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GEARS: A game-changing technology for golf instruction and club fitting

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There seems to be a debate in golf instruction concerning old-school versus new-school teaching. I think the discussion is mostly academic and largely a product of the golf blogosphere, which is in reality an amalgam of disparate ideas, the sum of which can lead to more confusion than clarity. The point is that any good teacher of the game should be a student of all the new science while striving for the simplest ways to convey the data to their students.

Imagine taking a golf lesson that removes any doubt about what your golf swing is doing. Imagine having the confidence to know exactly what to work on. Even picture a scenario where you can virtually see yourself on every swing. It’s a reality with a new technology called GEARS golf.

GEARS, which stands for Golf Evaluation and Research System, was launched at the PGA show in 2014 after five years of development. It’s a full swing, club and body-tracking system used by PGA pros, club fitters, teachers and equipment manufacturers to measure tiny nuances in full 3D from address to follow through. Unlike Trackman and FlightScope, it’s not a Doppler radar system; it’s a motion-capture system built on the same technology used by biomechanists and filmmakers. With GEARS, eight 1.7-megapixel cameras run at 360 frames per second creating measurements as fine as 0.2 mm. There are no wires, and it works for any golfer and any golf club.

“GEARS is the most accurate golf swing tracking system on the planet,” says Michael Neff, Director of GEARS Sports. And I believe him.

A typical indoor setup of Gears.

A typical indoor setup of Gears. The system can be transported inside and out and from course to course.

In my many years of teaching our game, I have always found it necessary to ask three simple questions:

  • What is the ball doing?
  • What did the club do to influence the ball?
  • What did player do to influence the golf club?

GEARS is the only system I have ever found that answers all three questions with absolute certainty, thanks to its ability to analyze over 600 images per swing in less than a second. In the videos below, you can see just a few examples of what the system offers.

Club Head Speed and Club Face Contact

Attack Angle

Club Head Path

Some golfers, and even some golf instructors might consider this too much detail. Why would anyone need this much information? Well, you may or may not… but why not have access to all the accurate information you can and then simply take from it what you need?

You can use the info GEARS provides for a thorough club fitting, or find the things you need to work on in your swing. Remember the avatars you see in these videos are of YOU swinging the golf club. The data gathered is the true trace of the arms, body, wrists and all parts of the golf club throughout the entire swing.

Many of you who read my GolfWRX articles know me as a non-technical teacher, and to a large extent I do try to simplify my instruction and condense the information as much as possible. But non-technical is not to be confused with unscientific or irrational. Everything any good teacher does must be based on the latest research in the field and GEARS represents that horizon. Three-dimensional analyses are at the forefront of where teaching and fitting is right now, and to disregard it is a disservice to our students. What I particularly like is that GEARS can offer me measurements, not estimates, and that is the essence of the this cutting edge system.

There are currently 32 GEARS systems in the United States. Systems sell for about $32,000, and golfers can book time on a system for roughly $200-$250 for 1-2 hours. Email info@gearssports.com to learn more.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. ooffa

    Oct 11, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    Garbage

  2. Dan Sueltz

    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:54 am

    I have used the GEARS system and it has some extremely good information for clubfitting as well as instruction. For clubfitting, it has the best information for tempo, transition, release and face contact (of course the other important stuff like club/ball speed, smash, launch, spin and attack angle). Trying to figure out the exact combination of shafts that will make our fitting sessions even more productive before we pull the trigger on this system. Reason is that it takes a while to calibrate the shaft/head combination so it could be cumbersome in a fitting if you do not have the right combinations to begin with. Love the system though…of course I am a techno geek that has seen the evolution of clubfitting and this is the next great thing. Great job GEARS!

  3. RJ

    Sep 27, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Hey Dennis,
    Good stuff as usual. I am all about the technology in the game also. How the info is dispersed to the student is the key, bird like portions work best I have found.
    Trackman has parameters that never see the light of day at our place and Gears is no different. Most of the time I do not even show the numbers, only discuss them so they can focus on the task at hand. Unfortunately there are a few that are very traditional when it come to the sport and like the “Keep it simple stupid approach”. Keep on writing and I will keep reading Pro.. Best wishes and good health!

