Trackman - Almost Does It All
When I attended the GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teachers Summit in Orlando back in November, Justin Padjen gave a presentation on Trackman data. For those of you not familiar with Trackman, Trackman is a radar reading device that has become very influential in the golf industry. It can measure items such as launch angle, ball spin, angle of attack, ball curvature and an item called smash factor. At first, the major golf companies and club fitters would use it primarily to measure launch angle, ball spin and smash factor to optimize distance and accuracy. Fitters are looking for a launch angle of 11 to 12 degrees and ball spin in the low 2000 rpms. Then, to add icing to the cake, fitters want to see a 1.5 smash factor ratio. That simply means this: let's say your swing speed is 100 mph, in order to optimize the distance you can hit the ball, then the ball speed coming off the clubface would be 150 mph. With the aid of Trackman, manufacturers, like Taylor Made, have used all of this data to help them with their driver designs.

For years, club manufacturers have figured out that if you lower the center of the gravity and move it away from the face, it would promote the ideal launch angle, but the ball had too much spin on it. So drivers had to be set at lower loft angles. But now, because of the data gathered from Trackman, Taylor Made's new SLDR driver has the center of the gravity closer to the face which produces less spin. But in order to get the appropriate launch angle, lofts are set higher. Thus, the optimum goal of high launch and less spin can be achieved.

Trackman has also been instrumental in such programs as Play It Forward and helping you play a game that is easier. For instance, let's say you are a 14 handicap and are 160 yards from the hole. On average, your proximity to the hole is 73 feet. Now, the average green size is around 6000 sq feet, which means you are going to hit that green only 39% of the time. For a Tour player from 160 yards out, they average 21 feet from the hole. So for the majority of golfers they are better off playing a course yardage that is shorter.

Because of Trackman's ability to measure impact, more and more teachers now are relying on this data. Trackman will measure if the clubface is open or closed at impact, it will measure the degree of loft put on the ball and, it will measure the degree of down or up the club is coming into the ball. As a result, teachers are realizing more and more that the clubface at impact has the most influence on the direction the ball travels versus the path. For many years, the PGA of America had what is known as the ball flight laws. The ball flight laws said a ball would initially start in the direction of the path of the swing. Trackman has proven that not to be the case, but rather, it's the club face position. So for many teachers, this has been a new revelation. But, I say it isn't. People like Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, John Jacobs and Jim Flick realized long ago that it was the face that influenced the flight of the ball, not the path. Trackman simply confirmed their belief.

BUT, in spite of all the wonderful data Trackman can provide to the student, there is one thing it can't do for you and that is tell you how to make the necessary adjustments in your swing to produce the desired results. It can't tell you if your grip is too strong or weak, it can't tell you how you are creating a negative or positive angle into the ball or how to increase your smash factor ratio, all it can do is measure the result of your swing. That's why you still need a teacher to identify what is causing your mistake(s) and what steps are needed to correct the face at impact.

So if you want to improve, I have no problem with using products like Trackman or Flight Scope, but please do so with a qualified instructor who can properly interpret the data and give you the correct instruction to produce the results you want at impact.

Peter Krause
GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher
PGA 2005 Teacher of the Year
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