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9 Reasons You Should be Using Pressure-Measuring Devices to Improve Your Golf Swing

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New technology can be intimidating, for both the student as well as the instructor. That might surprise you… an instructor is intimidated, too? As instructors, we need to be able to understand the data that new technology is sharing with us first, and that takes some time. We then need to be able to connect the dots on how new technology affects technique. Finally, we need to be able to communicate the simplest, most efficient way to improve each individual student’s game.

After spending close to a year with a pressure-measuring device called BodiTrak, a mat that records a golfer’s ground forces throughout the swing, I thought you might like to know how I’ve been using it to help my students with their golf games. Below are 9 reasons why I believe golfers should be using pressure-measuring devices — at least every once in while — to improve their golf swings.

1. A Better Setup

Improper Set Up

This golfer has more pressure on her trail foot and lead heel at setup.

It’s amazing how poorly some golfers set up to use the ground efficiently at address. They’ve put themselves in a position where their athlete is already in recovery mode, due to their poor setup.

Here are the characteristics that I like to see.

Students should start with slightly more pressure on their lead foot, maybe 55 percent. They should also start with more pressure (again, about 55 percent) on their lead toe and trail heel. This set-up position starts the domino effect for a solid golf swing.

2. Improved Balance

Linear Trace

This golfer has a linear trace during his motion, a characteristic of good balance and consistency.

If you are out of balance during your golf swing, you’re in trouble. Your body has to expend more energy subconsciously to make sure you don’t fall over. That means you’re using less energy completing the task of hitting your golf ball.

Your body is a lot like your computer; the more programs that are open and running, the slower your computer performs. Balance works the same way. If you’re in balance, your body can perform with more efficiency and speed.

3. Quantify Feel

You’ve heard this before; what you feel is not always real. These devices can give you exact measurements for your technique and take the guess work out of the equation.  One of my favorite examples is helping my students feel the proper sequence of events of applying pressure to the lead foot.

4. There Are 7 Different Center of Pressure Traces

Fish Hook Trace

This golfer’s trace looks like a fish hook, doesn’t it?

The seven center of pressure (COP) traces are:

  • Scattered
  • Linear
  • Heel to Toe
  • Fish Hook
  • Abbreviated
  • Power Trace
  • Power Z Trace

They all have their own unique qualities. Some are great for power, while some are great for consistency. Some will make your golf game challenging. Being able to apply the proper trace for your game will lead to better golf.

5. The Change of Direction for Our Downswing Starts with the Lower Body

This golfer's COP is starting to move toward the target just after his left arm is parallel to the ground. Note the white Box labeled "lateral" in the top right corner has a "3," signifying a motion towards the target.

This golfer’s COP is starting to move toward the target just after his left arm is parallel to the ground. Note the white Box labeled “lateral” in the top right corner has a “3,” signifying a motion towards the target.

This change of direction takes place prior to our arms completing the backswing motion.  If you want a ballpark figure, the body starts moving toward the target for a full swing somewhere around your trail arm being parallel to the ground during your backswing.

6. There is a Distinct Difference Between a Driver Trace and an Iron Trace

The COP for a driver trace has a small change of direction, back away from the target, prior to impact. Most iron traces do not. This “braking effect” can help golfers swing more up on the ball and maximize their launch conditions with a more ascending strike.

7. Your COP Trace Can Help Change the Shape of Your Shot

Are you trying to execute more of a push path? Try to move your pressure to your lead toe on the downswing. If you are trying to hit a pull path, move your pressure to your lead heal on the downswing.

8. For More Distance, You Need to Increase Your Peak Velocity 

Peak Velocity

This golfer’s Peak Velocity (Measured @ 211 centimeters/second) has taken place in between the top of the backswing and prior to the lead arm being parallel to the ground.

The Peak Velocity is the fastest lateral motion in your golf swing. Most male touring professionals have their peak velocity taking place prior to their lead arm being parallel to the ground on their downswing.

9. Your Toes and Heels play very different roles in your golf swing

This Golfer has too much pressure on his toes, during the first move for his downswing. 100% is on the lead foot, 90% is on the trail foot.

This golfer has too much pressure on his toes during the first move for his downswing.

Your toes start and stop the lateral motion of your golf swing. Your heels help your body rotate correctly on both your backswing and downswing. I will tell you right now, if you think you are only an athlete with more pressure on your toes, you’re likely not getting the most out of your golf game! Using your toes and heels with the correct sequence will help you play better golf.

Hopefully, one or all of these 9 reasons for using a pressure-measuring device has piqued your interest. These devices are wonderful tools that can help you improve your golf game. Knowledge is power, so increase your knowledge about your foot work and find a more powerful golf game. Good luck!

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Certified Teaching Professional at the Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Coast, CA. Ranked as one of the best teachers in California & Hawaii by Golf Digest Titleist Performance Institute Certified www.youtube.com/uranser

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. M

    Apr 26, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    For point #1 about setup – is there any way to work on setup or know if you have a bit too much on the back foot and toward your heels without one of these devices?

