The future for golf lessons
It blends science, technology and an enlightened understanding on how we learn… and it’s already here.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to climb inside a golf suit programmed to make the perfect swing, and experience once and for all what an orthodox motion feels like?
Actually no, it wouldn’t. “That may sound like the ultimate lesson of the future,” says TG Top 50 coach Mark Bull, “but the notion of a perfect swing is at best romantic, and at worst damaging. To really make progress you need a lesson that understands you as an individual, how your body works, and what movements help or hinder you as a golfer.”
This is precisely what Bull’s own motion tracking software is designed to achieve. At the cutting edge of both golf coaching and golf learning, his system detects and calibrates how each body segment is moving in four dimensions (the fourth is time). It can detect fatigue through heart rate variability, and even warn you of potential injury.
“The starting point for the process is a transmitter, called a ‘source’, that creates an electro-magnetic field of around 20m,” Bull explains. “We then place eight sensors on you. When the system is activated, sensors disturb that field and the tracker picks up within a millimetre where they are in space. It takes two milliseconds from detection to the data showing up on my laptop.”
Bull then examines the data for what he calls the first point of failure. “In an efficient movement the system registers strong sequencing values, muscle function, acceleration and club delivery data. If these figures are down, it will be because of some clear movement dysfunction.
“This system allows us to trace that dysfunction to its root cause. Most current coaching, on the other hand, reaches only the compensation made to allow for it. Launch monitors, recording only impact, are really dealing with the effects of that compensation. But we can build a fuller picture, a narrative of how you move to create the outcome.”
Using Bull’s own expertise as a biomechanist, and data from thousands of elite player swings, the system can then help you find more effective movement patterns, confirmed by what Bull calls ‘biofeedback’. “We will then work with you to move closer to those optimal sequencing and club speed figures. The system uses the space around you to create zones in which we want you to move. Good movement is confirmed visually by the segment we are focusing on changing colour on a big screen, and audibly with a tone, which can be set either to come on or stay off when the good move is achieved.
“The old didactic approach takes learning away from golfers but with this approach you have to find and feel your own way to the improved motion. In this way you become a genuine part of the learning process. This massively improves your understanding of what you need to do.”
At the end of the session, Bull gives you a link to a personalised app, accessed from phone or tablet. On this app are relevant drills and animations from the session, all designed to retain understanding of agreed reference points. Your coach can also be given the app, which allows them to participate remotely in the session if they are unable to attend.
“I believe my approach works on a series of levels,” Bull adds. “By dealing with definable movement patterns and the values they create, it removes the subjective, opinion-based advice which has plagued golf coaching for many years. By addressing the golfer as an individual it offers a personalised approach; no two golfers are anatomically the same, and because of this, the same piece of advice can help one and hinder the other.
“Also, it empowers the golfer by asking them to feel their own way to a solution. I can point them in the right direction but ultimately we want the player to own their learning.”
How you can feel Rory’s swing…
If you ever wanted to feel what it’s like to swing like Rory McIlroy – or Jim Furyk for that matter – the technology exists to oblige you. Launched in 2014, RoboGolfPro is fundamentally a robot designed to take you through the swing. You hold on to the club and its long, mechanical arms move it for you. The robot can be programmed to move the club like any pro you care to mention… although it must be said your body action will still largely be your own.
RoboGolfPro also has a serious coaching element; your pro can assess your motion, decide what it needs, program the RoboGolfPro to move the club accordingly and let you feel the changes.
Futuristic as it sounds, the technology was devised more than 10 years ago, when German university professor Erik Gradener and PGA professional Sascha Orlic created Top Swing. Its chief drawback for British golfers is that the nearest one is in Switzerland.