More Than Meets the Eye

It’s been half a year since I started using the Flightscope Xi Tour radar for my lessons, and I’m proud to say that it’s made my job more enjoyable than ever. Happy students, happy coach. My only regret is not having it sooner. I never go to the driving range without it. In this post, I’ll show you one of the reasons why. But first, let’s travel back several years to what I would consider a pivotal moment in my career.

I had this young student. Very smart. And quite impatient. After drawing some lines on the computer screen and concluding that his Clubhead Path was out-to-in, he protested. “That can’t be right. I’m hooking it!” I don’t remember the excuse I gave him. But at that moment, I knew I was in trouble. Despite capturing the swing at 240 frames per second, I didn’t really have a clue.

Of course now I know. Before the advent of radar launch monitors, it was common practice for coaches to make assumptions about a person’s swing just by looking at a few frames on video. The problem is video is two-dimensional. Clubhead Path is three-dimensional.

Let’s take a look at two screenshots I captured on my iPad.

The first swing appears flatter. Most people (including my old self) will immediately assume that this is going to produce a right-to-left ball flight. The second swing looks completely different, but most people will be shocked to find out that both shots flew fairly straight.

Based on the Flightscope data, the Vertical Planes for both swings were virtually identical at 57 degrees. The second swing only appeared upright because the Horizontal Plane wasn’t square to the camera as it was in the first swing. Due to the steep Angle of Attack, the second swing actually had a slightly more in-to-out Clubhead Path… something I would have never guessed before.

I wish there was a simpler way of explaining it. But basically, if you “hit down” more than you “swing left”, the Clubhead Path will not go out-to-in.

Some of you will probably ask: “So which one is better?”

Both shots were similar in terms of direction, which means both swings can work. The steeper swing simply had a lower trajectory. Bottom line, there’s more than one combination of Horizontal Plane and Angle of Attack to produce the Clubhead Path you need. It’s just a matter of finding the combination that’s easiest for you to repeat.

So remember… don’t judge a swing simply by looking at it on video. Because you can’t. I’m sure armchair analysts who like criticizing swings they’ve never seen up close will disagree.

You can make an educated guess about the vertical and horizontal planes, the face angle, etc. You can deduce a person’s ball flight pattern from his kinematic sequence. But clubhead path is always dependent on where impact occurs relative to low point. As far as I know, only a radar can accurately measure that.

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