    I suppose one of those inflatable balance rods would give you some idea at least about heel-toe.

    • Tim Mitchell

      May 2, 2016 at 7:13 pm

      M…I have an article in the works that will address this shortly. Sorry to ask for you to wait. Thank for your patience!

  2. nick

    Apr 24, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    this device doesn’t look like many people would find comfortable to use . i like standing on what I’m hitting, and it looks like it would impact my standard swing . i like to use my feet to feel and initiate my swing

    • Tim Mitchell

      May 2, 2016 at 7:18 pm

      It’s pretty stable Nick. I can think of a number of conditions out on the course that are a lot less secure. Bunkers, pine needles, dirt, etc. Plus, it’s not so thick that you feel like the golf ball is significantly lower than your feet. The information it shares, IMO, is worth any nuisance that you might feel.

  3. farmer

    Apr 24, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    This is kind of like Trackman. All you have to do is find someone who owns one and knows how to correctly interpret the data. Then, all this person has to do is effectively communicate to the student what the data means and how to make whatever changes are necessary. No problem.

  4. NJP

    Apr 23, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Number 1 reason….so instructors can charge you more for fancy gadgets without even helping you get the fundamentals right first.

    • Jay

      May 2, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      Funny – I always thought proper balance was one of the fundamentals???

  5. Large chris

    Apr 23, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    I was sceptical about these devices a couple of years ago but I think as the knowledge base improves in terms of ‘what pros do, their pressure traces’, then there increasing value in it. The problem I always had with this is when coaches (ek Kostis) are trying to talk in terms of ‘weight’ and CofG rather than pressure.
    Anything that helps get the setup correct is very valuable. Less knowledgeable instructors try to analyse static frames of the swing as if knowing where the CofG is tells you where the foot pressure is, which is meaningless in a dynamic system.

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WATCH: Two drills to help you stop hitting it fat

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Here’s a response to a question on my Instagram page from Neil Riley. He asked if he should steepen the angle of attack in the downswing in order to stop hitting fat shots. In this video, I share two of the reasons why golfers might be hitting fat shots, as well as two drills to practice that will help them stop hitting it fat.

 

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Changing your golf swing? Consider this before you do

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Golfers I have taught over the years have an almost uncanny ability to put the golf club on the ball (to varying degrees, of course). I have seen well-hit shots from an incredibly wide variety of positions. I’ve seen closed faces, open faces, steep swings, flat swings, outside-in paths, inside-out paths, slow and fast swings, strong grips and weak grips ALL hit the golf ball solidly at times. How? Well, thinking about this may very well help your swing, especially before you decide to change something in it. Let’s take a look at a few examples to explain.

Strong Grips/Closed Clubfaces

We’ll start with the example of a strong grip that tends to get the clubface quite closed to the arc in the swing and at the top of the swing. If that is left alone in the downswing, the shots are very predictable: low and left (for a right-hander), sometimes barely getting off the ground. But many golfers hit the ball in the air and straight with a strong grip; in fact, many hit high blocks to the right. How? Well, they open the face on the way down and usually “hold on” through impact. They adapt to the closed clubface to make it work, and that’s the point here.

Now, if they reach good impact consistently like a Dustin Johnson, Graham McDowell and several others do with a closed clubface, we have no problem. But often club golfers do not; in fact, many slice and top the ball from a shut face at the top.  They do so because opening a closed face is a very shallowing move and prevents one from releasing the club properly (it’s a power outage as well).  Functionally, however, opening a shut is far better than releasing it from there, for obvious reasons. If the trail hand pronates, the face goes from closed to really closed. So golfers simply learn to open it.

So along comes some well-meaning friend who says your clubface is really closed at the top. You look at many great players, and sure enough, your face is clearly shut. So you correct it. What happens next is also very predictable: high and very right, and very thin with many topped shots. Why? Because you only corrected part of the problem. You fixed the shut face, but now you’ve taken a square clubface and massively opened it as a force of habit. You have ingrained that move into your swing because you had to open your old, shut clubface in the downswing. Correcting only ONE thing made your swing worse. Your swing is now dysfunctional.

That’s why if you commit to one change for the sake of improvement or consistency, you have to commit to both changes. If you don’t, you’ll get worse… not better.

Steep Swings

Here’s another: many amateur players start the downswing with the golf club far too steep. Maybe it’s over the top, maybe not (you can be just as steep from inside the ball). But when the golf club is too vertical in transition, it can result in any one of a number of impact mistakes: namely fat, slices and toe hits. So the idea of “flattening the transition” (good idea) becomes your priority, but there’s always a catch. Most experienced golfers correct steep through one of a few different ways listed below:

  • Raising the hands (standing the club up) to avoid fat shots
  • Tilting the torso back or away from the target to avoid opening the face
  • Sending the hands away from the body to avoid toes hits
  • Raising the swing center

You get the picture here. You learn to get the club on a better plane (flatter with the butt of the grip pointed more at the golf ball), but you’ll likely still have one of the “fit-in” moves left into impact. So a flatter club, which is by far a better way to square the face, might result in a shank if you’re used to sending your hands away from your body to avoid a toe hit. Raising the hands might top. Tilting the torso back away might hit shallow fats or tops. So you fixed the steep transition, but your impact is worse! Again, you’re dysfunctional.

