of the game. It is important to enter detailed specs from each club into the App, but once you've got that done the feedback is surprisingly accurate. All the numbers I saw were within 4 mph of where TrackMan reported. (4.5 out of 5)

Attack Angle:

It is important to know that TrackMan and Swingbyte report attack angle from slightly different portions of the swing and thus differences should be expected, however I thought the device did a fairly accurate job most of the time. With the irons I felt the numbers indicated were close enough to "actual" in order to be actionable. It did seem that attack angles with the driver were a little too ascending. Their were also a few crazy numbers reported, but as you use the device more you'll easily be able to recognize any outliers. (3.5 out of 5)

Club Path:

These numbers were a long way from what TrackMan was reporting and I would not put too much into this particular parameter.  For example with the driver TrackMan reported my average club path on multiple shots was 0.2 degrees out to in, while Swingbyte indicated that every swing I made was from in to out with a range of 1.7 degrees to 13.6 degrees from in to out. (1 out of 5)

Face Angle:

Even with TrackMan I seldom give much credence to the reported face angle as it is too easily influenced by off center hits and I most often use the reported number to determine where the ball was struck on the face. The original Swingbyte reports face angle at impact relative to where it was aligned at address. Assuming you have aligned the device on the club correctly, start with a square clubface and no twisting occurs, you might get an actionable reading - otherwise, I'd move on. (1 out of 5)

The problem Swingbyte has faced is that it could not latch onto a target - it only registered where the device was aligned at address. This means that any data regarding club path and face angle is based around where the device was aimed at address. The Swingbyte 2 addresses this issue. Founder and CEO, Alex Pedenko had the following to say:

You can now point your iPad and it will know what your target is and figure out all the numbers based on that. So now you have true, accurate numbers about what you did, not just in general but relative to the target line, relative to where you want it to go.

I am hoping that these upgrades will make this already useful device even better. While the device is not perfect (what is?) and should not replace quality coaching I feel that with a few practice sessions any golfer can start to gain a better understanding of what they need to do in order to make progress.

Ultimate Spin Wedge Shootout

The Line Up We should all be looking to spin the ball around the greens. Which of the current crop of wedges will give us the best chance to do that? If you have read any of my previous research on wedges you will know that friction between the face and the ball plays a huge role, not only in generating spin, but also in lowering trajectory - both vitally important for control.

Milled Face

The most important part of the clubface of any wedge is not the grooves, but the texturing of the flat areas between the grooves. Keep in mind that the primary purpose of grooves is to channel "matter" away from being caught between the flat areas and the ball - they are not in place to create spin. When you look carefully at the flat areas between the grooves of your wedge you should see some fine milling which looks like corduroy to me. Most club manufacturers will mill the clubface of their premium wedges and it makes a massive difference to the control and ball flight.

The idea behind the test was to see which wedge generated the better grip between face and ball. I had four very new 58 degree wedges available for the test:

  • Titleist Vokey SM4 with a DG Spinner shaft - conforming grooves with standard mill pattern on face
  • Ping Gorge Tour with a DG Spinner shaft - conforming "gorge" grooves with standard mill pattern on face
  • Callaway X Series Jaws CC with a stock steel shaft - additional conforming grooves with no apparent milling on face
  • TaylorMade ATV with a KBS shaft - conforming grooves with two-way mill pattern on face

You may notice that the wedges had differing shafts - I obviously would have preferred to have had all the clubs built to the exact same specs, but that was not feasible for this test. Apologies to all Cleveland Golf fans - would love to have had a Cleveland wedge in the mix, but did not have a new version. I had four golf professionals each hit four shots with each wedge. All shots were hit off a mat in order to limit friction being interrupted by matter being caught between face and ball. Titleist ProV1 golf balls were used and each shot had to land somewhere between 40 and 60 yards (ideally at 50 yards). The clubface was cleaned often even though it never appeared to need it. The "normalize" feature on TrackMan was off.

Here are the results:

TaylorMade ATV 58

 

Titleist Vokey SM4 58

 

Ping Gorge Tour 58

 

Callaway X Series Jaws CC 58

  • ATV 7365 rpm average
  • Vokey 7210 rpm average
  • Gorge 7193 rpm average
  • Jaws 7163 rpm average

As you can see the ATV wedge led the way in generating the highest spin of the four - albeit by a slender 2%. If I was a betting man I would have bet the ATV would generate the most spin as I have always loved the two-way milling treatment on the face. I would also have placed the Jaws wedge at the bottom of the pack, as no matter how many groove edges come in contact with the ball, there is way more flat surface area contacting the ball and it should be milled.

If you do take one thing from this research let it be the following: A fresh wedge with a clean, milled clubface will allow you to generate more spin and a lower trajectory - both important factors in controlling your golf ball around the greens. 

Thanks to Zack, Mark, Rick and Joe for your help with this article!

The Hot Drivers and Shafts for 2013

It's always nice to get an unbiased opinion from an expert. As a result I recently spent some time with friend and clubfitting guru Ian Fraser from Modern Golf in Toronto Canada, discussing what he deemed to be the top driver and shaft options available for 2013. Ian has no affiliation with any one club or shaft manufacturer so I really value his opinions. Here are his selections for the top shafts available this year:

UST Mamiya Attas 4U

  • higher launch and low spin
  • stronger mid-section helps to increase ball speed

Graphite Design Tour AD BB

  • BB - blue bullet
  • designed to produce less spin with a lower launch

Fujikura Fuel

  • designed with feedback from ENSO technology
  • lower launching and lower spinning shaft
  • excellent price point

I also wanted to hear Ian's take on the new crop of drivers that have been on the market for a few months now and he had some interesting things to say. Here are his choices:

Titleist 913 D2/D3

  • improved design and ball speed over the 910 series
  • D2 and D3 different in size, yet similar in spin rates

TaylorMade R1

  • massive adjustability with very high ball speed
  • slightly heavier than the R11S

Ping G25

  • highest MOI of any driver available and best paint job!
  • slightly less spin and higher ball speed than the G20

I suppose my optimal driver would one that had the looks of the Titleist 913 D3, the stability and matte black finish of the Ping G25 along with the adjustability and ball speed of the TaylorMade R1....one can dream!

