Friday, January 24, 2014

2014 PGA Merchandise Show Ramblings - Part II

After the Demo Day and getting something to eat, I headed to West Orange Country Club for the Open Forum 2. This was created by Nick Chertock, Michael Michaelides and Chris Como last year. The idea was to promote an open discussion about a variety of topics with regards to teaching. Last year the show was disoriented. The idea was good, but there was such a broad scope of what could be discussed that you could get teachers that wanted to talk about wrist and upper thoracic graphs while other teachers wanted to talk about where to set up the camera. It also didn’t help that there was a full bar in the room. West Orange CC had a nice setup where the bar was in a different room than where they could hold the Open Forum. They were able to put some sponsors together like Zepp Golf which I thought has an interesting product.

This year they had a set agenda of discussion and posted it on the Facebook forums so those going to the Open Forum knew ahead of time what was going to be discussed.


First up was Dr. Mike Duffy, a golf biomechanics researcher from Penn State. He discussed what their research showed as far as the kinematic sequence goes and what produces club head speed. While it was biomechanically oriented, he utilizes similar statistics that I use for golfers and actual performance. The idea with Duffy is that his research shows that arm speed has the strongest correlation to club head speed, then torso speed, then the hips. However, in order to speed up those movements, they have to go in sequence of hips to torso to arms. Whether you believe or don’t believe in the kinematic sequence really wasn’t an issue for me, it was about what Duffy has researched and you can draw your own conclusions. I thought the presentation was fine. I still have my skepticism about what is correct and how this may possibly change if the sensors to measure the data were located in different positions. Unfortunately, Duffy was the first to go and it took a little while to get into the ebb and flow of what the Open Forum was designed to do…get people into discussing his findings and asking questions. That’s going to happen until somebody breaks the ice. But at the very least I was able to see what Duffy’s viewpoint was.


MacKenzie has done a lot of work on the engineering and physics of a golf swing. He is noted for his work with the ‘functional swing plane’, ‘passive torque’ in the golf swing, etc. Here’s him hitting a driver with one arm:

MacKenzie first discussed if there was a ‘flat spot’ in the golf swing. This is near impact if the clubhead flattens out. MacKenzie’s work is more simulation based. So he is able to determine the properties of a human being and the golf club and perform a simulation of the swing. From there he can take the data and determine if it is physically possible to perform something like a ‘flat spot’ in the swing.

The verdict? Yes, there is a flat spot in the swing.

The problem? They don’t know if that is good, bad or indifferent.

It would be interesting because from my viewpoint, Moe Norman did not take a deep divot, but they appeared to be a long ‘striping’ of the grass. That could possibly indicate that he had an elongated flat spot. So it would be interesting if a longer flat spot would be advantageous.

If there was a complaint here it’s that MacKenzie discussed the flat spot for too long and too many questions were asked about it and we have no idea what good or bad the flat spot does.

From there he discussed much of what was in this video:

I basically understand it as if you were looking at a DTL view. And let’s say you want to draw a ‘shaft plane line’ showing the plane of the *hands* in the downswing. And you wanted show a plane of the club head in the downswing. Essentially, the swing will be more efficient if the club head plane is flatter than the hands plane.

I found some of the other stuff a bit confusing, particularly with the torque and ‘motion arm’ terminology. But, I’m not a golf instructor and I will only go so far to understand it.


Rob Neal owns Golf Biodynamics and is a biomechanist that teaches the golf swing. He participated in a great video explaining Bubba Watson’s famous shot at the Masters.

Neal’s presentation was about ‘pitch shots.’ Pitch shots were defined as 30-80 yard shots. They used Tour players and collected various data. One of the main themes was figuring out what determines the amount of carry on a pitch shot.

What Neal found is that the largest correlation to distance carry was ball speed. So for every increase in ball speed, the more the ball was going to carry. It’s practically a 1:1 relationship. Obviously, from there it is a strong relationship between carry distance and club head speed.

While this may sound simple, what was interesting is that there was no real relationship between launch angle and max height of the ball. Neal surmised that the trajectory of the ball was more about the player’s personal preference as to what they feel comfortable with hitting.

There was a lot more to it, but what I found interesting in the end is that they measured the shaft lean at impact of these Tour players and found that it was on average at about 16* of forward shaft lean. This would explain Mike Adams’ findings of why golfers don’t have enough bounce angle…the shaft lean tends to be greater than the amount of bounce angle they have. And it’s not a coincidence that Edel tends to end up fitting golfers for about 16* of bounce in their sand wedge. I came with thinking that the bounce designs in wedges are really designed for higher handicappers because they tend to produce low shaft lean. But if you’re a 10 handicap or better, you’re likely to be hitting wedge that is not designed for your swing.

The other part I found interesting is that the shaft lean at impact did not vary much, according to Neal the players recorded were all within 13-17* of shaft lean, regardless if they were hitting a 30 yard or a 80 pitch shot. This jives with my theory that about Birdie Zone players (75-125 yard shots). That the best ones are the best at controlling the forward shaft lean at impact. I tend to believe that the players with a little less forward shaft lean than the typical Tour players (i.e. Brian Gay, Brian Davis, Camilo Villegas, Steve Stricker) tend to do the best job of controlling the shaft lean. However, this could very well be an issue of their ability to control their club head speed given the correlation of club head speed to carry distance.


Afterwards I took a break and missed some of the presentations like Phil Cheetham’s. When I came back, they decided to do a panel discussion where somebody would ask a question and a panel of 10 instructors would give their thoughts. I enjoyed this, but I felt that the panels were too big. They needed a 3, 4 or 5 panel because it would take too long to get everybody’s opinion.

