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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 Marco Island Marriott in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

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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

Be Curious, Not Critical, of Tour Player Swings

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After a foul ball by a tour player, the talking heads on TV are often quick to analyze the “problem” with that swing. Fair enough, I suppose. Even the best players are human and our game has more failure than success. But I’d like to offer a different take on swings of the best players in the world.

First, let’s remember how good these guys and gals really are. If you met up with the lowest ranked player on any professional tour at a public course one day, I’ll bet that golfer would be the best golfer most of you have ever played with. You’d be telling your buddies in the 19th hole about him or her for a very long time. These players have reached a level of ball striking most people only dream about. That’s why I’m more curious than critical when it comes to a tour player’s swing. I’m not thinking about what he/she needs to do better; I’m thinking, “How do they do it so well?” In other words, I want to know how they put their successful move together. What part goes with the other parts? How did their pattern evolve? What are the compatible components of their swing?

Let’s use Jim Furyk as an example. Furyk has what we might call an “unconventional” move. It’s also a swing that has won nearly $70 million and shot 58 one day. But I’ll offer him as an example because his swing illustrates the point I’m making. From a double-overlapping grip, Furyk picks the golf club up to what might be the most vertical position one would ever see from a professional. Then in transition, he flattens the club and drops it well behind him. Now the club is so flat and inside, he has to open his body as quickly as he can to keep the club from getting “stuck.” Let’s call it an “up-and-under loop.”

Let’s take Matt Kuchar as a counter example. Kuchar’s signature hands-in, flat and very deep takeaway is pretty much the total opposite of Furyk. But he comes over that takeaway and gets the club back into a great position into impact. We’ll call that an “in-and-over” loop.

Both are two of the best and most consistent golfers in the world. Is one right and the other wrong? Of course not. They do have one thing in common, however, and it’s that they both balanced their golf swing equation.

What would happen if Kuchar did what Furyk does coming down? Well, he wouldn’t be on TV on the weekend. If he did, he’d be hitting drop kicks several inches behind. That doesn’t win The Players Championship. The point is that the Furyk downswing is incompatible with the Kuchar backswing, and vice versa, but I’m guessing they both know that.

How can this help you? My own personal belief and the basis of my teaching is this: your backswing is an option, but your downswing is a requirement. I had one student today dropping the arms and club well inside and another coming over the top, and they both felt better impact at the end of the lesson. I showed them how to balance their equation.

My job is solving swing puzzles, a new one very hour, and I’m glad it is. It would be mind-numbing boredom if I asked every golfer to do the same thing. It’s the teaching professional’s job to solve your puzzle, and I assure you that with the right guidance you can make your golf swing parts match. Are there universal truths, things that every golfer MUST do?  Yes, they are the following:

  1. Square the club face
  2. Come into the ball at a good angle
  3. Swing in the intended direction
  4. Hit the ball in the center of the face (method be damned!)

But here’s the funny part: Let Kuchar or Furyk get off base and watch every swing critic in the world blame some part of the quirkiness of their move that has led to their greatness. When players at their level get off their game, it’s generally due to poor timing or that they lost the sync/rhythm that connected their individual parts. The same holds true for all of us. We have to find the matching parts and the timing to connect them. You might not need new parts.

After all, weren’t those same parts doing the job when you shot your career low round?

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Opinion & Analysis

The numbers behind “full scholarships” in NCAA men’s college golf

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If you are in the world of junior golf, you’ve probably heard about a young man you know who’s getting that coveted full ride to college, maybe even to a Power-5 school. With all the talk in junior golf about full scholarships, and a lot of rumors about how many are available, we decided to poll coaches and gather some real data about “full scholarships.”

So, what did we find out? In total, we got responses to a voluntary online survey from 61 men’s D1 coaches, 19 men’s D2 coaches and 3 NAIA coaches (83 total). On average, the coaches in the survey had 11.8 years of coaching experience. Of the coaches that responded, 58 of the 83 coaches reported having zero players on full ride. Another 15 coaches surveyed reported having one player on full ride. This means that 69 percent of the coaches surveyed reported zero players on full scholarship and 18 percent reported one player on full scholarship, while another four coaches reported that 20 percent of their team was on full ride and six coaches reported between 2-3 players on full ride.