Please be aware that going out and simply purchasing and combining one of the above options might not be the best thing for you. I would recommend getting with a professional clubfitter who uses TrackMan technology to find the appropriate head and shaft match for your particular swing. You should be looking for the optimal launch and spin characteristics that match your swing speed.

Read THIS to know where you should be launching and spinning the ball based on your current club speed.

TrackMan vs Flightscope

My good friends Tim and Simon Cooke from GolfPrep on Hilton Head Island recently brought their new Flightscope X2 out to Berkeley Hall. Our objective was to learn more about the numbers that TrackMan and Flightscope are putting out and we wanted to get a sense of how well one machine performed relative to the other.

I have pondered the best way in which to convey my findings and have finally committed to just simply jotting down my thoughts. My intent is certainly not to create controversy or confrontation - these are simply my own honest impressions from the day. Please also keep in mind that I am a TrackMan owner and supporter and no matter how I attempt to remove my bias I doubt whether I am able to remove all of it...

  • Prior to the test I had been having trouble with my TM unit giving unusual spin numbers every 30-40 shots, something it had never done before. As a result I had contacted TM support and was informed that I more than likely had a bad USB cable. I was also informed that the classic indicator of a bad cable would be a "double" or "half" spin. Sure enough during the test TM gave out three spin numbers from the 60 shots we hit that were right around double what the FS reported. I have since replaced the cable and have yet to see a spin rate that seems odd.
  • As you peruse the following thoughts keep in mind that good players , which all three of the test subjects were,  are very good at controlling the direction the clubhead travels (angle of attack and club path) from shot to shot. The direction may not be ideal, but better players are consistent with clubhead direction. That means that dramatic changes in either of those categories, along with sizable changes from shot to shot in club speed, were going to draw my attention and raise a red flag.
  • Since running the tests I have spoken to many "in the biz" people about radar interference. It was mentioned that the machines, when set up side by side as we had them, will occasionally give corrupted data due to the influence of the outside radar. I have not run enough tests to ascertain if this is or is not the case, but during the testing the FS seemed to give a few numbers that were incorrect and this could be due to the TM being directly alongside the unit. The TM did not do anything different to what it normally does as it seemed to be unaffected by the additional radar.
  • If a shot off turf has a decent size divot TM will only provide ball data and no club data, whereas FS reported both ball and club data for just about every shot hit off the ground. On the occasions that FS reported club data and TM did not the numbers did not look correct - meaning the attack angle and/or club path seemed to be too far from what the subject would normally generate. We hit numerous 50 yard pitch shots and TM did not offer any club data while FS reported for most of these shots. The problem was that the club path was said to be almost 15 degrees from in to out along with a spin rate of 14,000 rpm - just not happening! I actually preferred that TM did not provide club data as I would rather have no information than have to explain away improper information. That being said I would love a radar that provided correct club data on all shots.
  • With both units unplugged and PC's powered down the TM (2:05) was aligned and ready to roll in about half the time of the FS (4:16). I was told that with an iPad the FS can be aligned and operational in far less time.
  • We noticed that both machines reported different Swing Plane numbers when they were moved (flipped positions) relative to the same golfer. I have tested this before and the changes in data are due to the hardware in the TM II. Each machine appeared to provide better data when the golfer is hitting shots aligned with the center of the unit - something that was not possible when running two machines.
  • We tested the ability of each unit to report gear effect, by logging the point of contact on certain drives and then comparing each units Face to Path and Spin Axis numbers. The TM reported gear effect as I would have anticipated and most of the time FS reported along similar lines. However the first shot we examined, a big heel hit, was actually reported by FS as being a slight toe side hit. TM reported a Face to Path of -9.3 and a Spin Axis of -5.4 while FS reported a Face to Path of -2.2 and a Spin Axis of -11.0
  • I was amazed at how closely aligned the Spin Rate numbers were for each machine. Unless there were dramatic differences the spin rates were almost always within 100 rpm's.
  • There seemed to be quite a few instances during the testing where the attack angles were not even in the same ball park. I had nothing to help me determine which machine was correct, other than the aforementioned fact that better players tend to be very consistent, and all too often it was FS reporting wide ranges of variation from the player.

Keep in mind that my intent is merely to report what I observed and not to offend anybody or any entity.  I could tell that Tim and Simon were a little concerned with the results and they went home and performed additional tests. I am happy to report that the FS performed much better without the influence of additional radar and when shots are hit from the center of the unit. Tim's follow up comment to me was:

I believe that side by side testing, although seeming to be a good idea, does not work.  Clearly there was some radar interference at work as the inconsistent numbers were not reproduced in stand alone tests.  Maybe the only way you can really compare the units is with extreme high speed cameras with the units working independently of one another.

I would have to agree with Tim's sentiments and I have started to make plans to have each unit test the same golfer on the same day, but without the potential interference of outside radar.

You know I'll report back on that one....

Looking for a 'Low Spin' Driver?

