Motion Analysis Technology takes your game to a new level
Would you ever buy a suit or dress without trying it on first? Probably not, but the most finicky aspect of the golf game – clubs – is typically bought off the rack or tested in atypical playing conditions (indoors on artificial turf). The ever-evolving advances in research and development programs have opened up a myriad of equipment choices, even square clubheads, for the average golfer. TaylorMade is offering technology and a custom fitting process that is a shortcut to better scoring for players of all abilities.
I was tired of playing the occasional hook and missing putts on the low side. I assumed I had an inconsistent swing and a poor putting stroke. My refusal to practice on a regular basis took away any right to complain when my scores kept creeping higher. The regularity of my struggles started to sap my enthusiasm for the game. I never once questioned my equipment; I was playing reputable irons that were more than five years old but had recently slipped a new driver in the bag. My problems were all my own or so I thought.
I had seen my swing on film several times and pretended to know about bounce and
torque and all of the other hot-button words. However, a trip down to a TaylorMade Performance Lab in Carlsbad drastically changed my outlook, my game, my scores and my understanding of the swing and its relation to the latest equipment on the market.
Arriving at the facility on the grounds of the Four Seasons Resort at Aviara, I was quickly outfitted by a trained PGA professional with reflective markers all over my body, including on my shoes, back, and a hat as well as the shaft of the clubs I would hit. I immediately thought of Tiger Woods in similar gear when the world’s number one golfer was working on his video game. Sure enough, the Motion Analysis Technology (MATT) used to create the popular video games by EA Sports (as well as the Lord of the Rings movie) is the same thing I was about to utilize.
I took a few swings to familiarize myself with my new gear and was pleasantly surprised to find that the sensors did not impede my movement or freedom. Once I was loose, I started with five swings with a mid-iron. The setup was somewhat similar to an inside hitting bay. The sensors, advanced launch-monitoring system and high-speed cameras picked up every fine detail starting with my setup and continuing to my follow-through. My subtle waggle before each shot was right in front of me as was my hip action at impact. Within seconds of each swing, literally every aspect was being measured and analyzed including ball position and body lines.
The large screen displayed my swing speed, swing path, face angle, lie angle and the impact locations. Five driver swings later, I was looking at ball speed, carry, roll and total distance numbers. After hitting an iron and driver, I had my putting stroke dissected. Only five swings are necessary with each club (iron, driver and putter) because the measurements are so precise – one tenth of one degree. This level of detail was previously thought to help professionals only, and until recently was available solely to PGA Tour players.
The most entertaining part of the two-hour session is seeing the computer-animated images of yourself on screen. The 3-D capture can be viewed from every conceivable angle (360 °). I had never envisioned seeing myself swing from beneath my feet. In addition to the various angles, the system places your swings on top of each other so you can understand how your swing plane differs each time. The fun part is viewing in excruciating detail your swing against one of the TaylorMade professionals. I was able to see firsthand why Fred Funk hits more fairways than I do.
Even if you aren’t looking for a lesson, it is difficult to not walk away with a better sense of your swing. Each lab is run by a teaching professional armed with years of experience. All numbers and data are explained in as much detail as you please. The employees are not there to push a certain type of equipment or work on your grip; they take a cue from how you play and where you want to go with your game. I didn’t feel pressure to swing well, practice more or buy product (though more than 90% of clients believe in the experience enough to buy clubs on the spot). The only expectation was to swing like you always do and ask as many questions.
Even with the excitement of seeing yourself on screen and matched against the pros, the strength of the system lies in its ability to assign the best type of clubs for your particular swing tendencies. The computer immediately spit out recommendations in a custom fit profile.
Within minutes the clubs were assembled and we walked 30 yards to the outside driving range to hit the recommended clubs. I was starting to wonder if they were corking the club or adjusting the ball because of the ease with which I was striking the ball. The range was slightly elevated but not enough to account for the additional height and substantial extra carry.
Amateur players usually accentuate swing flaws because of improper equipment or lose distance because of a bad launch angle. You don’t need to be a low-handicap player to benefit from custom-fitting. TaylorMade’s comprehensive process successfully matches golfers with their equipment needs and changes the way amateurs think about their games.
“When a player leaves the fitting, they will know exactly what they need from all 14 clubs in the bag,” says Tom Fisher, manager/master fitting professional at the lab in Carlsbad. “They can expect to have confidence in their ability because their golf clubs fit them.”
Armed with additional knowledge, I no longer blame my putting stroke. I learned I was missing putts because I continually aligned myself slightly left of the target and my eyes were not over the ball. A center-shafted putter helped alleviate this problem and a general awareness of my alignment has lowered my number of putts. I didn’t need an overhaul of my stroke; I needed my irons two degrees upright and equipment that would optimize the swing I possess.
The two-and-one-half hour fitting session (driver, iron, wedge, putter and ball) costs $350; if you spend more than $1,000 on clubs, 5% of the total cost is taken off the fitting fee. The prices are equivalent to what you would pay at discount golf stores. If you are staying and playing at Aviara, the clubs can be constructed and delivered to you on the first tee the next day. Even if you are not playing on site, the clubs will ship 24-48 hours later as opposed to the more normal two-week period. Currently, there are six labs around the world (three in the U.S) with plans to add more locations.
Most amateurs are not going to go through swing changes and work to correct any swing flaws. We play the swing we have crafted and hope to somehow get better with time. The technology at TaylorMade is telling us it is ok to work with what we have. We can bring our inside/out swing to them and they’ll make sure the equipment does the work to get the ball airborne and going the right direction. The emphasis is not on buying clubs, but more so on understanding equipment needs.
“Custom fitting has changed the game dramatically. MATT is so precise – to the tenth of one mile per hour – it allows people to swing their natural way and let their clubs fix the faults” says Fisher.
TaylorMade already has the number one driver on the PGA Tour, now they are working on capturing that same market share on the amateur level. Rumor has it that several tour pros have requested a hitting bay with this technology for their homes. Amateurs can’t play inside the ropes on Sunday or compete on Tour, but the combination of high-speed cameras and professional analysis from MATT allow us to receive the same attention that made Tiger into a video game star and Mike Weir into a Masters champion.