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Q&A with Mark Sweeney, Inventor of Aimpoint

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The enigma of “reading greens” has puzzled many players over the years. What was once considered just an art — either you could do it or you couldn’t — has now been made into a science. With the invention of AimPoint by Mark Sweeney, anyone young or old can now read greens with the precision of a Tour caddie.

As someone who’s taught green reading to many golfers, it has never ceased to amaze me how differently some of my students read greens. That’s where AimPoint comes in. It’s a system based on quantifiable numbers that allows all golfers to “see” the correct line. In this Q&A, I’m glad to bring you a brilliant mind and a game changer on the greens, Mark Sweeney.

Tom Stickney: Tell me how Aimpoint was invented?

Mark Sweeney: Aimpoint began as a very complex software program that was designed to accurately predict break on any green, and over about 10 years it evolved into the Express Read that you see now. The first product was actually an app for Palm Pilots in 2004 prior to it being used on Golf Channel.

TS: Is this a system that anyone can use? I have noticed the newer versions are much simpler than the earlier ones.

MS: The Express Read is the fouth version of reads that we have taught, and it was specifically designed for children under 10 years old to be a single-factor read. It can be used by anyone because there are no angles and calculations of any kind; it’s simply assigning a slope value of typically 1-3 for any putt. When you use your fingers to see the Aimpoint, you actually get a mathematically correct read.

TS: You have many top tour professionals using your system. How does this make you feel? 

MS: Tour pros using Aimpoint is a nice validation that the read works and is reliable, something that I always knew but was difficult to convey to people who haven’t used it.

TS: Can reading greens really be broken down into a science? Or is there still some art to it using your system?

MS: The read is definitely a blend, much like getting a yardage. It isn’t as simple as just laser-ing it. Club selection always depends on lie, wind, shot shape, etc. Green reading is the same; there are feel variables like how hard you want to hit it, but the majority of break is dictated by the amount of side slope in the putt.

TS: What was the most amazing thing you have learned about reading greens since inventing Aimpoint?

MS: The most amazing thing I learned is how much geometry there is behind how putts break on a green, more than you would ever see or discover simply by putting. The computer can show you every break on the green simultaneously and those always look like macro-geometric patterns, nothing random. 

TS: Is this system really necessary if you play the same course day in and day out?

MS: I think so. I used to play the same course every week and my green reading was still terrible. (With Aimpoint) I can generally get better reads on a golf course than the local players. Every time the angles and green speeds change all the breaks will change and it’s almost impossible to learn them all by experience.

TS: What is the best green reading tip you can give to the average players?

MS: Green reading is actually very simple if you focus on the amount of side-slope in the putt. When they first see Aimpoint reads, most people can’t believe how much break there actually is until they learn to trust it. After learning breaks, they spend most of their time learning speed control. 

TS: What is the answer you give to the people that say your system is too complex or too technical?

MS: The original system using zero lines were highly complex and impractical. The chart system is the most accurate read, but is still too technical for most people. There is nothing technical whatsoever about the Express Read; it was designed for second-grade aged kids. 

TS: What is your greatest player success story?

MS: For pros, I would say Lydia Ko. She fully committed to learning and using Aimpoint and finished first in both putting categories last year. Her putting consistency while using it has been very strong, especially inside 10 feet. On the amateur side, I have loads of players who have improved as much as five putts per round after learning Aimpoint and reached new scoring and handicap levels.

TS: Thank you for your time, Mark!

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

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Fat Perez

    Apr 16, 2017 at 4:19 am

    I’m holding up 1 fing’a

  2. Braxton strong

    Apr 14, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Uh.. How about Justin Rose who almost won the masters???I started using aimpoint express and its not perfect but I feel much more confident putting which has led to more holed putts

  3. JIm

    Apr 14, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Having Adam Scott be your poster boy for AimPoint is not good. He is a horrendous putter by tour standards and I saw a stat that he missed 50% of his putts at the Masters from 5-10ft.

    • george

      Apr 14, 2017 at 11:19 am

      I remember a time Adam Scott won the Masters. Good times then.
      A good read does not lead to a good putt (I have to know). Since he isn’t putting with his broomstick anymore, he’s not a great putter anymore. Just proves to me that banning the broomstick technique he used was the right thing to do. It’s just too easy.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 14, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      Adam Scott went from 150th in Strokes Gained – Putting to 54th when he started using AimPoint. He struggled in 2015 due to trying to change from an anchored stroke to a non-anchored stroke but is now 78th in Strokes Gained – Putting.

