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Golf MTRx: Editor Review

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Legendary golf instructor Harvey Penick compared the sequence of a golf swing to that of lopping off the heads of dandelions with a weed cutter to convey the right sensation to his students.

Many of us still rely on conjuring up mental images of swinging buckets of water or clipping weeds to train our bodies to produce the best golf swings of which we are physically capable. But whether or not we flush it every time, or have those rounds where we’re just flushing it away, it’s important to know what we’re doing correctly or incorrectly in order to play our best golf more often.

The Golf MTRx application for iPhone, by Zeroline Golf, is a portable and sophisticated tool that records your swing and translates the kinematic sequence of your pelvis into data you can use to better understand how your body functions when it swings a club.

Overview

The Golf MTRx app is the first mobile technology that measures the efficiency of a golfer’s pelvis to generate a powerful and repeatable swing. Your individual kinematic signature is compared to pro tour averages and produces a score (a maximum of 100) based on four components: acceleration, deceleration, peak time and speed.

As described on Zeroline Golf’s website, the four factors that promote an efficient use of  the pelvis are:

  1. Acceleration: A golfer must have proper acceleration to achieve the necessary deceleration as the upper body begins to fire. Acceleration should ideally be about 2.0 kd/s/s (thousand degrees per second per second) and will show on the Golf MTRx chart as a good steady steep slope going from zero to peak speed.
  2. Deceleration: Happens when the torso, arms and club start to engage on the downswing. The upper body puts pressure on the lower body and the pelvis will stabilize as the upper body fires. The pelvis should decelerate at the same rate or greater than the acceleration. Deceleration is necessary to achieve good peak time.
  3. Peak Time: The place in time that the pelvis reaches peak speed on the downswing. Peak time needs proper acceleration and deceleration. The “ideal” peak time is about 60 percent through the down swing to impact — that’s measured in time, not degrees of rotation. Golfers need good peak time for the segments above to rip it.
  4. Speed: Measured in degrees per second. Speed is an important component, but it can often be a side effect of the categories listed above. Speed matters most early in the kinetic chain.

In layman’s terms, the Golf MTRx app decodes the conditions necessary for your body to produce good shots, and give golfers a tool they can use to correct their physical mistakes on bad shots. It’s what Zeroline Golf Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Steve Blake calls “measuring a feel,” or giving golfers specific information about what they did or didn’t do during a swing.

“From my software experience, I knew the iPhone had motion sensors, a microphone and great graphics,” said Blake. “We concluded that having an app that could measure hip movement would be possible, and that we could develop it into a great training aid for coaches and golfers … We also thought it would be helpful for a golfer to be able to save information from that ideal swing to serve as a baseline from which to compare and improve.”

The Technology

The Golf MTRx app underwent rigorous field testing with golfers of various levels and abilities prior to its December 2012 launch. It was also introduced to coaches from a wide variety of philosophies and backgrounds.

“The beta testing included the participation of coaches, and we think this has impacted the positive reaction from the coaching community — even from instructors who are resistant to the use of technology in golf,” Blake said.

In terms of the data itself, Blake built a wooden swing testing device that allowed him set exact turn angles and impact positions, which aided him in validating the consistency of the reported readings. The swing recognition algorithm was tested against thousands of swings to eliminate false positives. Independent tests were performed against K-VEST and AMM (Advanced Motion Measurement Golf Swing Analysis Training System) with very good results.

The ideal numbers that all users of Golf MTRx ultimately compared themselves to came from research and conversations Zeroline Golf had with experts at Titlelist Performance Institute and K-VEST. The tour pro averages for acceleration, deceleration and speed are modeled after a male swinging a 5-iron.

golf-mtrx-chart1

The Golf MTRx app can be used with any club in the bag, but users will notice differences in their score and variations for acceleration, deceleration and speed. My own experience with the app reveled that my acceleration and speed increased as I went from wedges to woods.

Ideally, peak time should stay the same indicating that the golfer is stabilizing properly for all of his or her clubs. In my case, the peak time varied from club to club, which helped me realize that my swing isn’t as consistent as I would like it to be throughout the bag. Chances are, a lot of golfers will find distinguishable quirks in their swings. The Golf MTRx app isn’t designed to necessarily fix issues in your swing, but it can go a long way in helping to identify areas to improve upon.

Pros

First and foremost, the Golf MTRx app is easy to use. A profile takes seconds to create and the app allows you to create multiple profiles — useful if you and a friend want to take turns recording your swings and compare results.

Once your profile has been setup, click the record and analyze button, followed by the “Start Recording” button at the bottom of the application screen. At this point you’re ready to secure your iPhone to your hip. Zeroline Golf recommends that you fasten it under your belt with the iPhone top down. As far as accurate measurement goes, I found the app performed best when my iPhone was held snug against my hip or behind me near the base of my spine.

