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Is The Future Of Golf Hiding In Trackman’s Code?

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The first few words out of Niklas Bergdahl’s mouth were delayed because they were traveling across an ocean and six hours into the past. The delay is fitting because we’re discussing the future of golf and how the technology he’s been a part of for four years is changing that landscape. “We have a new radar system that we call an ‘ultra-high-frequency radar system’ that allows us to track the ball as it rolls across the green,” Bergdahl said. Bergdahl and his colleagues at Trackman Golf are rolling into a new frontier of golf analytics.

Trackman has become the premier launch monitor on professional circuits around the world, and with Dustin Johnson using it to rise to power as the most dominant golfer in the world, the company has gained the attention of casual fans as well. And for good reason. When I was at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio on the last day of practice rounds, there were more players hitting balls with a Trackman than not. And when you fully understand the amount of actionable data provided by Trackman, it seems there’s no other way to truly maximize your game in today’s world.

There are things a launch monitor can see that no naked eye on Earth can. What I learned speaking with Bergdahl and other members of the Trackman team is that those things a launch monitor can see might make the difference, not only in a professional reaching the top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings, but also in a brand new golfer blossoming into an avid player.

***

Before we dive into the details of Trackman, I want to draw your attention to a couple of things. In 2003, Michael Lewis released Moneyball. Lewis’ book takes us on a journey into the front office of Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics organization. The A’s are notoriously one of the league’s poorest teams, but somehow in 2001, Billy Beane (the team’s general manager) built a team that won more than 100 games. How did he do it with less money than all but two other teams? Paul DePodesta.

DePodesta developed a system for valuing players based on statistics that created runs for the team. In DePodesta’s mind, nothing else mattered. Building a roster to create the most runs was the only answer, and the analytics used in baseball at the time weren’t good enough. There’s a long backstory that we could go into, but it would be better if you read the book. The bottom line is, before DePodesta came along and Billy Beane had the guts to trust him, nobody in baseball was thinking about the value of statistical analysis, or data at all. Moneyball changed that.

Fast forward to 2009: STATS LLC is the data-tracking company that supports the NBA with analytics. In the 2009 NBA Finals, STATS demoed its newly minted SportVU camera system that hovers above the court during NBA games and collects 25 data points per second. Let that sink in. Twenty-five data points per second. Keep that figure in mind for when we start talking about the “ultra-high frequency radar” and putting with Trackman.

The demo went well and at the start of the 2010-2011 season, four teams were using the SportVU technology in their stadiums: the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs. Within a couple of years, teams started to figure out what the practical application of this massive amount of data was, and in 2013, Zach Lowe penned a piece for Grantland outlining how the Toronto Raptors were using the data collected. In his piece, Lowe describes the program the Raptors developed to overlay the defensive schemes used by the team and compare them to every movement of every player during every single play. The result was the capability to produce a video such as the one below for every second of every game.

As you can see, the defensive players are represented twice: once by the lighter circle, called the ghost, and once by the white circle. The ghost is where the player actually is during the play and the white circle is where the staff thinks the player should be at any given time based on the defensive scheme adopted by the team. It’s pretty heady stuff. The application of sitting down a player and showing him this film is obvious. Trackman can do essentially the same thing with golf. And not just the full swing, but now too, with putting.

For the last half-decade or so, launch monitors have been able to provide us with the ball flight of players on television. Anyone who watches the sport from home wishes the broadcasts would show more and more of the colored line on the screen showing us how inferior we are to the professionals. But this article isn’t about the professionals, it’s about the little guy and how Trackman is changing the way we can enjoy the game.

Enter Trackman RANGE.

Along with Bergdahl (whom we’ll return to in a moment), I spoke with Matt Frelich, the VP of Sales and Marketing for Trackman. When I started this piece, I had a hypothesis in mind that the future of golf was personal launch monitors. That eventually we would get to a point where the technology was so affordable that most players could buy one with a little planning, much like rangefinders. Personal launch monitors exist today but in a limited capacity. And the difference between most of those and Trackman is really in the name of the company. Trackman uses Doppler Radar to actually track the entire flight of the golf ball (or whatever object it’s calibrated for), whereas most others use a snapshot reading from about 10 inches before and after impact.

Only a couple of minutes into my conversation with Matt Frelich, my personal hypothesis was blown to bits. For about 10 seconds, I was a little saddened, but what he shared with me soon after nearly made my head explode.

Imagine walking onto a driving range, setting your bag down behind a selected spot of turf and pulling your phone out. You scroll through your apps and select the Trackman app. Once you log on to the app, you’ll be connected to the Trackman server at said range, and then you’ll be prompted to hit a calibration shot. You take a swing, look at your phone once more, and the prompt will ask you, “Was this your shot?” You confirm it is and then you’re locked in.

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Now for the next however long you’re at the range, Trackman will provide you the same data the pros are getting for each and every shot with the data hub right on your phone. While you’re checking your numbers, it will also be doing the same exact thing, at the same exact time, for the 75 other golfers hitting balls down range. And you didn’t have to pay a penny extra.

Trackman RANGE, in theory, looks like this.

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This is a “single-radar setup”, which means that there is one 3-foot by 3-foot radar installed behind and above the range hitting area. The Trackman package includes the radar and server, and the app and will be available in your respective App Store. Trackman personnel come and install all the equipment at the range, and once installed, the system will track all shots within a 75-yard wide hitting area at the same time, providing unique data to each individual player. On natural turf, you’ll be able to move up and backward just as you do now. Trackman calls these “dynamic” bays as opposed to hitting off mats in what they call “fixed” bays.

