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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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Equipment

Rounding out the lineup: Fujikura Ventus TR Red, Black

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What you need to know: Fujikura introduced the second-generation of its Ventus line with Ventus TR Blue in January. As expected, and as was the case with the original Ventus Blue, Fujikura is now adding Ventus TR Red (mid-high launch), and Ventus TR Black (low launch) to the family.

What’s new

Spread Tow: Improving on the original Ventus Red and Ventus black design, and like Ventus TR Blue, TR Red and TR Black feature “Spread Tow” fabric in the butt-end section to increase torsional stiffness. Spread Tow, essentially, is a checkerboard-like design that weaves fibers together to increase strength and reduce weight. According to Fujikura, the torque is 10 percent stiffer in the section that uses this design.

Additional technology

The Ventus family’s secret sauce is still “VeloCore,” which is a multi-material construction that uses ultra-stiff Pitch 70 Ton carbon fiber to increase stiffness. This enables players to hit the center of the face more often due to a reduction in twisting and droop on the downswing.

Per Fujikura, Enso analytics continue to shown one of the highest stress points of the shaft is the mid/handle section during the transition and downswing. Accordingly, engineers focused on this section of the shaft in the development of Ventus TR with the goal of minimizing twist and ovalization — and maximizing consistency and stability.

In terms of feel, Fujikura says feel is similar to the original Ventus Red and Black but with increased stiffness and lower launch/spin.

What Fujikura says

Fujikura’s Product Marketing Manager, Spencer Reynolds, explains exactly what Spread Tow is and why it’s effective:

“Essentially, there’s a standard carbon weave and then there’s a Spread Tow carbon weave. What a Spread Tow does is it takes all these individual strands of carbon and irons them flat into a tape, and then weaves those over-under, over-under almost like a checkerboard pattern. So there’s very little space for resin to accumulate, you get super low resin content, and then you also get a lot of strength in varying directions. It can take pull and load in multiple directions. Another benefit is that it’s super lightweight. You’re getting an incredible amount of strength, in an ultra-lightweight package.”

Read much more about Spread Tow and the Ventus TR profile in our Ventus TR Blue launch piece.

Regarding the line extension, Reynolds said:

“Any time we incorporate a new technology into a shaft offering, it’s always in the conversation to expand and integrate that technology into additional profiles. The immediate adoption, success, and performance gains we saw from VENTUS TR Blue led us to enhance the line with additional profiles. Expanding VENTUS TR offerings provides fitters more options in the VENTUS line to fit, and ultimately help a wider range of players improve the performance of their drivers and fairway woods. With six VENTUS profiles available with varying performance characteristics, the VENTUS line is truly firing on all cylinders.”

Pricing and availability

MSRP: $350 through 600-plus authorized Fujikura Charter Dealers and select OEM custom programs

Available at retail: End of August

Flexes: TR Red (R2-X flex, 59 grams – 89 grams), TR Black (S-X flex, 59 grams – 89 grams)

 

 

 

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Whats in the Bag

Sungjae Im WITB 2022 (August)

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Driver: Titleist TSi2 (8 degrees, 0.75 degree flat lie)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 7 X

3-wood: Titleist TS3 (15 degrees, 0.75 degree flat lie)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8 X

Hybrid: Titleist 818 H2 (19 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 105 X

Irons: Titleist T100 (3-9)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (48-10F @47, 54-08M @53, 60-04L)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Putter: Scotty Cameron Flowback 5 Prototype
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion 1.0PT

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

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Whats in the Bag

Joohyung Kim’s winning WITB: 2022 Wyndham Championship

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  • Joohyung Kim what’s in the bag accurate as of the Wyndham Championship. Kim’s decision between 2-iron, 3-iron, hybrid is course dependent. More photos from the event here.

Driver: Titleist TSR3 (9 degrees, A1)
Shaft: Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X

3-wood: Titleist TSR3 (13.5 degrees, A1)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei 1K Pro White 70 TX

Irons: Titleist T200 (2-3), Titleist T100 (4-PW)
Shafts: Fujikura Ventus Black HB 10 TX (2), Project X 5.5 (3), Project X 6.0 (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM9 (52-12F, 56-10S), Titleist Vokey Design WedgeWorks Proto (60-A)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Putter: Scotty Cameron TourType GSS Prototype
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion Tour 2.0

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride MCC, Golf Pride MCC Align (2-PW)

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