This summer I had the privilege of meeting expert club fitter Ian Fraser from Modern Golf in Toronto, Canada. Ian is the most knowledgeable and passionate fitter I had been around and before long I was peppering him with all my questions and concerns regarding equipment.  One question that came up early in our discussions was spin rate off the driver. We both commented that it was far more common to encounter golfers with too much spin than too little and that led to my question, "Were there any drivers or shafts that stood out from the rest in their ability to reduce spin rates?" Remember that the optimal spin rate for just about all club speeds with the driver is somewhere between 1800-2200 rpm when supported by the correct launch angle.

With Ian's expertise I have compiled a list of the three commonly available drivers that currently do the best job at reducing spin. Keep in mind that that I said 'currently' in that, as with technology, this is a moving target and this list could change very soon.

  • The TaylorMade R-11 S: this club is far better than the original R-11 which did very little in reducing spin. According to Ian the R-11 S also ranks right up there in ball speed - she's a hot one!
  • The new Ping Anser: the newest of the three drivers, my testing shows that this may perhaps be the best at reducing spin.
  • The Callaway Razr Fit: certainly the simplest, most classic looking of the three heads. This driver also received a nod from Ian regarding a hot face.

As a side note - the new Cobra AMP driver often came up in our discussions regarding both low spin and hot heads and it seemed to be a favorite among many of my students this summer. I would give it "honorable mention" status.

Obviously very soon after discussing low spinning heads I quickly turned to shafts to see what kind of help golfers could get in that department. Here are Ian's recommendations:

So if you're a golfer who has access to TrackMan or similar radar device and you know your spin rate with the big stick is too high look into one of the above combinations to get you a few welcome additional yards off the tee. And of course, should you be anywhere near Toronto look Ian up....you will not regret it!

Ian and the crew from Modern Golf will be visiting Berkeley Hall in January, so should you be interested in a fitting please contact me to schedule a time.

Driver Test: Old vs. New

My wife encouraged me to clean out the garage the other day and I happened upon an old driver I used in college. I still remember how cool this driver was - it was the latest and greatest and even had a titanium shaft! When was the last time you saw one of those? Just for kicks I placed it up alongside my current Titleist driver and was shocked at the massive difference between the two - the older club looked smaller than my current three wood! How could I have possibly played well with this mini club? This got me thinking about a TrackMan test.

For the record the smaller club was a TaylorMade Burner Plus 9.5 degree with a titanium X flex shaft and my current club is a Titleist D3 8.5 with a Motore F3 70 gram graphite S flex shaft. There is a fairly substantial 1.5 inch difference even though both clubs were standard length in their day. I am not sure about the weight or the true frequency/flex of each club as I did not have the appropriate equipment to check those measurements.

For the TrackMan test I hit 12 shots with each club and deleted the data for the two worst shots. I noted that the attack angle, club path, swing direction and plane were very similar from club to club.

The primary differences seemed to be:

  • Club speed 99.7mph vs 101.8mph - I believed that this difference would be greater due to the large difference in length of shafts.
  • Ball Speed 145.7mph vs 152.4mph - I put this down to the fact that the smaller head led to more off-center hits and thus a decreased average ball speed and smash factor.
  • Point of contact - there was a noticeable tendency for me to strike the bigger club in the heel. This led to more shots missed to the right due to gear effect and an increase in the spin rate 2455rpm vs 2895rpm.
  • Height - even though the smaller club launched the ball slightly higher the apex height was lower due to less spin and ball speed.
  • Carry and total distance - the smaller club carried the ball almost 17yards shorter, but with less spin and a flatter land angle rolled further to only finish just over 10 yards short of the bigger club.
  • Dispersion - the smaller club had more shots finish further from the center line due to a much smaller clubface and substantially lower MOI.

Here are the TrackMan generated dispersion charts (yellow is the smaller club) and averages:

(click to enlarge)

I was amazed at how small the difference between the two drivers, total distance wise, there was. Going in to the test I would have thought that there would be a 15 yard difference at least. I expected the smaller club to spin the ball less and lower the apex which it did, but I was truly amazed at how little distance I lost with it. I did notice a much greater tendency to hit the ball outside the sweet spot with the smaller club and that led to some fairly aggressive gear effect draws and fades.

Driving is not my strong suit and I am always looking to keep the ball in play off the tee. Armed with this new knowledge I am going to try a shorter shaft in my current driver head and see what that does for my fairways hit statistic. I also plan on practicing with the older club - I think it is vital in improving ball striking to practice with smaller headed clubs.

I also think this test might also illustrate that the majority of the distance gains we see on the PGATour today are not equipment based, but primarily due to the ball.....your thoughts?

The Science Behind Superb Wedges: Part II

In my quest to better understand pitching, chipping, and more specifically the low spinning wedge shot I needed to watch different professional players hit a variety of shots and be able to track the data from each shot.  My objective was to understand how friction or grip between the face and the ball influenced the launch angle, height and spin rate.  I have named the measurement of this grip and it's influence on the golf ball - friction launch.

I need to explain some fairly detailed physics as to how I measure friction launch, so bear with me.  The golf ball always launches somewhere between where the face is angled and where the clubhead is travelling - on both a vertical and horizontal plane.  The ball also always launches closer to where the face is angled than where the clubhead is travelling.  Where the ball launches between the face angle and the clubpath is primarily determined by club speed and friction between the face and ball.  I needed to measure this friction in order to see how it effected the trajectory and spin on wedge shots.

With the help of Mark Reilly and Edoardo Molinari, we came up with the following formula to determine friction launch:

(Dynamic Loft - Launch Angle) x 100/Spin Loft = Friction Launch

This formula informs us where the ball launches between the face and path. The percentage indicates how far below the face angle the ball launched. A friction launch of 0% indicates that there was absolutely no grip at impact and the ball launched in the direction the face was angled at impact.  A friction launch of 50% would indicate that the ball launched directly between the face angle and the clubpath and the grip was exceedingly high.  By the way - neither of these are possible under normal conditions. The smaller the percentage, the higher the launch and lower the spin and vice versa.

