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Low Point: Can Trackman’s newest parameter indicate golfer skill level?

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One of the things I have enjoyed most about teaching golf the over the past two decades is the advent of new technologies that have helped me improve as an instructor. One of my favorites, as you might know by now, is Trackman.

Trackman currently measures 26 different data parameters, which is more than enough to help golfers improve their game. The company continues to push the envelope, listen to instructor feedback and embrace new technologies, however, with the goal of making the game easier to learn and teach.

In a few months, the company will release its newest data parameter called Low Point. Here’s what you need to know about it.

2015-19-14 ClubandBall_illustrations_label_web__iron_lowpoint

Low Point: The distance from the club head’s geometric center to the lowest point on the swing arc at the time of maximum compression

We’ve all watched golf on TV and seen golfers make sizable divots. For accomplished golfers, this indicates ball-first contact and a downward angle of attack that creates a Low Point that is in front of the ball.

As a general rule, golfers have the most downward angle of attack, or AoA, with their wedges and short irons, and their Low Point is generally a few inches in front of the ball. As the irons get longer and golfers move into their hybrids and fairway woods, however, the angle of attack shallows and the Low Point moves closer to the front of the golf ball. In a perfect world, a golfers would actually have an upward attack angle with their driver, which would create a low point that’s slightly behind the ball.

Knowing this made me start to wonder if the Low Point of golfers varied between handicap levels, and if so were there any correlations? So I contacted Trackman and took a trip to their headquarters in Denmark to do some testing with their new Low Point parameter to see if my hypothesis was indeed valid.

Who we tested

  • A recent major champion and top-10 player in the world (PGA Tour)
  • A PGA Tour player
  • A Web.com Tour player
  • A scratch player
  • A 10-handicap golfer
  • A 20-handicap golfer
  • A 30-handicap golfer

The Process

We had each of the players hit five “stock” shots with their 6 irons on Trackman using the new Low Point parameter. We would have had them hit more, but we had limited time with each player.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 4.01.05 PM

Sample Trackman screen showing Low Point.

Major champion and top-10 player in the world (PGA Tour)

  • Range of Low Point: 3.9 to 4.4 inches (after)
  • Difference: 0.5 inches
  • Average Low Point: 4.16 inches (after)

PGA Tour Player

  • Range of Low Point: 4.0 to 5.1 inches (after)
  • Difference: 1.1 inches
  • Average Low Point: 4.55 inches (after)

Web.com Tour Player

  • Range of Low Point: 3.7 to 5.5 inches (after)
  • Difference: 1.8 inches
  • Average Low Point: 4.58 inches (after)

Scratch Player

  • Range of Low Point: 4.2 to 5.2 inches (after)
  • Difference: 2 inches
  • Average Low Point: 4.78 inches (after)

10 Handicap Player

  • Range of Low Point: 3.9 to 6.2 inches (after)
  • Difference: 2.3 inches
  • Average Low Point: 4.98 inches (after)

20 Handicap Player

  • Range of Low Point: 3.9 to 6.3 inches (after)
  • Difference: 2.4 inches
  • Average Low Point: 5.54 inches (after)

30 Handicap Player

  • Range of Low Point: 4.9 to 7.2 inches (after)
  • Difference: 2.3 inches
  • Average Low Point: 6.5 Inches (after)

Conclusions

  • As the players’s skill level decreased, their Low Point moved forward with a 6 iron. To me, this seems to correspond to the tendency of a golfer’s swing path to move more leftward of the target (for a right-handed golfer) as handicap increases, as well as more rightward alignments of the torso.
  • The ranges of Low Point grew wider as the player’s skill level decreased, indicating a lack of Low Point control. That falls right in line with the average player’s lack of consistency at impact as it pertains to solid shots.
  • Better players have better sequencing and the upper body and tend to stay “behind” the ball a touch more than the average player. You can see this in their Low Points, which are closer to the ball.
  • With the world-class golfers in this test — Major Champion, PGA Tour Player and Web.com Player — the Low Point difference ranged from 0.5 inches to 1.8 inches on all their shots, giving us an idea as to just how narrow the Low Point margin is for the world’s best golfers.
  • The top-10 player in the world had a Low Point difference of only 0.5 inches, showing us that extreme Low Point consistency is an essential component of major championship consistency.
  • AoA is influenced by where Low Point occurs relative to the ball. So if your low point is faulty, you can get more or less handle drag in efforts to hit the ball solid. Thus, having a consistent Low Point will help you control your dynamic loft at impact.
  • A consistent and predictable Low Point is the key to solid iron play.

