‘Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely yours’ – Bruce Lee
Modern day golf technology is forever on the increase and its opportunities for progress are fantastic with endless possibilities available at our fingertips. From a coaching perspective the technology available can certainly assist greatly in providing a more precise and in depth look at the technical elements of the golf swing, body biomechanics and ball flight data. For the golfer, it is also important to feel comfortable knowing the point at which the seemingly endless information that technology provides begins to outweigh its benefits. In relation to the ability level of the golfer, how much knowledge is too much and at what point does the balance of benefit versus information overload tip the scales?
Today’s golfing technology
Let’s consider some of the options currently available on the market today:
Ball flight launch monitors/simulators – These devices can assess many different parameters of what is happening to the ball flight, as well as monitor the club delivery, including club head speed, swing path, swing plane, angle of attack and many more. One particular brand of launch monitor, Trackman, produces approximately twenty-six different pieces of data per ball struck. The question is, for the average golfer, how much of that information does he or she really need to know? At what point can too much data can potentially be detrimental to their progress?
Trackman can be used for both coaching purposes, as well as club fitting and analyzing the efficiency of current equipment, and/or purchasing of new.
The key to using the data offered by ball flight monitors, and in fact all forms of coaching technology, lies in the quality of it’s interpretation, the filtering of the information and it’s relevance to the individual, not the quantity. This is where the professional coach/club fitter is pivotal and is at hand to decipher the most relevant piece or pieces of data that will help maximise and develop each golfer as an individual.
The great benefits
Other forms of current coaching technology lie in video analysis, biomechanic feedback systems, putting analysers and balance plates which analyse weight distribution throughout the swing. These are all fantastic pieces of equipment. For the average golfer, once again, the key to maximising their benefits lies in acquiring the relevant filtered knowledge from a trained professional. This will provide the most direct route to improvement.
One of the greatest benefits of this fantastic technology lies in its ability to provide information which the naked eye has absolutely no way of physically capturing. Prior to the introduction of Trackman and other forms of launch monitors, many coaches, myself included, worked on the premise that the club path – the direction the club travels into impact, held the greatest influence on the initial starting direction of the golf ball. My early years of training were certainly based on this concept. Scientific data has proved this theory incorrect and in fact it is the club face that has the greatest influence on the initial starting direction of the golf ball at impact. It was discovered that the face angle on the driver accounts for roughly 85% of the initial direction and for irons the face angle accounts for around 75%. The human eye would have no way of acquiring these figures and sources of data.
This reliable data not only provides a detailed and concrete evidence base for the professional, but most importantly instills a confidence and faith in the information being relayed from the coach to pupil, either in what they may be working on technically or in a particular club; this is worth its weight in gold. If any doubt lies within the pupil, either questioning whether a golf club is right for them or in what they may be working on technically in their golf swing, there is far too great a temptation to fall in to the trap of continual experiment in alternatives. Technology provides the evidence-based data to assist in binding the faith not only within the pupil but also between pupil and coach. It instills a confidence and commitment to the process and helps to prevent the inconsistent and frustrating journey of experimentation.
Modern day technology is now becoming available whereby statistical analysis of the swing and ball flight can be made on a self-reliant basis through devices which can be attached to a club or golf glove and utilised by the golfer directly, either on the range, putting green or comfort of their own back garden, without having a golf lesson or the assistance of a trained professional. This may provide data to the golfer; however, misinterpretation of this data can impart greater confusion and frustration. Data is only as good as its interpretation. As a coach, I would always recommend when using such devices that an initial evaluation be carried out under the guidance of a professionally trained eye. Once you have the correct interpretation of the data, and an understanding of the most relevant pieces of information to you, they become a much more beneficial companion.