We then asked coaches, “what percent of golfers in Division 1 do you think have full scholarships based on your best guess?” Here’s what the responses looked like: 25 coaches said 5 percent and 36 coaches said 10 percent. This means that 73 percent of respondents suggested that, in their opinion, in men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA, there are less than 10 percent of players on full ride.

Next, we asked coaches, “what was a fair scholarship percentage to offer a player likely to play in your top 5?” The average of the 83 responses was 62.5 percent scholarship with 38 coaches (46 percent) suggesting they would give 30-50 percent and 43 coaches (52 percent) suggesting 50-75 percent. Only two coaches mentioned full scholarship.

The last question we asked coaches, was “what would you need to do to earn a full scholarship?”

  • Top-100 in NJGS/Top-250 in WAGR – 41 coaches (49 percent)
  • 250-700 in WAGR – 19 coaches (23 percent)
  • Most interesting, 17 coaches (20 percent) noted that they either did not give full rides or did not have the funding to give full rides.

The findings demonstrate that full rides among players at the men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA levels are rare, likely making up less than 10 percent of total players. It also suggests that if you are a junior player looking for a full ride, you need to be exceptional; among the very best in your class.

Please note that the survey has limitations because it does not differentiate between athletic and academic money. The fact is several institutions have a distinct advantage of being able to “stack” academic and athletic aid to create the best financial packages. My intuition suggests that the coaches who responded suggesting they have several players on “full rides” are likely at places where they are easily able to package money. For example, a private institution like Mercer might give a student $12,000 for a certain GPA and SAT. This might amount to approximately 25 percent, but under the NCAA rules it does not count toward the coach’s 4.5 scholarships. Now for 75 percent athletic, the coach can give a player a full ride.

Maybe the most interesting finding of the data collection is the idea that many programs are not funded enough to offer full rides. The NCAA allows fully funded men’s Division 1 programs to have 4.5 scholarships, while Division 2 programs are allowed 3.6. My best guess suggests that a little more than 60 percent of men’s Division 1 programs have this full allotment of scholarship. In Division 2, my guess is that this number is a lot closer to 30 percent.

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Opinion & Analysis

Oh, To Be An (Oregon) Duck

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A few weeks ago I flew into Eugene, Oregon on a mission. I’d come to work with one my students who is a member of the Duck’s varsity golf team. I had never been further south than Seattle or further north than Monterey, so this part of the world was new to me.

What I did know was that the Bandon Dunes area had become a destination for some of the greatest golf in the world, rivaling other famed resorts around the country. The resort is just outside the quaint town of Bandon, which is a good two-hour drive from Eugene. The resort’s four courses — Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails, Pacific Dunes, and Old McDonald — each have their own personality, but at the same time they have one thing in common: the four architects that designed them took full advantage of the natural topography, deftly weaving holes in and out along the Oregon coastline.

I was looking forward to playing two of the courses before leaving: Pacific Dunes and Old McDonald. You may find this hard to believe, but those two rounds would be my first and second of the year after a busy summer season on the lesson tee. And for that very reason, I had no expectations other than to make a few pars and enjoy the scenery.

After retrieving my luggage from the turnstile, I made my way toward the exit with luggage in tow. My rental car was just across the street in an open-air lot and as I pushed through the airport doors, I was greeted by a gust of wind and a spray of rain. “Welcome to Eugene,” I thought to myself.

The sudden burst reminded me of playing in Scotland, where the rain gives way to sun only on occasion. I surmised that the weather in the Eugene would be similar. “Don’t forget your rain suit,” a fellow professional reminded me when I told him about my trip. As it turned out, that was good advice. He had been there before around the same time of year. “You’ll be lucky if you get one good day out of three,” he said.

As I drove through the area to my hotel, what struck me the most were the large hills that commanded the landscape and the thick white clouds that seemed to cling to them like giant cotton balls.  I found a comfortable hotel just outside Eugene in the small but quaint town of Cottage Grove. In charitable terms, you could characterize my hotel as “a tribute to the past.”