They also have a “three-radar setup,” which is the same concept. Using it, the hitting area can be expanded from 75 yards to 130 yards in width.

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I was blown away. The most incredible thing is that Trackman has developed the app to track all of your historical data no matter what range you go to; it’s all linked to an account within the app. What’s more, both the single and multi-radar setups will tell you the actual distance to targets on the range. Those flags that you’re currently shooting with a laser rangefinder will now appear on your phone screen. And when your shots land, you’ll know exactly how close you were to hitting the target, which is the most actionable part of the whole set up.

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The other unique feature with Trackman and its ball-tracking radar is because Trackman is tracking the ball and not a snapshot of data before and after impact, you will get accurate data on how your ball reacts in poor conditions or high winds. There will be no more guessing as to how much the wind affected your 9-iron. You can see it, and you can learn to make those adjustments on the range instead of guessing on the course.

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I asked Matt Frelich how long it would be before I could go and try out one of these ranges. “Assuming you’re willing to fly to Copenhagen, Denmark, you could try it out this afternoon,” he said. “As far as the U.S., our first range should be up by the end of August this year,” he said. I had to make him clarify. It was the first of May when we spoke on the phone.

“Wait, so you’re saying this isn’t a plan?” I asked. “It’s actually being executed as we speak?”

“Yeah, Trackman RANGE is happening right now,” Frelich said. “In fact, we had the multi-radar setup at the year’s first major. We tracked every shot hit on the range for the entire week. All the data you saw on the range during the coverage came from this setup.”

Now, one must keep in mind that Trackman RANGE will only provide ball data, not club data. The use of Trackman 4 is working its way into everyday teaching, however, and for good reason. In our conversation, Frelich and I also discussed the impact this technology could have on how the game is taught. He offered a scenario that resonated with me.

“Imagine you have this player who comes to you and is hitting a huge slice,” he said. “You look at his swing and determine that his swing path is too far outside to in. You give the player a drill to work on and he works on it for a few minutes, then goes back to hitting balls. He still slices the balls and you can’t see much difference in his swing. This continues for an entire lesson and the player leaves frustrated…” I stopped him and said this was the exact reason I’d only taken a couple of lessons.

“Wait, so you’re saying this isn’t a plan? it’s actually being executed as we speak?”

“But with Trackman, I can take that player and do the same thing, but I’ll measure his swing path currently and set an objective.” he said. “Let’s say 0 is the objective and he starts out at -10. I give him the drill, he works on it for a minute, then he starts hitting balls again. He still slices it, but this time his swing path is -8 instead of -10. It’s progress that my eyes can’t see and he likely can’t feel, but his path is getting better. Over the 15 or 20 swings, he gets it down to -6, then -2, then he hooks one and it’s +2. What we’ve just done is take a player who would have left really frustrated and changed his entire outlook because I can show proof that he was improving throughout the session. That’s the difference with using data and not using data.”

When the NBA implemented the SportVU camera system, they didn’t yet have the tools to process it on a practical level, but they knew that in order to constantly improve, they needed the data. Three years later the Raptors had developed a system that can tell each and every player how far out of position they were on each and every play. SportVU gave the NBA coaches and players actionable data that is virtually impossible to see and convey to the naked eye but can easily be conveyed and comprehended through the digital world. Trackman is doing the same thing with golf.

We’ve already seen what Trackman’s technology does for the best players in the world, but the best players in the world aren’t the future of golf. The kids and teenagers playing in junior tournaments, learning the game with this type of data, are the future of golf. The people who decide to pick up the game in their 40s, who will be able to go to a range with Trackman installed and can tell if their progressing, are the future of golf.

Trackman RANGE is cool, but the final frontier of data collection in golf is putting. To this point, radars have only been able to track objects in flight, which has proven difficult to adapt to putting. “What makes putting data difficult”, Bergdahl says, “Is the fact that the ball is on the ground, but also that the putter tends to get in the way. With the radar behind the putter, the follow through has given us trouble in the past to be able to see what the ball is doing. With Trackman 4, we’ve solved it.”

Bergdahl would go on to say that with the Trackman 4, the ultra-high-frequency radar can give the player an effective Stimpmeter reading of the green by using the “ball deceleration rate,” basically how quickly the ball loses speed. Knowing the quantifiable speed of the green you’re practicing on can be huge in honing your feel for speed in putting.

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While measuring the speed, it also tracks when your ball stopped skidding and when it started rolling. It breaks that down into a percentage of the putt. In the graphic above, you can see that the sample putt was 18 feet, 9 inches. The ball was skidding for 34 inches of that putt, which means it was only rolling end over end for 85 percent of the distance it traveled. The one thing you’re trying to do when you’re putting is always put a good roll on it. Now you see the fruits of your labor with Trackman.

Another way to think about it is this: You’re working on five-footers at your club. You’ve hit about 50 of them thus far and feel good about your stroke, but you also know that seven or eight of those putts that went in the hole went in because you got lucky. Maybe you hit it too hard and it did one of those “bounce up and in” deals, or you pulled it a little bit and it just barely caught the edge of the cup. Without hard data, your mind will simply log those “accidents” as successes. But if you have Trackman, it’s going to tell you where the ball would have ended up had it not gone in the hole. Trackman will tell you if your putt was going to roll two-feet past the hole or if it was going to stop just short and to the left. Those insights can better inform you of where you are in your path to improvement. Again, the message here is “actionable data.”

The difficult part of this technology is that Trackman 4 won’t be available to the casual golfer like Trackman RANGE will be. Trackman 4 starts at $18,995, so its Performance Putting Software won’t be as readily available as the range setup will be. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t be available at your local golf shop.