  4. Shankmaster

    Sep 22, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    At what point is the golfer overwhelmed with information?
    How does he/she know what part of the swing needs to be “fixed” first?
    According to this system what is a “correct” swing?
    What would this system tell about Jim Furyk, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Chi-Chi Rodriguez swing?

  5. emerson boozer

    Sep 20, 2016 at 5:50 am

    Dennis, great, great. Article. Tech has improved my game more in the past 6mos than anything in the past 15years. Understanding the physics and biomechanics behind the golf swing is truly important to actually implementing on the course and ultimately developing confidence and consistent feel. Plus, now i know exactly why a shot goes astray and how to fix it.

    If you could also do one on hand path for drivers and irons that would be awesome.

    Finally, forget the trolls here, they are just intimidated about where to start to eliminate their own ignorance.

    • Mad-Mex

      Sep 20, 2016 at 2:07 pm

      Wipe you nose again, you missed a spot,,,,,,,,
      So we are not to respond nor comment on these articles? And if we do all we should do is compliment and praise?
      Reality check,,,, $200-$250- that’s what many golfers spend on golf a month, they are also the ones who are keeping many golf courses from going under,,,,

  6. Mad-Mex

    Sep 15, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    So this GEAR thing tells me that my angle of attack is 3.75 degrees too steep, that I am coming out to in by 3 degrees and the face is open 1.5 degrees, but the ball is going straight or baby fade ( I have in fact a slight out to in swing and my miss IS a baby fade),,,,,,,,,

    Now what !?!?!

    • Dennis Clark

      Sep 16, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      3.75 too steep compared to what? 3 degrees out-in with 1.5 open hit in the middle of the face would be a baby fade? What is your question? if your ball flight belies path/face relationship, there’s a good chance your hitting the toe in this case. It’s known as horizontal gear effect.

      • Mad-Mex

        Sep 19, 2016 at 11:10 pm

        Maybe I should explain my post a little better,,,,,,,,,,,,, Let say I got all that information from the system, now what am I supposed to do with it?!?!? How do I correct it?!?!? How do I know its fixed?!?! How do I know when am off again ?!?! There is way too much info being fed to golfers, I have read posts here of people saying how they lowered their RPM’s by 200 simply by buying a new $300 shaft,,, too much emphasis on numbers and not on feel,,,

        But I could be wrong

    • Jim

      Sep 24, 2016 at 1:30 am

      The professional giving you your lesson on this will show the most important issue(s) AND explain why you should correct them – after all, that’s why you’re there – hopefully not just to do an MRI on your golfswing and then do nothing to fix the problem it found.- Just as if only using good video camera’s. They SHOULD while reviewing your video
      with you, be explaining both sides ; WHAT
      you DID to get to a bad – say ‘top position’ & how to
      change the move and get to a better spot, WHY the less than good position you ended up in now affects the next move you (can – or now must HAVE to) do The ability to make an easy repetitive swing – or not – is always a byproduct of what happened one or two moves before…

      I have wireless/markerless 3D Biometric
      motion analysis and use maybe 40% of all the areas it measures, and it’s awesome for actually quantifying things like shoulder & hip turn, weight distribution, weight shift spine tilt, etc…I can show you YOU – not a stick figure – and say if you’re shoulder’s only turning 69 or 72 degrees we can work on getting it to 85, then 90 (unless a physical limitation is present)….
      Not all brilliant people are good teachers (Foley?)
      A good teacher makes it flow and make sense as part of making his case why the student should change, needs to change OR absolutely HAS TO change – if they want to improve, stop hurting, or reach their potential.

      Remember, you came to us. If someone has this and can’t give you a full and easily understood (some numbers included too) analysis of your swing, what you’re doing well & not, what needs to change to meet your goals and how the two of you will go about it by the end of the first 15 minutes – including practice swings & some warm up shots, they’re too lost in their tech stuff and not focused enough on the human next to ’em

      I’ll bet your buddy Parson will buy one 🙂

  7. GEARS Golf

    Sep 15, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    We’ve added the map of GEARS system installation sites to http://gearssports.com/, for those who would like to see/try our product.