I woke up at 6 a.m. the next morning, dressed and made my way downstairs to the lobby. The rain had continued through the night and as I prepared to leave the hotel,  it started to come down even harder. I stood in the lobby, waiting, while listening to the rain drops pounding on the roof,  a steady beat at first, then rising and falling like a conga drum.

I’d agreed to meet my student at 10 a.m. for a practice session and then he was slated to play nine holes with the team later in the afternoon. Based on the weather, I was concerned that the day might be a total rain-out. What I didn’t know at the time was that the school has a portable canopy that allowed the team, rain or shine, to practice on natural grass. I ran to my car ducking rain drops. The forecast called for a chance of sun in the afternoon. And this time the weather man was  right.

That afternoon I was invited to watch my student and the rest of Casey Martin’s boys play a quick nine holes at Eugene Country Club, the team’s home course. The layout is one of the most unusual that I’ve ever seen with giant trees bordering every fairway. The tips seemed to stretch up and up into the sky, piecing the low-hanging clouds above, as if they were marshmallows on a stick.

The Ducks have fielded a strong team the past two years, winning the NCAA Division 1 Championship in 2016 and then finishing second this year. A good deal of credit for that accomplishment goes to Casey Martin, who has coached the Ducks since 2006. For those who are too young to remember, Casey Martian was a teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford University. He later competed on the Nike Tour. Casey earned his PGA Tour card in 1999 by finishing 14th on the Nike Tour, but his earnings through the 2000 season were not enough for him to retain his card, relegating him to once again to playing on the development tour. He played sporadically up through 2006. The following year, Casey assumed the job of Head Coach, which brought him back to his native Eugene.

In earlier years, Martin’s play career as a professional was hindered by the fact that he could not play 18 holes without a golf cart due to a birth defect in his right leg. The PGA Tour Board ruled against his use of a cart, maintaining that the physical act of walking was considered an integral part of the competition. Believing that he was in the right, Casey filed a suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. His case made its way to the Supreme Court where he won. As for his competitive record, by his own admonition, he is disappointed that he didn’t play better as a professional. A primary focus of his coaching then, as he conceded, is to teach his players not to make the same mistakes he did in his own career. What struck me as unique was the passion and intensity with which he coached. I would venture that it’s the same level of intensity that he brought to the golf course when he competed.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a closed-door, defensive-team practice at Duke University with Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) on the floor. He had divided the team into two groups with one at either end of the court competing against each other. His legs straddled the center line as if he were Colossus with his head swiveling back and forth as if on a stick. The impression was that he saw everything and be never missed anything. And then when he saw a player make a mistake, he would blow his whistle sharply. The players would immediately stop moving as if they were frozen in place. And then, in peg-leg style, he would hobble across the floor favoring one leg over the other. He was clearly in need of a hip replacement at the time.

I’ve had both of my hips replaced, so I could easily imagine the pain that he was experiencing as he peg-legged it from the center of the court to either end. I suspected that he had decided that surgery would have to wait. The season was just a few weeks away, and given that his team was largely composed of freshman, he could not afford to miss a day. Casey Martin doesn’t blow a whistle, nor does he run a defense practice, but as he climbs out of his cart, deftly working his way to a vantage point where he can see his players from every angle, I’m reminded of the halting walk of Coach K.

There is something else that these two man share in common — an intense desire to win. They settle for nothing less than great. And when you look into their eyes, you can see that there is an intensity that burns from within that is vastly different from the man on the street.

As you might remember, I was scheduled to play a round on Pacific Dunes and another on Old McDonald. The two courses are both spectacular layouts with ocean views. And the weather… I drew two perfect days, defying the odds my friend had laid down. It was sunny and 65 degrees with just a hint of wind. How did I play? Let’s just say that I made a few pars. What I found was that striking the ball well is no guarantee that you will score low on these courses. The green complexes are diabolical. The best advice I can give you is to throw you scorecard away. You’ll enjoy yourself more.

The next morning, I was on an early morning flight back to Minneapolis only to discover that we were experiencing Indian Summer with temperatures 20 degrees warmer than usual. But as Minnesotans, we all know what is waiting for us just around the corner.

I’ll leave you with this thought. After watching Casey Martin and the players on his team play and practice, I’m sure of one thing. And that’s when next year’s NCAA Championship comes around, Casey Martin will have all of his Ducks in a row.

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