Data has revolutionized professional golf. As I’ve written about before, the evolution of ShotLink technology and Strokes Gained Analytics has given players the ability to understand and improve areas of their game that, until the 2000s, weren’t even measurable. What I think is important about where we’re headed is that we will potentially see non-golfers become casual golfers and casual golfers become avid golfers. And in a time where everyone is screaming that the game is dying, I have to believe this is a shining light into the future.

Photo Credits: TrackMan Golf/Media Kit

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Adam Crawford is a writer of many topics but golf has always been at the forefront. An avid player and student of the game, Adam seeks to understand both the analytical side of the game as well as the human aspect - which he finds the most important. You can find his books at his website, chandlercrawford.com, or on Amazon.

93 Comments

93 Comments

  1. Q

    May 27, 2017 at 1:48 am

    You would know all about being futile, as you are one, yourself.

  2. Mad-Mex

    May 25, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Interesting article with lots of high tech information which will not help your recreational golfer, which is in my opinion the backbone of the golf industry.
    If this were to be installed in a driving range, it would be nothing more than a curiosity, specially since like it has been stated before, the cost of the range balls would have to be increased so the operator could recoup its investment, and at $20,000 plus, it would be a while before that investment is made. If a fitter buys one, his/her prices would also have to go up.
    Mr. Crawford, can you answer me a couple of simple questions:
    1) How can I correct my swing based solely on the information this computer is giving me? I developed a small slice, my brother-in-law looked at my swing and saw I was coming over the top, he stuck a tee couple of inches in front and to the right of the golf ball, he then told me to swing and hit the tee, problem solved, total time, 5 minutes, can TRACKMAN compete with that?

    2) At what point are you overloaded with data? And if we don’t have a human watching us, doesn’t the information become worthless when we cant figure out how to get the right “numbers”

    IMHO, this is a niche and there is no way $20,000 simulators are going to be the future of golf or the saviors of golf.

    • Adam Crawford

      May 25, 2017 at 8:50 pm

      Mad-mex, I will try and answer your questions, but there are probably some teaching professionals who will elaborate on my answers. Disclaimer: I’m not a teaching professional, I’m simply a golf enthusiast. Also, these questions could be answered at great length, but I’ll try and be brief here.

      1) Trackman isn’t going to correct anything. It’s simply giving you the information to show where you are compared to what the “objective” is. Each person’s “objective” is different. My example in the piece is that if a tip you’re given doesn’t look as though it’s improving your ball flight but Trackman is showing an improvement in your swing path, then you will know you’re on the right track. Whereas simply looking at the ball flight may be discouraging. Your example is something I see a lot in people I play with. They get a tip using a visual image or feeling that works in the moment, but manifesting that image or feeling at a later time is hard to come by. With the data, you can see patterns in your swing results that you may not be able to see with just your eyes. No, Trackman can’t fix you in 5 minutes, but a 5 minutes solution is not a long-term solution, it’s more likely a fluke. I’ve experienced a lot of flukes I couldn’t’ muster the next time out.

      2) I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed with data if you don’t understand how to apply it. Which is the learning curve people often have with golf. There’s so much to the game that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But with Trackman Range, the data will be fairly simple. For example: how far did I carry the ball? How much did it curve? Where did it start in relation to where I thought I was aiming (this one is huge)? How far away from my target did the ball land? How are the elements affecting my shot (which is a really great thing to know because it’s hard to tell with the naked eye)?

      This article wasn’t really about the Trackman 4 that gives you club data, that’s a different animal. Trackman Range will give you the numbers you need to know in order to help tighten your shot group. At least that’s how I see it.

  3. JD

    May 25, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Nope. This will fail. Trackman & Foresight are basically trying to operate like computer companies in the 80s and trying to sell business machines for exorbitant prices. Only once they commoditize these machines, would they see any sort of amateur/casual golfer adoption or growth.

    • FlyPhish

      May 25, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      ^This guy gets it.

    • Anon golfer

      May 25, 2017 at 1:26 pm

      I haven’t research their portfolio. That being said, I’m guessing they have multiple patents for this system to help avoid commodization (for 20 years anyway). Patents aren’t fool proof but they are useful for this type of system.

      • JD

        May 25, 2017 at 3:01 pm

        I really don”t get it. I can almost hear Mark Cuban on Shark Tank screaming at them. They have a patent on the source code in their systems for determining “spin parameters of a sports ball” (https://www.google.com/patents/US8845442), and they are selling machines at 20k a pop. Now I understand the Doppler cameras are expensive and drive the cost to manufacture up, but still between them and Foresight they are ignoring almost 99% of the golfing market by refusing to produce cheaper models with cheaper cameras.

        They are a software company and they don’t even realize it. Tragic.

        • Adam Crawford

          May 25, 2017 at 3:13 pm

          Economies of scale aren’t quite that simple. Maybe they could produce a cheaper and more affordable version for the casual golfer, but the production costs go up significantly when you do that. So if they made that decision and then all of a sudden people still didn’t buy them at that price, they could very easily produce themselves out of business and have 300,000 TrackMans sitting in a warehouse with nowhere to ship them. Or it could be the opposite, they release a product and don’t have the production infrastructure to match the demand, which is also a business killer.

