Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

TrackMan: Zeroed Out and No Place To Go

Published

on

I was looking forward to hearing Brandel Chamblee speak at the Golf Magazine Annual Summit for “Top 100” Teachers and their guests, which was held in 2016. He had made a second career for himself on the Golf Channel criticizing other PGA Tour players, and in the process, making himself a polarizing figure. I found myself agreeing with him some of the time, and then other times, not so much.

What I had observed was that he was not one to back down, and he seemed to enjoy a “healthy discussion,” which often would turn heated. He was in these discussions a formidable opponent, being both intelligent and quick witted — a deadly combination when debating any issue. Brandel was at that time on the verge of launching his new book, “The Anatomy of Greatness.” He planned on sharing some of the conclusions that he had reached with the group that evening. What he must have known going in was that he was entering the lion’s den. And for that reason alone, Chamblee deserves a good deal of credit for accepting the invitation knowing that he’d be under fire for some of the remarks he had made in the past.

On my end, I did some research prior to his presentation, wanting to be prepared in the event that I had an opportunity to ask him a question. As a teacher, I was especially interested in what he might have said up to that point about the role of technology in learning and performance — and more specifically, his view on the use of TrackMan.

***

Golf Channel, May 12, 2015

I found a clip on the internet dated May 12, 2015. Chamblee was at the Golf Channel desk during the Players Championship sitting with Frank Nobilo and David Duval. The topic was TrackMan: the pros and cons of gathering information. The other two announcers, at least for the 2 minutes and six seconds of the clip, had given the floor to Chamblee. Brandel, an outspoken critic of technology, began by criticizing the inaccuracies found in TrackMan’s numbers, citing a series of reports that he had consulted:

  • That the machine is incapable of finding the center of mass but rather locates the geometric center of the club, which is more toward the heel.
  • The machine under-reports clubhead speed because the club is swinging on an arc, and as a consequence, over-reports smash factor.
  • The machine will often register a smash factor above 1.50 when measuring a tour player, which is impossible because the highest achievable number is 1.49.
  • The machine doesn’t accurately measure where the ball is impacted on the face of the club because of various spin factors.

He found these facts disturbing. The one issue that concerned him the most, however, was that early adopters could not transfer their TrackMan numbers from the range to the golf course. In other words, they had one swing on the driving range and another swing on the golf course. To Chamblee, that made the use of TrackMan to improve player performance “counter-productive.”

He had a final point to make. It was that teachers ultimately had to transfer the cost of this new and expensive technology on to their students in a time when the game was getting more and more expensive to play. This was of concern to him as well.                                                                        

***

That evening in 2016, Chamblee addressed some of the problems that in his opinion were associated with how TrackMan was being used. In this debate, there are two central issues:

  1. How TrackMan is being utilized by teachers.
  2. How Trackman is being utilized by players.

I listened closely to what he had to say, and on some of the issues we agreed. That said, I have my own concerns with regards to this debate. What I see happening is what I saw occur with the use of video many years ago, but on a smaller scale because of Trackman’s $20,000 price tag.

In the past, as the cost of cameras with slow-motion capability continued to drop from thousands of dollars to hundreds, they became more affordable. This made it possible for anyone to potentially become an expert. What evolved was that many run-of-the-mill teachers, using a video camera, would simply compare a student’s swing to a model and then point out the differences. This was without concern for the player’s individual biomechanics or if they were even physically capable of swinging in the prescribed manner.

For this reason, many top teachers have now either abandoned the use of video-analysis as part of their instruction or use it very little. They would prefer to spend their time connecting with their students on a more intimate one-on-one basis. This is the way that I now approach teaching after having worked with thousands of students over the past 45 years.

The nature of technology is that it will never take the place of human interaction between the teacher and his student. A central problem that is occurring in some quarters is that the machine is giving the lesson while the teacher simply reads off the numbers. This approach serves to undermine the establishment of a human connection between teacher and student.

In a Golf World article written by Matthew Rudy, dated April 19, 2017, he wrote that one of the common criticisms of modern instructors is that they’re helpless without information on a screen. I agree. I’m familiar with teachers who approach a lesson this way, caring only about the numbers without ever relating to the student.

Further, I have to agree with Hank Haney when he said in that same article “Information is great, and every teacher should be trying to get as much of it as possible. But that’s not the only piece.”

