Technology has become a huge part of golf instruction in the last 10 to 15 years. First it was high-speed video and the ability to slow down professional golfers swings and compare them to the average golfer for a comparison. Now it is sophisticated launch monitors for full swing and putting that have taken the analysis to a whole new level for the student and the teacher. Recently on the Golf Channel, Frank Nobilo and Brandel Chamblee were discussing what they called the “New Age” or “The Modern Teacher.” Mr. Nobilo said that these coaches were now using devices such as “Trackman”, “SAMPutt Lab” and “Aimpoint Green Reading“. He brought up names such as Sean Foley, David Orr and my good friend John Graham which was nice of him because these guys need to get credit for bringing these technologies to forefront. I actually had a few of my members email or contact me after they saw this segment to mention to me that they thought that I would fall under this category which was pretty cool. Since I have been using the SAM Putt Lab and teaching AimPoint for almost 2 years, I would have to say that I fall under this “Modern Teacher” category even though I still consider myself old school in many ways as I will explain. Even though I have educated myself on understanding “correct” ball flight, the D Plane and trackman numbers, I have only recently been fortunate enough to actually teach with one. Thanks to Cobra/Puma Golf for allowing us to borrow a Trackman as a promotion for the last couple of months and it has been very educational for sure. I will attempt to put into words some of the things that I have learned while using trackman and give you my thoughts on this old school vs. new school teacher idea that has been thrown around by many of you as well as our friend Mr. Chamblee who has proclaimed that technology such as Trackman is hurting the game.
There has been alot of discussion amongst my fellow teaching professionals on twitter and some facebook forums of the importance of being able to get and ultimately deliver “accurate information” to the golfer. I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment but it still remains that the teacher is still responsible for interpreting the information and ultimately communicating it to the laymen golfer for them to improve. I have many of my students that I work with today that could interpret trackman and SAM Putt Lab numbers but wouldn’t have the first idea about giving a quality golf lesson. Are you with me so far?
Using Trackman (Old School meets New School)
After teaching with Trackman for almost 3 months, I have to remind myself and and my staff that standing behind the machine and barking out numbers and telling them to move the numbers is not teaching golf! This is where the old school meets the new school in my opinion. Trackman is merely a great device to give us the information on what the club is doing that we may not be able to see with the naked eye. It has allowed me to 1) Bring the D Plane to life for my students with a definitive ball flight explanation 2) Given me a quicker solution to the problem and 3) Given my student some measurement to the change that we are making in the lesson. Trackman is not method biased. It is still up to the teacher to 1) interpret the numbers 2) communicate the important piece to the student that needs to change and 3) GIVE THE STUDENT THE FEEL AND/OR DRILL TO MAKE THE CHANGE. #3 is where I feel that alot of new teachers fall short and don’t know how to help the student move the numbers or make the long lasting change. This is where my old school meets new school (did I say that already?)
DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY (Get In There Man)
For those who have watched me teach or have followed me in the past know that I am very big on manipulating the student. This means getting in there and moving the club and or body in an exaggerated fasion in order to create a feel for the opposite move in order to make a change. This is an acquired skill that has to be practiced. After you have decided on what you are working on with your student, you can’t rely on them to just do it without you creating a feel through moving them or giving them the appropriate drill. Because if you tell the student that you need the path number to move from -6 degrees to plus 2 and can’t make it happen, then you have a very frustrated student on your hands and trackman has done nothing but expose you as a coach who can’t get results, so be careful. Once the student sees the numbers change and the desired results they can use it to create a repeatable pattern. This is the feedback that I have received from my students about their experience on trackman.
Key Things That I Have Learned On Trackman
For those of you who have been using Trackman this will be remedial but I am just giving you my thoughts on using trackman the last few months.
1) Impact Location is crucial – Especially with hitting the driver, unerstanding gear effect is huge. It make the D Plane numbers look silly and you have to explain this to your students. I use Dr. Sholls powder and video replay to figure out the impact location on every shot.
2) Golfer Alignment and Trackman Callibration Is Important – Trackman only knows the target line that you callibrated it to. It doesn’t know where the golfer is aiming or how they are standing relative to the target. Similar to camera angles in video, the target line is important in how the numbers are interpreted.
3) Angle Of Attack – This Is the most difficult dimension to calculate if you don’t have trackman. I am pretty good at guessing path and face numbers (it is a fun game to play during a lesson) but AoA is difficult. Using video is helpful to diagnose why someone hits down too much or up too much depending on the club your are working on. Some pieces that I look at regarding AoA are: 1. handle location 2. the distance from the front shoulder and the ground (Thank you James Ridyard) which is a direct reflection of how bent the knees are at impact and for how long.
Its All About Spin Loft – The Angle between Club Orientation and Club Direction. (Not really just had to put that in there for my boy Ryan Cheney) (@oraclerio) follow him on twitter, you won’t be disappointed.
The main numbers that I use when teaching (not fitting) is: Face, Path, Angle of Attack, Swing Plane, Dynamic Loft, Spin Loft, Axis Tilt. – With Driver I would add: Smash factor (ball speed/clubhead speed), Launch angle and spin rate.
Path vs. Face debate
There has been several threads and conversations over the last several months with teaching pros about what to fix first…..swing path or club face. I will say that in the past (before I fully understood D Plane) I tended to fix the face first with OK results. Now that I understand starting direction and curve, I would say it has evened out and probably work on path more than ever but I don’t neglect the fact that golfers do respond a face change that will change the path. My point is that it a subjective change depending on the characteristics of the students pattern you are working with. A lot of time I will make a grip change (face) and work on path without even mentioning the face but I did change it. The genius still lies upon the expert teacher that will make the appropriate correction to create the desired ball flight of the STUDENTS GOALS! I use video to look at positions and how they relate to the numbers on trackman to get to the quickest solution. If you are only fixing one side of the equation then I think you are short siding the student.
When To Use Technology
Every student will not benefit from Trackman all of the time. You have to be able to read the student and tell whether they need to feedback. I typically keep it running but don’t show them the numbers unless they ask or I want to show them the change, not unlike video analysis. Listening and reading the students learning style is crucial in using it effectively.
Overall I have been very pleased with the results and the feedback from my students about using trackman. The students experience is the ultimate feedback and it has been overwhelmingly positive which improves our chances of getting our own orange box. The thing that I hope you got out of this piece is that Trackman is simply a measuring tool for the teacher and student but it does not take the place of the expert coach that has to guide the learning experience and change for the pupil.
I have alot to learn but now I feel like I have the device to give me the answers……..
Thanks for reading and feel free to share if you deem worthy. As the season winds down, i will start to write again and continue to do what I love……gather, share and mentor other teachers to help us all grow the game.
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