Friday, March 9, 2012

3Jack's Stance On Trackman

Recently, some of my blog readers and forum members have been asking my thoughts on Trackman. The frequency in inquiries has grown due to some of the things that I have posted on my forum ( and others.

First off, I’m a fan of Trackman. However, I don’t think it’s infallible in its effectiveness in improving golfers. I think much of what we are seeing in the praise of Trackman is due to it being a new device for many golfers and what usually happens with golf, when something is new and the golfer initially has success with it, it gets overblown as the ‘greatest invention of the century of the week.’ Hell, it wasn’t too long ago that golfers were saying the same thing about the Medicus training aid device.

That stuff happens and after a great deal of experience in this sort of thing, I understand it but it has also made me skeptical of the ‘greatest invention of the century of the week.’

One of the big things I’ve noticed with Tour players using Trackman is that they initially improve and improve greatly. But after a while what happens is they revert back to hitting it about the same as they were before their Trackman usage-ownership.

Kevin Streelman is a pretty good example. He went from a fairly average to above average driver of the ball with a steep attack angle who went to a good driver of the ball using Trackman. Then last year he finished 68th in Advanced Total Driving and what appears to be a somewhat steep attack angle with the driver judging by these radar numbers:

9.33° launch angle (161st)
92.5 feet max height (92nd)
3,002 rpm spin rate (174th)
2.52 Distance Efficiency (165th)

Now, finishing 68th in Advanced Total Driving is nothing to sneeze at, but he was a top-25 player in ATD in 2010, when he first purchased a Trackman for himself.

The same could be said for Darren Clarke, who won the British Open right after purchasing a Trackman, but hasn’t done much since. Same with other owners like Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer. It’s not that they are poor players by any stretch. And in the end, *if* the tradeoff of getting hot immediately after purchasing a Trackman and being able to win a Major and then more or less go back to a level of ballstriking that you were at pre-Trackman…is worth it. But, not everybody will wind up that way.

This is probably the biggest reason for me thinking that Trackman is the ‘magic machine’ that will cure all ills and will turn weak teachers into good teachers and good teachers into great teachers is a really a delusion.

Take a look at this video of Graeme McDowell using Trackman.

I’ve discussed this personally with a few anonymous Tour players who use Trackman and they tend to use it in a similar matter that McDowell is using Trackman in this video.

If you can hear McDowell, he now understands the proper laws of ball flight. And he understands that his path going inside-to-out with relation to the face will produce a draw. He appears to be fine with that. He also understands that in order to hit the draw at the target, he will do it with an open clubface at impact.

All McDowell is doing is if he feels like he is aligned ‘square’ to the target, that will produce that inside-to-out path of around +2° to +3° which will allow him to hit the push-draw he desires. However, his ‘work on Trackman’ really does not go beyond that.

I think this sorta leads to a few things.

For starters, it reminds me a bit of what Geoff Mangum ( once wrote about on his forum as to the difference between working with Tour players and working with amateurs. I’m paraphrasing, but he said that essentially Tour players are more or less there to beat the guy in front of them, not to become the absolute best player they can possibly be. Life on Tour is a very good one and they simply will not risk losing their Tour card no matter what.

I think part of the issue with something like a Trackman is that if a Tour player is just worried about numbers and has little to no concern with the actual mechanics of the golf swing, eventually those vague things they did (like address alignment) will ‘wear off’ and they’ll need to figure out the mechanics in order to produce more consistent numbers with Trackman.

That being said, I think 2 of the positives of Trackman is:

1. Golfers get to really understand the proper laws of ball flight.

2. This should help reduce the Ian Baker-Finch’s and David Duval’s of the world, players that drastically ‘lose’ their golf swing.

I think the reason for the sudden improvement for Tour players is by understanding the laws of ball flight *clearly*, it’s sort of an awakening for them. What I’ve found talking to Tour players is that they usually give muddled answers when you ask them ‘what causes the ball flight’s initial direction.’ Typically, the Tour players I’ve talked to will say the face (which isn’t quite accurate, but somewhat close). But, when they talk about hitting a draw or fade on purpose, they then start discussing the path as responsible for the initial direction. And as far as the path’s relationship to the face, they usually have zero idea.

It was not too long ago that I recommended that Tiger should get on a Trackman so he can really learn the proper laws of ball flight. I had a lot of people criticize my thoughts for that because as they put it ‘surely Tiger knows D-Plane!’

Well, he didn’t

What I think has been confused with my recent thoughts on Trackman is when I was posed with the question ‘if you HAD TO choose between Trackman or Casio, which one would you take?’ My answer is the Casio and it has nothing to do with money.

