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To use video, Trackman or both?

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Trackman vs. Video

Video analysis has indeed changed the way we practice, play and view our golf swings. With the advent of Doppler radar launch monitors like Trackman and FlightScope, teachers now understand that “position golf” isn’t the way to help many golfers play their best. In fact, there are some positions that indeed look better on camera, but the player cannot put the ball in the hole from there.

Trackman users such as myself will tell you that if you use only video you can be fooled when you draw lines, as video only represents a 2D view of your swing. Trackman and FlightScope show impact and ball data in 3D, which is more accurate. But sometimes, trying to consistently hit the “proper” numbers can be just as harmful.

Some teachers only use video, others only use Trackman or FlightScope, but the burning question remains: “What is more important to the player?”

Trackman Grab

This Trackman screen gives instructors the detailed numerical data necessary to analyze each shot hit in the utmost detail.

I have been in the instructional world teaching golf full time for more than 20 years, and I have used video and Trackman extensively. I have seen issues with BOTH technologies if not conglomerated in the correct way. Some teachers only use video, drawing lines all over the screen. They focus on each position as if it were gospel. This type of video instruction can be very detrimental to the students who possess an idiosyncratic characteristic not allowing them to hit the “key” position. On the flip side, I know Trackman-based teachers who hardly look up from their data screens. When data is an instructor’s only focus, it can also be a problem. Golfers are not robots, and no golfer is consistent to get the proper numbers every time.

So what’s the solution?

In my opinion, instructors must merge the benefits of video and Trackman/FlightScope in order to be the best teacher they can be for the student at hand. If students need a less mechanical focus, it might be best to use the Trackman/FlightScope. An instructor can have them hit a few shots trying to make the numbers move in a more positive direction. Other times, students might be too caught up in trying to make the data too perfect. So an instructor might want to flip on the video to show that just because a golfer’s angle of attack is a touch too much down, they are swinging just fine from the video perspective.

It is up to the TEACHER to figure out the personality of their students and make sure their lessons work best for each player. A learning style that helps the student is the one that should strived for, not the one that is most comfortable for the teacher!

A note for golfers: If your instructor uses a style that sways toward too much video or too much Trackman and it is frustrating you, then you must have a conversation with them. You will NOT improve using a learning style that goes against your natural style of learning!

Read More Tom Stickney II : What Flightscope and Trackman can tell you (and me)

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Raka Agung

    Jan 17, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Great article Tom. Really love to have regular access to Trackman/Flight Scope
    However for most if us here, access to that system would be expensive and difficult.
    Based in your experience have you ever used sensor system that embedded in player hands or clubs, such as golfsense? Is it usefull?

    • Tom Stickney

      Jan 17, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      Great question; no I have not, but anything is better than nothing in my opinion…

  2. Frank

    Jan 16, 2014 at 12:05 am

    This is why I like instructors like Mark Crossfield on You Tube. He works in both spectrum. I have learned more from his posts than any instructor that I have paid money to learn from. By using the drills he teaches and advice he give, I have bettered my game by 6-8 strokes a round and had a record year for myself.

    • Tom Stickney

      Jan 16, 2014 at 12:47 am

      Each of us have our strengths for sure.

  3. J

    Jan 15, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Flightscope is garbage compared to Trackman. I don’t get why this article talks about video vs trackman because trackman has video built in. If you have access to trackman and refuse to use it your ignorance is more like stupidity. Both student and teacher need to be held accountable at all times.

    • Tom Stickney

      Jan 16, 2014 at 12:47 am

      My article speaks about video and tm because some students don’t have access to both. The student should use the tools that work best for their game.

  4. Nick

    Jan 14, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    Great article, Tom. It should be required reading for every teaching professional.

  5. Paul

    Jan 14, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Great article, and that aoa is crazy tom! you get alot out of that 100mph swing!
    For me personally, I feel like I can learn more by seeing the data (with trackman) as opposed to someone telling me that “x” is happening and you need to do “y”. With my instructor, for example, I have a slight ott move, and just by being in a room by myself with trackman for the first time I fiddled with my swing to try to manipulate my path. For me, I learn best when I can see the data and interpret it, as opposed to listening, digesting the info, and trying to implement it. He will come in every 20 mins or so and check up on things and discuss what I am doing and offer advice, but it is a much easier way to learn cause and effect.

    • Tom Stickney

      Jan 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      I set it for 14,000 feet so it goes farther…makes me look better! Ha. Seriously, it’s nice to experiment with feels to see what works best.

  6. Ben

    Jan 14, 2014 at 10:32 am

    What if your local option is on-range instruction with no video or trackman/flightscope? What do you recommend then?

    • Tom Stickney

      Jan 14, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      You must always do best with what tools you have available. They are not a necessity but they are nice to have.