          It’s very possible that for their business model, they have found the sweet spot for their market equilibrium. But since they are a privately held company there’s no way to know that for sure. You also have to think about them in the sense that maybe they don’t want to degrade the capability of their product in order to produce an affordable model. If they are running in the black by only selling to fitting houses and tour players, then so be it. Yes, I’d love to have a Trackman that I could buy for $1,000. But I also know that if I were the CEO of Trackman, I’d be worried about trying to scale something that, even at a lower price point, not every golfer is going to be able or willing to buy. It’s shaky ground.

          • JD

            May 25, 2017 at 5:17 pm

            I hear what you’re saying but these are all supply chain issues, go find a COO. I am hard pressed to think the demand wouldn’t be there. You have virtually all club manufacturers at $800+ for new irons, inflated green fees in almost all states, and 40% of the country unable to golf for roughly 6 months out of the year. How many articles have we read through on hear talking about the decline in golf because people cant afford to play enough to the point where they would put together a decent round? Putting one of these in your garage, basement, or backyard with an ability to sync to an iPad or TV solves a lot of problems for a lot of people. Now I’m just a golf obsessed individual like many on here, so maybe my vision of the potential market is a tad skewed, but I would at least hope they have folks looking into it.

            Until then, I will continue to prepare my business plan to my wife as to why we need to spend 5k on a GC2.

          • TH

            May 26, 2017 at 1:50 am

            It doesn’t even have to be $1000. Just make it $5000. Like how personal computers and the first generation Digital Cameras used to be. That should be enough to sell a boat load, $5000 is more affordable than $20K.

            • D

              May 26, 2017 at 9:23 pm

              Well, you would know all about being futile as you are one, yourself.

  4. Mr Muira

    May 25, 2017 at 3:08 am

    The title made me laugh.
    1. ITS GOLF.
    club, ball and the grass it sits on.

  5. Don

    May 25, 2017 at 1:10 am

    This is great technology, but the idea that it would cost the same for golfers to use a range like this is wishful thinking. I had switch driving ranges because the owner the range I frequented bought a similar system. First the price of a bucket of balls was increases to maybe 25% higher than area prices for other ranges. I was OK with that as long as I got to use the shot tracker. Well then they started charging 10 dollars an hour to use the shot tracker and you still also have to pay the same inflated price for balls even if you don’t use the shot tracker. I switched ranges to a low technology range and I bought a annual membership for what I would spend in 4 months at the previous range.Now I get to hit unlimited balls which is great. I can go whenever I want, hit as many balls as I want off grass, and don’t have to open my wallet when I go to the range. I think this is great technology to use occasionly but these ranges will not be popular with golf junkies that just need cheap practice. More for the Topgolf crowd.

  6. Adam Crawford

    May 24, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    See, I disagree that only low handicap golfers will benefit. The value of knowing exactly how far your carry distance is and how far you are from your target is invaluable. No, Trackman won’t fix your swing. But it will tell you where and how far you hit the ball based on your tendencies in your swing. And I think that’s what is beneficial. It’s not about fixing your swing, it’s about hitting consistent shots with the swing you have. After all, swing your swing.

    • Steve

      May 24, 2017 at 8:00 pm

      The problem being that most double digit caps don’t have a consistent enough swing to hit consistent shots.

      • Adam Crawford

        May 24, 2017 at 8:10 pm

        Right, but the only way to get a consistent swing is to groove one through practice, and grooving a swing while also having accurate ball data is only going to make the end result better.

        • The Real Swanson

          May 24, 2017 at 10:56 pm

          Hackers don’t practice. That’s why they hack.

      • AZGolfer

        May 24, 2017 at 11:31 pm

        Steve,

        This is where you’re wrong. Most double digits are digits are actually very consistent with their club path. Face angle is inconsistent which comes from bad information they’ve been fed for years.

        Amateurs, specifically the serious higher handicap player has the most room for improvement. Thus is the most likely to benefit.

        Whether they’re serious or not – is the true question.

    • Heres the thing

      May 25, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      The thing is though, that you don’t need trackman to figure this stuff out. I have played professionally for years now, some on the canadian tour and mostly on the mini tours. While i’m clearly not as good as the guys on tour, I can’t see how trackman would fill those gaps in my game. I make a mental mistake or two a round, and don’t make enough putts. Statistically tee to green i’m above the PGA tour average. My distance control is one of the better parts of my game; I hit it pin high the vast majority of the time (Some days left and right). I’ve never spent much time on trackman. I figured this all out by playing and playing. I don’t think you can really trust trackman to figure this kind of stuff out. It can help, but honestly at the end of the day if you want to get better you have to make more putts and get up and down more. Ballstriking is such an overvalued commodity in golf. Honestly all you have to do is not hit it badly and you can shoot under par. The game begins on and around the greens and as long as you hit it decent and keep the ball in play you can shoot low score, but golfers are obsessed with this perfection tee to green which I understand because I find myself falling into that trap as well. But every golfer has at one point or another played a round where they hit is really poorly (for how they usually hit it) but managed to shoot a good score because for some reason they were at peace with it that day and stayed out of their way and shined on the greens. Golf is will, heart, and determination. Nothing else. Trackman and all these other things are really amazing tools but I fear they overwhelm the golfer with too much information about a game that is fairly simple. You hear the best in the world say it all the time; the more they simplify things, the better they play. I can attest to that. The more I let GO of my understanding of the golf swing and just do what I know how to do….get it around the greens in regulation, the lower scores I consistently shoot. Back to the point…distance control is a feel thing that you learn by being on the golf course with differing elevations and wind conditions. Trackman can’t teach you that.

