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Use proper camera alignment when filming your swing

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Have you ever taken a camera to the golf course or practice range, recorded your swing, and thought “Hmm, I thought I was better than that?” On the other hand, have you been afraid to take your camera to your nearest golf facility because you did not know how to set it up correctly?

Camera position is extremely important, and it is often neglected by average golfers and some golf professionals. The point of this article is to teach golfers how to properly set up a camera to video their swing from different positions. The position of the camera can change the appearance of your golf swing in many respects, and it is equally important to set up the camera properly as it is to recognize when it is done improperly.

The first step is getting the right camera. I use two cameras in my swing instruction. I work for GolfTEC, and we use a camera equivalent to a Sony GigE, which is a very expensive high-resolution, high-speed camera used for slow-motion analysis. In addition, I own two other cameras for my instruction business that I started before I took the job teaching for GolfTEC-Philadelphia, the Michael Wheeler Learning Center, LLC.

I own both a Casio EX-FH100 high-speed camera and a Sony GigE camera. I use the Casio on the golf course, while I use the Sony GigE in coordination with my JC Video software, which was set up by Mark Connell, the owner of JC Video. I also own a tripod that I can adjust the leg length and height depending on the situation to ensure a level camera position. Now, I don’t expect golfers to go purchase a $1,000 camera to videotape their swings, as most digital cameras are good now for these purposes. I recommend a camera with at least 30 frames per second recording capability, and something with at least 640 x 480 recording pixels so you can see your video clearly. Now to the second step, which is to understanding how to properly set up the camera.

There are two primary camera positions when you will videotape your golf swing: down-the-line and face-on.

How to setup the down the line camera

Down-the-line essentially means that the camera is pointing down the target line. There are three positions that Golf Magazine Top-100 instructors and other great instructors use when setting up a down-the-line swing video. The first is on the hands, keeping the HANDS between the camera and the target (photo 1). The second is set up on the target line, keeping the BALL between the camera and the target (photo 2). The third, final, and probably least used, camera position is set up on a golfer’s foot line, keeping the FEET between the camera and the target (photo 3).

Photo 1

Proper Hand Line Camera

 Photo 2

Proper Target Line Camera

 Photo 3

Proper Feet Line Camera

My mentor in the business is Ted Sheftic, a Golf Magazine Top-100 instructor, and Pennsylvania’s No. 1 teacher as ranked by Golf Digest. I have been working with Ted for more than 15 years, and he taught me using the camera position set up on the hands. So, for purposes of this article (and any of my future articles), we will talk about setting up the camera in that position. Follow these steps to set up a down-the-line swing video in the proper position:

  • Place the camera on a tripod and set the height to EXACTLY hand height and level.
  • Set up a ball from where the golfer will be hitting and set up to that ball.
  • Place a club on the ground PARALLEL to the target line directly underneath your hands.
  • This should be approximately 3-to-4 inches in front of the feet at address, between a golfer’s toes and the ball.
  • Line up the camera directly in line with the hand line (the shaft used to represent the hand line should be perfectly straight in the camera’s viewfinder — see photo)
  • Hit record!

After a while, golfers will be able to set up down-the-line swing videos very quickly and efficiently, and golfers can quicken the process with the help of a friend or family member. If you decide to use the other camera positions, remember that those will change the LOOK of your swing when you review the swing, which will be discussed in the next article.

How to setup the face on camera

Lastly, let’s discuss how to set up a face-on swing video. If you have only one camera, make sure you mark the position of the down the line  tripod position before moving to avoid having to repeat the steps mentioned above again. You can use duct tape, tees, etc., to do this. Most of the steps for a face-on video will be the same as the down-the-line, but they are modified to be appropriate for the different position.

  • Assure the camera is still at hand height and level.
  • Set up a ball from where the golfer will be hitting.
  • Place a club on the ground PERPENDICULAR to the target line (form a “T” with the target line club and the ball position club) in line with the golf ball. This will represent the ball position between a golfer’s feet and in relation to his or her body.
  • Line up the camera so that the golfer is directly in the middle of the camera’s viewfinder.
  • Hit record!

Follow these steps and set up the camera in the same place every time to ensure consistency and help track swing process. In the next article, I will explain golfers you will be able to see from each position, and also what golfers would see if you set up the camera in the wrong position.

Remember, it is best to consult a PGA professional before making swing changes. You wouldn’t prescribe yourself medicine without seeing a doctor, so don’t try to fix your golf swing without professional advice. Best of luck and keep practicing!