With all the various situations I tested I needed to keep certain factors constant in order to be able to detect why the trajectory and spin rate of each shot was altered.  My constants were TrackMan - to record the data; the golf club - a Titleist Vokey SM4 54 degree wedge; and the distance of each shot studied - 50 yards.  If any ball landed short of 40 yards or longer than 60 yards it's data was thrown out.  The factors I controlled were the quality of the lie and playing surface, the grass and dirt in the grooves and on the face and the type of golf ball.

Here are the average results attained from three professional golfers hitting 10 shots each in 7 different situations:

1. Clubface packed with dirt and grass/ProV1/off lie board (to eliminate additional matter)

  • Friction Launch 17.9 degrees/Spin Rate 4408/Launch Angle 34.9 degrees/Height 31.9ft/Carry 51.6yds

2. Clean clubface/ProV1/off lie board (to eliminate additional matter)

  • Friction Launch 28.1 degrees/Spin Rate 6501/Launch Angle 28.4 degrees/Height 25.1ft/Carry 50.3yds

3. Wet clubface/ProV1/off lie board (to eliminate additional matter)

  • Friction Launch 28.1 degrees/Spin Rate 6564/Launch Angle 28.7 degrees/Height 25.7ft/Carry 50.4yds

4. Clean clubface/ProV1/off turf/preferred lie

  • Friction Launch 31.9 degrees/Spin Rate 7178/Launch Angle 26.1 degrees/Height 22.3ft/Carry 48.9yds

5. Clean clubface/hard range ball/off turf/preferred lie

  • Friction Launch 28.8 degrees/Spin Rate 6625/Launch Angle 27.6 degrees/Height 25.1ft/Carry 50.8yds

6. Clean clubface/ProV1/off a new mat

  • Friction Launch 30.4 degrees/Spin Rate 6859/Launch Angle 26.8 degrees/Height 23.3ft/Carry 49.2yds

7. Clean clubface/ProV1/Off a tee

  • Friction Launch 30.6 degrees/Spin Rate 7259/Launch Angle 27.6 degrees/Height 24.8ft/Carry 51.2yds

Edoardo Molinari was also kind enough to submit his TrackMan data to me from the 10 shots he hit with his 60 degree wedge and 10 more with his 56 degree wedge: (the following shots were hit with premium golfballs, off preferred lies and cleaning the clubface between each shot)

60 Degree Wedge

  • Friction Launch 22.9 degrees/Spin Rate 6048/Launch Angle 36.2 degrees/Height 34.8ft/Carry 51.0yds

56 Degree Wedge

  • Friction Launch 24.4 degrees/Spin Rate 6046/Launch Angle 34.2 degrees/Height 31.5ft/Carry 50.5yds

NOTE: After a few weeks of practice Edoardo has improved his 10 shot average with his 60 degree to a spin rate of 8700rpm and a Launch angle of 26.1 degrees! There is something to this...

The deductions I took from the above tests are as follows:

  • Shots out of the rough, first cut or even into the grain lies are always going to launch higher, spin less and as a result fall out the sky faster and roll more after landing - no matter how good you or your wedge is.  There simply is too much 'matter' involved between face and ball to create optimal friction.
  • A wet clubface actually makes very little difference in determining how much friction, and thus spin, is imparted on the ball.
  • A premium golfball makes a noticeable difference with the wedges.  Not only will it add distance off the tee, but it will also allow you to hit better and more predictable short shots.
  • If the rules allow you to tee the ball up - go ahead and do so.  You increase your ability to place the clubface cleanly on the back of the golf ball.
  • Hitting pitch shots off mats is a fantasy world and can only increase the 'illusion of competence'.  No bad lies, nothing between the face and the ball, minimal consequence to heavy shots...
  • For pitch shots, higher lofted clubs do not spin the ball significantly more than the next wedge down (60*vs56*). They do, however, get the ball to stop slightly faster due to a steeper landing angle.
  • Average friction launch for a 50 yard shot is around 25%.  The lowest friction launch was out of the poorest lie (18%) and the best results came from an ideal fairway lie, a new and clean wedge along with a premium golfball (32%).
  • The quality of the lie is the most important factor in allowing a golfer to control the trajectory and spin of the wedge shot they are about to play.

Let's take a look at the factors that influence friction launch:

The Golf Club

  • The sharpness of the top edge of the groove will effect spin, yet most of the spin on a shot comes from the roughness of the area between the grooves.

  • In my opinion the wedges that provide the highest amount of spin are the models that have the roughest surface between the grooves - the new TaylorMade ATV and the Nike Vr Pro wedges seem to do an excellent job with 'between groove' treatment.
  • An excellent way to improve spin with your current wedges is to have the face sandblasted with normal aluminum oxide sand.   This will provide a rougher, more 'grippy' texture to the face.
  • The number of groove edges that come into contact with the ball also effects backspin.  In pushing the limit of the groove rules manufacturers can now put five grooves on the surface of the ball at impact versus the traditional three.
  • Grooves channel away some of the moisture and matter from rough that gets between the ball and face - but seldom all of it.
  • The grooves and face of your wedges should always be very clean - even when you're practicing.  Keep a towel or brush handy to clean the club after every few shots.
  • If you are serious about competitive golf I would recommend having a tournament set of wedges and a set you use in practice. Every shot you hit wears down the face which reduces friction at impact.
  • In fact Gary Player would ensure that his caddie never cleaned his wedge after hitting a sand shot - the sand particles on the face helped to create more friction between the face and ball for his next shot.