Low Point Drill

So now that you know you must control your Low Point, you, of course, want to know the best way to do so on the range at home. As I mentioned earlier, Trackman’s newest parameter is coming in a few months. Until then, the simplest way for you to audit and “see” your Low Point is to use the line drill shown below.

Low_Point_Trackman

Draw or scrape a line on the driving range, using spray paint or the tip of an alignment stick. Place the ball on the line and hit several shots, moving across the line as you do. You will notice a pattern — or lack thereof — within a few shots.

The general rule with a mid iron is to create a divot in front of the line that’s neither too deep or too shallow, although turf conditions will be a factor. If you find that your Low Point is inconsistent from shot to shot, that’s a good indication that a lesson should be in your future. Remember, with iron play consistency is key!

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

40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. talljohn777

    Jul 19, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Sorry, but higher handicap players are not hitting the ball first and then taking a divot in front of the ball. Complete lunacy…

  2. Peter

    Sep 24, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    These results make no sense. The good golfer gets his weight and hands ahead of the ball, has a late release and strikes the ball first. The divot starts just in front of the ball and may extend four to six inches. The poor player hangs back on the right side, releases early with the hands behind the ball at impact. The most common result is a fat hit that may start three to five inches behind the ball or, sensing that this will occur, he /she pulls up out of the shot, takes no divot and tops the ball. Perhaps being monitored on Trackman is causing the high handicappers to really try to hit the ground in front of the ball. My 60 years in the game says that this does not happen on the golf course.

    • Waldy37

      Sep 26, 2015 at 8:15 pm

      Hi Peter, I know, sounds like it make no sense. I agree most poor player hangs back on the right side, releases early with the hands behind the ball at impact & the most common result is a fat shot or a thin shot. Most golfers never get the right AoA (or delivery or Approach as I like to call it) or correct low point, its poor on both sides of the hitting area.
      However there more golfers with a over plane swing than under plane swing. Im sure you agree there are more golfers with a slice than a hook. When we get over plane the club is desending from a higher point. This causes early release and early right arm extension. This makes the clubhead in fact too early & steep at the same time making it nearly imposslibe for the correct appoach. Shots are either fat or thin.

      When we release early there is no release at the hitting area, again making it nearly imposslibe to hit the base of the ball. Good players stays centered maintain right arm flex on downswing then they release the club before impact which shallows out the club which allows them to hit the base of the ball first. The body is angled back (all great players right shoulder is lower at impact than at address) but right arm is still flexed at impact. Post Impact the right arm extends and the club head rotates. Hips will also start to move up through impact.
      Conclusion?
      Right arm flex creates lag!
      Release of the golf club (unhinging) combined with lowering of right shoulder creates shallowing of the club. The leading edge is level to the base of the ball at impact.
      The right arm extension creates the downward movement of the club!
      The rotation of the club and the rising of the hips creates the club to move upwards (the club moves on a arch)

      So in fact most poor golfers who make contact with the ground have a divot that starts thin and ends thick. Sometimes the divot does not fly!
      A good players divot is round /saucer shaped so although the club does move downwards its wanting to move upwards.

      So this creates a earlier low point for better players. Lets say in relation to where the divots starts.

      So I hope this makes some kind of sense now!

      P.s This is my understanding and in golf there is in someway no real one way to do things!

    • rich

      Oct 14, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      i agree,turf first isnt correct,,,slow motion on tv shows this everytime…reading that article i thought he would be putting ball 4 inches behind that line??? this is why only pro’s whos dads were pro’s make it on tour half the time,,conflicting advice everywhere

    • Nestor

      May 20, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      This is exactly what I was thinking. Can someone please explain why the less-skilled player takes a divot further in front of the ball than the PGA Champion?

