Getting fitted for the right equipment, taking lessons, and practice (with plenty of emphasis on the short game) are three of the most important components of making our equipment investments pay off. As one of my friends likes to say about new club purchases “they all work until you bring them home.”
One of the things I’ve notice when being "tracked" under the watchful eye of a Flightscope or Trackman Doppler radar tracking system is the value of instant feedback. Having ready access to data on your swing path, angle of descent, launch angle, carry distance, smash factor, spin, swing speed, and dozens of other data points is as much a teaching tool as it is a fitting tool. It’s hard to ignore that you’re hitting down on a driver with an open face when the equipment shows it to you on the screen of your iPad.
So what am I going to suggest, that you bring home a $20,000 piece of technology? No, believe it or not Flightscope offers a portable device called the Xi that sells for about as much as a top drawer set of clubs, $2500. Make no mistake, this price point still doesn’t fit the once a month player. But if you are serious about the game and practice a lot, I suggest taking a look. Here is a primer and a few suggestions about how you might incorporate the FlightScope Xi into your practice routine.
Like it’s higher end siblings, the FlightScope Xi uses radar to track the golf ball from contact to landing, in a battery powered unit that can be used anywhere you can practice or play. It takes just a few minutes to setup, and uses an intuitive iPad interface and WiFi connection. The days of dragging hundred foot extension cords out to the range are over. As a matter of fact, my recent test session at 7:00am on the golf course meant I could spend quality time practicing and testing different clubs, with real balls, in a serene setting.
Everyone loves to know the basic driver stats: launch angle, spin rate, carry distance, etc. and those stats can be truly helpful in picking a new driver or shaft. But Flightscope provides a collection of data that can be reviewed in charts or graphs to identify swing flaws like de-lofting the club, attacking from the inside or outside, or with an open or shut clubface. And that’s not just with the driver. To me the real key to unlocking Flightscope’s potential is using it throughout the bag, and not just once but regularly.
PUTTING TOGETHER THE PERFECT SET OF CLUBS
Since most better players still use a basic iron set of either 4-PW or 5-PW and at least two other wedges plus a putter and driver, you’re looking at really only three or four “wild card” clubs to round out the magic 14. How you choose them can make all the difference in the world to your score.
In my recent Flightscope session, I was really pleased with most of my “numbers” but found that I carried two different hybrids that launched almost exactly the same, peaked at the same height, and carried the same distance. Sure, I might have eventually figured this out on my own, but the process would have taken longer and could have been painful. Now I have a smaller gap between my longest long iron and my shortest hybrid.
I also got a big confidence boost by seeing how consistent I am with certain clubs, especially the 3-wood tee shot. It sure made the fairway look wider the next few rounds when I reached for that trusty short-grass finder!
MAKING PRACTICE PAY OFF
Setting goals and answering to them are crucial elements of game improvement. And if you invest in a FlightScope Xi, and use it regularly means that you’ve got something tangible to look at beyond videos of your swing or scores on the card. Because if you expect to hit 70 percent of your fairways or fourteen greens in regulation, you should start by exceeding those numbers in a practice setting.
By the way, Flightscope sessions are not only fun (who doesn’t like seeing their stats?) but they also seem to bring out a different level of focus. The nature of the device means you’ve got to set up an aim point, which means you are going to lock in to that position, whether on a quiet golf course (if you’ve got that luxury) or a busy driving range.
If you teach golf for a living, or coach a college team, then you need a Flightscope (whether you purchase the entry level Xi or a higher end unit depends on your budget). It’s a bit harder to make the argument that all individual golfers should run out and purchase one but if you’re putting thousands into equipment and instruction, you’ll get a lot more out of that investment (and your practice time) with one of these handy devices. Whatever the case, if you’ve never worked with an instructor that uses the latest technology, the time is right to find someone who does.