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VietNamNews

Teed Off (Jan 18, 2015)

Update: January, 19/2015 - 13:38

with Robert Bicknell

I have been following a very interesting, yet heated, discussion about the effects of technology in the game of golf. Yes, I know you're thinking that this is all about clubs and balls, but it's not only that. The argument includes technological advances in the teaching of golf.

I am sure that if you have attended a demo-day by Titleist, TaylorMade or Ping at any of the driving ranges in Vietnam over the last year or so, you would have seen a radar unit called "Trackman" or a similar unit called "FlightScope."

What these things do is track almost every important parameter of a club impacting the ball. Angle of attack, club face to path ratio, clubhead speed, ball speed off the clubhouse, spin rate and axis, smash factor and, of course direction. They can also do a lot more.

In the right hands with an expert interpreting the data, this is a very useful tool. But in the wrong hands, especially a teacher who doesn't fully understand the data, (or worse, uses the trackman as a substitute for actual knowledge of a swing) this can be very dangerous.

And yes, there are teachers out there who believe technology is the cure for everything, but have very little knowledge of how a golf swing properly functions. OK, by the same token, there are also guys who read every single book, watch every single video on YouTube, use Trackman, and still cannot teach a dog to bite a steak.

It happens.

Teaching is an art form. It requires many years of learning and even more years of experience. A kid just getting his apprentice ticket cannot possibly have the same knowledge of someone who has been a successful teacher for 10 or 20 years. It's the experience which matters even more so than the books. Theory is good, but reality cannot be discounted.

In a nutshell, a golf swing is geometry of a circle, physics and human biomechanics.

We cannot change the laws of physics, but we can control the geometry and we can help players understand why their body has to move a certain way depending on the geometric set-up.

In regards to geometry, Trackman can assist the player in understanding where his clubface was at impact. But it also requires a trained professional to help the student understand the Trackman numbers and how he/she can affect those numbers by changing a position or movement.

OK, so the argument is that, despite all the game improvement clubs on the market, and all the teaching aids available, people are claiming that players are getting worse, not better. But the facts don't really support this claim.

In Viet Nam, golf is still growing rapidly. Players are improving daily and handicaps are dropping.

In the US or Europe, golf is in a decline, so less people are playing. Hence, the collective handicap average would be unstable and probably rising as older more experienced players leave the market and new, less experienced players join.

New equipment designs have helped a lot of players improve. Hence the term "game improvement" clubs. But have they really "helped" the player, or merely helped lower the score while allowing the player to remain the same?

There is a difference.

If you give two equal players different equipment, the player with clubs fitted for him specifically and incorporating all the latest technological advances would have a clear advantage. If you give the lesser of two unequal players the latest technological equipment, he/she would play better than his actual ability, but his ability would remain the same and given back his older equipment, would again rise to a higher handicap.

So, the player didn't actually improve himself, he bought a better golf game.

For years, I've screamed that golf is a journey of self-improvement. Players should improve themselves in order to improve their games - and I still believe that. However, as I get older (and take advantage of technology myself), I find that there is nothing wrong with using the approved technology.

Golf is to be enjoyed, and if the latest technology helps more people do that, so be it.

Tournament golf and recreational golf are two different animals. So when you're just whacking it around with friends, have a good time! — VNS

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