Randy Smith is of a similar opinion when talking about the use of TrackMan to coach a player: “Should a student want a sterile, perfect golf swing to work on in a room somewhere we can do that… but being efficient? Hitting different shots under different situations, different lies and pressure? That’s a different thing.”

Claude Harmon III who utilizes TrackMan on a limited basis was quoted in the same article with regards to younger players over dependence on the machine: “I have students come to me and quote their TrackMan combine numbers, and they can’t even tell me if they hit a fade or a draw. “

I’m not implying that TrackMan does not have a place in golf instruction or for use by players on a limited basis. As David Duval echoed at the very end of the Golf Channel clip, it should be used only “to check a few numbers.” As for teaching, what I am saying is that Trackman should be used only as a doctor would use an x-ray machine, which is to verify his diagnosis at times when he is unsure of the facts.

That said, is there a place for launch monitors?

Absolutely. They are invaluable, especially when it comes to driver fittings, where knowing the launch angle and the spin rate of the ball, is essential to maximizing distance through both carry and roll. And in terms of playing, knowing the carry distance of each club makes for more precise approach shots. But there are other launch monitors, aside from TrackMan, that can provide that same information at a much lesser cost.

The reality is that TrackMan is more than just a launch monitor, having the capability of providing detailed information about player performance—not just the ball. And for that reason, it’s easy for players to become obsessed with the numbers by seeking absolute perfection. They strive to, in TrackMan language, “zero-out” their swing. This is when the path and the face numbers are in perfect alignment with each other, both bracketed between the numbers +1 and -1. This state of being is considered by devotees to be the equivalent of finding the Holy Grail. The problem is that this type of perfectionism is not transferable to the course as noted earlier. And we know from our own experience as players that an attempt to be perfect can be a curse when it comes to this game, which at best is one of managed imperfection.

What can be concluded? I’m going to give Brandel the final word on this issue, as it was his name that ushered in the story. The opinion that he shared with Matthew Rudy, and I would like to share with you, was that he believed that modern players are both over analyzed and over coached.

“And as a consequence, they are not better for it, but they are worse,” Chamblee said.

My opinion? This time, I think Brandel got it right.

Your Reaction?
  • 167
  • LEGIT21
  • WOW3
  • LOL2
  • IDHT3
  • FLOP7
  • OB3
  • SHANK47

As a teacher, Rod Lidenberg reached the pinnacle of his career when he was named to GOLF Magazine's "Top 100" Teachers in America. The PGA Master Professional and three-time Minnesota PGA "Teacher of the Year" has over his forty-five year career, worked with a variety of players from beginners to tour professionals. He especially enjoys training elite junior players, many who have gone on to earn scholarships at top colleges around the country, in addition to winning several national amateur championships. Lidenberg maintains an active schedule teaching at Bluff Creek Golf Course Chanhassen, Minnesota, in the summer and The Golf Zone, Chaska, Minnesota, in the winter months. As a player, he competed in two USGA Public Links Championships; the first in Dallas, Texas, and the second in Phoenix, Arizona, where he finished among the top 40. He also entertained thousands of fans playing in a series of three exhibition matches beginning in 1972, at his home course, Edgewood G.C. in Fargo, North Dakota, where he played consecutive years with Doug Sanders, Lee Trevino and Laura Baugh. As an author, he has a number of books in various stages of development, the first of which will be published this fall entitled "I Knew Patty Berg." In Fall 2017, he will be launching a new Phoenix-based instruction business that will feature first-time-ever TREATMENT OF THE YIPS.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Larry

    Feb 17, 2018 at 9:41 am

    This guy is a terrible teacher.

  2. Andrew Cooper

    Feb 17, 2018 at 9:02 am

    Excellent article Rod. Trackman is amazing technology, but I think it’s healthy to keep a sense of perspective with it. On the course, every shot is a unique one-off. The skilled players aren’t so much relying on a consistent swing with perfect numbers, rather they’re using a refined feel to make the small adjustments and tweaks required to fit each situation; varying trajectory and curvature, adjusting to uneven lies etc. They’re not playing by numbers. Then you add in coping with the mental challenges of the game, course management, putting, short game etc. and having good Trackman numbers is great but translating that into lower scores is what counts.

  3. OB

    Feb 16, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    TM has it’s scientific inadequacies but at least it is an empirical baseline from which to ‘track’ the progression of the student and tour pro. To regress back to a state of BLIND FEEL for changes to a golf swing is ludicrous…!

