As technology continues to influence the modern game, more and more “casual” players are sticking their nose into performance numbers that only apply to tour professionals. It’s not their fault. It’s the manufacturers.
If you read today’s golf equipment ads the only thing left to hype is distance. TaylorMade calls their new SLDR driver “The Spectacular Distance Machine”. Callaway’s new hybrids are “ridonkulong”. Ping has a new Karsten iron they simply describe as “a distance iron”. Even Titleist claims “longer flight” with their lineup of AP irons. Yes, distance is the golf junkie’s “buzz”.
With the invention of the Trackman swing analyzer, tour pros are analyzing every aspect of their swings relating to launch angles, ball speed, and ball spin. Does it make a difference? It sure does. By altering equipment and approach angles players can see a significant difference in distance and ball flight. From now on nothing in the golf swing is hidden. Every action producing a result can be captured.
The question is should casual players get caught up in the Trackman phenomena as they seek to improve their games? Distance is addictive. But players like to be “In The Know” even if they lack sufficient talent. You’ve seen them. They “dress” 70; “talk” 80; and shoot 90. They also want to talk “Tour” like Tiger and Phil:
“It was chilly one out there today. I put a double-snowman on the board. Probably lost a lil’ ball speed as my attack angle was waaaay off. Need to get on the Trackman and work my numbers, man. Gotta get those yards back.”
I was talking with my good friend Ron Beck the other day. Mr. Beck is the Director of Golf for Fox Golf Properties in New England. He is also an exceptional teacher of the game. Recently he visited Callaway’s production facility in Carlsbad.
“I jumped on the Trackman and hit a few shots after traveling cross-country,” Beck explained. “I found out I was working across the ball slightly. Naturally when we went out to play the next day all I was focusing on in the beginning of the round was getting my swing back on track. It drove crazy.”
This is a preview of what’s coming. Imagine this PGA Professional experiencing a type of “paralysis by Trackman analysis”? Now, take it a step further and imagine amateurs who play twice a week focusing on numbers disseminated from a $25,000 computer. As Mr. Beck alluded to later during our conversation, “golfers are going to think they’re broken”.
As this type of thinking advances it could lead to players “taking their eye off the ball” (ignoring the playing aspects of the game) and instead focusing only on achieving “perfect” numbers. Those numbers aren’t the ones in the little boxes on scorecards. They come on a printout.
Technology has improved many facets of modern life. It’s hard to navigate through our world without it. In this case I believe the Trackman is going to spoil many attributes casual players enjoy within their games. There are infinite ways to produce numbers on a scorecard, many which are far from perfect. However for tour players, those numbers adding up to a paycheck need to be scrutinized by a computer to chase perfection. It is their livelihood. They comprise a very small fraction of the golfing public. It’s best to let them talk “Tour and Trackman” while the rest of us continue to enjoy the other wonderful qualities of the game and, as Mr. Palmer puts it — “swing your swing”.