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Numbers don’t lie: An interview FlightScope founder Henri Johnson

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For even the best golfers, it’s often difficult to understand what makes one round of golf better than another.

That might be one of the reason golfers are relying so heavily on numbers to analyze their games. Statistics like “greens in regulation,” “fairways hit,” and “up and downs” are tools golfers can use to monitor their progress. But they’re not perfect measurements. How many times have you hit a good drive that made its way into the second cut of the fairway, or struck a great iron shot that just rolled into the fringe? Often, a great putt bails out a poor chip, and vice versa. How do you measure that?

Flightscope founder Henri Johnson didn’t know much about golf when he began designing golf radar systems more than a decade ago, but he did know one thing – speculation is inferior to information.

He and his team sought to create a tool that could give golfers immediate feedback on their ball flight and golf swing – objective numbers they could use to improve their games. They came up with Flightscope, a system that uses thee-dimensional Doppler radar to measure the entire flight of a golf ball, as well as important aspects of the golf swing.

Most launch monitors are able to measure things like clubhead speed, ball speed and spin rate, but they have limitations, Johnson said.

“With a launch monitor, you’re measuring the ball flight over literally 6 inches of data,” Johnson said. “The rest is speculation. Our approach at Flightscope is that if you can measure something, why should you have to speculate about it?”

Because Flightscope measures a golf ball’s trajectory from launch to finish, it more accurately measures launch angle, spin rate, apex height, angle of descent, carry distance and roll. It also can identify a club’s angle of attack, ball spin axis, face angle, dynamic loft and club path – very important tools for club fitting. Flightscope’s latest product, the X2, has the ability to measure the golf club’s path from the top of the shoulder on the downswing until the club disappears behind a golfer’s back on the follow through. It also creates a “speed profile,” which calculates a golfer’s clubhead speed at different parts of the swing, as well as the amount of force a golfer is applying to the club at those points. By showing graphically what the club is doing through impact, fitters are better able to decide not only what shaft is best for a golfer, but also what kind of tip stiffness a golfer should have in their shaft.

Click here to see LPGA Tour player Ryan O’Toole’s Flightscope numbers

But where Flightscope really shines is in its ability for PGA professionals to use it as a teaching tool. Johnson himself has used Flightscope products to diagnose issues with his golf swing. He took up the game 11 years ago, and credits the products for helping him play to a six handicap. The X2 measures both the horizontal and vertical swing planes. Johnson said that he closely monitors his vertical swing plane, a part of his swing that has caused him problems in the past.

“It lets me know what causes what in my golf swing,” Johnson said. “It tells me know what I shouldn’t be doing, and reinforces good behavior.”

Click here for more discussion in the forum

One of the X2’s most important new features is that it requires no PC connection to function. It is wirelessly compatible with Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod, as well as with Android devices through applications available for purchase in the iTunes Store and Android Market.

“When we were designing the X2, we knew it had to be wireless,” Johnson said. “I personally don’t like wires because they’re messy. Mobility today is very important. Everything is going wireless.”

The app costs $49 dollars for instructors, and student’s can view their sessions with their teachers with an app that costs $10.

One thing that separates Flightscope from other golf radars available is its price point. It costs around $11,000, about half the amount of its nearest competitor, Trackman. According to Johnson, the X2 is also more accurate than the more expensive model offered by its competitor.

“If you put X2 against Trackman, and you measure – I would put money on it that we are more accurate,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s primary market for Flightscope has been PGA professionals, a market he said the company has been doing very well in. He said his company works hard to show PGA professionals that proper technologies like Flightscope can help differentiate them from their competition. But Johnson has also received a lot of positive feedback about Flightscope products from non-professionals. Through the X2’s wireless technology, Flightscope was able to show spectators data from professional golfers at the ranges at this year’s British Open and Women’s British Open.

“We want to inform the general public of what professional golfers are doing with their swings,” Johnson said. “We’ve found that people are craving information. When we took iPads into the crowd at the British Open and Women’s British Open, people were amazed at how consistent the players were. It’s an insider view people want to see.”

Johnson was hesitant to talk much about future Flightscope releases, but he did say that in the coming year, his company would release a consumer product at an affordable price.

“It’s not a toy,” Johnson said. “It’s as accurate as we can make it at a tolerable price point.”

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WRX Spotlight Review: TaylorMade M5 fairway Rocket 3

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Product: TaylorMade M5 fairway Rocket 3

Pitch: The TaylorMade M5 fairway Rocket 3 is a stronger-lofted version of the standard TaylorMade M5 3-wood. The Rocket is 14 degrees. The standard M5 is 15.