You can make practice swings in record mode. The Golf MTRx app will only record your swing when pronounced contact is made with either turf or ball. If you have the volume turned up (highly recommended), the app will emit a “ping” when your swing has been successfully recorded. Double tap the “stop” button and you’re ready to review your kinematic swing sequence and your Golf MTRx score.

The swing analysis screen will provides charts, animations and recommended drills to help you make sense of all the data. The score tab will provide you with a quick snapshot of your performance for all four components of your MTRx score: acceleration, deceleration, peak time and speed. The current version of the app is limited to comparing your values to those of a tour pro. A planned update to the app will allow a user to not only set their baseline swing, but to adjust the values up or down for acceleration, deceleration and speed — essentially allowing yourself to set your own bar for peak performance.

golf-mtrx-chart2

Undoubtedly, gear heads will find plenty of useful metrics to dive into within the MTRx and Chart tabs of the application. The MTRx tab allows you to play an animation of your swing sequence so that you can see how your pelvis is storing and releasing energy through impact. The Chart complements the MTRx tab by plotting your sequence as a bar chart. Both tabs tell you how much your hips are rotating during the backswing, impact and follow through.

Zeroline Golf has placed a lot of attention upon the four pivotal components that make up a golfer’s MTRx score, but a lot less has been said about hip rotation and tempo. Apparently, I wasn’t the only user of the app who found the information about hip rotation confusing. The latest version of the app (v. 1.5) has added an assessment feature that compares your hip rotation in the backswing to the recommended range which is -25 to -45 degrees. The recommended range for impact is said to be 15 to 40 degrees.

“Too little rotation indicates poor separation of hips and shoulders and results in loss of power,” says Blake. “Too much rotation at impact is hard to quantify; it is up to the individual’s capability. Rory McIlroy has his hips at 62 degrees at impact. I’m lucky to get to 40 degrees.”

The best way to get a better understanding of the role hip rotation plays in your own kinematic sequence is to record multiple swings and experiment with the intended result. Likewise, tempo also plays a role in bio-mechanic efficiency, but there isn’t enough data on the subject to declare an ideal measurement.

“Studies like Tour Tempo measure the club tempo, not that of the hips,” says Blake. “As a result, we do not place a great emphasis on tempo. The app will report the numbers regardless of the tempo. This is another data point that varies depending on a golfer’s physical capabilities and limitations. In my own experiments, I find a slower tempo works better for me, but I’m 62. We have seen lots of young golfers with quick tempos who crush the ball.”

The most underrated feature of all is that the Golf MTRx app is swing agnostic. It doesn’t care if you are a practitioner of Stack and Tilt or a more traditional approach; whether your swing tempo is reminiscent of Rickie Fowler or Ai Miyazato.

Cons

If you are an owner of an Android-powered phone, consider yourself out of luck. The Golf MTRx app is available for iPhone only and the differences in hardware among Android devices ensure that porting the app will remain a less than straightforward process. An Android-specific version remains high on Zeroline Golf’s to do list, but as of right now there is no timetable for releasing one.

Another major complaint heard among some users is about the price. Golf MTRx retails for $29.99 in the App Store — comparatively more expensive than most iPhone applications. If you’re on the fence about the price, Zeroline Golf will be releasing a light version of the app called Golf MTRx LT that will retail for $9.99. The LT edition has many of the same features but will only allow a golfer to create a single profile and record up to 18 swings at a time. It is designed with the novice to intermediate golfer in mind.

Serious golfers who are obsessed about their training and their gear aren’t going to be put off by the price for the full app, which delivers a wealth of data at a fraction of the cost of professional swing analyzers. Kudos to the Zeroline Golf team for bringing high performance and accurate motion analysis data to the masses in a handy mobile application. Still, fans of the app shouldn’t lead themselves to believe they are using a tool on par with K-VEST which uses sensors on the pelvis, upper body and lead wrist to capture 2D video and 3D motion. Golf MTRx is limited to a single sensor and cannot relay any information about the upper body or club head.

Truth be told, a lot of golfers are better off with less information at their fingertips. Even with some obvious limitations, the Golf MTRx app might be too overwhelming for some users. What does it really mean to the average golfer if their peak time falls short of the gold standard? Are certain numbers more important to hit than others?

Credit Zeroline Golf for thinking strategically ahead about those of us who may go plummeting down the rabbit hole of misinformation and confusion. Its website now features a directory with a growing list of coaches including GolfWRX frequent contributors, Monte Sheinblum and Dan Carraher. Instructors like Carraher who have openly endorsed the app view it for what it is – a training aid that complements their teaching approach.

“Because the app like any tool, similar to a mirror or camera, is useless without the proper knowledge,” Carraher said. “Students tend to see the same success rate regardless of using it or not. Success is usually based on the work ethic and aptitude for repetitive practice more so than any tool. But I also feel as long as the student knows what to look for more information isn’t a bad thing. It’s not knowing what is relevant and trying to play connect the dots that deters progress.”

