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Like to take video of your swing? Read this first

by   (Senior Writer I)   |   February 7, 2013
Filming a golf swing

Video is a great tool for teaching and learning golf. It replaced the naked eye in golf instruction, and is used by teachers world wide. A video of a golf swing can show us a lot about what a player is doing, particularly with the body motion. But a word of caution is in order when relying on it exclusively to see the golf swing.

First, we have to consider something called parallax. Because of the design of my car’s speedometer, I can see that I’m driving a certain speed when I’m sitting in the driver’s seat. But the person riding shotgun looks at my speedometer and says: ”Take it easy, you’re doing 70 in a 55 mph zone,” because that’s what it looks like from where that person it sitting sitting. That’s a parallax: two different perspectives of the same picture. And we have to be really careful of this when looking at a golf swing on video. Just by moving the camera a few feet left or right, we can skew the picture of the swing we’re looking at. It also explains why the golf ball appears to go so far right every time a player on TV hits.

Secondly, video is ultimately a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional motion. Video cannot see the true path of the golf swing because path is combination of the horizontal and vertical movement of the golf club into the ball. What we see on video is the horizontal plane we are swinging on. We see a base plane line, not a true swing path. The camera can see the left or right but not the up and down, and this can be misleading. A swing which can look well left on the camera may also have a very steep angle, actually requiring leftward movement of the club to zero it out. This means every degree we swing down on say a 6-iron, we have to swing a half-degree left to offset it.  So a very steep angle, say seven or eight degrees down would need as much as four degrees left to get it to actually swing at the target. On video, we’d see on the left (the horizontal plane) it appears over the top, but in fact it is not — so be careful. James Lietz, the great teacher and fitter from Louisiana, does some wonderful work explaining this.

Third, at impact, the contact point on the club can twist the face open (toe hit) or closed (heel hit). This may appear to be the result of a movement the player is making (either over-pronation or over-supination) when in fact it is the result of twisting due to the off-center impact.

Also, when a model swing is being used for comparison, be real careful about what view is being shown and what shot the PGA Tour pro is hitting — this is critical. You may be seeing a top-level player deliberately swinging well right or left, (base plane line) to hit an intentional draw or fade. And when we select them randomly, we just never know what his intention was hitting that particular shot. The parallax issue I noted above is limiting here too. In fact, when I’m teaching I very often use extremes. If I have someone swing well over the top, I may show them a video of a Tour pro hitting way from the inside, just to plant that image in their golf brain. I teach by using the most extreme opposite measure I can.

Now the good points of video analysis are obvious. Is there lifting or lowering of the body during the swing? A close-up of the grip is also very revealing. Sequencing is another motion visible on video; so is the club face in relation to the swing arc. And when the camera is positioned correctly, aim, ball position and width of stance can all be seen accurately. I also like to see the golf club in relation to the lead arm. Is it laid off, is it across the line, is the left wrist flat, is it cupped; where is the club pointed in transition? These are all things in which video is enormously helpful. I have a Casio camera and use it regularly. But of course, for accurate path, face-to-path or attack angle readings I rely on TrackMan or FlightScope.

Note about shooting video: I try to position the camera on the hand line directly behind the player, about belt high. From the face on view, I position it at the belt buckle, 90 degrees to the target line. This gives me the best view. Many times, students send me swings from a camera positioned anywhere but where I can see the swing. I also love an overhead camera which allows me to trace the shape of the arc of the swing. And of course the camera must be still. It cannot be hand-held or moving in any way to get a good look.

All in all, I use video, it is a great help, but the critical areas I mentioned have to be measured.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum.

About

Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional, a distinction held by less than 1 percent of all PGA Professionals. He is recognized as one of the top instructors in the country, and holds no less than seven PGA awards including "Teacher of the Year" and "Golf Professional of the Year."

Dennis holds two degrees in education and has worked with golfers of all levels for over 30 years. A native of Philadelphia, Dennis currently directs the Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the Marco Island Marriott in Naples, Fla.


5 Comments

  1. Tservos

    March 1, 2013 at 9:07 am

    I’ve always wondered why the ball looks like it goes about 30 degrees right on tv. Wouldn’t think that it would make that much difference.

  2. Binx Watts

    February 9, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    A good article. I use the V1 video extensively on my lesson tee. From face on also pay close attention to where the wrists begin to uncock. Most release the angle too soon.

  3. Craig berry

    February 8, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Good article!

    Position of camera is paramount!

    Important to not ‘over use’ it, becomes quite obsessive but certainly a great aid to assist in practising correctly!

  4. Knall

    February 8, 2013 at 5:22 am

    Great article, finally i have it black on white why balls on TV appear to start so far right. my dad always says “wow did you see how far right that ball started and it landed left of the pin, he played a hardcore draw with his pitching wedge”. and i kept explaining it has to do with the camera angle and noone plays a draw with a half swing approach shot, at least no pro:D
    thanks!

  5. Troy Vayanos

    February 8, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Video is fantastic for helping improve a golf swing.

    I have made significant improvement via the help of video and would recommend it to any golfer.

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