Like Taylor Swift suggested, “Shake it off ….”
In this case, the “it” is an off-season of dust, rust and anything else that rhymes with “ust” that might apply to the debris surrounding our might-be, could-be, pristine golf games.
That said, many of you are already back in gear, the swing of things or possibly even mid-season form.
(I’m trying to get all the requisite idioms out of the way early.)
But plenty of us have endured a spring that felt a bit too much like a winter that forgot to acknowledge Mother Nature’s alarm clock.
Now, More Than Ever
Golfers who don’t live in a climate conducive to a 12-month golf season have myriad options to keep playing even when the mercury suggests that downhill skiing is the more appropriate activity.
Indoor golf leagues (I see you X Golf), the continued boom of at-home golf simulators and golf-ish outlets masquerading as entertainment (or maybe the converse is more accurate—and, yes, I see you, too, Top Golf, 5-iron golf) means that golf, in whatever form, can be a 365-day per year endeavor.
That said, at some point, we’re all trying to get back out ON the course and with that comes a need for several adjustments.
There is no such thing as a perfect simulation. Put differently, every indoor golf environment is, in some meaningful way, different than actual outdoor golf. This is true whether you spent $50K+ on an immersive golf simulator room or less than $2K on a net, a hitting mat and a decent personal launch monitor.
The salient point here is that when transitioning from one environment to the other, it pays to be mindful of some of the key differences.
Spin – At the risk of stating the obvious, artificial turf is not the same as natural grass and dirt. Most importantly, the properties of each result in slightly different launch/spin characteristics, particularly on iron and wedge shots. Most often, golfers will generate less spin indoors than outdoors. It might not be more than 400 rpm on a standard 7-iron which generally isn’t enough to warrant a different shaft or lie/loft angle spec. That said, I wouldn’t suggest dialing in your clubs without the benefit of hitting off real grass. Generally, most reputable fitters will offer some sort of performance guarantee and it’s reasonable to expect that a fitter would tweak the loft/lie of a set of irons based on on-course performance for the first season of play.
Angle of attack – This one takes a bit of explaining. Not the “angle of attack” part but why it might be important. “Angle of attack” is exactly what it sounds like. As the clubhead approaches impact, it’s descending (negative angle of attack), ascending (positive angle of attack) or neutral (neither positive nor negative angle of attack).
The problem—or point of concern—is, again, that artificial turf doesn’t behave like real grass. As a result, the optimal strike in a simulator might not require the same angle of attack as an ideal shot outdoors. At times, artificial turf allows you to hit slightly behind the ball (what we often term as chunky or fat) and still get a decent result. Natural grass provides more resistance to the clubhead which is why you lose ball speed (and distance) when you hit the big ball (planet Earth) before the little ball (golf ball). Conversely, artificial turf allows the club to glide into the ball without much, if any, decrease in ball speed. Also, indoor turf often doesn’t “give” the same way that real grass does. As a result, you may get better results indoors by trying to “pick” the ball with a shallow swing that wouldn’t result in much of a divot outdoors. If you tend to have a steeper angle of attack, it’s a good bet that your swing plane may have become too flat/shallow as a result.
Spin axis – Accurately measuring how much a ball spins is an arduous task. It’s considerably more challenging to consistently measure spin-axis (tilt). The spin axis is largely what determines how much the ball curves during the shot. The ability to capture this consistently and accurately is what often separates enterprise-grade launch monitors from more budget-friendly options. That said, even the most accurate launch monitors don’t get it right all of the time. What this means is that, should your ball flight fail to match up with your swing, it’s not cause for concern. In this case, it likely isn’t user error.
Rapsodo MLM2 PRO
Transitioning from indoor golf to outdoor golf is an often painful process that can take some time. Nothing replaces the feeling of standing over a three-foot putt with the match on the line or that first tee shot in front of your buddies (I typically top it or block it dead right). That said, plenty of devices on the market can help you get your game course-ready before the spring aeration holes are fully healed.
If you’re not looking to break the bank and want a feature-rich, performance-proven option, consider the Rapsodo MLM2 PRO, the update to the company’s first-generation MLM which was named Best Personal Launch monitor in 2021 and Best Personal Launch Monitor under $500 in 2022. Here are three ways you can use the MLM2 PRO to sharpen your skills.
The longest walk in golf is still the one from the range to the first tee. After all, it’s easy to hit shots when the results don’t matter, right? Rapsodo Combine measures your ability to hit 24 different shots at two approach targets and one driver target. At the end of the session, it generates the results and provides a handicap ranking. What I appreciated about Rapsodo Combine is that it forced me to hit shots at yardages I don’t typically practice. It also required me to use most of the clubs in my bag. Beyond that, you can also create custom yardages should you find that you really struggle from 70-75 yards, for example. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) Many golfers are, by nature, competitive and I found myself quickly in “Skee-Ball” mode where I’m primarily concerned about beating my own high score. I’m sure it has something to do with dopamine and endorphins but, ultimately, gamification has merit.
Also, I should note that the Rapsodo MLM2 Pro displays 13 metrics, six of which are directly measured. The only downside is that unless you use Callaway RPT balls, the spin numbers (and spin axis) won’t be accurate. Again, for less than $1,000, the MLM2 PRO provides plenty of features but it’s unreasonable to expect that it can do everything as well as $20K+ enterprise-grade launch monitors.
Record Your Swing
Maybe the most significant improvement from MLM to MLM2 PRO is the integrated camera. It eliminates the Android/iPhone conundrum and allows for more accurate ball/shot data. Beyond that, it makes recording your swing lifting a feather simple.
The onboard camera pairs with a phone/tablet to record your swing both face-on and down the line. Rapsodo also provides access to cloud video storage (10,000 videos). Personally, that seems like plenty, though I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d need access to 10,000 different versions of my swing. That said, many instructors offer online lessons which might be more efficient and less expensive than traditional in-person lessons. With the MLM2 PRO, you can record your swing from multiple angles and generate high-quality videos that will give any instructor the basic information they need to help you improve. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that recording videos or conversing with your instructor over text or email is an ideal situation. However, it’s apt to be more convenient for many golfers and it’s likely a better option than assuming that a DIY swing-fix will have any lasting benefit.
Rapsodo Courses and Rapsodo Range
If the weather is dodgy, playing a virtual round of golf isn’t a terrible consolation.
I know I just told you how and why indoor golf might not be such a great thing long-term. However, rather than hitting balls mindlessly into a net or perfecting your flop shot using a couch cushion as your landing target, playing courses from around the world in a simulated environment is a decent alternative.
At a minimum, it gets you thinking about selecting a target, going through a pre-shot routine and attempting to hit shots with some element of consequence.
Rapsodo’s premium membership is free for the first year and includes a bank of 30,000 virtual courses which means golfers can enjoy a more immersive golf experience from the comfort of their living room, basement or backyard.
Again, the market is replete with personal launch monitor options but if you’re looking to keep costs down without significant performance compromises, it’s hard to argue against the Rapsodo MLM2 PRO.
As always, our full review of the 2023 Best Personal Launch Monitors will have the final word and is due out in August.
How do you get ready for the season? We’d love to hear!