  3. JeffL

    Sep 23, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    I agree with many of the commenters above. Most high-handicappers hit fat, and hang or fall back. No way is their low point in front of the ball. I’m just not buying this article.

  4. That guy

    Sep 22, 2015 at 8:06 am

    So how does this play into sweepers and diggers? You are saying that sweepers are a horrible way to hit a ball? I disagree. I am a sweeper. I almost never take a divot, and when I do it is a result of my shot being fat. I don’t agree with being told that a divot is a must. A divot is not a must. A clean consistent shot can occur with or without a divot.

  5. Ernie Happala

    Sep 21, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    As a former PGA Pro, I am interested in, is this info for just you or do you actually give the student all the numbers. Now admittedly I have been out of the business for 10 years, I guess I just see the numbers as something else to put a student on tilt…I have been around a decent amount of tour pros and I always heard from them, “I don’t want to know”… Do I need to update my brain with new software or are any semblance of a point I made make sense…

  6. James G

    Sep 21, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Interesting to note the Trackman Maestro, Joe Mayo, says that shallowing all irons and not really taking a divot works best for most amateurs. I don’t know all the details behind it but he has indicated it was verified by the Trackman. Just an interesting side note to all this.

    One other note is that I would have thought most amateurs would have hit more fat shots. The tendency I’ve always heard is that amateurs bottom their swing out before the ball not after.

  7. TJames

    Sep 19, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    These results seem backwards. I’m a high handicap golfer, and I would say my divots are much closer to the ball if not in front of the ball resulting in fat shots or thin shots. I would have imagined as the handicap went up, the divots got closer to the ball and even in front of the ball (fat).

    • Skip

      Sep 22, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      Agreed. Surprised to see the 20 and 30 handicapper consistently make ball-first, ground-second impact consistently.

      • Waldy37

        Sep 29, 2015 at 6:38 am

        Hi Guys, I understand your reasoning, the fact is that high hcp golfers hit a lot behind the ball and on top too, thin shots. The big difference is that good ball strikers approach the ball from a shallow angel, however not from below but pretty level. Yes even with a wedge (watch pros on slo mo videos). This is caused by a good release. Again high hcp golfers whether they hit before or after the ball the approach in general is too steep, thats why its hard to get to hit the base of the golf ball on any shots. When the approach is steep the divot is thin in the beginning and thick at the end. The divot sometimes get stuck in the ground. Where as a ball striker divot is arched making often the low point not as deep. After low point the divots continues but on a upward motion. Creating a early low point but a long divot. Important to understand the difference between a divot and low point! We can learn so much about the golfer by looking at the divot. In fact if you hit the base of ball first we dont need one.

  8. Scott K.

    Sep 18, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    Tom, with respect, can you differentiate “your hypothesis” from previously known information about low point and handicap relationship? I would also point to Bobby Clampett’s published work “impact zone”, but he in no way took credit for being the first to recognize and measure this fundamental difference between golfers of different handicaps and If I recall has a predictive chart of hcp based on impact. There are many other published works with this observed. Expand on how your view is different or takes this knowledge to a new level please. If your purpose was simply to test trackmans new data point accuracy that is not made clear in the article. Thanks, Scott

  9. Waldy37

    Sep 18, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    I totally agree. I have been teaching golf for over 35 years and have always taught the low point of the leading edge of the golf club at impact parallel to technical instruction. Great players or lets say great ball strikers always have a good low point. For me there are two points they get right. First they hit the base of the ball first. Then the club moves downwards creating a long divot. Why does a great play have a earlier low point? Well a golf swing is a arch and even though the club is moving down it is in fact starting to move upwards. A divot should no look like a Continuous downward hitting motion where the front of the divot is thin and the end of it is thick. This will in fact create a later low point and shorter divot, what I call a stop divot. Sometimes the divots will not fly, this is a classis divot of a higher hcp player.
    The other important thing is to understand why this is so and what is the common denominator!