  7. Eric

    May 24, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Great article, very interesting and looking forward to practicing at a range with these Trackman

  8. Looper

    May 24, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    I’ve heard most tour pros use it for gapping? Especially with the short irons and wedges…

    • Adam Crawford

      May 24, 2017 at 8:11 pm

      I think you’re exactly right. The benefit of ball data is that it can tell you exactly how far you hit the shot that you “feel” is a 3/4 wedge. If you hit your standard sand wedge 100 yards, then a 3/4 “feel” shot should be 75 yards, but is it? That’s where something like this is really valuable. Because it will help people really understand their distance.

      • The Real Swanson

        May 24, 2017 at 11:04 pm

        As others have said the likes of Nicklaus and Hogan had no problem determining accurate distances without this technology. I personally just use a range distance marker. Range balls are typically not an ideal representation of proper ball data so you’d be effectively be getting the wrong information anyway which seems counterproductive to me.

        • HH

          May 25, 2017 at 3:24 am

          Back in the day, they had caddies walk out to the range and hit shots at them at specific yardages

          • SH

            May 27, 2017 at 10:56 pm

            Useless knowledge in less than 140 characters …. by a twitter blurting brainlet

            • SH

              May 29, 2017 at 3:26 am

              You only wish you were the real me with the proper avatar

  9. farmer

    May 24, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    A new TMan goes for something north of 20k. Hard to imagine that this new thing would be cheaper. That limits it to large, urban areas with enough golfers to make it a money maker. Those of us in the sticks are out of luck. For all that it may do, if you find out you have a -10 path, you have to have someone to determine the cause.

    • AZGolfer

      May 24, 2017 at 11:35 pm

      Disagree. If you knew what “0” FELT like – you’d get there more often.

      • The Real Swanson

        May 24, 2017 at 11:56 pm

        Disagree. You need to know how to get to 0 if you’re ever going to know how it feels. Many hackers just aim further left to counteract their slice and will never get to 0 without lessons. Instead they just keep wasting money on the latest new driver.

  10. JimmyJam

    May 24, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    So I’m guessing the range will also get brand new balls? Wasn’t there an article on here recently showing the testing of range balls vs. a real ball and the range balls flew nowhere near the correct distance. The tour guys get to practice with Pro-V’s, us peons get the 10 year old balls with no dimples…

    • The Real Swanson

      May 24, 2017 at 11:09 pm

      Exactly. Seems counterproductive to me, especially when the quality of range balls varies so much.

  11. The Real Swanson

    May 24, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Nope.

  12. david

    May 24, 2017 at 11:11 am

    all recreational golfers have huge drivers, rangefinders, apps to keep track of their stats, large grips on putters, etc etc. 90% of golfers still suck, and swing outside in, and no trackman aint gonna help any of them. It might help scratch or tour guys a bit, but like an above comment said, I’ll take Jack without his trackman or Bobby Jones or Hogan any day for the next 50 years. They felt the game, could feel trajectories, how to hit an 8 iron 120 yards low to a back pin, how to cut a high fade into a wind and stop it, etc. trackman helps fog up the mind. I repeat, golf is a game of feel and thousand of hours of practice. I’m a 61 year old scratch, keep improving, and don’t need technology other than equipment.

    • Mark

      May 24, 2017 at 1:27 pm

      I don’t have 1000s hours to practice. I do have a 1yro, 4yro, a wife and a love for golf. My goal right now is to be the best dad I can be.

      Because the classic greats didn’t use technology, that is not a reason for me not to. I might as well not use a car or microwave because my awesome great grandfather didn’t.

      I am a bogey golfer. I don’t putt well. I do have a large grip. I 3 and 4 putt half my holes every round. I tried the grip why? Because feel didn’t work. I tried practice, blades, mallets, center shafts and finally grip. It feels better at least even if I didn’t get any better. On my last round I shot a 98. 28 putts were from 3 and 4 putts.

      I do OK tee to green. Why? Because I use a range finder and gamegolf. I look at my stats after a round to see where I am trending. I know my clubs this way. GPS tells me how far I am. Gamegolf tells me my club averages (not just my absolute best) and my miss tendencies.

      I am better due to technology. Now I need some tech for putting.

    • gimmie

      May 25, 2017 at 6:45 am

      Cool story david.

    • Bret

      May 25, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      Nicklaus, Jones, and Hogan would all have used Trackman is it were available in their day.
      Hogan learned what he learned about the golf swing after thousands of hours of trial and error on the range. With a Trackman he could have learned it in a week.

      Once you understand the ball flight laws and what conditions of impact make a ball go a certain way, it is easy to self-correct on the golf course. The problem is that old guys like me were taught incorrectly for years. We were taught that if we sliced it then we must have opened the clubface.
      But now we know that a draw can easily be hit with a clubface that is open at impact.
      It is all about clubface AND path, not just one or the other.

  13. Scott

    May 24, 2017 at 11:03 am

    The golf balls at my range are awful. Can trackman tell me how a Pro V1, Tour Preferred, or Chrome Soft would have flown? If not, the help is limited at best.

    • Adam Crawford

      May 24, 2017 at 11:09 am

      I can see that as a concern, however, most golfers are more concerned about hitting multiple shots within a 10 yard circle or something similar for consistency. Yes, a range ball will be a significant distance difference with woods and drivers, but irons were talking maybe 3-5% difference. Which is only an issue for the best of golfers. I think this can be tremendously helpful for the mid to high handicappers.

    • Eddie

      May 24, 2017 at 11:53 am

      Doubt this will be available at a range with crappy balls.

      • Adam Crawford

        May 24, 2017 at 12:25 pm

        That’s also a good point.

        • AZGolfer

          May 24, 2017 at 11:33 pm

          Adam – Trackman converts the “crappy” range balls back to premium balls. Just like hitting a premium ball. Algorithms are put together by the best engineers in the industry.