    Otherwise, click here to go straight to the map!
    https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/1/viewer?mid=1DX8enNc5vdzyLFQ099-BD_vOtrk

  8. ooffa

    Sep 15, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    That’s a whole lot of crap there using to tell me I slice the ball. Thanks but no thanks.

    • Dennis Clark

      Sep 15, 2016 at 5:46 pm

      Always glad to help. You could always play a course with 18 doglegs to the right…

      • ooffa

        Sep 16, 2016 at 6:41 am

        Certainly not the nurturing comment I would expect from an award winning teacher.
        Excuse me could you help me hit the ball further.
        Just play a shorter course. Glad I could help.
        Thanks teach, same time next week?

        • Mr. Wedge

          Sep 16, 2016 at 12:51 pm

          It was a good response to your initial pointless, yet derogatory, comment. The system will show/tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong. It’s up to YOU, or with the help of a good instructor, to figure out how to fix those flaws.

          • Mad-Mex

            Sep 19, 2016 at 11:12 pm

            Am with ooffa,,,,,,,,,, besides, a good teacher will correct you swing for a fraction of this system!!!

    • Dennis Clark

      Sep 16, 2016 at 9:54 am

      Thank you for calling the article “a whole lot of crap”…If you want help with the slice, I’d be happy to help you, send me a video. But no need to demean the article. Thx

  9. Shooters Tour

    Sep 15, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    A major concern with this system are the sensors placed on the shaft and club-head. The sensors are not weightless, producing data that is not entirely accurate. This also increases swing weight to a considerable factor, having tried GEARS last year.

    • Dennis Clark

      Sep 15, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      Swing weight changes 1 step and head markers weigh 1 gram each and shaft clip is 8 gram

      We have had no negative feedback from any of the tour players that have been on the system

      This only way to accurately find the center of a marker is if it’s a ball. This is how we find the center to within 00.2mm

      Small price to pay for most accurate tool to measure the body, they wrists, grip, shaft, head and face. Oh and all at the same time…

  10. Dennis Clark

    Sep 15, 2016 at 10:06 am

    I wrote this article to inform you that there is currently a technology called GEARS which offers the many things I described, just as there is, say, an iPhone 7 you can now buy and several new apps you put on that phone. Any and all of the latest technology is an option, a choice that we, the consumers, make or NOT make. In fact golf itself is an optional hobby. No one is suggesting you buy it, simply saying that it’s there. As for the myriad features, i suggest you take as much or as little as you like. If you’re looking for one particular area of your club or swing to correct, GEARS will identify that area. Forget the rest. Also, the technology is quite obviously not a home product to be set up in ones garage, just as a heart monitor is not meant for your bedroom. That’s why there are professional studios that provide this service on an hourly basis. Thx.

  11. Uncle Buck

    Sep 15, 2016 at 3:12 am

    For crying out loud, just hit the ball the best you can 3 times and hopefully have a look at par!!! All these gadgets and gizmos, fitting carts, 300 shaft options, 1300 grips to choose from, lasers, 36 brands of golf balls, etc.!! Just step up to da tee and hit it, find it, hit again, again, and pull the flat
    stick!! I’m up to here with all the nonsense already.

    • Jeffrey Purtell

      Sep 15, 2016 at 3:21 am

      Amen Bro

    • Mr. Wedge

      Sep 16, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      You’re suggesting no one actually puts effort into improving their game, and just be happy with the way they hit it, whether that’s good or terrible. That makes a lot of sense…

  12. Philip

    Sep 14, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    Better data is always better. Especially as it eventually filters down to things that a greater amount of people can afford and use. Put this on a grass driving range in which I can watch the real flight of my ball and I’m interested. Combine this with a swing coach that excels at getting one into their zone as their swing and technique is being evaluated and you have a winner (I had the experience of this last week – awesome session). My only issue with a lot of this technology is the presentation of the images and video from a 3rd person perspective. The last I checked I swing the golf club from within the swing, not outside looking in. It is from this point of view one needs to understand the swing, not from a camera person looking through a view finder. Granted, short of projecting a holographic video around myself, I have no simple answer to the issue myself.