    • parker

      Sep 19, 2015 at 1:24 am

      Love your insight Waldy. Being a terrible (but improving) golfer for the 23 years of my life, I’ve noticed that most beginning and casual players have a terrible idea of ideal impact and I think that directly relates to the low point.

      I played with an inexperienced player recently… he started his round OK, bogeys and doubles, but after like 5 holes this turned into shanks and “I’ll just pick up”. His reasoning? “I’m just not getting under the ball”. So in my opinion, to answer your question of “why this is so” with higher handicaps and beginners, I think proper impact and the desired low point is not taught early enough to new golfers. I shot high 40’s for 9 for years without understanding proper contact. Understanding good impact is the thing that helps me play my best, more than any mechanical advice, as I think this applies to everything in golf, especially to the many shots we face that are not simple, full-swing iron shots.

      What is the common denominator? I have no clue, and am interested as well.

      • Waldy37

        Sep 19, 2015 at 9:09 pm

        Thanks for reply Parker. I agree most players dont understand impact or AoA. ( I like to call this the delivery or the approach) In general we dont get much input on how we deliver the golf club. I think its so important the information we receive is specific and what we say is more exact and precise. We often get to hear hit down on the ball. As a beginner we often miss the ball or top it. This causes poeple to lean backwards or flip the wrist causing them to hit behind the ball. They are trying to lift or get under the ball, as the ball is on the ground in golf, this is not possible! However most beginners & most average golfers come to much from above. (Over plane) So what should we say?
        Well try a little test first. Put a ball on a low peg and then put a peg about 1 cm behind the ball slightly higher than the fist peg. Can you get the leading edge at the base of the ball?
        Try it for yourself!
        I will tell you the answer now so dont have to wait. Its pretty near on impossible. What does this tell us? (even without a trackman)
        Yes! We need to shallow out before impact. Not below, slighty above but very little. So a good golfers shallows out in time. Allowing the loft to lift the ball. Most poeple shallow out to late!
        Watch slowmo videos, watch how top players even with a wedge shallow out the club.
        What is shallowing out?
        Shallowing out is in fact the unhinging of the wrists. The release of the golf club! Yes as we release we are shallowing out the golf club. (Which is also a power Source!) With a good release the AoA is shallower which in effect gives us a earlier low point after impact! Trackman numbers are spot on!
        However the longer the club the earlier release. So for example a driver swing is shallower than a wedge.

  10. Courtney

    Sep 18, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    This will make Bobby Clampett very happy. He preaches the 4 inches forward mantra constantly in his “Impact Zone” teaching / book / DVD’s. But I’m with some of the other guys who are confused by the positive numbers for mid and high handicappers.

  11. Saylor

    Sep 17, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    Great Article! Thanks for the research!

  12. Brian

    Sep 17, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    Great Article! Thanks for the research!

  13. Jason

    Sep 17, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    I think the bottom line (no pun intended) is that good players are consistent and bad players are not. Everyone’s good shot is good but great players do it more often and the difference been bad and good are not as drastic. Great article. Technology continues to help us understand this complex game

  14. Adam

    Sep 17, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    …and that gap widens with the increase in HCP

  15. Adam

    Sep 17, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I would think that if this were indeed the case then the difference between a tour player and a scratch golfer would show more that a tour player may enter the ground in a similar place to the scratch golfer, but the club would leave the ground at a more consistent distance meaning all ball flight factors would be more predictable due to a more consistent and repeated swing arc/path…

    • Adam

      Sep 17, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      never mind my comments… i think i just typed a bunch of non-sense trying tie the two articles together…

  16. Tom Stickney

    Sep 17, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    Balls hit from the ground need a downward aoa and a forward low point to create backspin which helps the ball with lift.

    Balls hit off of a tee can be hit slightly down on but for optimal distance a slight upward hit provides better launch conditions.

  17. Tom Stickney

    Sep 17, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    The other low point article was not written by me. If the low point is behind the ball you will hit up on it this it will have forward spin and not get airborne off the ground.