Turf Type and the Quality of the Lie:

  • When you are into the grain you will often get grass caught between the ball and the face, thus reducing grip.  A down grain shot will 'cut' very little grass and thus allow for clean contact and increased grip.
  • Different turf types are thicker and stronger and thus, even at fairway height, support the ball enough to keep it up and away from the grass.  This makes it easier to have a higher friction launch factor.  If you've ever played off kikuyu grass you'll know what I mean.
  • When laying up on a par five understand the value of high friction launch - lay up in the fairway and don't be greedy.

The Swing

  • This is where I am now focusing my efforts.  There does seem to be a method that DOES NOT involve a more open face, increased speed, higher launch or a cutting action that seems to produce a lower trajectory with a much higher spin rate. Stay tuned.....

Read part one of this article HERE

The Facts on Shaft Flex

In the last decade all club manufacturers have invested heavily in club fitting and customization.  Each company offers a fitting cart where  golfers can decide on the clubhead, shaft and specifications that work best for them - in a very short amount of time.   They have stressed the importance of having equipment that fits along with building fitting carts that make it easy to find the right match.   The real question is - "How serious are the club companies about getting you into equipment, and more specifically a shaft, that fits your game?"

At Atlantic Golf Club we do a tremendous amount of club fitting.  So much so, that we have our own DigiFlex machine, which allows us to test each shaft to find it's frequency.  For years we have known that you simply cannot trust what the shaft label indicates - if it says its an S (stiff) flex, it could be anything other than an X (extra stiff) flex.  In fact in all our testing over the years we have only found one shaft that was actually stronger than it showed - a TaylorMade fairway wood.  All the other non-matches have been weaker.  Each year we test the new demo clubs and shafts and label them accordingly.  This year I have decided to share our findings with you.

It is important to keep in mind that each company has their 'stock' shaft offerings and various 'upgraded' or non-stock options - our results include both.  Our results also include tests done on 'whole' clubs and the individual shafts that can be interchanged with certain heads.

The Club Manufacturers we tested:

  • 34 Titleist golf clubs and shafts: 10 (29.4%) matched the stated flex and 5 out of the 10 matches were non-Titleist shafts
  • 6 Cleveland golf clubs: 0 (0%) matched the stated flex
  • 7 Ping golf clubs: 1 (14.3%)  matched the stated flex
  • 6 Cobra golf clubs: 2 (33.3%) matched the stated flex
  • 56 TaylorMade golf clubs and shafts: 10 (17.9%) matched the stated flex and 5 out of the 10 matches were non-TaylorMade shafts
  • 32 Callaway golf clubs and shafts: 11 (34.4%) matched the stated flex and 5 out of the 10 matches were non-Callaway shafts
  • 5 Adams golf clubs: 0 (0%) matched the stated flex

Steel vs Graphite:

  • Steel shafts won this showdown easily, albeit only with a 40% match rate, while graphite shafts only matched a woeful 20% of the time.  It seemed that when a steel shaft did not match it was off by only a few cycles per minute (CPM), whereas the graphite shafts seemed to range from a stiff flex that was truly a regular, all the way to a stiff flex that matched a ladies flex.  A shaft that performed remarkably well was the Memphis 10 steel shaft from Callaway and made by True Temper - it had 6 out of 7 matches.  If you want to be certain of what you're getting (or at least in the ball park) go with steel.

Stock vs. Upgraded

  • In both the steel and graphite categories the overwhelming winner here was the "upgraded" category.   An upgraded shaft almost always costs more and their match rate was above 50% - in fact most often when they did not match they were almost always a few CPM's from being where they had indicated on the shaft label.  When it comes to graphite try to stay away from shafts that include both the club manufacturer and shaft maker's company name - this is invariably a lower quality shaft and is thus substantially cheaper for the manufacturer to install.  Get the real deal and always upgrade.

The overall findings showed that only around 25% of the time are you actually getting what you think you're getting when it comes to the flex of your shaft.  Chances are that if you're looking for a regular flex, then you are more than likely going to receive a senior flex and so on.  So what can you do?  The first option is to visit a world-class fitting operation like Hot Stix or Cool Clubs and have them fit and build you a set - not necessarily

the easiest or most cost effective way to get the job done.  The second option involves talking to the better golfers in your area and asking who they would go and see locally regarding club-fitting.  They will most often send you to a trustworthy fitter in your area.  The third option (and while I'm not a fan of this you'll certainly improve your odds) involves purchasing clubs that indicate they are stiffer than what you really need - hey, they have a decent chance of matching your required flex.

So, while the club companies appear to be concerned with ensuring a proper fit, the results of our little study indicates they might not be as concerned as we would like them to be.  My advice is that when you are ready to purchase new clubs, find the best fitter you can, go with steel shafts for your irons (and they do make viable lighter weight options these days) and always upgrade on the graphite options for the bigger clubs.  This way you can be fairly comfortable that you are getting what you paid for.

I would like to thank Patrick Bindel, Joe Downey, Matt Foster, Patrick Carter and Robby Fenton for their help with this article.  Great stuff guys!

Which Golf Ball?

Golfers often ask what ball is best for their game or swing speed and my answer is always the same: "How much are you prepared to spend?"  And it really is that simple folks.