Part of what was discussed was hitting up versus hitting down with the driver and what will be straighter. This is something that Chris Como and I have discussed extensively as the more a player hits up, the more the D-Plane shifts compared to hitting down. But, the ball is spinning less when the player hits up. So the D-Plane is shifted more, but the ball is spinning less on that shifted plane. Conversely, hitting down the D-Plane is shifted less, but spinning more. So it’s something we’ve discussed in what would cause the ball to curve more.


Fredrik Tuxen researched this and came away with a model of a 100 mph club head speed player. One that hits -5* downward versus the other at +5* down. They’ve optimized their launch conditions for each attack angle in order to hit it the furthest.

The results were that the player hitting up would obviously hit it further. But the player that hit up did hit it further offline. IIRC, the difference was 28 yards offline for the +5* angle versus 22 yards offline at the -5* angle.

Tuxen also pointed out that at slower club head speeds, the ball will go less offline. So his point was that the extra distance would ‘outweigh’ the ball going more offline.

My conclusion is that I agree with Tuxen’s point with club head speeds under 100 mph. As my research shows (and others like Cochran and Stobbs as well as Mark Broadie) there’s also not as large of a discrepancy for higher handicap players hitting a shot from the fairway versus hitting a shot out of the rough. The higher handicaps do not have the swing mechanics and tend to hit it quite well if the grass ‘tees it up’ in the rough. So if a lower speed, higher handicap player can gain the yardage and maybe find the rough a little more often, I feel that is largely in their favor to do so.

The disconnect for me is that I deal with Tour players whom all generate more than 100 mph club head speed. Furthermore, there is a larger discrepancy between performance on a shot from the fairway vs. the rough for a Tour player (roughly 33%).

One question was posed that a 6 yard difference (28 vs. 22 yards) could mean the difference of hitting it O.B or in the water. Brian Manzella didn’t believe it and I tend to disagree.

The width of the average Tour fairway is 28 yards. So a shot that is 22 yards off line…provided the target is the center of the fairway….the ball will end up 8 yards from the edge of the fairway. That is 24 feet from the edge.

Last year 24 feet from the edge of the fairway would have ranked 42nd in Distance to the Edge of the Fairway. Conversely, if the shot travels 28 yards off line, that is going to end up roughly 42 feet from the Edge of the Fairway. Last year that would rank dead last.

And remember, this is for only 100 mph club head speed.

I still think that the ‘honey hole’ is about -2 to +2 degrees for golfers. I think it’s great if a lower speed player can hit up based on Tuxen’s math. But, the other issue is that most low club head speed players hit well down on the ball…so they have horribly flawed mechanics to begin with and flattening the attack angle (or making it upward) will be a byproduct of improved mechanics. So I would recommend, based on this information, that teachers with lower club head speed players try to get them to hit up a bit more. But as the player generates more speed, they are probably going to want to keep them in a -2 to +2 range and figure out what works the best for them in terms of power, accuracy and consistency.

Chuck Cook was asked about it and he says that Jason Dufner hits -2* down on the ball and when he tried to get him to hit up, not only could he not do it consistently, he was losing club head speed (something I’ve seen in the data research I’ve conducted as well).

Hopefully this doesn’t come off as a ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ a debate, but more understanding of where I am coming from and where Tuxen and others are coming from. Like I stated, Tuxen sold me on the idea of getting a player to hit up if they are a lower club head speed player. And I would never recommend any player to start hitting -5* downward with their driver for any reason unless they were playing into a very strong headwind.


In the second panel the topic of rate of closure came up. John Graham ( brought up the good point that Trackman does not measure the path of the club face. Instead it measures the path of the ‘blob’ that it creates by finding the geometric center of the club head. And therefore there can be a discrepancy between the path of the face versus the path of the blob because we don’t hit the ball with the blob.

This brought up the debate of what impact rate of closure can have and it went briefly into what Fujikura’s ENSO machine measures.

I think it’s better to see the video on this in order to explain what they were discussing along with Brian Manzella’s thoughts and James Hirschfield’s questions and thoughts.

My feeling?

The rate of closure argument, regardless of what side you’re on is more or less an exercise in futility at this moment in time. Rate of closure is not universally defined. From what I understand, the RoC measured by ENSO is measuring the rotation of the shaft or near the butt-end of the grip.

But, what I *perceive* as Rate of Closure and what I have seen from greats like Hogan, Snead, Mac O’Grady, etc…and what that club head and club face look like for those guys going thru impact makes me not really care much what the shaft is doing. I am more interested in what the club and face are doing.

I’m not saying I’m right or wrong. I’m saying that it is a subject that we virtually have no verified, scientific measurement of. We don’t even have a good definition for it and what would be measured. So if you’re for a high rate of closure, some of your arguments may be valid and logical…but some of your arguments are based on no scientific proof or evidence.

Conversely, the same goes for those in favor of a low rate of closure. My feeling is that once it gets figured out, we will probably realize we didn’t account for certain things that go into this subject.


This was a really great forum that I learned a lot from. I got to meet a lot of smart, interesting people in the industry from Russ Ryden, Chris Como, John Graham, Chuck Cook, Mike Adams, Nick Starchuk, Lance Gill, Mark Blackburn, Nick Duffy, Michael Michaelides, John Dochety, TJ Yeaton, James Hirshfield, John Dunigan, Chuck Cook, Fredrik Tuxen, Rob Neal, Mike Duffy, Sasho MacKenzie, Andrew Rice, etc.

I also think that it will only get better for years to come and I look forward to the video. The organizers, Nick Chertock, Chris Como and Michael Michaelides should be proud of the fantastic job they did.


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