  7. Graeme

    Jan 14, 2014 at 8:53 am

    I practiced position golf all my junior days and even though it looked good, I hit a brick wall when I got to 3 handicap at 15yrs old. Now with better knowledge with thanks to technology like Trackman Ive now recently reduced my handicap to +2. I’d personally rather stay away from video technology but do understand that for those that like visual learning it can be of some benefit to see the before & after but apart from that, video gets a big thumbs down from me.

  8. Todd Dugan

    Jan 14, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Radar and video are simply tools which allow the skilled user to diagnose and prescribe better. In the hands of the unskilled, they are of little use.

    • Tom Stickney

      Jan 14, 2014 at 9:13 am

      All technology is only as good as the operator using it for sure…thx.

  9. Johnny Appelseed

    Jan 14, 2014 at 6:00 am

    Ben Hogan didnt need this and neither do it. Its a ball and a stick. Get up there and hit it

    • Ian

      Jan 14, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      That’s laughable… If Hogan had access to track man he would’ve been all over it.

    • jmplautz

      Jan 14, 2014 at 2:13 pm

      Hogan was a big proponent of using video analysis. Was a very early adopter. If he was willing to use that, it’s not a big stretch to think that he would use modern technologies.

      • Andrew Cooper

        Jan 15, 2014 at 3:38 am

        No question Hogan would have used the new technology (and was an early video user) but would it have made him a better golfer?

  10. Russel Johnson

    Jan 14, 2014 at 1:10 am

    Tom,
    Another great article…. I believe in Trackman and all that it has too offer. I like you have a long history of teaching without this technology. Now true knowledge can be brought to the fore front and our thoughts can be validated numerically. I believe marrying the two styles is the best way to get the give info without that is confusing. Establishing a baseline with the Trackman then using that to help solve the cause and effect. I have found that to be a very effective way to balance old and new teachings.

    • Tom Stickney

      Jan 14, 2014 at 2:28 am

      That’s how I try and use my v1 system and trackman daily…you’re spot on sir. Thx.

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Instruction

Golf 101: How to chip (AKA “bump and run”)

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Although golf for a beginner can be an intimidating endeavor, and learning how to chip is part of that intimidation, this is one part of the game that if you can nail down the fundamentals, not only can you add some confidence to your experience but also you lay down a basic foundation you can build on.

How to chip

The chip shot, for all intents and purposes, is a mini-golf swing. To the beginner, it may seem like a nothing burger but if you look closely, it’s your first real way to understand contact, launch, spin, compression, and most importantly the fundamentals of impact.

What is a chip shot? A pitch shot?

Chip: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a 3-iron to a lob wedge that launches low, gets on the ground quickly, and rolls along the surface (like a putt) to the desired location.

Pitch: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a PW to a lob wedge that launches low- to mid-trajectory that carries a good portion of the way to your desired location and relies on spin to regulate distance.

Now that we have separated the two, the question is: How do I chip?

Since we are trying to keep this as simple as possible, let’s just do this as a quick checklist and leave it at that. Dealing with different lies, grass types, etc? Not the purpose here. We’re just concerned with how to make the motion and chip a ball on your carpet or at the golf course.

Think “rock the triangle”

  1. Pick a spot you want the ball to land. This is for visualization, direction and like any game you play, billiards, Darts, pin the tail on the donkey, having a target is helpful
  2. For today, use an 8-iron. It’s got just enough loft and bounce to make this endeavor fun.
  3. Grip the club in your palms and into the lifelines of your hands. This will lift the heel of the club of the ground for better contact and will take your wrists out of the shot.
  4. Open your stance
  5. Put most of your weight into your lead leg. 80/20 is a good ratio
  6. Ball is positioned off your right heel
  7. Lean the shaft handle to your left thigh
  8. Rock the shoulders like a putt
  9. ENJOY!

Check out this vid from @jakehuttgolf to give you some visuals.

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Instruction

Clement: Best drill for weight shift and clearing hips (bonus on direction too)

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This is, by far, one of the most essential drills for your golf swing development. To throw the club well is a liberating experience! Here we catch Munashe up with how important the exercise is not only in the movement pattern but also in the realization that the side vision is viciously trying to get you to make sure you don’t throw the golf club in the wrong direction. Which, in essence, is the wrong direction to start with!

This drill is also a cure for your weight shift problems and clearing your body issues during the swing which makes this an awesome all-around golf swing drill beauty! Stay with us as we take you through, step by step, how this excellent drill of discovery will set you straight; pardon the pun!

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Instruction

Confessions of a hacker: Chipping yips and equipment fixes

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There’s a saying in golf that, paraphrasing here, it’s the person holding the weapon, not the weapon. Basically, if you hit a bad shot, it’s almost certain that it was your fault, not the fault of the golf club. It has a better design than your swing. And while that truism is often correct, it ain’t necessarily so.