    As far as Clampett’s research goes I’m not sure what technology, if any, they used to determine their information. To my knowledge there are only two systems that can measure low point…gears and now TrackMan. Think his measurement data came before these systems were out. Might be a question for them.

    • Adam

      Sep 17, 2015 at 3:58 pm

      I wonder if the initial article is referring to the start or the divot (or contact with the ground) and not the bottom of the swing arc…
      If that were the case then it would make a whole lot more sense

    • Tom

      Sep 17, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      I know at one lesson I complained about how shallow my AoA was and my pro told me it was not that bad as he had seen a number of folks with +AoA. Would not a +AoA from the ground indicate a low point behind the ball? Also is not back spin created by spin loft not AoA?
      Anyhow how did the AoA compare to the low point? Did it make sense?

    • JeffL

      Sep 23, 2015 at 5:39 pm

      > If the low point is behind the ball you will hit up on it this it
      > will have forward spin and not get airborne off the ground.

      Is this what you’re refuting? If so, you’re right, it’s not true. The only way to give a ball “forward spin” (the opposite of backspin) is hit it above the center line (top it). You can hit behind the ball a bit and still get plenty of backspin. Especially if it’s on a tee.

  18. Mike

    Sep 17, 2015 at 11:47 am

    This seems counterintuitive. I would expect that as a golfers handicap increased the average low point would move closer to the ball. This would equate to less forward shaft lean and a more shallow AoA, resulting in less consistency in the strike. There was an article last year that talked about this called “Find the bottom of your swing arc by learning to read your divots”. In that article the author gave this table in relation to handicap and the bottom of a divot:
    (Handicap) = (bottom of divot)
    •+3 = 4-to-5 inches
    • 0 = 3-to-4 inches
    • 4 = 2-to-3 inches
    • 8 = 1-to-2 inches
    •12 = at the ball or up to 1 inch in front
    •16 = 1 inch behind the ball
    •20 = 2 inches behind the ball
    •24 = 3 inches behind the ball
    •28 = 4 inches behind the ball
    Am I reading this wrong or do these two these two articles contradict each other?

    • Scooter McGavin

      Sep 17, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      I was wondering about this too.

      • Adam

        Sep 17, 2015 at 3:55 pm

        x3

        • Mat

          Sep 17, 2015 at 9:21 pm

          x4

          And that delta… seems to skew the results on “scratch”.

          Also, explain to me how a 30 index can strike a ball without topping it, while still having the low point over 7 inches in front of the ball? That’s 9 inches after contact… I am trying to imagine anything other than an ice hockey slapshot…

    • Large chris

      Sep 17, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      Good article but Yep I’m wondering this as well – also seems to be opposite to Bobby Clampetts Impact Zone book. Also launch monitors don’t handle divots very well, will be interesting to see how the technology develops.

      • parker

        Sep 19, 2015 at 1:29 am

        I’ve been thinking about this too, and in my head, spin and spin loft probably have a greater influence than where exactly the low point is

    • Adam

      Sep 17, 2015 at 3:58 pm

      I wonder if the initial article is referring to the start or the divot (or contact with the ground) and not the bottom of the swing arc…
      If that were the case then it would make a whole lot more sense

  19. Teaj

    Sep 17, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Scratch Player
    4.2″ – 5.2″ —- Delta = 1″ not 2″

    Looks like the scratch player is a great ball striker

    • Kyle

      Sep 17, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      Yeah I noticed this too…. either a typo or a subtraction error there.

    • Ted

      Sep 18, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      Or… A confirmation bias.

  20. TR1PTIK

    Sep 17, 2015 at 11:04 am

    Great article. However, when talking about the driver in your second paragraph you said, “In a perfect world, a golfers would actually have an upward attack angle with their driver, which would create a low point that’s slightly in front of the ball”. Did you mean to say BEHIND the ball? Otherwise, I’m confused…

    • Zak Kozuchowski

      Sep 17, 2015 at 11:08 am

      You are correct, TR1PTIK, and we have edited the story accordingly.

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