As with anything in life you get what you pay for and if price is no object, then the ball for you is the Titleist ProV1 or ProV1x.   For every man, woman and child this is the best ball out there!  Just check the PGA Tour ball count each week.  A dozen will run you in the range of $48 - so no, they are not "giving them away".  If your swing speed is under 105mph with the driver then you should more than likely be using the ProV1 - if above, then the ProV1x. The balls have a slightly different dimple pattern with the ProV1x encouraging a higher and later peak trajectory and the ProV1 pattern being for a more penetrating trajectory in the wind.

To learn more go to titleist.com

If price is a concern, then you could do a whole lot worse than the Bridgestone E6. A dozen of these beauties cost in the range of $27.  This is a Surlyn covered, three-piece ball with a dimple pattern that's designed to generate high initial velocity and a shallow landing angle. The soft mantle works to reduce spin, particularly on driver shots, and thus is often described as the softest multilayer ball on the market.  This is an inexpensive multilayer distance ball that has good feel on and around the greens.

To learn more go to bridgestone.com

Bubba's Pink Driver

The pink driver used by Bubba Watson to win the Masters is going to market.

Two days after Watson won the Masters, Ping said it would sell 5,000 limited-edition G20 drivers with the pink shaft and head. The drivers sell for $430, and Ping said it would donate 5 percent to a fundraising campaign called, "Bubba Long in Pink. Driven by Ping."

As part of the campaign, Ping donated $10,000, along with $300 for every drive Watson hits over 300 yards this year.

Watson, meanwhile, launched "Bubba & Friends Drive to a Million" in January with hopes of raising $1 million for charities this year.

The club is a pink Ping G20 (7.5°) with a tipped extra stiff Grafalloy Bi-Matrix shaft. The grip is a jumbo Ping with a reminder that is set 20 degrees open!

I handled a replica of Bubba's driver at the PGA Show earlier this year I had never held a golf club that was this "big"!  Even if it was rightie I would never have been able to hit this behemoth of a club - particularly with the grip set so open.

TrackMan Driver Fitting Day

On Wednesday February 29th I will be hosting a TrackMan Driver Fitting Day at Berkeley Hall. Each fitting will last fifteen minutes and the cost is only $20 for members and $25 for non-members. You will learn what your current club speed, ball speed, launch angle and spin rate are and most importantly - what you can gain from a driver that fits! I have a few remaining slots open in the morning.

Titleist has agreed to offer a 10% discount on all Titleist drivers purchased at Berkeley Hall.

Please call Andrew Rice at (843)247-4688 to schedule your appointment.

Making Sense of TrackMan

As a golf instructor or club fitter you have always wanted the best for your business and clientele. You have always wanted TrackMan as part of what you offer and you have decided to make the financial commitment. Congratulations - you are now a TrackMan owner. Yet, there are bills to pay, golfers to cater to and nobody is aware that you have just made a significant upgrade in what your clients experience when they come to you. Now what? How can you set out to recoup this major cash outlay?

I have a plan! A plan for all new TrackMan owners to not only recoup the cost of their new technology, but to greatly increase their business and market share. My plan involves running 3 TrackMan themed events where you use the unit in different ways to attract a new and varied customer base. Each event is themed towards either, instruction, club fitting or longer term coaching. It is this new customer base that will make others aware of what you offer and essentially fund your new purchase.

Event 1 (Instruction) - Can You Get Better In 20 Minutes?

The purpose of this event is to get the word out and notify as many local golfers as possible that they have access to this new technology. The shorter time frame allows all golfers to afford their time with you, while giving them a taste of what TrackMan can do for their game. My experience shows that a teacher can comfortably work 20 golfers into the schedule for this type of day. All golfers are looking to hit the ball longer and this format appeals to that motivation.

For this event you offer golfers the ability to come out and spend 20 minutes with you using Trackman. The focus should be primarily on distance, but could easily shift to accuracy should certain golfers be long enough or efficient enough already. I had the most success when I titled my event, "Gain 10 yards or It's Free!" Each golfer brings a 7-iron and a driver and the catch is that if they don't get longer or straighter in 20 minutes they don't have to pay! There is enough time for each person to hit a few shots and for you to get a feel for their strengths and weaknesses. Offer drills and changes (hitting more up with the driver, straighten out the club path etc.), record the data and compare the averages from before and after. Upload a TPS report for each person and be sure to send them a thank-you email after the event with a few video drills and a certificate for a discount off their next private session with you.

Read the article regarding my experience HERE

Print the Reservation Sheet HERE

With this event you have the potential to generate $1000 per day and share your technology with over 20 new customers.

Event 2 (Club Fitting) - Fifteen Minute Driver Fitting

The purpose of this event is to expose golfers to what you can offer them in regard to club, and particularly, driver fitting. Most golfers have heard about driver fitting, but very few have ever had access to the type of data that TrackMan presents. Once again this event channels into the motivation so many golfers have to get longer.

For this day you would need as many drivers/shaft combinations at your disposal as possible. Golfers would sign up for a fifteen minute fitting where they bring the driver they currently use. Have the golfer hit five to eight shots, deleting any poor or extreme outliers, and evaluate their data with them. Build a driver for them that would improve either launch conditions, spin rate or swing speed (lighter) and have them give it a try. Provide each participant with an informational card showing their current club speed, ball speed, launch angle, spin rate and also what they should optimally look for in each of those categories. Be sure to collect all participants' email addresses so you can upload a TPS report for them. As a follow up, offer each golfer a pre-arranged discount on a driver from the club manufacturer you are affiliated with and include a coupon for a future lesson.

Print the Driver Fitting Card HERE

Print the Reservation Sheet HERE

With this event you have the potential to generate $500 (not including any equipment sales) per day and reach more than 32 golfers.

