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How Trackman can help you feel more and think less

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Though the age old adage “drive for show, putt for dough” may be true on some level, we golfers know better. There may be no greater fear in golf than standing on the tee with the wind in your face and knowing you have to hit a fairway with out of bounds on one or… (gulp!) both sides. So while our skill with the flat-stick is certainly one of the key determiners of our success, scoring always starts with a well placed tee-ball. And when we struggle with the driver, golf becomes much more difficult.

Thankfully, help is around the corner. New technology is now making it possible to understand exactly what you do in your swing that makes the ball behave in certain ways. Armed with this knowledge, you can then learn how to feel a swing that gets the ball to travel on the lines you intend.

Enter Trackman

Trackman is a doppler-based radar that can measure, among other things, your swing path in relation to your target and the angle of your club face in relation to your swing path. Arguably, it is these two factors that have the greatest impact on the starting direction of your golf ball, and where it ultimately ends up.

What can Trackman do, and what do the numbers mean?

TrackMan provides accurate, real-time data and graphics on your ball’s launch conditions, flight, and landing. It can measure (among a whole host of other things) swing speed, club path, face angle, launch angle, spin and distance. For the purposes of this article, I am going to focus mainly on club path and face angle.

trackman data

Club path refers to the direction the club head is moving at impact. Face angle refers to the direction your club face is pointing at impact. Ideally, we want the ratio of club path to face angle to be 2:1 for a driver. So in the example above, we have a club path of 6 (meaning 6 degrees to the right), and face angle of 3.5 degrees open (right). This shot started 3.5 degrees right of the target and drew back toward the center, stopping 4.6 feet right of the target line.

This is good news for you and me. It means that we don’t have to be perfect. We just need to use our own unique swing and work to get the ratios in line.

How Trackman saved my driver

Though I’m a decent player, I struggled with my driver for a long time. I could hit a hit snap hook way to the left as easily as I could hit a big push or slice way to the right, so it was difficult to be confident in choosing the right target. In fact, I was so unpredictable, that during last year’s club championships I benched my driver in favor of a 3-wood for two of the three rounds. As you can imagine, I gave up yards to the top players, and didn’t fare as well as I had hoped.

The call for help

This past winter, I sought out Mark Elliott, the Track-Man of my club, and together we set out to save my driver (and my sanity!). 

The Starting Point, May 2014

Trackman article image 2

The Treatment Plan

Over our first few sessions, we determined that I had a fairly consistent inside path, but it was a lack of control with the club face that was causing my troubles off the tee.

Progress, November 2015

Trackman article image 3

How I used the data to think less and feel more

What I needed to do was to not think in terms of numbers, but instead learn the different feels. After I’d hit a shot, Mark would get me to predict the result and ask me how I made this conclusion. What we were doing was making cognitive connections. By predicting the face angle and/or path, I had to connect the feel of the swing to the result. I would then confirm what I felt with the data from Trackman.

The premise was that if I could learn to associate a certain feel to each result, I would be well on my way to making authentic improvement. Each session, we would work off the results. If the data showed my face was closed to the path, Mark might ask me to open the face a little. Of course, opening the face a little has no numerical value. It’s a feel and I would simply have to figure out how I could accomplish this request. It’s amazing how your mind uses logic to problem solve. Simple manipulations in ball position and stance can also make a big difference in path and face angles, and as you start to understand what happens when you change a variable (because Trackman gives you the freedom to experiment) you become very powerful. You learn how to manipulate path and face, and yet still make a similar swing.

When Mark asked me to open the face a little, I turned the grip to the right a tiny bit at address and then moved the ball back slightly in my stance. Then I made the exact same swing… and voila. The face to path ratio was 2:1 and the ball started just right of the target and drew back to center.

Progress, January 2015

Trackman article image 4

Progress, February 2015

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Progress, March 2015

Trackman article image 6

There is no doubt in my mind that Trackman can help average golfers, as well as low-handicap golfers. Most people think that by using data like this, they are complicating the game, but I would disagree. For me, Trackman actually made improving simpler, because I no longer had to stand on the range and make assumptions about why my shots went where they did. I knew. By training with Trackman, you will learn how an open face or an inside path feels, for example, and you’ll know what you need to work on.

It’s almost like having your own superhero, rocketing in from the future to save you from the evil “Dr. Hook.” Never fear, Trackman is here!

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Golfers may be the most obsessive group of sportsmen and women on the planet. We live and die with every drive, chip and putt we make. Chris is the founder of Thirteen Under Golf apparel, a 2-handicap, and an emerging author who understands the highs and lows of golf. As an eternal student of the game, (and an admitted Trackman junkie), he is constantly searching for ways to improve. Using his experience - both success and failure - Chris is will share his knowledge with the GolfWRX community to entertain, inspire and motivate you to playing your best golf.

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. OldGolfer

    May 21, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Trackman is a good ball tracker, but it CAN NOT measure anything associated with the face… it does not measure face angle.