    • Joe

      Apr 14, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      And yet he’s 100 places better in his Total Putting ranking, for the year, then when he was using a long putter and not using Aimpoint.

    • Connor

      Apr 14, 2017 at 4:24 pm

      A very invalid statement. Since we’re talking “tour standards”, why don’t we discuss how far from “tour standard” Augusta’s greens are? A downhill, 7ft slider that breaks a foot and a half and is on a surface that is stimping at 13-14 is different than many “tour standard” surfaces on tour.

      • yttihS

        Apr 15, 2017 at 3:17 am

        Bingo. That’s why you saw Scott and Rose miss those silly shortish putts with the aim point. They didn’t compute the speed enough to their fingers

      • Desmond

        Apr 18, 2017 at 4:37 pm

        There is more to the express read that slope – you also calibrate for speed before, and during the round if the greens are getting softer or harder.

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Instruction

Master your takeaway with force and torques

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Most golf swings last less than 2 seconds, so it’s difficult to recover from any errors in the takeaway. Time is obviously limited. What most golfers fail to realize is that the force and torque they apply to the club in the initial stages of the swing can have major effects on how they are able to leverage the club with their arms and wrists.

Our research has shown that it is best to see the golfer as a series of connected links with the most consistent golfers transferring motion smoothly from one link to another and finally to the club. Approximately 19-25 percent of all the energy created in a golf swing actually makes its way into the motion of the club. That means the remaining 75-80 percent is used up in moving the body segments. This emphasizes the fact that a smooth takeaway is your best chance sequence the body links and become more efficient with your energy transfers.

In the video above, I give a very important lesson on how the forces and torques applied by the golfer in the takeaway shape the rest of the swing. There will be more to come on the subject in future articles.

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Learn from the Legends: Introduction

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There is a better way to swing the golf club. I’d prefer to write that there is a correct way to swing the club, but I know that really freaks people out. People love to talk about how everyone’s swing is different. “There are lots of ways to get it done,” they say. “Look at Jim Furyk’s swing – it’s not what you’d teach, but it works for him.”

To some extent, they’re right. Elite swings do have different looks. Some take it back inside (Ray Floyd). Some cross the line (Tom Watson). Some swings are long (Bubba Watson). Some are short (young Tiger). But these differences are superficial and largely irrelevant. When it comes to the engine – the core of the swing – the greatest players throughout the history of the game are all very similar.

Don’t believe me? Well, let me prove it to you. In this series of articles, I will do my best to show you – with pictures and videos and data – that the legends all move a specific way. Focusing on these elements (while ignoring others) and practicing a certain way is the surest path to improving your golf swing and lowering your scores.

So, let’s get into it. There are a number of important elements that all the legends have, but the biggest and most important of these elements is rotation. Every great player throughout the history of the game has had elite rotation. It’s the most important thing they do, and it’s easy to see. When you’re looking down the line at all the great players at impact, you’ll see hips and torso open.

This is what the legends look like at impact:

1Hips open
2Torso open
3Both butt cheeks visible
4Left leg extended and visible

And here’s what some very good players with less good rotation look like at impact:

These are very successful players (one of them is a major champion!), but they don’t move like the legends of the game.
1Hips and shoulders not open
2Left leg not totally visible
3Can’t see both butt cheeks

Now, there are plenty of nuances to how great players rotate. They do it while keeping spine flexion, for example, and they do it with very little (or no) lateral movement toward the target (lateral movement impedes rotation). I will discuss these things in detail. My hope is that at the end of this series you will have a much better understanding of what separates the legends from the very good… and from the rest of us.

You will understand their “engine,” and hopefully this understanding will help you begin to create your own legendary swing!

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10 reasons your golf game isn’t improving (even if you’re practicing a lot)

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One of the things I hate to see is when you watch someone come to the practice facility day after day, week after week, truly doing what they think is best for their games and they continue to get worse. In fact, you can actually do more harm than good by “practicing” if you are not careful. So in this article I want to give you my top-10 reasons your game is not improving, even if you’re practicing more than ever.

1) You’re not practicing, you’re just getting exercise

We all know the guy who walks into the grill room and boasts that he has hit five pyramids of balls that day. The problem is, at least 90 percent of those shots were a complete waste of time! This guy is only getting exercise, not doing himself any good whatsoever. As a matter of fact, this is my number one pet-peeve for my clients who have retired and are looking for something to fill their day. When you hit this many balls, you have no chance to get better as you are only ingraining poor swing flaws or improper motions from getting tired.