Event 3 (Coaching) - TrackMan Combine Session

The more I have my students use the combine the more I realize what a fantastic barometer it really is. The purpose of this type of TrackMan event is to illustrate how your new technology can assist serious golfers in making long term improvements. This event will will help your clients understand what it takes to get better and how you, as a coach, can help them along that journey. Invite golfers to participate in an early and late season TrackMan combine session. Charge one fee and stress the importance of attending both combine days. Offer two different days in order to give students an option as to when they might be able to come out and take the test. Explain how the timing of the two combine sessions (early season vs. late season) will give them the entire season to work towards improvement.

Analyze each players results following the test and send them the combine report. As you follow up with each participant be sure to map out attainable goals for them and what you believe they have the potential to score on the final combine. Offer a series or package of lessons that are focused on helping them upgrade their weaknesses and ultimately improving their golf. A good idea is to mention that if they sign up for a series of lessons they will receive the final combine session for free.

Print the Reservation Sheet HERE

With this event you have the potential to generate $1000 and share your skills with up to 10 very serious new clients.

If you run each of the above mentioned events twice per year for three years you will generate a total of $15,000 and cover a large portion of your financial outlay - and that is without a single student returning for more!

Please keep in mind that every TrackMan owner will find themselves in a unique situation regarding the people they can and cannot teach and how they can market to potential students. I teach at two world class private courses - one with 650 members where I have the ability to teach both members and non-members and the other with 200 members where outside teaching is not encouraged. Obviously if you are in a situation where you are at a public facility, resort, golf academy or smaller private facility your potential number of students in each of the events will vary.

Regarding the dollar amount that you charge for each of the events - the amounts I have listed are simply suggestions. Keep in mind that all of these events are primarily for marketing purposes and should not provide the "backbone" of your TrackMan business. They are positioned to get the word out that you now offer this amazing technology.

It has been noted that each event is billed at a different hourly rate with the first event being billed at $150 per hour, the second at $80 per hour and the combine event at $50 per hour. My reasoning is as follows:

  • For the first event there is the potential that you may have students who do not need to pay the lesson fee and the hourly rate has been raised accordingly.
  • Being a coach and not primarily a club fitter I run the second event to maintain a positive relationship between myself and the club I work for. I have found that half of all the people who participate purchase a new driver which helps the golf professional and the club manufacturer that I am affiliated with....along with now being aware of what I can offer them.
  • The combine event is operated solely with the goal of attracting the better, more serious golfer and the objective is to sign each participant to a series of lessons. The series of lessons I offer each student is valued at either $750 or $1000 and I have experienced an 80% conversion rate.

A word on marketing - use every available venue open to you to inform every single golfer in your town or city that you have a TrackMan. Be aggressive and remember that the more frequently golfers hear about your new product the more likely they will be to come out and see what it's all about.

I have not raised my pricing due to owning a TrackMan. With the current state of the global economy I have not been as booked as I would like and feel that I need to increase my lesson base before raising prices. I believe that purchasing a TrackMan unit has communicated to my current and future students that I am very serious about providing them with the best learning experience I possibly can.

I often get asked, "How much have revenue have you generated from TrackMan?" This is a very difficult question to answer and that is why you will not find any data providing answers. Coaches and fitters who purchase a TrackMan tend to be leaders and their business is continually growing. As a result it's very difficult to put a finger on TrackMan and say that the technology added x or y to the bottom line. I do know that it has not only taught me a tremendous amount about teaching, but also how to be a better promoter and marketer.

Regarding the above events - please do not view them as a big money maker. While you will earn a decent wage for each of them the primary purpose is to convert each of these new clients into a regular lesson taking student - take advantage of your time with each of them and let them know how much you, and TrackMan, can help them.

TrackMan is a fantastic teaching tool and with a little marketing savvy it can, and should be part of what every quality instructor, fitter and coach offers to their clientele.

2012 PGA Show

I have just returned from the annual PGA Show in Orlando, Florida and I am pleased to share that the economic side of the game appears to be in fine shape. In previous years I have left the show feeling somewhat dejected, yet after this year's experience I am really excited for what 2012 holds.

Every year I look around for ideas that might be game changers - something fresh, new and different. I also keep an eye out for what I call "headscratchers" - something so far out it makes me wonder how it could ever help a golfer get better. Here are a few things that piqued my interest:

Swingbyte

This tiny, lightweight device attaches to the shaft of your club from where it captures your swing and transmits it to your smartphone (Apple or Android) or tablet. It offers relatively accurate data on swing path, speed and launch angle amongst others, but the developer did stress to me that once swing speeds exceeded 90mph the accuracy got a little "sloppy". It also allows you to share the information with your coach or golf buddies. This product comes highly recommended for the vast majority of golfers out there ($149; swingbyte.com).

Snag Golf

Face it - kids absolutely love to hit balls at a moving target and they love it even more if that moving target happens to be you. If you're looking to give your kids or grandkids a reason to play golf and have a ball while doing it - all you have to do is suit up in the sticky suit and let the fun begin. It's a velcro suit that, when used with Snag's sticky balls and plastic golf clubs, turns you into a moving target thats far more appealing than even the guy in the range picker. Big time fun factor ($230, snaggolf.com).

SuperFlex Bands

SuperFlex offers a great Golf Kit that includes five exercise bands made specifically for golfers Each kit includes an exercise program that's designed to help with mobility, stability, flexibility, core strength and more. Anyone here need that? ($99; superflexbands.com)

Iliac Leather Head Covers

These leather headcovers have been around for a while, but there is nothing that makes a statement quite like a customized set of these protecting your big sticks.  I have some (that I paid for!) and every round I play somebody asks about them. I love old school and these have old school written all over them. For the golfer who has almost everything (from $58 ea; iliacgolf.com)

How about these two items? I have a hard enough time making putts with a flat face - how does anybody suppose I'm going to make more putts with a putter that has a curved face?

