As golf moves through the 21st century the game has changed on several levels. Perhaps the biggest change involves equipment and the distance increase. As technology continues to evolve at a dizzying pace, it impacts every phase of our lives. “Smart” phones, cars, appliances, HVAC systems, you name it, technology is now a part of it. In sport, technology allows us to dissect every aspect affecting performance. Today you can find the most minute detail influencing everything from cycling to swimming, football to table tennis. I saw a story the other day regarding the Ohio State football team. They are tracking the activity of their players by GPS. Apparently a chip sewn into their practice and game uniforms tracks every move an OSU player makes. It records whether players are at optimum performance levels during various drills or during actual games. Imagine coming off the practice field with a printout of your activity level. Does this translate into wins every week? I wonder what the reports indicated in Iowa City a few weeks ago.
Golf has also become exposed to technological voodoo over the years. Crude video analysis gave way to digital cameras recording every conceivable angle to the Trackmans of today. Most of you know these new gizmos measure several aspects of the golf shot, how it flies, spin rate, launch angle while illustrating the actual ball flight of the shot and total distance. Numbers are collected, collated and averaged then spit out for the player’s reference.
When I was growing up years ago whacking balata balls with persimmon woods, there was only one set of numbers I cared about. Actually they’re the only numbers I still care about today. It’s those numbers I write down in the little boxes on the scorecard. I honestly can’t say the times I’ve recorded a birdie my launch angle was dead solid perfect nor were the times I made a triple due to a higher spin rate. Birdies and big numbers have a direct correlation to the player, not a computer.
There are times I’ve worked with social players, the folks who tee it up twice a week and want to play better. Maybe they want to take their score from triple digits to the nineties. Perhaps a player is dying to break ninety. Do you think putting these people on a Trackman is going to greatly enhance their development? It may in some ways however they need to learn more about playing the game. Since in most cases players don’t play a round in a succession of perfect shots, why have a machine put pressure on the golfer to produce ideal numbers? Can you see the scenario? A player has a lesson with a Trackman, goes out to play a few holes after, fires his second shot on hole #1 into a water hazard and immediately wonders if his launch angle was to blame. It happens.
Golf is a difficult game and for many it is utterly complex. Some instructors want to maintain this perception. It gives them more areas to address and more lessons to give. Yet in my view golf is about getting a small ball into a slightly larger hole in as few strokes as possible. There is only one set of numbers that count. The other compilation of techno-voodoo numbers can help with some aspects of the game but my concern is two sets of numbers divide a player’s attention. Remember, I’m all about fundamental simplicity. Plus I do best when focusing on one thing — my score.
I’d agree that better players are more apt to tap into techno resources. Certainly players who make their livelihood in golf rely on every resource available to them. The small percentage of people who have the talent to play professional golf is dwarfed by the players who get out two to three times a week. Professionals have the time and the ability to look at both sets of numbers. Amateurs, stick to the golf numbers that really matter — score. There are plenty of ways to make ’em without the use of technology.