  13. Rich B

    Sep 14, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    The technology available today is great in the right hands. I would also like to know where this is available. Hopefully, on the West Coast or close to it. Aloha

  14. Emo

    Sep 14, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    Yeah? How much does the whole system cost? And don’t give me the PGA discount price, we know they get to lease this stuff at big discounted prices. What would it cost for a normal person to buy one for his or her home?

    • Dennis Clark

      Sep 14, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      last paragraph in the article details it I believe

    • Jim

      Sep 14, 2016 at 9:24 pm

      Enough is enough…consider this the first gen Laser disc player of over the top crazy shit HUMANS can’t possibly need. Wait 6 years and it’ll be half the hassle and half the price.
      I LOVE TECH…Got Trackman and between that and my SwingGuru Pro most current editionn I can already produce too much ‘close enough for gov’t work’ OR SCRATCH GOLF data (within 2-3 degrees of measured spine tilt, shoulder tilt each arm and leg flexion, shoulder turn, hip turn head movement blah blah AND dead on
      accurate live time weight distribution & shift withnd with NO WIRES. I can live without all that because my 3 IDS
      cameras running 2@225fps (down the line & face on) and
      1 @ 450fps showing the clubhead CLEAR AS DAY from last 4 feet of downswing can see path, face rotation exactly where ball is struck and any deviation or head rotation from force of impact… The visualization of THE REAL CLUBHEAD AND PLAYER is 109 times better for the student to see amd understand than all the numbers we get from Trackman (which however is indispensable for driver and shaft fittings) but when conpared to the High Speed HD cameras bo where near as helpful for lessons – except for the rop 5% of my competitive players swinging >105.

      The “Normal” person who’d buy this “for their home” already has the best 40K “Full Swing” box simulator and 2 sets of PXG’s – staff bags too. One for home and one for the club….

      No one – maybe Woods or Pelz would buy this monstrosity –
      for their ‘home’ – but then again, they’d end up getting it comp’d.

      nothing beats good clear multiple high speed cameras & some foot-rot spray on the clubface

      • Jim

        Sep 14, 2016 at 10:35 pm

        I HATE IT when this site/my *NOTE EAT a draft I’m working on and says ‘server timed out’ and the friggin thing disappears – only to post AN HOUR LATER with the REWRITTEN post…

        My apologies to all. Hey GWRX – Feel free to delete this first one….

    • Jim

      Sep 14, 2016 at 10:20 pm

      ENOUGH already! I LOVE TECH…This will be great for fine tuning robot golfers for combat – once they evolve from just smashing each other up on ‘Battle Bots’…

      I can produce way too much biomechanical data now with my Swing Guru Pro 3D WIRELESS & MARKERLESS system. IT gives more info than a human player OR COACH needs. The latest gen produces spine tilt, shoulder tilt, stance to the cm. Real time dead on weight distribution & full motion shift – without pressure pads, shoulder & hip turn, head motionn arm n leg motion.. and more.blah blah numbers no one needs. I can show tilt n turn accurate within a couple degrees – “close enough for Government work” – OR SCRATCH GOLF. My Trackman, while INDESPENSABLE for driver & shaft fitting, spits out more numbers than all but my top 5% of competitive players need.

      Where as my 3 High Speed HD IDS camerasn 2 running @ 225 fps (face on & down the line) and the 3rd dedicated over the 4 feet od clubhead approaching, rotating into and striking the ball give CLEAR AS DAY images inch by inch SHOWING THE REAL PATH, FACE ANGLE & IMPACT with the ball.

      These visuals of the real human I’m teaching, his/her belly or boobs getting in the way, their actual hands and glove and their real club – are FAR better than all the numbers all the other stuff combined yields.