Our take on the TaylorMade M5 Rocket 3

“WOW, you really hit that 3-wood like a rocket!”

” Not like a rocket… an actual Rocket!”

The beloved 3-wood. A favorite club of both average golfers and pros alike, a club that many will hold onto well after what some might consider their “best before” date. But with new options and improved technology, these old faithfuls are getting the boot quicker for a lot of reasons including the ability to better dial in a fit and help minimizing misses.

Since making a club faster off the middle is becoming more and more difficult thanks to the limits set forth but the USGA, OEMs are changing the way we think about clubs and putting a greater focus on decreasing dispersion and optimizing misses. TaylorMade is doing this with TwistFace, which was originally introduced in drivers a generation ago, and has now been included in the M5 and M6 fairway woods.

I got to spend some time with the knowledgeable crew at TaylorMade Canada in their new indoor facility just north of Toronto (lets call it Kingdom North) In that time, we went through a driver fitting, and then to the new M5 fairway woods to try and replace one of my oldest faithfuls: a 14-degree SLDR Tour Spoon. To say I have a unique ability to elevate a fairway wood is something that even my fitter was a little surprised by. My numbers with my cranked down to 12 degree (measured) fairway off the deck were good but could be improved. I can hit it both ways (as much as a 6-handicap can actually claim that) but my trusted go-to shot is a slight fade with some heel bias contact because of my swing. I am willing to sacrifice some distance but usually hit it where I want.

What I saw at the end of the fitting was a club that produced longer shots along with a tighter dispersion without having to make or to try and make any changes to my swing. The final fit was a 14-degree “Rocket” M5 fairway set to 12 degrees. It beat out my SLDR by a total of nine yards, which is an increase of just over a total of three percent, including an additional six yards of carry.

To say I was honestly surprised would be an understatement. The SLDR TS is a club that the first time I hit it I went WHOA! Low spin, workable, looks exactly how I want that club to look (small and compact). You can see from the numbers below when it works it works.

Why does TwistFace work?

Let’s explain and get a little deep in the technology weeds for a second. Bulge and roll is not a new concept. In fact, it would be a lie to claim that all OEMs haven’t done something similar to this is the past or played with these two variables to help golfers hit better shots. Fact: Every OEM optimizes the bulge and roll on their clubs to increase speed and maximize performance. Tom Wishon actually had a line of woods at one point that went the other way had VERY limited roll from the top tine to the sole. With this design, more loft on the bottom of the head helped players who miss low or need help elevating the ball off the deck increase launch and spin. It worked. Cobra also has what it calls E9 technology to tweak bulge and roll to help maximize the speed and forgiveness of their woods. It also works.

What makes TaylorMade’s TwistFace different is that it is the most aggressive iteration of this bulge and roll tweaking yet, and by introducing it into the fairway woods and hybrids, it’s proving to be a winner — even for this now-proven wrong skeptic.

At the end of the day, the M5 Ti “Rocket” was a measurable improvement over my previous 3-wood. Now it would be disingenuous to say “if you aren’t using TwistFace in your fairway woods you’re not maximized,” but if you are someone that struggles with fairway wood dispersion and looking to find some extra distance for taking on par-5s, taking a look at the new M5 and M6 fairway woods as part of your next fitting should be very high on your list.

 

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Forum Thread of the Day: “Low handicapper switching to game improvement irons”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from jasonTel3 – a low handicap player who plays blades but who has had his head turned by game improvement irons. According to jasonTel3, every ball was hit straight when testing out a set of Ping G400’s at a simulator, and he’s been asking fellow members for advice on whether he should make the move to GI’s.