For example, if I were to try to hit one of those long drive drivers, I’d probably mis-hit it so badly that the ball might not be findable. That stick is way too long, stiff, and heavy for me. Similarly, if I were to use one of those senior flex drivers, I’d probably hit it badly, because it would be too floppy for my swing. It’s clear that there are arrows that this Indian can’t shoot well. Maybe a pro could adapt to whatever club you put in his hand, but there’s no reason he would accept less than a perfect fit. And there’s little reason why any amateur ought to accept less than a good fit.

I was never a competitive athlete, although I’m a competitive person. My path led a different direction, and as my medical career reached its mature years, I was introduced to our wonderful and frustrating game.

Being one who hates playing poorly, I immediately sought instruction. After fifteen years, multiple instructors, a wallet full of videos, and a wall full of clubs, I am finally learning how to do one particularly vexing part of the game reasonable well. I can chip! But as you may have guessed, the largest part of this journey has to do with the arrow, not the Indian.

We may immediately dismiss the golf shaft as a significant issue since chipping generally involves a low-speed movement. And as long as the grip is a reasonable fit for the hands, it’s not a big deal either. The rubber meets the road at the clubhead.

Manufacturers have worked hard to get the best ball spin out of the grooves. Their shape is precisely milled, and then smaller grooves and roughness are added to the exact maximum allowed under the rules. Various weighting schemes have been tried, with some success in tailoring wedges to players. And some manufacturers market the “newest” designs to make it impossible to screw up wedge shots. And yet, nothing seemed to solve my yips.

So I went on a mission. I studied all sorts of chipping techniques. Some advocate placing the ball far back to strike a descending blow. Others place it near the center of the stance. The swing must have no wrist hinge. The swing must have a hinge that is held. It should be a short swing. It should be a long swing. The face should be square. The face should be open. There should be a “pop.” There should be no power added.

If you are confused, join my club. So I went on a different mission. I started looking at sole construction. Ever since Gene Sarazen popularized a sole with bounce for use in the sand, manufacturers have been creating massive numbers of “different” sand wedges. They have one thing in common. They are generally all built to 55 or 56-degrees of loft.

The basic design feature of the sand wedge is that the sole extends down and aft from the leading edge at some angle. This generally ranges from 6 to 18-degrees. Its purpose is to allow the wedge to dig into the sand, but not too far. As the club goes down into the sand, the “bounce” pushes it back up.

 

One problem with having a lot of bounce on the wedge is that it can’t be opened up to allow certain specialty shots or have a higher effective loft. When the player does that, the leading edge lifts, resulting in thin shots. So manufacturers do various things to make the wedge more versatile, typically by removing bounce in the heel area.

At my last count, I have eight 56-degree wedges in my collection. Each one was thought to be a solution to my yips. Yet, until I listened to an interview with Dave Edel, I had almost no real understanding of why I was laying sod over a lot of my chips. Since gardening did not reduce my scores, I had to find another solution.

My first step was to look at the effective loft of a wedge in various ball positions. (Pictures were shot with the butt of the club at the left hip, in a recommended forward lean position. Since the protractor is not exactly lined up with the face, the angles are approximate.)

I had no idea that there was so much forward lean with a simple chip. If I were to use the most extreme rearward position, I would have to have 21-degrees of bounce just to keep the leading edge from digging in at impact. If there were the slightest error in my swing, I would be auditioning for greenskeeper.

My appreciation for the pros who can chip from this position suddenly became immense. For an amateur like me, the complete lack of forgiveness in this technique suddenly removed it from my alleged repertoire.

My next step was to look at bounce. As I commented before, bounce on sand wedges ranges between 6 and 18-degrees. As the drawing above shows, that’s a simple angle measurement. If I were to chip from the forward position, a 6-degree bounce sand wedge would have an effective bounce of 1-degree. That’s only fractionally better than the impossible chip behind my right foot. So I went to my local PGA Superstore to look at wedges with my Maltby Triangle Gauge in hand.

As you can see from the photos, there is a wide variation in wedges. What’s most curious, however, is that this variation is between two designs that are within one degree of the same nominal bounce. Could it be that “bounce is not bounce is not bounce?” Or should I say that “12-degrees is not 12-degrees is not 12-degrees?” If one looks below the name on the gauge, a curious bit of text appears. “Measuring effective bounce on wedges.” Hmmm… What is “effective bounce?”

The Maltby Triangle Gauge allows you to measure three things: leading-edge height, sole tangent point, and leading-edge sharpness. The last is the most obvious. If I’m chipping at the hairy edge of an adequate bounce, a sharp leading edge will dig in more easily than a blunt one. So if I’m using that far back ball position, I’ll need the 1OutPlus for safety, since its leading edge is the bluntest of the blunt. Even in that position, its 11-degree bounce keeps the leading edge an eighth of an inch up.

