4 New Ways To Improve
What we've learned from new technology — and how it can help you
One of the great advantages—and challenges—in modern golf instruction is the almost unlimited access to information. With launch monitors and 3-D motion-analysis systems, it's possible to see what the body and club are doing every milli-second of the golf swing and how the ball leaves the clubface. But you still need to apply it to your game. That's as true today, when a player hits balls in front of five cameras here at the Butch Harmon Floridian, as it was when my grandfather, Claude Harmon, was giving lessons at Winged Foot in the 1950s. Let's talk about a few of these modern tools. I'll show how you can benefit from them, even if you never see one.—With Matthew Rudy
1. FITNESS TRAINING: GET MORE OUT OF YOUR TURNModern golf-fitness facilities, like the Titleist Performance Institute, use medical diagnostic equipment to create exercise programs tailored to a player's physical makeup and flexibility. One important baseline you can monitor at home is torso rotation. Slide an alignment stick through your belt loops and hold another one across your shoulders, then get in your setup without a club. Keeping your hips in place, practice turning your shoulders left and right, as I'm demonstrating (above). The sticks will help you see the motion. Your goal isn't to turn your shoulders more but to move them independently of your hips—that's a major power generator during the golf swing.
2. 3-D MOTION CAPTURE: SYNC UP FOR CONSISTENCYGreat ball-strikers might look different on video, but when measured in 3-D with a tool like the K-Vest—which uses sensors to take an in-motion MRI—they all have the same swing signature, or kinematic sequence. On the downswing, the energy starts in the lower body, transfers to the upper body, then moves into the arms and extends through the club. If you're lacking consistency, your downswing is probably not following this sequence. Try my drill: Using a middle iron, set up with your feet together (large photo above). Swing back, and start the downswing by stepping laterally toward the target with your lead leg (inset). This will get your lower body firing and guarantee that your swing develops in the correct order.
3. LAUNCH MONITORS: ELIMINATE YOUR BIG MISSRadar-based launch monitors like Trackman describe where the club path and clubface are pointing at impact. It's certainly useful to have data that shows the angle of the clubface, which in large part accounts for a shot's initial direction, but old-school teachers relied on their eyes. You can, too. Stand an alignment stick 10 yards down the target line, and use it as a reference point to see where your shots start and how they curve. We know the starting direction is dictated mainly by the face, but if the shot curves, it means the club wasn't moving in exactly the same direction the face was pointing. So for a ball that starts left of the stick and curves right, the face was pointing left at impact and the path was even farther left, creating an open face position and imparting slice spin. Next time you go to the range, identify your most persistent miss, and try to match the face and path at impact for straighter shots.
4. GREEN-READING SYSTEMS: LEARN TO FIND YOUR LINETraditionally, green-reading has been seen as more art than science. Sophisticated programs like AimPoint show the ideal line of a putt, and teach golfers how to roll the ball on that line. On breaking putts, AimPoint says less than 5 percent of golfers play the correct line. This is often because they locate the apex of the break, then aim directly at it. Those putts usually fall off early and miss low, because they don't allow for break between the starting point and the apex. Here I'm seeing my line as an arc of rope. To roll over the apex (yellow dot), I'm aiming farther left than I would if I were going right at it. Reading the entire length of a putt is the only way to start the ball on line.
Claude Harmon III, one of Golf Digest's 50 Best Teachers, is based at the Butch Harmon Floridian in Palm City, Fla.