Please limit yourself to one hour per range session, and use this time wisely with slow motion swings, proper feedback, and mirror work; this way, you just might improve. Anything past that hour mark (unless you’re a trained professional athlete or top-level amateur), and you are spinning your wheels, in my opinion.

2) You don’t understand “feel vs real”

Feel and real are two different things, and if you don’t know the difference, you’ll have to practice twice as hard for twice as long to get any better. Remember the feeling of making that “new” move? How weird it feels and how similar it actually looks on camera? Don’t be afraid to exaggerate a new move in order to make the change you want; if you don’t exaggerate it, then you may have to put in much more time in order to eradicate yourself of whatever move you’re trying to eliminate.

Use video feedback to remind yourself of what is actually happening when you’re making a swing change. Huge changes in our mind often translate to very small changes in real life; the camera will remind you what needs to be done.

3) You only practice the fun things

How many times have you gone to the range and worked on smashing your driver versus working on hitting trouble shots around trees, or your super-long lag putting? In fact, we are all guilty of working on things that we are already good at or enjoy doing with the excuse that “we don’t want to lose it.” Personally, I hate practicing my long irons and seldom did when I was playing, and because of this fact, I am not too stellar from outside 200 yards still today. Why? Because that was in the days of small bladed forged irons and whenever you missed them they felt terrible and therefore I avoided them. Not a smart idea. Hone your strengths, but work hard on your problem areas to really improve.

4) You’re not making practice uncomfortable and pressure filled

Another one of the things I constantly see is where a player can hit the ball like a champ on the range, but the moment they walk on the course, things change for the worse. Why? Because they become too outcome focused. If they could reverse the mental process — making practice pressure filled and the course worry-free — they would be a world beater. My favorite drill is to set a goal during a practice session, such as making 100 3-footers in a row; and if you don’t reach that goal, open up your wallet and throw $20 on the ground for someone to find. If you do this, I promise you will focus and feel pressure. These are the type of things that one must do in order to simulate game-like conditions.

5) You’re not testing your changes on the golf course

Ok, you’ve worked on it, and you feel that you have mastered the “new” move that will cure your snap hook… now take it to the course and test it out! There is no better way to see if your no-double-cross swing is working by aiming down the line of trouble and trying to work it away from it. The course is the only place for you to see if you truly have a grasp of the new move, and under pressure on the course is the only way to actually know for sure!

6) Your equipment isn’t truly fit to what you’re trying to do as a player

If you have faulty equipment, then how can you actually know you have eliminated a faulty move or funky shot? Maybe those super-slick grips are causing your grip pressure to increase at address and this is the reason why you tend to swing the club too much to the inside on the way back? Or is it a faulty motion of the forward arm and wrist? If your clubs are not correct, then you will always fight something that might not actually be your issue.

Think about the buddy of yours who has irons that have an incorrect lie angle… how much easier could the game be if they were correct?

7) You don’t have any… goals, practice, evaluation or feedback

I’m sorry, but just swatting balls daily is not the best way to get any better! Have you ever asked yourself “what is today’s goal?” and then “what is the best way to work toward achieving that goal?” Next time you’re at the range, ask yourself those two questions, and then ask yourself how you will measure this and understand the feedback you’re given. Most people do not even think of these things, nor do they have factors in place in order to do so.

To be a better player, like in life, you have to have clear-cut goals in mind, or else you are being sloppy. Remember to take into account the four things above, or you will not improve as rapidly as you’d like!

8) You’re working on mechanics only, not how to score

Yes, you can do either or both in your practice, but don’t get them confused! What is your first objective in a given practice session — making a more consistent motion or lowering your score? Most of the time, they don’t have anything to do with one another.

9) You’re overly focused on the “look,” not the function

Are you too focused on making a perfect swing instead of one that is functionally correct and repetitive? Yes, we’d all like to look as pretty as Adam Scott, but understand that Furyk has a better record — it’s not about beauty, it’s about function at the end of the day.

10) You’re working on your swing with a non-professional

This is one that hits close to home, as I HATE to see people working on the incorrect things on the range, or from their buddy who can’t break 90. It kills me to watch someone working on their exit pattern when their grip or transition is the fault. Please make sure you at least consult with someone who knows more about the game and the swing than you do, and if your thoughts check out, then by all means go at it alone. I’m a big fan of players being self-sufficient, but for every Watson or Trevino who figured it out on their own, there are millions of golfers who screwed themselves up royally doing this.

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