Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Trackman-A Jolly Good Machine That Nobody Can Deny

I often get asked why Trackman is so good, particularly if you under D-Plane. I mean, can’t you just look at the flight of the ball and judge from there?

In the past couple of weeks I’ve worked on Trackman twice. A couple of weeks ago with my fitting at FuZion Golf ( and then last Saturday at Celebration Golf Club. Saturday was the 5th time I’ve used Trackman.

What I found was that the more one uses Trackman, the more they start to get the hang of it. I understood the numbers and data, the second time I used Trackman. However, I was (and still am) needing to learn how to use Trackman the most effective and efficient way possible. And I actually believe that if your golf instructor does not have a Trackman, you may want to take a lesson and then use the Trackman to better help incorporate the checklist of things you worked on in the lesson.

I like the way that Trackman owner, Graeme McDowell uses it here in this video:

McDowell hits a draw and is happy with that ball flight. He understands the ball flight laws enough to know that his path has to be inside-to-out with relation to the face. I’m guessing on this, but I believe in this video he’s trying to make sure that his path doesn’t get too far inside-to-out, causing an ‘over-draw.’ So for McDowell, when he feels like he is aimed square to the target, that generally produces the path that he desires.

While that sounds simple…that confirmation can be extremely helpful to a golfer. And later on he may find that when he aims square that his path gets too far inside-to-out and then realize he may need to make other adjustments to get the path he wants. So yes, I feel it’s a very pedestrian use of Trackman, but it shows how even rudimentary application of Trackman can be extremely helpful.

For me, I have had issues with coming over the top in the downswing. I believe I have all of the knowledge there, but actually executing it has been the issue. I’ve used my Casion EX-FH20 hi-speed camera to help with the issue. Now, to its credit I believe the Casio has helped my swing tremendously over the past 9 months. But as typical with myself, I’ve got the big pieces in place, I’ve just got too many of the small pieces out of wack. And those small pieces start to add up.


When I got my fitting at FuZion Golf, the main issue I had was that my driver’s attack angle was -4 to -5* downward. The PGA Tour average with the driver is -1.3* down. As I’ve stated quite often here, I really don’t believe a golfer can consistently hit the modern driver well an attack angle more than -2*. This is because the hot spot on the modern driver is up towards the crown of the club and you cannot maximize the smash factor and you will greatly increase your spin rate. Meaning, the ball is not being compressed to its max and the spin rate can work negatively against you.

My belief was that in my case, the attack angle problems were due to the OTT move. We can measure that with Trackman by what they call the ‘Vertical Swing Plane.’ I didn’t get readings of the VSP at FuZion, but I already knew they were very steep by just looking at video.

Thus, the main goal was to work on those two factors…Attack Angle (mainly with the driver) and mainly the Vertical Swing Plane.


Here’s why Trackman is such a great tool. I warmed up first and then took out the driver. Ripped it. Dead straight, perfect trajectory, hit dead square on the sweetspot. And the reading?

-3.9* attack angle.

Yes, ball flight can lie to the golfer.

After that I wanted to try 2 different things I’ve been working on with the driver. Without getting into details…one of them got the attack angle with the driver to -1* on my first swing. I probably averaged about -2* attack angle with that 1 thing I was experimenting with. Mind you, I was not focusing on the VSP with the driver in this go around…just the attack angle.

The other thing I experimented with led to some good shots, but the attack angle remained at -4* down. So, I knew what thing to junk and which one to keep. I also found it odd that by moving my ball position upward by about 1 inch, that actually increased my CLUBhead speed. I went from about 108 mph with the driver to 110 mph with the driver. Why? I have no idea.

When I moved onto the irons….without getting into detail…I estimated I had about 6 different pieces of the swing that needed to be cleaned up that were causing my over the top issues.

I experimented with some things I thought of and the stuff that my instructor, George Hunt ( have gone over.

Eventually I started hitting my 8-iron because for whatever reason, it was the only club with a grip that wasn’t too slick from all of the sweat (it was only about 105* heat index).

And here’s where I recognized the beauty of practicing with Trackman.

Provided that you know the numbers and that you know what numbers you want to work on and you have a good idea of what you need to do to ‘achieve’ those numbers…one can hit shot after shot and have each shot measured precisely and in detail.

It’s much easier to do that then to stop…fix the camera position, hit a shot quickly, stop the camera, then look at the swing in the camera…having to pause at certain spots and trying to judge for yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, the camera is still a crucial tool to have. But with Trackman and a camera, it’s much much more effective. .

One of the issues with the camera as well is that it’s not feasible to record every swing and then look at it. Often times I’ll flush a shot and the swing feels different, but I don’t have it recorded on my camera. Then I try it again with the camera recording it and the swing doesn’t look any different. With Trackman, you will see the difference after each shot.

I tried a bunch of things with the 8-iron, trying to get the VSP around 60* as it was around 67* when I started. One of the things I tried was to feel like I was ‘swinging out to rightfield’ more. I tried that and not only did it now work, the swing actually got MORE upright. The VSP would get up to 72*.

And the thing was that I would hit it flush and it would fly pretty well more often than not. I thought maybe Trackman was mis-calculating the data. Maybe I was aligned incorrectly with relation to the Trackman. I then recorded my swing on camera, got another 72* VSP and when I looked at the swing on video…it was extremely upright.

So yeah, that Trackman is accurate.

Eventually, I tried a bunch of different stuff. Some stuff had no effect on the VSP. Some stuff would work temporarily then disappear. Then I figured out something concrete and started to get the VSP with the 8-iron down to where I wanted it. What was funny was the last 3 swings I took with my 8-iron, they read swing speeds of 87, 88 and 87 mph and I felt like I was swing very lightly. The Trackman was recording a carry of 175 yards or so with those swings, which seemed like a long way to carry an 8-iron (I usually carry mind about 160 yards or so). I then got home and looked up Trackman’s PGA Tour averages and the Tour average with an 8-iron is 87 mph. I was also improving my attack angle. I hit a few drivers and started to get the attack angle from +0.2* to -0.9*.

By Monday I decided to record my swing on video again and there was a big difference. I estimate those 6 pieces I had issues with are now down to 3 pieces I have issues with.

Don’t get me wrong, I could not have cut down those issues without the knowledge from the lessons I’ve received. But the Trackman allowed me to learn how to execute the mechanics on every swing. That in turn allowed me to repeat those mechanics and more quickly learn what feels work for me in order to consistently execute those mechanics. For me, that’s a lot of progress in a very short time.



Jaacob Bowden said...

Just curious...what is your average launch angle and spin rate with the driver?

Also, have you seen the research data (I think from Tom Wishon) that shows you'll get much more distance with a +5 angle of attack with the driver as opposed to 0 level or -5? I think there's a case study about this out there using Charles Howell and Bubba Watson as examples.

I would take the Tour iron carry distances with a grain of salt too. We don't know the lofts on their irons. One guy's wedge might be 48* and another one's might be 45*. That could significantly change numbers.

Rich H. said...

I perfectly understand how attack angle affects distance. My average attack angle was about 8-10*, which is too low for my speed. I really didn't look too much at carry, but looked more at clubhead speed, smash factor, VSP, attack angle, path and face.