The Bottom Line

The Golf MTRx application earns high marks for innovation, ease of use and value. Whether or not golfers can stand to benefit from charting their swings comes down to a personal choice. We have all known golfers, including some at the very highest professional level, who have fallen in love with statistics and are fixated on improving their swings to the detriment of all other components that make up the game of golf.

“If you try to swing to a picture on camera or swing to make the numbers [look] good you are losing sight of what is important — the actual causes and hitting the golf ball at a target,” Carraher said. “Playing golf is more than just a pretty swing or good numbers on a screen, be it TrackMan or Golf MTRx. Golf is played in ever- changing imperfect conditions on an imperfect surface by human beings. It’s more about learning your tendencies and planning around them, than trying to eliminate every bad tendency and hit perfect shots.”

Perhaps it goes without saying, but just like those of us who prefer not to dissect themselves on video, there’s a segment of golfers who are best left to using their imagination and creativity to fuel their swings and fix any ailments. Golf MTRx would probably feel right at home for detail-oriented strategists like Nick Faldo and Stacy Lewis, but not so much for shot-making savants like Bubba Watson or the late Seve Ballesteros.

Most of us fall in line somewhere in between these opposite extremes and take on multiple, sometimes incompatible approaches to get better. I don’t find it all odd to fixate my mind on an image of a swinging bucket if I know it helps me groove a smoother takeaway, while I rely on an app to monitor my hip rotation and peak time. Golf MTRx doesn’t negate the respected teachings of a Harvey Penick; if anything, it supports his theories with science.

“We were concerned that some coaches would see the emergence of this technology as a threat to their livelihood, but the instructors who have used Golf MTRx have reported that it has supplemented their instruction and is another effective tool they can use with students,” Blake said. “Some have said that the app has allowed them to convince students of points they have been making for months, since there is concrete data that the coach can show them. We also hope that Golf MTRx will serve as an enabler of biomechanics by putting low cost technology in the reach of many golfers. If ‘Joe Golfer’ is able to ‘measure a feel’ and understand what his body is doing when he hits that great shot, we believe that Golf MTRx will have served its purpose.”

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Rusty Cage is a contributing writer for GolfWRX, one of the leading publications online for news, information and resources for the connected golfer. His articles have covered a broad spectrum of topics - equipment and apparel reviews, interviews with industry leaders, analysis of the pro game, and everything in between. Rusty's path into golf has been an unusual one. He took up the game in his late thirties, as suggested by his wife, who thought it might be a good way for her husband to grow closer to her father. The plan worked out a little too well. As his attraction to the game grew, so did his desire to take up writing again after what amounted to 15-year hiatus from sports journalism dating back to college. In spite of spending over a dozen years working in the technology sector as a backend programmer in New York City, Rusty saw an opportunity with GolfWRX and ran with it. A graduate from Boston University with a Bachelor's in journalism, Rusty's long term aspirations are to become one of the game's leading writers, rising to the standard set by modern-day legends like George Peper, Mark Frost and Dan Jenkins. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: August 2014 Fairway Executive Podcast Interview http://golfindustrytrainingassociation.com/17-rusty-cage-golf-writer (During this interview I discuss how golf industry professionals can leverage emerging technologies to connect with their audience.)

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. 8thehardway

    Jul 7, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    “… play an animation of your swing sequence so that you can see how your pelvis is storing and releasing energy through impact.”

    In case my wife takes up golf, are there any plans for player-specific animations for comparison purposes like, uh, maybe Natalie Gulbis?

  2. richard parker

    Jul 5, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Good review. This is the most utilized app on my iphone! Can’t beat the instant feedback and recommended drills that the app provides.

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Accessory Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Putting Perfecter

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Putting can be one of the most frustrating parts of the game, it mystifies scratch golfers as much as high handicaps and can make anybody tremble over a three-footers. It’s one of the biggest factors in scoring, especially for the club-level player, but it’s often one of the last things people actually work on. Let’s be honest, it’s a lot of fun to pound drivers on the range, am I right?

But if you are seriously looking for a simple tool to help get you into the proper address position, the Putting Perfecter is a great one to start with.

The beauty of the device is in its simplicity. Fitting under your arms and across your midsection, it “locks” the player into the proper position to create a pendulum putting stroke. After giving it a shot and hitting putts for just a few minutes, then going back to putting without it made me feel like I was much more connected.

Don’t think it’s just for putting though.