      As far as the “NORMAL GUY” (?!) Who’d buy this monstrosity “for their home”? – They already own the 35K FULL SIZE BOX “Full Swing” Simulator and probably have two of those curverd XXXXHD 10K 60″ Samsung TV’s and bar in their simulator room…along with 3 full sets of PXG’s -one for home, one for the club & one to show off in their office. They could give a crap how much this costs.

      The first two people to order one will be Woods & Pelz – and they’ll probably get it comp’d.

      nothing beats good HS cameras & a little foot-rot spray on the clubhead

  15. talljohn777

    Sep 14, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    The cover photo of Nick Price is not a true GEARS session because he is not wearing a suit with optical markers (little white balls) on it nor does his club have any optical markers. The optical markers are placed all over your body at every strategic point and joint to capture all information perfectly. GEARS is an optical tracking system and without these markers the cameras and software cannot return the needed information. I have used this system and it is truly impressive. My instructor was able to clearly show me my issues and we were able to build a plan that made a great deal of sense to fix my problems. I will not bore you with how bad my positions were during my swing, but it clearly opened my eyes to what was going on in my swing and the compensations that I was needing to make due to being in those bad positions. After the three day golf academy the before and after on GEARS were dramatic. Very impressive

    • KK

      Sep 14, 2016 at 6:52 pm

      Of course he’s not wearing the suit. They’re trying to pull in as many arrogant, anti-intellectual, delusional golfers as possible.

    • Dennis Clark

      Sep 14, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      John, I’ll ask Mike about the video; he works with Nick…Spot on observations; I’ve taught for 37 years and it identifies poor body and club positions better than any I’ve seen or used.

    • Dennis clark

      Sep 15, 2016 at 1:01 am

      Here’s the answer to the Nick Price observation from Mike Neff, GEARS director.

      “If you look closely there are markers on his club

      Gears has the ability to do body and club or just the club.

      Nick price was looking for answers as to why his driving was suffering. Gears answered those questions where no other tech could. It’s an amazing story. One of the best golf days of my life”.

  16. Ron

    Sep 14, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    Dennis, do you have the system?

  17. Steven

    Sep 14, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    This is exciting technology. I admit, I probably over analyze numbers and technical info for my golf swing. However, I think in the right hands, this is perfect. If an instructor has this info, he/she can diagnose why something is happening and focus on the pieces to fix flaws. They know what info is important and what isn’t. The info in amateur students’ hands may cause them to go crazy and not be focused on the building blocks. I can’t wait to see the list of facilities. Hopefully one around me.

  18. Deadeye

    Sep 14, 2016 at 11:16 am

    I like data but only if it produces a teachable moment. If the info can be analyzed and generate corrective actions I am all for it.

  19. TGG-Chris

    Sep 14, 2016 at 10:58 am

    As a data geek, this has me pretty excited. The question to me is how much of this extra data is actionable. Data is great if it helps you make a decision but if it’s mostly noise it’s just more of a mess that can cloud our heads when setting up for a shot.

    • Dennis Clark

      Sep 14, 2016 at 11:17 am

      Chris, that’s exactly the point I’m making…actionable data is working data or that which is relevant to an individual. What GEARS provides is ALL the data, much of which you may well be executing within a functional range. Its a “take what you need” kinda thing…The beauty again is MEASURED not estimated. Thx for interest.

  20. Lucky

    Sep 14, 2016 at 10:20 am

    The best coaches I’ve had were able to make technical jargon very simple and coach the same way. I don’t need to know all the dirty details.

  21. Dennis Clark

    Sep 14, 2016 at 9:49 am

    Steve Ill have that info up shortly. hold on

  22. steve s

    Sep 14, 2016 at 9:28 am

    I’m all for technology that shows what’s really happening in your swing, not what some old time golf coach THINKS is happening. What this will do(eventually) is make golf instruction more consistent, force incompetant golf coach to learn or lose students, and simplify golf for all of us.

    • steve s

      Sep 14, 2016 at 9:33 am

      Oh yeah, it would be nice if there was a listing of the 32 places in the world you could go to analyze your swing. Not here or on the GEAR’s website. Pretty lame….