  4. Marcus Eglseer

    Feb 15, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    The author of this article could not be more wrong!!!
    It would take too long to explain all his mistakes/misunderstandings, so I will list only a few:
    First&most important, in what world is BC any top teacher/expert-because he is talking on the GC? That is flatout ridiculous!! He has never ever worked a teaching pro, not to speak of working with a tour pro of any success. Please do ask, if Peter Kostis is working with a TM when he is with Paul Casey..
    Second example, do you really think, it is coincidence that more than 90% of all tour pros have&practice with a TM?
    And last but not least, the author shows his incompetence with TM technology when he admits, it worth having the numbers for driver fitting. That shows, what an tec dinosaur the author is-it is like posssing an Iphone&just doing calls with it, never using it like a smartphone.

    There is way more, but I am sure, nobody would read more than this.
    My hope is that these clueless tec dinosaurs will soon be gone&in less than 8-10 years, the best pros/coaches will be working with their knowledge, eyes&tec in sync!

    • Scarface

      Feb 17, 2018 at 9:15 am

      I own an iPhone and use it only to text. Is that wrong? Who uses an iPhone to make calls?

  5. JD

    Feb 15, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Moore’s Law. These guys will be irrelevant in 5 years as this technology will be available at a 10th of the cost. Hopefully some company will catch on to this and realize its a better investment for families to have a golf simulator in their homes than joining a club or paying $150 green fees for a family 3-4sum to play golf together. Trackman is like IBM in the 70s… stubborn and catering to a 0.0001% market of pro’s and teachers looking to be “Zeroed Out”… Once the tech catches up… companies like FlightScope, SkyTrack, and OptiShot that are trying to get into HOMES and not CLUBS should be a serious concern for Trackman and Foresight.

  6. dat

    Feb 15, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    TM LMs are all snake oil. Just hit the ball and get good instructions. The GC quad at least sees where you hit it on the face.

    • Steve moody

      Feb 16, 2018 at 2:13 am

      As does trackman from March onwards.

    • Jay Wonders

      Feb 18, 2018 at 2:52 am

      LOL and that camera technology is still inferior where only 10% of tour pros are using it. I am surprised that 10% is still using ti. If you can see the impact why is data algorithm still wrong? Because it does track the ball and does not account for aerodynamic.

      • Jay Wonders

        Feb 18, 2018 at 2:54 am

        Misspelled: it does not track the ball.

  7. Sam

    Feb 15, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Like a wrench, Trackman can be a useful tool. – Useful when needed but be careful not to over-torque your nuts with it. Besides have you ever heard of a “Launch Monitor Golf Tournament” ? I haven’t. Maybe there is one. If there is, I don’t want to participate and I certainly don’t want to watch it.

  8. Dale Owens

    Feb 15, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Technology certainly has a place in development of the premier player. A player can marry feel and technology, to develop their own swing. Feedback provided by technology is very valuable.

  9. TwitterBlocker

    Feb 15, 2018 at 11:05 am

    “I was looking forward to hearing Brandel Chamblee speak at the Golf Magazine Annual Summit for “Top 100”…” probably the only person ever looking forward to hearing BC talk.

    • the dude

      Feb 15, 2018 at 2:25 pm

      why??…he is a bright guy with plenty of knowledge…..

  10. CW

    Feb 15, 2018 at 10:48 am

    Up until the past decade or so there were only a handful of guys that dominated the field. Now, it’s anybody’s game. I think the tech has helped, not hurt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Podcasts

Mondays Off: U.S. Open wrap-up | Steve plays against the new assistant pro

Published

on

Would Woodland have won the U.S. Open if he had to hit driver on the 18th hole? Knudson doesn’t think so. Steve loved the U.S. Open, but he didn’t really love the commentator crew. Also, Steve tees it up with the new second assistant pro at the club, how did he do?

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

Your Reaction?
  • 2
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK2

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What’s your short game handicap?

Published

on

Well, that was a U.S. Open for the ages, in my book. Hallowed Pebble Beach held its own against the best players in the world and proved that small greens can really give these guys fits. Kudos and congratulations to Gary Woodland for putting on quite a show and outlasting all the others. And to Brooks Koepka for giving us reason to believe a three-peat could really happen.