      • JimmyJam

        May 24, 2017 at 12:53 pm

        Which is where 95% of golfers practice…

        • The Real Swanson

          May 24, 2017 at 11:13 pm

          I’ve never been to a range with good balls, and I use the largest in Europe. I’d say it’s much closer to 100%.

    • Riley

      May 24, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      The regular trackman can convert range balls to real balls so i’d suspect this could be done on this new product too?

      • The Real Swanson

        May 24, 2017 at 11:32 pm

        It’s the consistency of range balls that’s the problem. You might pure two consecutive shots that go completely different distances with different ball data due to both balls having a different construction and/or age. How do you know which is right?

  14. Patdugolf

    May 24, 2017 at 11:02 am

    I hope the biggest and only 24 hr range in Northern California ( Haggin Oaks ) installs this application. Traffic will be insane

  15. Adam

    May 24, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Variety of junior golfers out there. College coaches must ask whether they’re getting someone who’s great because of perfectly fit equipment, expensive coaching, heavy use of launch monitors, etc. (i.e., upper class kids), or raw talent which hasn’t had access to any of it. Is your recruit already maxed out?

    • Steve

      May 24, 2017 at 7:55 pm

      If they’re already “great” like you said, then who cares?

  16. Kh

    May 24, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Yeah but how much does it cost to go and hit balls at the Trackman range? $30 for a bucket of 50 balls? What a joke

    • Adam Crawford

      May 24, 2017 at 10:41 am

      The idea is that only ranges that are already financially successful will adopt this, but the purchase price is not as much as I initially thought. If you have a range with a lot of play, it wouldn’t take much to recoup the investment, and the technology is very likely to attract significant increases in play. At least the way I see it.

      • L

        May 24, 2017 at 12:45 pm

        Yup. PGA Play Golf America! A richman’s game! If you can’t afford it, then go street basketball, the poor man’s game!

      • farmer

        May 24, 2017 at 3:27 pm

        What is the price of this device?

        • Adam Crawford

          May 24, 2017 at 3:42 pm

          The Trackman 4 starts at $19,000, but it’s not the same device used for Trackman RANGE. Trackman RANGE uses the same technology but packaged in a more powerful radar set up. They wouldn’t let me reveal the price for the setup described in the article.

  17. Shortside

    May 24, 2017 at 10:05 am

    My first thought is this could be THE 21st Century groundbreaking moment for the sport. I’m too old for it to impact my game to a major degree. But I can’t think of anything else that has the potential to grow the game like this does. A tool that truly brings the game to the masses. It’s going to be interesting to see this play out over the next few years.

    • L

      May 24, 2017 at 12:45 pm

      You mean 460cc Titanium heads aren’t?

    • Adam Crawford

      May 24, 2017 at 3:46 pm

      That’s sort of how I felt when I started working on this.

    • The Real Swanson

      May 24, 2017 at 10:54 pm

      How can a tool that will only be available at select locations bring golf to the masses? That type of tool must have a near zero cost. That’s why football is so popular. The cost of the ball, shared by a group, is effectively nothing.

  18. larrybud

    May 24, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Great stuff. Exciting to see what new technologies will come out in the next 10 years. People who poo-poo stuff like this clearly don’t get it: It’s just DATA. What you (or a teacher) does with it is what counts, but I can’t see how anybody in their right mind wouldn’t want to know MORE information about their ball flight than they already have.

    • Josh

      May 24, 2017 at 10:06 am

      EXACTLY! Who wouldn’t want to know more and then apply it in a useful manner?!?!?!

      The cream will still rise to the top, but it should help everyone get better, even if they only look at their carry distance!

    • ROY

      May 24, 2017 at 10:09 am

      Agree with you, and think the CLUB data Trackman produces is great, but what can Trackman range tell you that you cant find out for yourself with a friend or by doing on course practice??

      • Josh

        May 24, 2017 at 10:10 am

        Can’t eyeball carry distance nearly the way that this can track it (from what I’m reading here). Much more efficient practice imo

      • larrybud

        May 24, 2017 at 10:50 am

        You’re going to hit 20 wedges to the same flag to get a good indication of your trajectory and distance?

  19. Tony

    May 24, 2017 at 9:42 am

    And just what is the average golfer, with average knowledge, ability, time, and inclination really going to do with all this extra information. I’ve played for 40years ,I like new technology, but there is a practical limit to what you can actually action with the new sciences of golf. This is Complete overload, and is it really of any practical benefit , to help you hit a little ball into a hole with a stick on your days off work.

    • AZGolfer

      May 24, 2017 at 11:40 pm

      Have you ever been on TrackMan?

      • Tony

        May 25, 2017 at 7:28 pm

        Yes, a few times. Hcp6, swing speed 120mph. Unfortunately I just don’t have the time to fuss with all the data. The ball goes where I want it to, or not. Working on my short game is more important to scoring than trying to zero out swing path.

  20. Jim

    May 24, 2017 at 9:33 am

    LOVE TRACKMAN. USE IT DAILY. Can’t do the best driver fittings without it. Period. Want custom shafts in irons? Can’t get the BEST ONE for your swing & the head you want without it.

    Teaching by it?…I can fix that -10 swing with a penny or a tee and get better visual feedback for the student on all the other factors affecting shaft/ face angle and path with the penny and high speed video.

    The greatest players & ball strikers all learned without it, most even without video.

    One COULD ARGUE Tiger was better WITHOUT IT.

    GOLF won’t ever let someone outsmart it. Bryson will never meet up to his hype. Ever.