In reality, a good golf swing instructor will teach swing mechanics that will produce good Trackman numbers on a consistent basis. Meaning, a good swing instructor does not actually need a Trackman because their teachings will be geared to produce powerful, accuracy and precise golf shots. So if the student then gets on a Trackman, the work with ‘show up’ in the data.

However, I do believe golfers trying to only learn thru Trackman are doing themselves a bit of a disservice since they are eliminating one of the key cognitive learning processes for no reason.

Furthermore, I’ve personally found that I can work to achieve ‘good Trackman numbers’ without a video, but do it with convoluted swing mechanics. Then when I get onto the golf course, those convoluted swing mechanics that produced ‘good Trackman numbers’ eventually ‘fade away’ and I’m back to my old way of hitting the ball.

Sound familiar?

The ideal is to have all 3 aspects. Good instruction, a Casio to help the student see what the teacher’s instruction, a Trackman to help further understand the teacher’s instruction, and the Casio for the student to take on the range with them so they can make serious progress mechanically.

In fact, Trackman itself has recognized the importance of a camera as their latest model:

I find that one of the biggest benefits of Trackman is that if the golfer has addressed the swing mechanics and is progressing towards those swing mechanics, Trackman really helps them better understand and get that feel of what needs to happen to finally get it. If you’re a golfer working on mechanics to help achieve a higher trajectory by creating a shallower attack angle, you can hit balls trying to achieve those mechanics and eventually understand the feel you need to execute those mechanics.

But I don’t agree that cameras are not very useful nor do I agree that the Trackman is far more useful than the camera. I think somebody like Tiger has a good idea of how to make permanent, positive change in his golf swing. He has the instruction from Foley, they use a Casio to view the mechanics and the Trackman to understand the proper laws of ball flight and to tweak the feels in order to achieve those mechanics. And that’s why in a short time, despite a torn ACL and all of the other mess, he’s gone from one of the worst drivers on Tour to #1 in Advanced Total Driving. And that’s why the others have not seen that permanent vast improvement in their ballstriking.

The reality is that Trackman only makes certain teachers and certain golfers better. And usually it’s the ones who want to learn how to get better.



Unknown said...

Wow Richie. Your analysis of Clarke is genuinely funny. Of course he hadn't done much since the open he has said as much in numerous interviews that he knows it is goin to be hard to find he motivation.

Comparing trackman to a medics was lame. There was never a time when medics devices lined a tour range. Trackman is out there everyday. They may not change but trackman can help them stay

Overall, this whole article is back handed at best. Trackman will do more for golfers than all other technological advancements.

I thought you were a forward thinker? I'm disappointed

Rich H. said...

It would be nice if you actually posted your name instead of being 'unknown.'

I'm not the mafia here, so there's no reason to be afraid and it only makes Trackman loyalists look worse because they appear like they have something to hide.

If Trackman was the cure all, Clarke doesn't need much motivation. Same with Streelman, McDowell, Kaymer, etc.

What's ironic is that I do give praise to Trackman in the post, but again the Trackman loyalists cannot accept any criticism and thus hide behind an anonymous name. Even more ironic is that I've talked to more than a handful of Trackman owners, including one of the Tour professionals on Trackman's list of owners, about this *before* I posted this and they agree with my thoughts. In fact, that's part of how my thoughts were formulated, feedback from current Trackman owners.


Unknown said...

I posted from my iPhone. I would no doubt have included my name which is Jared Willerson, Trackman user. Had I known it wouldn't have shown up, I thought I was logged in. Still doesn't change my opinion that I feel your post was backhanded at best and lo and behold comes out the same week as Brian's article.

I hope you feel better now. I had no intention of hiding. Sometimes your phone just doesn't cooperate.

Best of luck with your continued assault on different ways to improve.

Rich H. said...

I would rather say things that are true that people don't want to hear rather than believing that the next great thing is infallible.

What we've seen is Trackman go from being panned by people who didn't understand it to people praising it as the magic cure, when they don't fully understand it. I reject both notions and strive to find the most accurate representation of Trackman for my readers, instead of immediately panning or praising the subject at hand.

Like I stated, this post was formulated after discussing it with numerous Trackman owners and they don't feel I've 'backhanded' Trackman at all.

And it still doesn't refute the fact that players like McDowell, Clarke, Streelman, etc. have gone to about the ballstriking they once had.

If used correctly and with an understanding that a proper alteration in mechanics will help permanently improve the impact conditions, it's a powerful tool. Otherwise, golfers run into the same problems they have using a camera and drawing fixed plane lines years ago.

I haven't even read Manzella's article, yet. So I would be curious how this conflicts, if at all, with the article. Either way, if Brian is that confident in his work then he should perfectly withstand any criticism, particularly if it doesn't even have to do with his own article. It says a lot more than his underlings get all bent out of his shape about any opposition to him, even if it's not about the actual article itself.


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