  2. DB

    May 18, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    See what trackman does to normal golfers? Now people are arguing about the numbers on a clock face! Hahahaha. All joking aside, trackman is a useful tool! No one in their right mind would argue that, from a coaching perspective, it it a great tool to show a golfer some key data that’s causing shot shape or distance outcome . Try not to get too caught up in the numbers. The greats of the game all believed that golf was more mental than physical.

    • Joshuaplaysgolf

      May 19, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      LOL!! Seriously. What in the world is happening that people are arguing over clock faces? That’s an awful lot of thinking going on down there…for an article about feeling rather than thinking.

  3. Steve

    May 18, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Does Golfwrx get a check every time the word “Trackman” is used in an article?

  4. Durotan

    May 18, 2016 at 6:23 am

    Last week I was at this Demoday and to that event there was, of course, a TrackMan too.

    I tried my own driver in the TrackMan and got following numbers:

    Swingspeed = 117 mph.
    AOA = +0.5
    Smash = 1.42
    Carry = 260 yards

    And guess what? Because of my low smash factor the guy at the Demoday wanted to change my setup, and I asked why? His answer was so I could gain more distance.

    I was like. WTF? I don’t need more distance and I don’t need to change anything.
    I like the feel of my shafts.
    I like my ball flight.
    I like the gapping of my clubs.
    I like the dispersion.
    I am satisfied with my driving distance with my driver.
    I am satisfied with the distance with the irons.
    Basicly. I like it all. I like what my eyes see. I like what I feel.

    My point. IF you like what you SEE and FEEL, don’t try to play TrackMan, go out and play golf instead.

    • Durotan

      May 18, 2016 at 6:25 am

      Sorry: 284 yards carry*

    • Jack

      May 19, 2016 at 5:05 am

      With that CHS you should be arguing it well over 300 yards with half decent launch conditions

    • Jmike

      May 19, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Your smash factor is terrible tho,, I do fittings and Demos. Anyone with a 117mph club head speed should be carrying the ball alot further than 260yds

    • anthony

      May 19, 2016 at 9:30 am

      if you like your setup so much, what are you doing at a demo day in the first place?

  5. GEICO

    May 17, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    A: “Trackman is good.”
    B: “Yep, everybody knows that.”
    A: “Well, do you know that it costs you 50 grants?”
    B: “What?…”

    GEICO: “15 minutes on trackman won’t save you 15 strokes.”

  6. tom stickney

    May 17, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Auditing your practice routine with Trackman is a good way to practice if you have access to one for sure, but be careful not to get too wrapped up in the numbers. Always use trackman with adult supervision I always say! 🙂

    • Tom

      May 18, 2016 at 8:22 pm

      Or know your numbers and if/when they go bonkers stop and go get help.

  7. Bassackwards

    May 17, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    You are the exact contradiction in terms of not understanding your own senses that millions of amateurs go through. You are actually thinking more about how you feel you should be applying your senses to the data given, not the other way around as you describe! It’s the validation of your thoughts with data that is supplementing your sense of feel that is making you understand what your club face doing, which you couldn’t do with feel before you started the Trackman sessions that provided you with the correct information necessary to make you THINK more about HOW it’s all being applied.

    That is why this worked for you, because you had it completely backwards and upside down in your understanding of your own senses, you needed the data so you can SEE what was going on.

    Now you know how hard it is for teachers to teach some students who have this backwards-sense problem.

  8. Spin

    May 17, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Just get a new shaft and add get a more forgiving head. You’re trying to hit it too straight, which is what happens to everybody when they get on this type of analysis. If you can’t move the ball in any direction you want at will, then you have the wrong driver. Period. No need for Trackman.

  9. Chris Stinson

    May 17, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Very well written article Mr billingsly. Looks like I better get on track and sort my swing out.

  10. Eric

    May 17, 2016 at 11:36 am

    Good write up. I’m thinking of taking trackman lessons to start dialing in some numbers, but it sounds like a good way to identify some swing issues as well.

    BTW – Each minute on the clock is 2 degrees. Not busting your B@!!$, just don’t want you getting into the weeds based on some bad math.

    • Shank

      May 17, 2016 at 2:16 pm

      2 degrees?? Don’t you mean 6 or am I missing something?

      360 degrees divided by 60 = 6 degrees.

    • Joe

      May 18, 2016 at 5:56 am

      6*60 = 360

    • Eric

      May 18, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      I see what you’re saying. I guess it depends how you look at a clock.

      12 hours with 60 minutes each – 12×60= 720 minutes 720 minutes/360 degrees = 2

      • TR1PTIK

        May 18, 2016 at 12:46 pm

        There are only 60 “minute” marks on a clock. Not 720. Each minute on the CLOCK is 6 degrees. I understand how you came to your conclusion, but you’re thinking in terms of time instead of positions on a clock face.

        • Eric

          May 18, 2016 at 12:56 pm

          Yep. Like I said, depends on how you look at a clock. No worries!

      • DW

        May 19, 2016 at 12:55 am

        If you take it that way then it would be 360 degrees / 720 minutes which is actually 0.5 degrees per minute. Taken in reverse, 0.5 degrees x 720 minutes = 360 degrees. By the way, where can I get a clock that shows 720 minutes?

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