    Is ‘mastering’ golf shooting par? For most recreational players that’d be a record day! Be VERY happy, but at the bar or later that night, they’d be thinking about that one drive that had to be punchef out of the trees, the bunker shot that barely made it out and led to the double ‘on 7’ or the lip out on 18 that woulda been for -1.

    Golf DEMANDS a superior mindset, heart, touch & creativity to be among the best.

    Not robotics

    • The Real Swanson

      May 24, 2017 at 11:26 pm

      Completely agree. I remember my good rounds, birdies, eagles, and the other not so good stuff. That’s why I play, and keep coming back. Do a group of kids having a kick about with a football care about shots on target? No, they care that they won or not.

  21. Trackman_misses_the_whole_story

    May 24, 2017 at 9:32 am

    Until Trackman can collect data on the quality of the impact (club head data for impact, etc.), it should always be viewed as incomplete. It’s only part of the story and, unfortuntely, it’s the “back half” of the story. You must have the “front half” to fully understand why the back half did what the data shows. I believe there’s more value in having the impact quality data when learning. Even the example provided on how a golfer would learn with Trackman is flawed without taking this into account. GC Quad is the better tool in this regard.

    • Ramrod

      May 24, 2017 at 9:56 am

      Exactly what I was going to say. GC Quad all day long. Strike is king. This article is basically a trackman advert.

    • ROY

      May 24, 2017 at 10:07 am

      SO Quad can tell when on the club you strike the ball??

    • larrybud

      May 24, 2017 at 10:49 am

      Smash factor pretty much indicates the quality of strike.

      • TR1PTIK

        May 24, 2017 at 12:39 pm

        +1 Not to mention that this can easily be remedied with a can of foot powder spray. Also, if you’re swinging out-to-in with an open face you’re still going to slice it. If strike were “KING” it wouldn’t matter what swing path and face rotation are doing. That simply isn’t the case.

    • Stickers

      May 24, 2017 at 5:57 pm

      It’s interesting that no one ever mentions that you need to put four stickers on club head to measure club data on GC Quad.

      • The Real Swanson

        May 24, 2017 at 11:38 pm

        Most of the YouTube reviewers have at some point in the past. Not really a deal breaker.

    • AZGolfer

      May 24, 2017 at 11:37 pm

      Any instructor with basic knowledge of TM can determine impact. Face to path versus spin axis. Also validated by ball flight. If Quad was truly the best, why isn’t the range at PGA and LPGA Tour events littered with them?

      Don’t kid yourself.

  22. Clayton

    May 24, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Jack won 18 majors because he probably intuitively knew a lot of the things that trackman and similar systems can tell us now. This tech likely won’t create a dominant player like Jack. It’s more likely to help even the playing field as players with talent but less intuition will now have insights that match them to intuitive players. Everyone learns differently. Some need to feel it, others see it, other diagnose it.

    Quick question, where is the range in the US going to open in August?

    • Adam Crawford

      May 24, 2017 at 10:26 am

      Clayton, thanks for commenting. The Trackman rep wouldn’t reveal to me where it was going to be released because they were still in final negotiations.

  23. MySlice

    May 24, 2017 at 9:27 am

    The days of golf being “Hard” are numbered!

  24. AndyUK

    May 24, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Great idea with Trackman Range. “And you didn’t have to pay a penny extra.” – I seriously doubt as the range owners need to recoup their money somehow. However, I would happily pay a little extra for the privilege.

    • Adam Crawford

      May 24, 2017 at 10:31 am

      One of my questions for the reps was about range pricing. The idea is that they will attract enough extra players that they won’t need to increase the cost. Most of our discussion was about places that are specifically a driving range and not also a course. So if you think about the average price of a bucket of balls, multiply that by the number of daily players, you realize that it wouldn’t take a ton of players coming to spend $8-$12 at the range to recoup the price of Trackman. They wouldn’t let me reveal the price in the article, but I can tell you it was considerably less than I expected. I think if it’s installed at a busy location, they won’t need to raise prices to recoup their investment, I think they will attract more than enough players to make their money back. You also have to think about the fact that this will only be installed at places where the golf community is strong. The First Tee of San Antonio (where I practice) probably averages 400-500 players per day, which an average purchase of $8-$12, that’s adds up to be quite a bit of revenue.

      • Steve

        May 24, 2017 at 11:37 am

        That’s nice in theory, but I HIGHLY doubt it’ll work like that. Everybody wants to make more money. If the range is making this kind of investment, you can bet on them charging for it. It doesn’t have to be an astronomical amount, but those $8-12 buckets will now be $12-15 buckets. They’re still going to attract more people (maybe not AS many as they could, but more nonetheless) since that jump is not very large by any means, but they’ll also be pocketing much more cash to pay off the investment. They’d be stupid not to.

      • Jim

        May 24, 2017 at 2:25 pm

        We had 4 dedicated TRACKMAN stalls at our (north of NYC) range several years ago. Part TMan sponsored experimemt part BIG$$$ from the range. You could play TRACKMAN, THR GAME, and compete w/ someone any where else with it or a buddy coming next day. We sold memberships or people could rent it in 20 min (or more) sessions…It wasn’t huge either way, but w/o their assistance it woulda been a big loss…
        Everyone is aware of TMan now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s back 🙂

  25. Charles

    May 24, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Jack Nicklaus won 18 majors without Trackman!! I do not believe anyone else can come even closer with Trackman.

    • Desmond

      May 24, 2017 at 9:14 am

      I don’t pretend to have Jack’s goals.