To me, of course, what stands out is how Woodland elevated his short game for this event. Coming in he was ranked something like 165th on tour in greenside saves but went 16-for-20 last week. Of course, that also means he hit 52 of those small greens in regulation, which certainly outdistanced most of the field. Justin Rose was putting on a scrambling clinic for three days, but his inability to hit fairways and greens finally did him in. So that brings me to today’s topic – an honest assessment of your own “short game handicap.” Regardless of skill level, I have long believed that the key to better scoring is the same for us as for these tour-elite players – improving your ability to get up-and-down.

Almost all reasonably serious golfers have a handicap, just to allow us to keep track of our overall improvement with our golf games. But wouldn’t it be more useful if that handicap was such that it told us where we could improve the most? Unfortunately, that’s not the purpose of the USGA handicap program, so I’ve devised my own “Short Game Handicap” calculation to help golfers understand that this is where they are most likely going to improve their scoring.

The premise of my short game handicapping formula is the notion that once we get inside short iron range, the physical differences between golfers is increasingly neutralized. For most of us, our physical skills and abilities will never let us hit drives and longer approach shots like the best players. But I believe anyone can learn to execute good quality chips and pitches, and even full swing wedge and short iron shots. It really doesn’t matter whether your full-swing 9-iron goes 140 or 105, if you can execute shots from there on into the green, you can score better than you do now.

So, the starting point is to know exactly where you stand in relation to “par” when you are inside scoring range…regardless of how many strokes it took you to get there. Once your ball is inside that range where you can reach the flag with a comfortable full-swing 9-iron or less, you should be able to get up and down in 3 strokes or fewer almost all the time. In fact, I think it is a realistic goal for any golfer to get down in two strokes more often than it takes more than three, regardless of your skill level.

So, let’s start with understanding what this kind of scoring range skill set can do for your average score. I created this exercise as a starting point, so I’m encouraging you guys and ladies to chime in with your feedback.

What was your last (or typical) 18 hole score? ______

_____ Number of times you missed a green with a 9-iron or less
_____ Number of times you got up and down afterward
_____ Number of other holes where you hit a chip or pitch that ended up more than 10’ from the cup

Subtract #2 from #1, then add 1/2 of #3. That total ______ is your short game handicap under this formula. [NOTE: The logic of #3 is that you can learn to make roughly 1/2 of your putts under 10 feet, so improving your ability to hit chips and pitches inside that range will also translate to lower scores.]

I believe this notion of a short game handicap is an indication of how many shots can potentially come off your average scores if you give your short game and scoring clubs the attention they deserve.

I would like to ask all of you readers to do this simple calculation and share with the rest of us what you find out.

Your Reaction?
  • 56
  • LEGIT9
  • WOW4
  • LOL3
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP3
  • OB1
  • SHANK4

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the U.S. Open

Published

on

In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. On Sunday, Gary Woodland claimed victory at the U.S. Open in spectacular style, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action at Pebble Beach.

Hot

Gary Woodland produced a masterclass both with his irons and flat-stick all week long at Pebble Beach to claim his first major title. The 35-year-old gained 8.4 strokes over the field for his approach play and a monstrous 7.2 strokes over the field on the greens at Pebble Beach. Check out the clubs Woodland used on his way to victory last week in our WITB piece here.

Brooks Koepka continues to impress on the biggest stage, and the American’s play tee to green was once more outstanding in California. Koepka gained 14.4 strokes tee to green last week, which was the best in the field in this area.

Viktor Hovland has just about every golf fan excited after watching his brilliant display at Pebble Beach. Hovland was second in the field for strokes gained: tee to green at the U.S. Open, gaining a whopping 12.6 strokes in this area. All that was holding the amateur back was his putting, where he lost almost four strokes to the field

Cold

Justin Thomas continues to struggle after his comeback from his wrist injury, with the American missing the cut at last week’s U.S. Open. Thomas lost 2.7 strokes to the field on the greens at Pebble Beach, and worryingly for the 25-year-old is the fact that he has now lost strokes with the flat-stick in his last six consecutive events.

Dustin Johnson’s performance on the greens cost the 34-year-old dearly at last week’s U.S. Open. Johnson came into the event as one of the favorites, but a poor performance with the putter, where he lost 6.1 strokes, put paid to his chances. It was the worst performance for Johnson on the greens since 2017.

Bubba Watson continues to struggle, and last week it was his short game which was woefully misfiring. Watson dropped a combined 10 strokes to the field for his play on and around the greens at Pebble Beach for the two days he was in town.

Your Reaction?
  • 1
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP1
  • OB1
  • SHANK1

Continue Reading

19th Hole

Facebook

Trending