Technology has become the buzzword on the PGA tour, with every player toting a golf bag in one hand and a launch monitor in the other, so it was interesting to find out how the women on the LPGA tour make use of launch monitors, which appear to be the most commonly used teaching aid these days. Launch monitors can either be camera-based and measure ball parameters at impact or could be doppler radar based with the capability of tracking the golf ball through its flight in the air until it comes to a stop.
As the LPGA is a melting pot for an amazingly diverse group of golfers, could there be regional differences in the technology preferences of its athletes from all around the world? The Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic, held in early May at the Old American Golf Club in The Colony provided the perfect opportunity to discover which LPGA golfers use equipment that can measure club and ball movement.
One of the Jutanugarn sisters, who hail from Thailand, said that she has only used a launch monitor when there is a need to know her numbers for club fitting. She does not base her swing on numbers “at all”. Conversely, Gemma Dryburgh of Scotland does use a golf ball launch monitor now and then but does not own one. She uses it to assess her swing path, ball speed and carry distance. Then what? Based on the numbers, if for instance her path is required to be either in-to-out or out-to-in, she might practice some drills that would help her change the path. Similarly, she might use other drills to increase her swing speed if it has reduced. Although she does see some fellow LPGA players use it, there are perhaps not as many women using launch monitors as the guys, she feels.
Christina Kim from San Jose, California, is one of those players who does use a launch monitor on occasion, and even owns one. What does she use it for? She might study her launch angle, spin rate, speed, angle of attack, and then, depending on what the numbers indicate, she might make backswing or downswing change. What sort of change? “Depends on philosophy you have, some people believe that everything you do in your follow-through depends on how you take it back, but a lot of times it’s more about focusing on a body part than the actual backswing, more like a sequence of things.” Christina, coached by her Dad, seems very well versed in what one might term the “Ball Flight Laws” and how club positions can affect the way the ball moves after impact.
Aditi Ashok of India, who does not currently have a swing coach, said when asked whether she uses a launch monitor, “No, I don’t actually. I have used one, but only for fitting my driver, not for my swing.” Sandra Gal of Germany has Cameron McCormick, Jordan Spieth’s swing guru, as her coach, and he uses a TrackMan launch monitor, as many PGA Tour swing instructors do.
Ilhee Lee of South Korea said that she uses a launch monitor “once in a while” when changing clubs. Her coach does, however, uses one to track swing changes, such as club path or speed or when they want her to practice controlling iron distances.
Lorie Kane, an older Canadian golfer said, “No I don’t own one, but my coach Danny Sharp will look at the numbers and I will tell him how I feel. I use it for driver testing and ball testing.” What about for swing changes? “Not for swing changes, not at all.” Becky Morgan from Wales said, as she was walking off for her practice round with Xiyu Lin of China, “Strangely enough I just got one”, and added that she uses it mostly to check her short-game distances. Lin, on the other hand simply said “No” when asked whether she uses ball tracking devices.
Lydia Ko of New Zealand, fresh off her victory at the Mediheal Championship the week prior, is a former David Leadbetter student, but does not use a launch monitor to inform any swing changes. Danah Bordner, originally from Indiana and now based in both the North East where her husband Steve is a head golf professional, and in Florida, owns a TrackMan. What sort of changes might she make based on feedback from a launch monitor?
“Not a lot of changes” but she and her husband, who is also her coach, do believe a lot in the science and thus the feedback from TrackMan, especially with respect to how she “is coming into the ball”. They are both die-hard Stack-and-Tilt and Mike Bennett followers. However, Danah does not make any last-minute changes based on her numbers, as she believes that feel is more important for in-competition play.
Overall, many LPGA players do not use feedback from ball-tracking devices to make swing changes, which may or may not be a good thing. Technology can be used effectively to make club fitting decisions and to measure short-game distances precisely (why not use a far cheaper distance range finder, in that case?). However, as often seen on the men’s tour, players are being asked to make swing changes based on club movement or ball flight. This can be dangerous because it assumes that a golfer can make a specific desired movement in the 1/3rd second the downswing lasts, regardless of how the joints are placed at the top of the backswing, which is a very scary fallacy and best avoided. So, it may be said that golf ball launch monitors are very versatile and can be used for a variety of applications other than to inform out-of-context downswing-only positions.
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