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Michael Wheeler is a Golf Digest "Best Young Teacher in America." He's the PGA Teaching Professional at Whitford Country Club in Exton, Pennsylvania, a private club roughly 35 minutes west of Philadelphia in beautiful Chester County. Michael is PGA certified in teaching and coaching. He's mentored by Ted Sheftic, a GOLF Magazine Top-100 Teacher who is Pennsylvania's No. 1-ranked Teacher and a four-time winner of the Philadelphia PGA Section Teacher of the Year Award. Michael has also been mentored by Mike Adams, the 2016 National PGA Teacher of the Year, a Golf Magazine Top-100 Teacher, and a Golf Digest Top-50 Instructor (he's No. 2). Michael has been a speaker at several Philadelphia PGA education events for Section PGA Professionals, as well as a speaker at the 2016 and 2017 Philly Golf & Expo Show in Oaks, PA. His certifications to include: -- BioSwing Dynamics Level 1 Instructor -- Trackman Level 1 and 2 Certified Instructor -- Trackman Operator -- PGA Certified Professional: Teaching and Coaching -- K-Vest Level 1 and 2 Certified Instructor -- Certified Level 1 Golf Biomechanist: Dr. Young-Hoo Kwon Michael played NCAA Division I golf for Stetson University for three years, competing against the likes of current PGA Tour stars Russell Knox and Jonas Blixt. After his amateur career, Michael turned professional and became a member of the former NGA Hooters Tour in 2007 playing with other PGA Tour players such as Billy Hurley III, Scott Brown, and Matt Every to name a few. To learn more about Michael or contact him directly, please visit his website.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Tom McCarthy

    Feb 17, 2014 at 11:29 am

    I like to have another view of the golfer’s swing, from directly behind them in order to look at the action of the hips, legs, and shoulders from this angle. Its a great feedback view on how much the hips move laterally on the backswing and downswing.

    • Michael Wheeler

      Feb 17, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      That is true… I just covered the two most popular views of face on and down the line. However, the camera position for the behind camera will be set up in the same manner of the face on camera. The behind camera is an excellent resource when working on weight shift, seeing the hips, etc, like you said.

  2. Shawn Smith

    Jan 19, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    This article came out at the right time. I just got a sony action cam for christmas to go along with my V1 premium mobile app. I will be filming my swing for the first time this year. I used to get instruction from Goltec in Berwyn PA and buy my gear at the willow grove golfsmith. I’ll look you up if I ever decide to get Golftec lessons again. Great information here!

  3. Pat C

    Jan 19, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Forgot to ask a question. What about setup for recording your putting?

    • Michael Wheeler

      Feb 17, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      Pat, the same rules will apply, and it goes a little deeper in the next article, which is being published this week. With putting the only two spots I personally use for putting is the hands (set up the same way) to see the entire stroke (body and club). I will also sometimes put the camera on the target line on the ground (explained in the next article), with a close up view of the putter head and maybe about a foot of the shaft. This will show you the arc of the stroke and whether it is inside and down the line, straight back to straight through, etc.

      Hope this helps.

  4. Pat C

    Jan 19, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Enjoyed the tips for setting up video camera. Will be looking for next article.

  5. jl

    Jan 17, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Sorry, quite confusing. Saying “keeping the hands between the camera and the target” literally could mean the camera being placed anywhere, as long as it was behind the golfer. If you really meant “keeping the hands on a Line between the camera and the target, that’s not what your photo shows. A line from the camera to the hands does not extend to the target. In your next example, “keeping the ball between the camera and the target”, I believe you meant “keeping the ball on a Line between the camera and the target”, this is in fact what you did. A line from the camera goes straight to the ball and then to the target.

    • Michael Wheeler

      Jan 27, 2014 at 9:59 am

      jl sorry it took so long to get back to you. When I was writing this I had to debate how to word it to make it as easy to understand as possible. The reason why it appears that the target is not on the hands in the pictures is due to the fact that the net in front of me is only about 10 feet away. If the target were to be further away it would appear as if the hands are closely in line with the target (ideally the hands should be in the center of your screen, but you need to make sure it is lined up). If you use the simple steps with the clubs it will help you set it up directly in line with the hands. The next article will be more in depth with where in height the camera should be when it is on the target line versus the hands, and what you will see if you do it incorrectly. So stay tuned!

  6. WRG

    Jan 16, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    I like your last comment, but my job doesn’t offer golf insurance, also known as Sh*nk insurance.

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