    • TheCityGame

      May 24, 2017 at 9:25 am

      Yes, but you are aware that none of his competitors had trackman either, right? You do understand the difference, right?

    • Rich

      May 24, 2017 at 9:32 am

      No one else at the time had Trackman, either. Jack was great, of course, but he’s irrelevant to this topic.

    • larrybud

      May 24, 2017 at 9:49 am

      And his competitors lost those 18 majors without a trackman. Your point is irrelevant.

    • Steve

      May 24, 2017 at 11:32 am

      I’m 100% positive that Jack would’ve used Trackman if It was available in his day.

    • Joey5Picks

      May 24, 2017 at 4:58 pm

      “Jack Nicklaus won 18 majors without a 460cc titanium driver” so no one else should need one, either? Trackman, nor 460cc titanium drivers didn’t exist then.

    • JThunder

      May 25, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      Jack Nicklaus used every bit of technology available at the time – throughout his career – to play the best golf he could. As others have said, if Trackman existed in his era, he would have not only used it, he’d likely have been among the first to do so. Also, the Beatles would have used computers and the Roman army would have used drones. Now, quick, discuss whether Jesus would have been on Twitter!

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Opinion & Analysis

The History of Course Design is Yours to Play at Oglebay

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There is a much-talked about “New Golden Age” of golf course design underway that is driven by demand for ever-more spectacular courses at the top end of the resort golf market. Destinations such as Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley and others provide the traveling golfer a spectacular golf experience; unfortunately, it comes at a price tag that is equally spectacular. When a week playing golf in Florida can cost as much as a week in Scotland, where do you go for a golf getaway that doesn’t require a second mortgage?

Oglebay Golf Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, doesn’t just provide an affordable golf vacation option; with its three golf courses, it provides players the chance to experience a condensed history of American golf course design through its three courses. The resort sits on land that was once owned by a wealthy industrialist and is now a part of the city park system. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, Oglebay draws the majority of its golfers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It’s kind of cool that when you drive to Oglebay from the Washington, D.C., you hit all of those states except Ohio, which is just a few minutes away from Wheeling. The area is especially picturesque in the autumn months when the changing colors of the leaves are at their peak.

The property has a rich history in the business and sporting history of West Virginia, but the three golf courses, Crispin, are a special prize that taken together form a primer on the history of golf design in the past 90 years. The 5,670-yard Crispin course is a one-off design by local golf enthusiast Robert Biery that was completed in 1930 and is a fascinating study of design techniques of that era. The slopes and elevation are severe and extreme by today’s standards. A clue was the raised eyebrow of the assistant pro when I said that I would walk the course. Uneven lies are the order of the day, the product of a time when there was neither the money nor equipment readily available to create gentle slopes and even surfaces; the course is true to the original contours of the West Virginia hillside.  There is little relief on the greens, which run a little slower than typical greens but make up for it in size and slope. It is by far the shortest of the three courses but the par-4 8th hole and par-5 9th holes are a thousand yards of joy and pain.

Hole No. 6 at the Klieves course

The Klieves Course is a 6,800-yard, par-71 Arnold Palmer design that was completed in 2000. The design features broad fairways, mildly undulating greens and opportunities for heroics on short par-4’s, all the prototypical characteristics of modern resort golf courses. While some architects choose to torture and torment, Palmer courses put a premium on fun and this one is no exception. The par-5, 515 yard 6th is a great example of the risk/reward available without that challenges the resort golfer without the need to humiliate. The course is very well maintained tee to green, and you’ll want to keep a fully charged battery to take photos of the vistas from the elevated tee boxes.

Hole No. 13 at the Jones course

In my humble opinion, the true gem is the Robert Trent Jones course. The 7,004-yard, par-72 Course carries a healthy 75.1 rating/141 slope from the back tees. It utilizes a gorgeous piece of land that meanders across the West Virginia hills to give a mesmerizing collection of holes that are equal parts scenery and challenge. Both nines start from elevated tee boxes hitting down into valleys that offer classic risk/reward propositions. Usually I have no problem identifying a favorite hole or two, but on this course it’s difficult. Having said that, the stretch of No. 4 (par 3, 193 yards), No. 5 (par-5, 511 yards) and No. 6 (par-4, 420 yards) are among the best I have played anywhere as a show of nature’s beauty and the at of laying out a golf hole. And the four par 3’s are not the place to pic up an easy birdie. The only one less that 190 yards from the tips is the 158-yard 15th, which is protected by a small, undulating green. All in all, it’s a perfect representation of the genius of Robert Trent Jones.

The golf is good at Oglebay and the prices are better. You can get in 18 at the Oglebay courses for as little as $32…on the weekend. And when you’re not playing golf, you can take advantage of the myriad of outdoor sports activities, tour the Oglebay mansion, hit the spa or visit the Glass Museum on the property (I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds). There’s a lot of great new golf resorts out there and that’s a good thing for the golf industry, but destinations like Oglebay prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old classics as well.

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Two Guys Talkin’ Golf: “Are pro golfers actually underpaid?”

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Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX editor Andrew Tursky argue whether PGA Tour players are actually underpaid or not. They also discuss Blades vs. Cavity backs, Jordan Spieth vs. Justin Thomas and John Daly’s ridiculous 142 mph clubhead speed.

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Legend Rees Jones speaks on designing Danzante Bay in Mexico

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Hall-of-Fame golf course architect Rees Jones talks about his newest course design, Danzante Bay at Villa Del Palmar in Mexico. Also, Jeff Herold of TRS Luggage has an exclusive holiday discount offer for GolfWRX listeners!

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