Sunday, September 16, 2012

High-tech help for your golf game at GolfTEC Improvement Centers

In almost no other sport or game is the quest for perfection so potentially frustrating, if not downright futile, as in the game of golf. Unlike nearly every other major game or sport, golf is played on an ever-changing field of play, with a variety of implements that are each designed to a different job – from smacking the ball 200-hundred + yards down the fairway, to rolling it a few feet, or even a few inches, along the ground on the putting green – and everything in between. Mastering the skills required to use all of these tools correctly, in order to get the ball from the tee, to the green, and into the hole – in the least number of stokes – can be a supremely frustrating journey.

Browsing the shelves of golf books in the “Sports” section at your local bookstore (if you can still find one) or library (ditto…) will illustrate a fundamental truth – something over 90% of the books related to the subject of golf ever published, and many of the bestselling, are instructional titles. The problem is that teaching yourself to play golf effectively, beyond the most basic concepts of stance and grip, is beyond the capabilities of all but a very small, gifted, percentage of the population. For example: professional golfer Larry Nelson, with 10 PGA Tour victories and 19 Champions Tour victories to his credit, including the 1981 & 1987 PGA Championships and the 1983 U.S. Open Championship—didn’t take up golf until he was in his early twenties. Freshly mustered out of the army after a tour of duty in Viet Nam, he taught himself to play by reading Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, the best selling golf instructional book ever published.

For most of us, though, playing golf with any level of facility is going to involve professional help. One of the most common teaching venues is at a driving range – either in a group lesson or one-on-one with a teaching pro – which seems logical. Since the point of the exercise is to produce the desired ball flight, hitting balls at a driving range where the flight of the ball can be observed seems to make sense.

While the satisfaction of smacking balls downrange is enticing, there is no guarantee that either you or your instructor will be able to effectively make the connection between your actions and their result. A more certain method of connecting swing motion with result is to make use of the latest instructional technology, in an indoor teaching facility equipped with video cameras and launch monitors.

One resource that I have recently explored in my own pursuit of improved quality and consistency in my golf game is the local GolfTEC Improvement Center. Started in 1995 by two graduates of the Mississippi State University Professional Golf Management program, Joe Assell and Mike Clinton, in nine years, GolfTEC has grown from modest beginnings to 148 locations across the country, with a footprint covering approximately 70% of the United States.

While other teaching facilities may utilize the same type of equipment that GolfTEC centers do – video cameras, launch monitors, and biometric measurement systems – the heart of GolfTEC’s teaching system, and its greatest strength, is the database of swing motion information that GolfTEC instructors can draw upon to evaluate a student’s swing. Built up over years of measuring the swings of PGA, LPGA, and Champions Tour pros in the fitness vans that accompany the professional golf circuit, this treasure trove of information allows a GolfTEC instructor to compare the student’s body motion during the golf swing to the information compiled from sessions with the finest professional golfers in the world.

After fitting you with a pair of tiny, three-axis accelerometers, one between your shoulder blades and another at waist level, your instructor will film your swing a few times, gathering video and biometric data as a baseline from which to begin your instruction. Then, 
pick a pro golfer to compare your swing to, or more realistically, let the GolfTEC instructor pick one (because, hey – everyone thinks that they swing like Freddie Couples…).

With your data in the bank, your instructor will pull up a video clip of the chosen pro from their extensive database, and show you an enlightening (but often sobering…) side-by-side comparison of your swing and the pro’s, accompanied by the biometric data showing the body motions that affect your golf swing. With the video and the biometrics of your swing as a baseline, your instructor will show you how your swing motions compare to the chosen pro’s, and where your swing can be improved.

Your first session at a GolfTEC Improvement Center is just the beginning of your journey to a better golf game. With just the adjustments in my grip, setup, and swing that I was shown in my first session, I saw noticeable improvement in the direction and consistency of my driving and iron play. Depending upon the level of your desire for improvement, and the amount of time and money you are able to devote to the project, your instructor can lay out a lesson plan that will help you achieve your goals in the game of golf.

If you are serious about improving your skill level, and your enjoyment of the game, you owe it to yourself to check out your local GolfTec Improvement Center.

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