If knowledge is power, then launch monitors are golf’s nuclear energy. The sheer quantity of data these units can disseminate in fractions of a second is enough to overwhelm any general consumer, let alone certified teaching professionals. The information is generationally unique. Players even a decade ago didn’t have such universal access to this quality and quantity of club and ball data.
That said, information is meaningless if the end user can’t apply it in a way which helps themselves or others improve. As such, Foresight Sports, makers of the most accurate launch monitors in the industry (GCQuad, GC2 with HMT) launched a proprietary educational platform, titled PEAK (Performance. Education. Analysis. Knowledge.)
PEAK Level 1: Launchpad Course is a series of three online modules (clubhead data, ball launch data, ball flight data) each of which is broken down into specific learning segments. Depending on how much background knowledge the student has with the material presented, each sub-topic requires 5-10 minutes to complete. The systematic presentation of content starts with video instruction featuring Foresight’s Director of Education, Liam Mucklow, which is followed by several animations for the more visually inclined learners. Pieces of text from instructors like Martin Hall and Butch Harmon are interspersed throughout each session as are several quiz questions to check for understanding.
The variety of presentation formats keeps the course moving at a reasonable pace, though there is some repetition in places. That said, most people taking this course are likely doing so to gain access to high-level information in an accessible and efficiently presented package. In this context, Foresight is working off the premise that engagement comes from the content, less than the delivery method.
From a pedagogical perspective, and keep in mind this is Foresight’s first foray into the educational environment, the questions and content felt, at times, out of order. Because 75% accuracy is required to pass each sub-section and move on to the next one (some of which have as few as three questions), it might make more sense to start each lesson with a list of key points which are then explored in depth and eventually followed by a quiz of at least 6-8 questions. If the primary purpose is formatting instruction so others can learn, a couple of tweaks might be in order.
As an introductory course, the primary objective is to explain the capabilities of Foresight’s bellwether offering, the GC Quad, which costs roughly $18,000. That said, owners of the GC2 (with or without HMT) will find the material just as applicable, and though it’s not required to own a Foresight launch monitor to enroll in the course, at an initial cost of $295, it might be too much for non-Foresight owners to stomach.
Without giving away too much, Foresight uses cameras and proprietary software to measure club data the instant before impact and ball data immediately after impact. Comparatively, radar-based systems, such as Trackman, use Doppler technology to track ball flight but have to extrapolate ball and club data. Camera-based systems have every advantage when it comes to indoor environments where limited flight is an issue and accuracy of ball and club data is paramount. Conversely, radar-based systems (Trackman) are both more expensive and space intensive. Trackman’s flagship model (Trackman 4) starts at $19,000 and if you want to use it indoors, add $6000 for simulator specific software. Because radar-based systems track ball flight, more horizontal and vertical space is required to get accurate readings.
Of the three primary topics in Level 1, the first segment on club head data is the most in depth. Foresight cameras (two in the GC2 and four in the GCQuad) use fiducials (small silver adhesive dots) to triangulate and precisely measure myriad pieces of data relative to club head speed, path, impact location, angle of attack, and impact loft (dynamic loft). Radar-based systems (Trackman) are primarily result-oriented (showing ball flight) and as such don’t have the capability to accurately produce data points like delivered lie angle, which is far more accurate than hitting off a lie-board and might help explain why you pull your wedges more often than your three-wood.
Moreover, because dynamic loft is measured based on the flat triangulated plane of fiducials, Foresight can account for bulge and roll in all metalwoods to give players a more accurate read on exactly how much loft the player is delivering to the ball at impact. There’s a lot to digest with respect to clubhead data, and realistically, this topic could merit its own advanced course offering. As such, we’ll save closure rate, the three axes of rotational velocity and normal vectors for paying subscribers.
The second section on ball launch data works to establish the underpinnings of how initial launch and spin contribute to ball flight. It introduces users to terms like azimuth and spin axis tilt. While the nomenclature can be a little intimidating at first – full disclosure, I repeated several of the mini-lessons to wrap my head around how face-to-path influences spin axis – the visual demonstrations provide much-needed clarity. The third and shortest topic covers calculated figures like apex (maximum height) and carry distance which while accurate, likely have more value in a clubfitting context than an instructional one.
There isn’t much inside the golf industry which is universally true, but the quest to shoot lower scores is a challenge shared by all. Improvement requires, more than anything, quality root cause analysis. In turn, the query is only as good as the data feeding it – or “junk in junk out” as my first computer science professor liked to remind us.
Commercial grade launch monitors and the knowledge base required to interpret the varied layers of data used to be reserved for teaching professionals, OEM R&D teams, and the engineers who created them. But now, launch monitors are becoming commonplace within the industry. Professional golfers use them for practice and on the range before competitive rounds. Consumers expect any clubfitter to have one on hand to help determine if an equipment change is in order, and competitive players – from elite amateurs to the B-flight club champion – all are now using data to find some measure of progress. At MyGolfSpy, we rely on Foresight products for all of our #Datacratic Most Wanted testing and product reviews. Because objective information is the foundation of how MyGolfSpy operates, it’s imperative we use the most accurate products available.
Creating shared language and a common understanding helps both the teacher and the student. It shifts the conversation toward one based on objective information, which still leaves plenty of room for conjecture and debate. That said, the primary challenge moving forward won’t be the existence of information, rather continued education which takes potentially complex information and simplifies it in a way which maintains the integrity of the data but allows players with even a basic understanding to digest it. No doubt, easier said than done, however, it seems a differentiated approach which perhaps offers truncated or “lite” version of some modules might be in order.
PEAK Level 1 is currently available at a flat rate of $295, but for a limited time, Foresight is extending a 25% discount (use code MGS25OFF) to MyGolfSpy readers. PGA Professionals can receive 2 MSR credits for course completion, and the intention is to release PEAK Level 2 in the coming months. As the platform expands, the hope is users engage with one another via the connect online forum to extend conversations, post questions and interact with Foresight instructors and staff.
No doubt there will be critics who feel that reading divots and ball flight can tell players everything they need to know and while not entirely incorrect, it’s a bit like pretending taking a child’s temperature with the back of your hand is just as good as running a comprehensive metabolic blood panel. Because we know better, it means we can do better, though some will maintain too much information only creates confusion and analytical paralysis.
What do you think? Is golf’s new parlance the key to unlocking a more coherent and effective instructional environment or is an abundance of information too much of a good thing?