Funny story, when I first took it out to work on my putting, I used it for about 30 minutes and then moved onto my chipping. After a few trips around the putting green I tried chipping with the Putting Perfecter in the same position and “WOW” same connected feeling was produced—it was perfect for working on low-flying “runners.” I was excited to tell my friend about it, until I went home and realized they actually advertise it to help with that too. Guess I’m not as clever as I thought…

No matter how you use it, the Putting Perfecter is a simple and effective training tool that can be carried in a bag to be used before or after a round, takes NO time to set up (a big plus), and is light—so you don’t feel like its dragging you down if you actually keep it in your bag. Since it’s a putting tool, you can even use it indoors very easily. If you are someone that struggles with consistent address position on putts or disconnecting when chipping, I believe the Putting Perfecter is a great tool to try.

For more information check out the Putting Perfecter website.

 

 

 

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Accessory Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Uther Supply golf towels

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Product: Uther Supply golf towels

Pitch: Via Uther: “Uther cart towels use the highest quality material and construction which have been tested to perform season after season…Uther’s unique blend of moisturize wicking, soft microfiber is 3x more absorbent than cotton and 5x more durable…Waffle pattern to easily remove even the most stubborn dirt in club grooves and golf ball dimples…Uther is the creator of the fashionable golf towel. Features unique sublimated prints and designs that make a fun accessory for both men and women golf bags.”

Our take on Uther Supply golf towels

Most golfers have a “logo” towel hanging on their bag today. Typically you’ll see the name of a course the golfer has visited, or an OEM name. Uther Supply towels, however, are different. Uther (pronounced “other”) Supply Founder Dan Erdman described his inspiration for this unique line of golf towels in an interview with GolfWRX a few years back:

“When you work in the back shop and storage facility, you handle a lot of golf bags. I just noticed rows and rows of bags that all look the same and I thought it made a lot of sense to inject some personality into it. You know, people go crazy for how all the pros personalize their wedges and their bags. They buy towels and bag tags from courses like TPC Sawgrass and Pebble Beach to personalize their stuff, but in the end it all kind of blends together… I thought we could really add something to the marketplace.”

They have certainly succeeded in creating a new type of towel in the marketplace. We used them over several rounds of golf, in various conditions to put them to the test.

Meant to be shown off, Uther golf towel designs are creative and clever, with some of the most popular being the “Happy Gilmore inspired” Cart Towel and “90s coffee cup” Tour Towel. There of course, are many others to choose from.

Of course, let’s not forget that the primary function of a towel is to clean your golf equipment. That might seem easy but we at WRX have ordered some custom towels from other manufacturers in the past and were disappointed in the performance. Uther’s towels, however, succeed in both form and function. They’re stylish, but they also are an excellent functional towel. You’re like to be impressed at how light they are as well. These aren’t bath towels, but rather high-quality microfiber blends that Uther says are 3x more absorbent than cotton.

As far as cons, if we’re nitpicking, you may need to find a larger carabiner clip for some golf bags if you want to hang your towel in a more prominent place. These are made to show off, after all.

Prices range from $28-$35 USD and are available for purchase at uthersupply.com, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy in the US and Golf Town in Canada.

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Accessory Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Adidas Forgefiber Boa golf shoes

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Product: Adidas Forgefiber Boa golf shoes

Pitch: From Adidas: “Designed for protection from the elements, these golf shoes have enhanced cushioning to return energy on every swing. The shoes feature a spikeless outsole that flexes with your foot and has strategically placed lugs for outstanding grip and balance. An innovative closure system is built for micro-adjustments so you get the exact fit you need.”

Our take on Adidas Forgefiber Boa golf shoes

Golf shoes are curious creatures existing in a strange place? No? Finally free of the gravitational pull of traditionalism, shoe styles are finally at a place where form follows function. And while you may pine for the days of saddle shoes aesthetically, your feet (and likely your golf swing) surely do not.

While the shoes are also available in gray/white and black/white colorways, we tested the bolder dark marine variant.

Now, “good” footwear, as we are constantly wont to admit, is highly subjective. As of yet, you can’t test two pairs of kicks on a TrackMan and determine which is superior (rumored featured of TrackMan 5). So leaving aside aesthetics and how you like your shoes to fit, we provide the most valuable information, that is, regarding stability, cushioning, and traction. However, in this case, it’s also worth noting the closure system does allow for a more precise fit (and one that stays in place) than lace-up shoes do.

With respect to comfort, first of all, anything Boost is going to be comfortable, and these shoes are no exception. And whether you refer to the “Forgefiber in the upper features heat-pressed, TPU-coated fibers…stitched in” to the upper (as Adidas does), or merely the sensation that the Forgefiber Boas provide a solid foundation during the swing, the truth is the same: sound, stable here.

A look at the Puremotion outsole showcases some serious spikeless technology that also offers performance on par with the very best in spikeless footwear.

A final word: These shoes are no porous sieve, either, as you might be concerned they could be on first glance. Adidas’ Climastorm technology in the exterior yields a respectable level of water-repellency.

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