Here are a few posts from the thread discussing jasonTel3’s conundrum, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • balls_deep: “My first thought is to say don’t do it.. but then if you’ve hit them, liked them, and the numbers were right, it could be a good option. A friend I play with uses G400 and they have too much offset for my liking. I also don’t like that you can see the cavity on the 4 and 5 iron. Top line is actually very nice for a SGI iron. I just read the Ping Blueprint article on Golf Digest where they were talking about how some players hit small heads better. I definitely fall into that category. That said, I just ordered a set of i210 to try as I had really good luck with the i200 and should never have sold them. Have you tried the newer I series? IMO it’s GI help in a players look with an acceptable sole width. Long story short though – if you felt comfortable and the fit was right, why not try them? If you don’t work the ball a ton, I don’t see any issue with it. High and straight is a good way to go!”
  • hammergolf: “I’ve been playing Ping G25’s for 6 years. Still can’t find anything I like better. I can hit any shot I need to whether it’s my stock draw, fade, high, or low. And when I hit it a little thin, or on the toe, it still lands on the green. My thought is why play golf with a club that will punish you for mishit when you can play one that will help you.”
  • azone: “Everyone has an opinion, and here is mine. If you are/have been a good ball striker with a sound mental game, your mind will keep writing checks your body may not be able to cash as you get older or don’t practice enough. Those “ugly” forgiving irons look beautiful when a miss ends up on the green, and you are putting– not in rough or deep in a short side bunker. Those irons won’t be AS ACCURATE as, say, a blade, BUT if you aren’t as dependable as in the past, your results will be better. I used to keep two sets of blueprinted irons; blades for practice and CB for play. I play with guys that have cashed checks playing…and they don’t care how ugly the iron is.”
  • Jut: “As a decent player (and ball striker) and a sweeper/picker (I could hit off of a green and not take any landscape with me), I’ve found much success with the F9s (which, with the wide sole, are very similar to the G410 irons). In the past 4 years I’ve gone from Mizuno MP-68 to Callaway Apex CF16 to Ping i500 (a brief and bad experience) to the Cobra F9’s. For what it’s worth, the Cobras have been the best of the bunch by far.”

Entire Thread: “Low handicap going to game improvement irons”

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WRX Spotlight: Stitch headcovers

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Product: Stitch headcovers

Pitch: From Stitch: “Your game should match your style. At Stitch, we aim to merchandise our line of products so you can easily put together items that not only match your bag and what is it in it, but also match your style and personality. We want to make it easy for you to have a unique and color-coordinated golf bag. We have designed unique products that have defined color schemes so that choosing which items to put in your bag becomes easier. We aim to provide you with various looks, mixing and matching our head covers to give you confidence that the purchase you make for your bag will take you to the course in style. Let us help you dress your game.”

Our Take On Stitch Headcovers

Stitch is a relatively new company – founded in 2012. The company initially only created premium headcovers but has grown into so much more, with all sorts of golfing accessories now on offer on their site StitchGolf.com. Their bags, in particular, are now some of the most popular amongst golfers, with the quality and uniqueness provided leading multiple Tour players to sport them in tournament play.

That sign of quality in the bags bodes well for what the company was founded on – their headcovers. Stitch provides both leather and knit headcovers in a variety of designs that do as good a job as any in covering the needs of all golfers.

Stitch describes the companies Monte Carlo headcover as being their “classic, timeless design”, and for those looking for that vintage style to add to their set up then they can’t go wrong with this headcover. A mainstay in the likes of multiple tour winner Paul Casey’s bag, the Monte Carlo headcover, as with all of the companies leather covers, is hand-crafted from 100% leather and is both water and stain resistant. The cover comes in four color codes: Black, White, Navy and Red, and at $68 is the most affordable of all their leather headcovers.

Other options in the leather department range from their intricately designed Camo cover which comes in a multiple color design, as well as Stitch’s tribute to “The King”, through their Arnold Palmer headcover.

The AP cover comes in a minimalist black with white stripes for a classic feel, but it also comes in a white color code decorated with red, white and yellow stripes which, for myself at least, looks even more alluring. Part of an exclusive collection, the only issue with the AP cover is that only those located in the U.S. are currently eligible to get their hands on one. But for those in the states, the company is now offering a set of three AP leather covers for $128 instead of $298 should you use the code APLEATHERS on their site.

From their Tour Racer, USA, Shamrock and Bonesman editions, Stitch provides a great choice when it comes to their leather covers, and as previously mentioned, all are hand-crafted from 100% leather, water and stain resistant and will assure an excellent fit on your clubs.

Stitch also provides knit headcovers which contain not only excellent designs but also the same quality which has gone into their leather covers. All of the companies knit covers are made from Techno Wool, which is 100% acrylic and designed in order for your clubs to stay entirely dry. Another feature of the knit covers from Stitch is their smart fit design which ensures all of the covers retain their shape over a long period, as well as providing for a cover that will reliably stay on your club.

The knit covers from Stitch cost $68 ($72 for the limited AP cover), and there are currently seven different designs available to choose from over at StitchGolf.com. The leather covers are, unsurprisingly, a little pricier, but still very affordable, ranging from $68-$98. The covers deliver in both style and performance, and for a relatively new company, it speaks volumes that the likes of Jim Furyk, Paul Casey, Bryson DeChambeau and many more tour pros are now sporting the company’s creations.

 

 

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