  23. Ma

    Sep 14, 2016 at 8:26 am

    Finally, a potential technology that could bring the cost of trackman down to moderately out of reach, instead of, maybe when I’m 75 I could afford it, when I no longer need it.

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Opinion & Analysis

When the data says line is more important than speed in putting

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In my recent article, Line vs. speed: What’s really more important in putting?, I pointed out that in my 30-plus years of studying putting performance, I’ve learned that there are two important skills to putting:

  1. Direction (line)
  2. Distance control (speed)

There’s no question that golfers need to possess both these skills, but contrary to popular belief, they are not equally important on all putts. Sometimes, speed should be the primary concern. In other situations, golfers should be focused almost entirely on line. To make this determination, we have to consider the distance range of a putt and a golfer’s putting skill.

In the above referenced article, I showed how important speed is in putting, as well as the distances from which golfers of each handicap level should become more focused on speed. As promised, I’m going to provide some tips on direction (LINE) for golfers of different handicap levels based on the data I’ve gathered over the years through my Strokes Gained analysis software, Shot by Shot.

When PGA Tour players focus on line 

On the PGA Tour, line is more critical than speed from distances inside 20 feet. Obviously, the closer a golfer is to the hole, the more important line becomes and the less need there is to focus on speed. Further, I have found that the six-to-10-foot range is a key distance for Tour players. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Six to 10 feet is one of the most frequently faced putt distances on the PGA Tour. It is the first putt distance on approximately one in every five greens.
  2. Smack in the middle of this range is eight feet, which is the distance from which the average PGA Tour player makes 50 percent of his putts.
  3. In my research, I have consistently found that one-putt success in the six-to-10-foot range separates good putters from the rest on the PGA Tour

What we should do

How does this analysis help the rest of us?  To answer that question, we must first know our one-putt distance.  Just as I showed the two-putt distance by handicap level here, I will now show the 50 percent make distance by handicap level. This is the distance from the hole where players at each handicap level make 50 percent of their putts.

My recommendation is for each of us to recognize exactly what our 50 percent distance is. Maybe you’re a 16 or 17 handicap and putting is one of your strengths. Your 50 percent make distance is six feet. Excellent!  From that distance and closer, you should focus on line and always give the ball a chance to go in the hole.  From distances of seven-plus feet, you should consider the circumstances (up or downhill, amount of break, etc.) and factor in the speed as appropriate. The goal is to make as many of these putts as possible, but more importantly, avoid those heart-breaking and costly three-putts.

For added perspective, I am including the percentage of one putts by distance for the PGA Tour and our average amateur 15-19 handicap. I’m able to offer this data from ShotbyShot.com because it provides golfers with their “relative handicap” in the five critical parts of the game: (1) Driving, (2) Approach Shots, (3) Chip/Pitch Shots, (4) Sand Shots, and (5) Putting.

Line control practice: The star drill 

Looking for a way to practice choosing better lines on the putting green?  Here’s a great exercise known as the “star drill.” Start by selecting a part of your practice green with a slight slope.  Place five tees in the shape of a star on the slope with the top of the star on the top side of the slope.  This will provide an equal share of right to left and left to right breaks.

I recommend starting with a distance of three feet – usually about the length of a standard putter.  See how many you can make out of 10 putts, which is two trips around the star.  Here are a few more helpful tips.

  • Place a ball next to each of the five tees.
  • Use your full pre-shot routine for each attempt.
  • Stay at the three-foot distance until you can make nine of 10. Then, move to four feet, five feet, and six feet as you’re able to make eight from four feet, seven from five feet, and six from six feet.

This drill will give you confidence over these very important short putts. I do not recommend using it for any distance beyond six feet. It’s harder than you think to get there!

 

Exclusive for GolfWRX members: For a free, one-round trial of Shot by Shot, visit www.ShotByShot.com.