Remember, if you commit to one change, you MUST commit to both.

Weak Grips/Over-The-Top

One more: Golfers who start out with a weak grip (as most do) slice. So as a reaction, they come over the top and swing outside-in. So they fix the grip, and of course, the result is predictable. They pull the ball, generally low and left (for right-handers). You get the pattern here. They need to learn a new swing direction, and on and on.

The lesson is clear; a single correction of a swing issue can be sufficient, but in my experience, two corrections must be tackled for long-term improvement. What to correct first? Well, you’d have to consult with your teacher or coach. As a rule, I try to get better impact first if I can get someone there from where their swing is now. Some other teachers may prefer a different sequence, but I think they’d all agree that a two-part correction is ultimately in the works.

I’ve always believed that teachers can disagree widely on the prescription, but they should be pretty much in unison regarding the diagnosis. Learn the swing flaw AND your reaction to it before you decide to make a swing change.

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How to use your handicap to lower your scores

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The fastest way to improve the game of an amateur, or a handicap golfer, is to use the established handicap as a guide to direct and then to measure that improvement. The measurement component is simple; as the game improves, the handicap goes down. Using the handicap as a guide is a bit more complex because the player must be dedicated, determined and disciplined enough to stay within the improvement process. And before I share with you the process, I want to share the foundation, or the rationale, that makes it work.

“Placing the ball in the right position for the next shot is 80 percent of winning golf.”

— Ben Hogan

Not all that long ago, I was present when a friend of a client of mine was complaining that no matter what he did with practice or lessons he just wasn’t getting better. He said that if he could just break 90 once he could “die a happy man.” It sounded like an opportunity to be of service to me, so I agreed to a playing lesson. The short version of that lesson was I told him what to hit and where to hit it — and he shot 87.

Was he happy? Not on your life! Angry, not quite… but really upset. Why? The poor guy said he didn’t have any fun!

The day of the playing lesson, I met the player on the range while he was warming up. I observed that he should never hit a driver, so I didn’t let him. I observed he couldn’t hit a long iron, so I didn’t let him. I had him tee off with a six iron on the par 4’s and 5’s, which he hated. And if he could have controlled his putting distance a bit better he wouldn’t have three-putted three times. No penalty shots, no water balls and no OB’s. All we did for 18 holes was try to put the ball in play and to keep it in play. He hated it. So much for dying a happy man.

During this playing lesson, I used the player’s handicap as a guide to maximize his playing ability, and I used his ability to help him make the best score he could at that time. So how did I use his handicap? I could see this player was no better than an 18, so I added one stroke to the posted par for each hole. Par 3’s became Par 4’s. Par 4’s became Par 5’s, and Par 5’s became Par 6’s. Once his par was established, he played each hole to get on the green according to that par adjustment. For example, the 210-yard par-3 became a 210-yard par-4. So instead of trying to get on the green from the tee, we used a strategy to get on the green in two and then two-putt for a 4, or “his par.”

I advocate every player use this handicap game-improvement system. A 15-handicap adjusts 15 holes so his par changes from 72 to 87; an 8-handicap adjusts eight holes so that his par changes from 72 to 80. I use this process for plus handicaps and professionals as well. A plus-4 adjusts four holes so his/her par changes from 72 to 68. Using this mindset, my playing lesson shot 3-under his par of 90.

I’ve had clients cut their handicaps in half in just a few months by adherence to this process. It works in lowering scores because it eliminates most “unforced errors,” and about half of all dropped shots at all levels are a direct result of unforced errors. Unforced errors occur when something is attempted that the player can’t do or shouldn’t do. The fewer unforced errors per round, the lower the score. It’s as simple as that.

I strongly urge golfers to chart each round of golf in order to identify every unforced error. Just email me at edmyersgolf@gmail.com and I will send the game-improvement scorecard that I have my clients use to evaluate their performance.

Posting lower scores is how handicaps go down, and all handicaps plateau when the player is faced with the realities of what he/she can and can’t do. For example, an improving handicap golfer may require the need to use clubs or hit shots not previously necessary. The playing experience reveals what needs practice, and practice is where the player should learn what can and can’t be done. Rule of Thumb: if you can do it 7/10 times in practice, you can consider doing it in play.

In the opening paragraph, I stated that dedication, determination, and discipline are required to stay within this improvement process should the player decide to implement it. But I should have said it takes a whole lot of all three. Experience tells me that players say what they feel, but do what they want. Neither is a plan for progress.

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