Golf and the geek are natural bed fellows. An obsession with detail and analysis, with measurement and observation, with a desire to improve through incremental gains leaves the golfer at any level of engagement, easy meat for the cure-all gadget.
There is a diagnostic tool out there that deconstructs the golf swing into neatly digestible parts. It’s called a TrackMan and it costs north of £30k. I’ll have two, please. Oh and while you’re at it, can you erect an outbuilding in the paddock in which to house it? When you’ve finished I’ll send Bertie out in the Porsche Cayenne to collect the lads for a knock up and a few beers to celebrate. As you do.
For those who don’t want to blow the annual salary in order to reach single figures, there is newly available a handy little tool indeed. It goes by the name of Zepp, measures two centimetres square, a centimetre wide, weighs 6.3 grams, clips to the back of your glove and is loaded with sensors that break down the swing action in some detail without the heavy lifting or mortage. Yours for £109 on Amazon.
I first came across the device in downtown Louisville on the eve of this year’s PGA Championship at Valhalla. There on Main Street, outside the factory that makes America’s baseball bats, PGA pro Patrick Shea was set up on the pavement with nothing more than a 7-iron and a net.
“Oh, go on then.”
A queue was already forming behind me. “Just take a couple of swings then we’ll hook you up,” Patrick said. I share a common fault with most keen amateurs in believing I swing like Faldo when in fact I swing more like something Fido would eat, a dog’s dinner.
A couple of rusty swings later the lime green square was clipped to my glove and I was away, whacking the ball beautifully in a sequence of thinned and fat thrashes low into the net. Cheers all around.
“Great, something to work with right there,” Patrick chirped, his eyes on stalks at the numbers flashing up in red on his tablet.
The Zepp has the storage capacity to measure 2,000 swings, so plenty of time to reach scratch before a reboot is required. Typically you will be on the driving range, the clip attached and your smartphone or tablet place appropriately.
The gruesome data is uploaded to your chosen device via an app and delivered to your screen in colour coded values. Through a brilliant yet simple 3D graphic it allows you to review your swing from any angle, measuring the plane on takeaway and downswing.
It records eight aspects of your swing including club head speed on impact, swing tempo, shaft angle at the top of the swing, hand plane, club head plane and hip rotation. The only things it cannot help with are ball flight, direction and distance, but if you are on the range your eyes provide that.
As well as the graphic representation of your swing, the app also allows for video comparison with one of the pros who swear by its use, Keegan Bradley being one. Equally as useful is to record your swing at the start of the analysis and afterwards when you have digested the faults identified and corrected via the suggested swing fixes.
The average golfer will almost certainly come over the top on the down swing. The Zepp will tell you in percentage terms the degree of transgression in the swing plane from out to in. In my case I was nudging upwards of 20 per cent. When I tested the results against TrackMan they were impressively in line, though the former measures by degree not percentage.
The amateur and pro swing the club at largely the same speed for much of the swing path yet by the time the club head hits the ball it is travelling on average 20-30 miles quicker in the hands of the pro.
Zepp will tell you how you compare to Bradley, whose average speed with the driver is 117mph. My guess is, depending on age, flexibility and athleticism, you will struggle to reach 100mph without combusting.
My son, 15, delights in telling me I swing like an OAP. The Zepp confirmed his brutal analysis, revealing that my swing angle is 40 per cent shy of optimum. I won’t depress you with the numbers the boy flashed up.
The device rounds up the data to give you an overall score out of 100. I’m a 70-odd man, no better than a grade C student I would guess. Hit 90-plus and you are in business. The device can be set to amateur or professional mode, thus being kinder in its measurement if, like me, you are in the rising handicap years.
Sadly the Zepp can’t hit the shot for you. If you want to get better you need to understand where you have to improve. The Zepp will tell you that in a couple of swings, and suggest fixes to get you back on plane. The rest is up to you. Fore!