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Podcasts

TG2: Snell Golf founder Dean Snell talks golf balls and his life in the golf industry

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Snell Golf’s founder, Dean Snell, talks all about golf balls and his adventure through the industry. Dean fills us in on his transition from hockey player, to engineer, to golfer, and now business owner. He even tells you why he probably isn’t welcome back at a country club ever again.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Opinion & Analysis

Could Dollar Driver Club change the way we think about owning equipment?

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There’s something about golfers that draws the attention of, for lack of a better word, snake-oil salesmen. Whether it’s an as-seen-on-TV ad for a driver that promises pure distance and also fixes your power slice, or the subscription boxes that supposedly send hundreds of dollars worth of apparel for a fraction of the price, there always seems to be something out there that looks too good to be true.

Discerning golfers, who I would argue are more cynical than anything, understand that you get what you pay for. To get the newest driver that also works for your game, it may take a $150 club fitting, then a $400 head, and a shaft that can run anywhere from $100 up to $300-$400. After the fitting and buying process, you’ve made close to a thousand dollar investment in one golf club, and unless you’re playing money games with friends who have some deep pockets, it’s tough to say what the return on that investment actually is. When it’s all said and done, you have less than a year before that driver is considered old news by the standard of most manufacturers’ release schedules.

What makes a driver ‘good’ to most amateur golfers who take their game seriously is a cross section of performance, price, and hubris. As for that last metric, I think most people would be lying if they say it doesn’t feel good having the latest and greatest club in the bag. Being the envy of your group is fun, even if it only lasts until you snap hook your first drive out of bounds.

As prices of general release equipment have increased to nearly double what it was retailing at only 10 years ago, the ability to play the newest equipment is starting to become out of the question for many amateur golfers.

Enter Tyler Mycoskie, an avid, single digit handicap golfer (and the brother of Tom’s shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie). Tyler’s experience with purchasing golf equipment and his understanding of uniquely successful business models collided, which led him to start the Dollar Driver Club. With a name and logo that is a tongue in cheek allusion to the company that has shaken up the men’s skincare industry, the company seeks to offer a new way of thinking about purchasing golf equipment without completely reinventing the wheel of the model that has seen success in industries such as car leasing and purchasing razors.

The company does exactly what its name says. They offer the newest, top of the line driver and shaft combinations for lease at a cost of about a dollar per day.

The economics of the model seem too good to be true. When you purchase a driver, you are charged $30 plus $11 for shipping and it’s $30 per month from then on. You can upgrade your driver at no extra cost each year and your driver is eligible for upgrade or swap after 90 days of being a member. After a year, the total cost comes to $371 with shipping, which sounds a lot nicer than the $500 that it would cost to purchase, as an example, a Titleist TS3 with a Project X Evenflow T1100 today.

The major complaint most people would have is that you still don’t own the driver after that year, but as someone with a closet full of old golf clubs that diminish in value every day, which I have no realistic plans to sell, that doesn’t sound like a problem to me or my wife, who asks me almost weekly when I plan on thinning out my collection.

The model sounds like an obvious win for customers to me, and quite frankly, if you’re skeptical, then it’s probably just simply not for you. I contacted the team at the Dollar Driver Club to get some questions answered. Primarily, I want to know, what’s the catch?

I spoke with a Kevin Kirakossian, a Division I golfer who graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2013 and has spent virtually his entire young career working on the business side of golf, most recently with Nike Golf’s marketing team prior to joining Tyler at Dollar Driver Club. Here’s what he had to say about his company.

At risk to the detriment of our conversation, I have to find out first and foremost, what’s the catch?

K: There’s no catch. We’re all golfers and we want to offer a service that benefits all of our members. We got tired of the upfront cost of drivers. We’re trying to grow the game. Prior to us, there was no way to buy new golf clubs without paying full price. We take a lot of pride that players of all skill level, not just tour pros or people with the extra budget to drop that kind of money every year, can have access to the latest equipment.

With that question out of the way, I delved into the specifics of the brand and model, but I maintained a skeptical edge, keeping an ear out for anything that I could find that would seem too good to be true.

How closely do you keep an eye on manufacturers and their pricing? It would seem that your service is more enticing as prices increase in equipment.