Wait a minute! How can that be? In the back position, the wedge is at 35-degrees effective loft, and 11-degrees of bounce ought to be 10-degrees less than we need. The difference here is found in combining all three parameters measured by the gauge, and not just the angle of the bounce.

The 1OutPlus is a very wide sole wedge. Its tangent point is a massive 1.7″ back. The leading edge rises .36″ off the ground and is very blunt. In other words, it has every possible design feature to create safety in case the chip from back in the stance isn’t as perfect as it might be. Since a golf ball is 1.68″ in diameter, that’s still less than halfway up to the center of the ball. But if you play the ball forward, this may not be the wedge for you.

Here are the measurements for the eight sand wedges that happen to be in my garage. All are either 56-degrees from the factory or bent to 56-degrees.

A couple of things jump out from this table. The Callaway PM Grind at 13-degrees has a lower leading edge (.26 inches) than the 11-degree Bazooka 1OutPlus (.36 inches). How can a lower bounce have a higher leading edge? Simple geometry suggests that if you want a higher leading edge, you will need a higher bounce angle. But it gets worse. The Wishon WS (wide sole) at 6-degrees (55-degree wedge bent to 56-degrees) has a leading-edge height of .28 inches, higher than the Callaway which has over twice the nominal bounce angle!

One thing is missing from this simple discussion of angles.

If I place one line at 34-degrees above the horizontal (loft is measured from the vertical), and then extend another at some angle below horizontal, the height above ground where the two join depends on how long the lower line is. This means that an 18-degree bounce with a narrow “C” grind will raise the leading edge a little bit. A 6-degree bounce on a wide sole may raise it more because the end of the bounce on the first wedge is so close to the leading edge.

 

Let’s look at this in the picture. If the red line of the bounce is very short, it doesn’t get far below the black ground line. But if it goes further, it gets lower. This is the difference between narrow and wide soles.

This diagram describes the mathematical description of these relationships.

Our first task is to realize that the angle 0 in this diagram is the complement of the 56-degree loft of the wedge, or 90 – 56 = 34-degrees since loft is measured from vertical, not horizontal. But the angle 0 in the bounce equation is just that, the bounce value. These two angles will now allow us to calculate the theoretical values of various parts of the wedge, and then compare them to our real-world examples.

My PM Grind Callaway wedge has its 3rd groove, the supposed “perfect” impact point, 0.54 inches above the leading edge. This should put it 0.8 inches back from the leading edge, roughly matching the measured 0.82 inches. So far, so good. (I’m using the gauge correctly!)

The 13-degree bounce at 1.14″ calculates out to 0.284″ of leading-edge rise. I measured 0.26″, so Callaway seems to be doing the numbers properly, until I realize that the leading edge is already .45″ back, given a real tangent of .69″. Something is out of whack. Re-doing the math suggests that the real bounce is 20-degrees, 40 min. Hmmm…

Maybe that bounce angle measurement isn’t such a good number to look at. Without digging through all the different wedges (which would make you cross-eyed), we should go back to basics. What is it that we really need?

Most instructors will suggest that striking the ball on about the third groove will give the best results. It will put the ball close to the center of mass (sweet spot) of the wedge and give the best spin action. If my wedge is at an effective 45-degree angle (about my right big toe), it will strike the ball about half-way up to its equator. It will also be close to the third groove. But to make that strike with minimal risk of gardening, I have to enough protection to keep the edge out of the turf if I mis-hit the ball by a little bit. That can be determined by the leading edge height! The higher the edge, the more forgiveness there is on a mis-hit.

Now this is an incomplete answer. If the bounce is short, with a sharp back side, it will tend to dig into the turf a bit. It may not do it a lot, but it will have more resistance than a wider, smoother bounce. In the extreme case, the 1OutPlus will simply glide over the ground on anything less than a ridiculous angle.

The amount of leading-edge height you need will depend on your style. If you play the ball forward, you may not need much. But as you move the ball back, you’ll need to increase it. And if you are still inconsistent, a wider sole with a smooth contour will help you avoid episodes of extreme gardening. A blunt leading edge will also help. It may slow your club in the sand, but it will protect your chips.

There is no substitute for practice, but if you’re practicing chips from behind your right foot using a wedge with a sharp, low leading edge, you’re asking for frustration. If you’re chipping from a forward position with a blunt, wide sole wedge, you’ll be blading a lot of balls. So look at your chipping style and find a leading-edge height and profile that match your technique. Forget about the “high bounce” and “low bounce” wedges. That language doesn’t answer the right question.

Get a wedge that presents the club to the ball with the leading edge far enough off the ground to provide you with some forgiveness. Then knock ’em stiff!

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