Golf Science – New-Age Training Aid Tech
Golfers all over the world are fascinated with trying to improve their golf game in any way possible. One popular concept has been with the use of training aids that can help to give a golfer a feel of what the correct positions are during the swing. Traditionally, training aids have ranged from anything as simple as a towel under the armpits to indicate “connection,” to an human-sized circular tube that one could stand within to practice something like swing plane.
In the 21st century, training aids have become increasingly more sophisticated, and, more importantly, small enough to use on the driving range or golf course. One such training aid is the Blast Motion sensor. It stands out from a half dozen other “inertial measurement units” because it has been developed by the founder of the now well-known K-Vest biofeedback device, and has been independently tested by some universities for accuracy. Best of all for the regular golfer, it is sold for a very affordable price! So what can this gadget actually do? According to Michael Bentley, the founder of this company, whose goal was to make a really small, wireless sensor that could be linked to mobile devices to give a user instant feedback, it does a lot. Bentley, as the son of a golf instructor, and a former golf professional himself, knew exactly what feedback golfers need most and designed the product to give just that much feedback – not too much to be too confusing. Basically, the accelerometers and gyroscopes in the small sensor, which is attached to the top of the club grip, can give information related to the time, rotational velocity and angular orientation of the golf club.
As explained by veteran golfer Brad Faxon on the Blast Motion website, the sensor can be used for putting as well as full-swing feedback. Putter feedback includes the time of the back- and forward-swings, the length of the backswing, the speed of the putter at impact, the rotation of the clubface during the back- and for ward-swings, the change in lie angle (hand-height) from address to impact and the lofting or de-lofting of the putter from address to impact.
If a golfer had a specific type of stroke requirement, it would be easy to check whether each swing was producing the desired results. For instance, I would like my golf students to have the minimum backswing length for the distance to be covered, a club face that is at least momentarily square to the target line at impact and no change of lie angle throughout the stroke. Such combinations would be easy to assess through data produced by the sensor.
What about full-swing parameters? The sensor can measure the time taken to make the backswing and the downswing, and the software also throws up the tempo (backswing to downswing time ratio) of a swing. Another important measurement made is the “velocity direction,” or angle of attack (which tells one whether the club is on the up- or down-swing at impact). Based on some basic measurements, the software associated with the sensor is able to make some clever and useful calculations. One such calculation is “energy transfer,” which indicates whether there is correct kinetic chain sequencing of the downswing from the ground up, starting with the lower body and followed by the upper body, the arms and finally the clubhead. Another useful piece of information generated is “efficiency index”, a combination of energy transfer and velocity direction. The “power index” indicates how powerfully the ball was struck and the “blast factor” is a combination of several measured factors – the club mass, the swing speed and the downswing time.
To me, the most useful of these measurements is a combination of club speed and angle of attack. Why? Well, if the angle of attack coming into the ball is shallow, chances are good that the arrival of the hands and club will be “from the inside” and, when combined with club speed, that takes care of all three important factors related to ball flight – distance, direction and trajectory.
In a nutshell, small motion sensors with well-designed algorithms are the teaching aids of the future, and they leave less room for guesswork. With something as small as a quarter (and equally as light), you can glean countless data points and statistics from your golf swing, short game and putting stroke that can be easily displayed on your smart phone or tablet and analyzed to improve your game. As technology has improved, so have golf instruction aids, making it much easier to work on, refine and perfect your golf swing.
Kiran Kanwar is the developer of The Minimalist Golf Swing System -100% scientific, simple and specific. She has BS degrees in physics and math); MS degrees in sports science and nutrition; and is pursuing a PhD in biomechanics. She is a Class A Member: the LPGA, The NGA of India, The PGA of India. Visit her website: www.mgs.golf