K: The manufacturers are free to create their own pricing. We work closely with manufacturers and have a great relationship with them. As prices increase, it helps us, even if they decrease, I still think it’s a no-brainer to use our service, purely for the fact that new equipment comes out every year. You don’t have a high upfront cost. You’re not stuck with the same driver for a year. It gives you flexibility and freedom to play the newest driver. If a manufacturer wants to get into the same business, we have the advantage of offering all brands. We’re a premium subscription brand, so we’re willing to offer services that other retailers aren’t. We’ll do shaft swaps, we’ll send heads only, we have fast shipping and delivery times. We’re really a one-stop shop for all brands.

What measures do you take to offer the most up to date equipment?

K: We will always have the newest products on the actual launch date. We take pride in offering the equipment right away. A lot of times, our members will receive their clubs on release day. We order direct from the manufacturers and keep inventory. There’s no drop shipping. We prefer shipping ourselves and being able to add a personal package.

The service is uniquely personal. Their drivers come with a ball marker stamped with your initials as well as a stylish valuables pouch. They also provide a hand signed welcome letter and some stickers.

Who makes up the team at Dollar Driver Club?

K: We’re a small team. We started accepting members to our service in 2018 and it has grown exponentially. We have four or five guys here and it’s all hands on deck. We handle customer inquiries and sending drivers out. It’s a small business nature that we want to grow a lot bigger.

When discussing the company, you have to concede that the model doesn’t appeal to everyone, especially traditionalists. There are golfers who have absolutely no problem spending whatever retailers are charging for their newest wares. There are also golfers who have no problem playing equipment with grips that haven’t been changed in years, much less worrying about buying new equipment. I wanted to know exactly who they’re targeting.

Who is your target demographic?

K: We want all golfers. We want any golfer with any income, any skill level, to be able to play the newest equipment. We want to reshape the way people think about obtaining golf equipment. We’re starting with drivers, but we’re looking into expanding into putters, wedges, and other woods. We’ve heard manufacturers keep an eye on us. There are going to be people who just want to pay that upfront cost so they can own it, but those people may be looking at it on the surface and they don’t see the other benefits. We’re also a service that offers shaft swaps and easily send in your driver after 3 months if you don’t like it.

At this point, it didn’t seem like my quest to find any drawbacks to the service was going well. However, any good business identifies threats to their model and I was really only able to think of one. They do require a photo ID to start your account, but there’s no credit check required like you may see from other ‘buy now, pay later’ programs. That sounds ripe for schemers that we see all the time on websites like eBay and Craigslist.

When you’re sending out a $500 piece of equipment and only taking $41 up front, you’re assuming some risk. How much do you rely on the integrity of golfers who use your service to keep everything running smoothly?

K: We do rely on the integrity of the golf community. When we send out a driver, we believe it’s going into the hands of a golfer. By collecting the ID, we have measures on our end that we can use in the event that the driver goes missing or an account goes delinquent, but we’re always going to side with our members.

The conversation I had with Kevin really opened my eyes to the fact that Dollar Driver Club is exactly what the company says it is. They want to grow and become a staple means of obtaining golf equipment in the current and future market. Kevin was very transparent that the idea is simple, they’re just the ones actually executing it. He acknowledged the importance of social media and how they will harness the power of applications like Instagram to reach new audiences.

Kevin was also adamant that even if you prefer owning your own driver and don’t mind the upfront cost, the flexibility to customize your driver cheaply with a plethora of high-quality shafts is what really makes it worth trying out their service. If for whatever reason, you don’t like their service, you can cancel the subscription and return the driver after 90 days, which means that you can play the newest driver for three months at a cost of $90.

In my personal opinion, I think there’s a huge growth opportunity for a service like this. The idea of playing the newest equipment and being able to tinker with it pretty much at-will really speaks to me. If you’re willing to spend $15 a month on Netflix to re-watch The Office for the 12th time in a row or $35 a month for a Barkbox subscription for your dog, it may be worth doing something nice for your golf bag.

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