This second "headscratcher" I simply called the Putting Guillotine! Is this device really going to help me on a downhill left to right slider on the final green for the win....? I rest my case. While I selected these two items to show you, there were many more instances where ideas, products and teaching aids caused me to simply turn and walk away.

The best booth at the show had to go to TaylorMade - again. Here's an interesting stat for you: TaylorMade currently controls a 55% share of the metalwood market. If you compare to when Titleist golf balls where at their peak - they only controlled a 48% share of the ball market! And remember - golf clubs cost a lot more than golf balls.

Best Clothing Booth - Travis Mathew - the old convertible was a great touch.

Best Hosiery (socks!) - Kentwool - they claim to be the world's best golf sock and I have no reason to dispute that. These socks rock!

Best Teaching Technology - Swing Catalyst - I may be biased here, as I own one, but this technology is ahead of it's time.

As per usual there were many golf personalities there and I happened to see Scotty Cameron, Michael Breed, Lee Trevino, Paula Creamer, Wally Uihlein, Gary Gilchrist and Erik Barzeski amongst others, but I'm still trying to figure out what Flava Flav was doing there? If that's not a "headscratcher" then I don't know what is?

If you have not had an opportunity to visit the PGA Show then this video might give you an idea of what the experience is like. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Can You Get Better in 20 Minutes?

I recently ran an interesting promotion where I offered golfers an opportunity to gain 10 yards if they participated in a twenty minute TrackMan session. The cost was $50 and if they didn't gain the yardage their session was free. This meant I had to be on my game and I had to make simple and effective upgrades to get paid...it's not often a golfer can take a lesson and only have to pay for the lesson if they see immediate results!

My reason for running the promotion was primarily to create interest and excitement in the new TrackMan unit and to give the Berkeley Hall membership a peek at what this technology can do for them.

I had eighteen golfers, eleven men and seven ladies sign up and I encouraged each of the participants to focus on the driver. In case a participant wanted to work with an iron I had them each bring their driver and a seven iron along.

When hitting the driver I try to get my students to have an attack angle of somewhere from 1 - 5 degrees up along with a club path of somewhere from 1 - 5 degrees from in to out.  I prefer that most golfers hit out and up on the ball creating a high launch, low spin trajectory with the driver. We all could benefit from a few extra yards, no?

Here is a compilation of points of interest from the day:

  • The average swing speed for the men with the driver was 83.9mph. The top speed achieved was 96.1mph while the slowest was 70.1mph. Keep in mind that this event was promoted as a "distance" event and as a result the golfers who came out tended not be the longest of hitters.
  • The average speed for the ladies with the driver was 65.6mph with the top speed being 73.4mph and the slowest being 60.3mph.
  • Before any changes were made 11 out of the 18 golfers hit down on the ball at an average of 1.6 degrees with the driver.  After the changes had been made the same 11 golfers averaged 0.6 degrees up on the ball. Not bad...
  • Before any changes were made 7 golfers (a surprisingly low number in my opinion!) hit from out to in at an average of 3.3 degrees with the big stick. This means that their club path was travelling 3.3 degrees left (for a right hander) of the target at impact. After adjusting, the same 7 golfers averaged 0.8 degrees from in to out - a very positive change.
  • Prior to any changes 4 golfers hit too much (in my opinion) from in to out at an average of 6.6 degrees. After the changes they averaged 2.2 degrees in to out - a far more respectable number.
  • Not every golfer gained yardage, although the majority did.  A few golfers actually lost some clubhead speed while they were working on the changes which were primarily in the address position.  It was interesting to note how some golfers adapted and changed easily while others had a tough time.
  • The golfers with slower swing speeds tended to be more efficient, something I had already noted from the PGA Tour stat on Total Driving Efficiency and as a result it was quite difficult to get them make the "required" yardage gains. They were quite close to optimal already...
  • Similarly, I found the ladies to generally be more efficient in transferring the energy they created to the ball than the men. I've also noticed that LPGA golfers also tend to be more efficient than their PGA Tour counterparts, particularly with the driver. The mantra seems to be "the more energy you create, the more likely you are to waste it!" It does not have to be that way though.
  • Every golfer who attended the event improved in an important area regarding how they deliver the club to the back of the ball. Quite a few golfers did not gain 10 yards, but they all left feeling like they had the knowledge and feel they needed in order to realize longer tee shots.
  • One lady had a fantastic golf swing with very efficient numbers, but, primarily due to her petite size, she was unable to generate much clubhead speed. She had an older, heavy driver with a 70 gram shaft and so I spent most of our time talking to her about what equipment (lighter = faster) suited her best and what exercises (Momentus woosh) she could do to increase her speed with the driver.  I'll be interested to see how she does with the new club.
  • Almost all the participants commented that while the "numbers overload" from TrackMan was overwhelming at first, once we had isolated a particular problem (attack angle, club path, spin axis etc.) it seemed very simple. They were able to key in on one area and get a feel for how much change was required in order to reach their goal - all without much in the way of complicated, positional swing changes.
  • The twenty minute time format worked well for the students and for me. They did not get overloaded with information and I had be concise and clear (for a change!) in what they needed to upgrade.

So, back to the question, "Can you get better in twenty minutes?" I would have to say an emphatic yes. With the right feedback mechanism, which TrackMan certainly is, and a simple approach, you can make fairly substantial changes in a short period of time. The important thing moving forward is that you practice the changes in order to gain a measure of comfort and confidence in them - and as we know, that takes more than twenty minutes.

Thanks for reading.