Many players have handicaps and most know what their average score is, but how well do most golfers know their own game?
Without a way to properly assess their games as well as their swings, most golfers are simply guessing.
The best way to evaluate your game, of course, would be to have a regular PGA Coach, who not only works with you on your swing, but accompanies you on the course as well, perhaps with a playing lesson or two.
But there are all kinds of ways golfers can assess their games on their own, most notably by simply tracking it, either manually or electronically.
One easy way to track your game on your own is to use a system like Arccos Golf, which incorporates sensors on your golf club and an app on your phone to grade each part of your game. When activated, the system automatically keeps track of every shot, which club you used for those shots and how far and accurately you hit the ball. The cost for such a system runs about $200 (for the Smart Grips and a subscription for the first year), and is pretty easy to install.
In addition to Arccos, there are other golf tracking systems available, such as Game Golf, which also uses sensors and software to track every shot. You can even share the system with your PGA Coach, who can then analyze all your statistics and help you develop a game plan to improve. This system can even keep track of “strokes gained,” which goes deep into analytics to truly tell you where your strengths and weaknesses are compared to other players. For a better explanation of strokes gained, you can check out the book, “Every Shot Counts,” written by John Brodie, the Columbia professor who came up with the system for the PGA Tour.
Of course, the other part of knowing your game is knowing your swing, which unless you’ve actually seen it on video is usually different than what the golfer feels. With today’s smartphones, videoing your swing is pretty easy, but even better is being able to send it to your PGA Coach for feedback. There are many great golf apps that make that easier, too, like V1, which your coach can use to send you analysis. Some golf instructors, in fact, actually do all their lessons online.
“The camera doesn’t lie,” says Brian Phelps, director of instruction and player development at The Golf Club of Avon (Conn.). “For example, a golfer might say he doesn’t feel like he’s coming over the top, but when you can show him that on video, it hits home.”
Finally, if you’re a real numbers geek, there are several portable launch monitors (the new PRGR Black launch monitor is less than $200) on the market. They can tell you spin rates, launch angle, clubhead path, clubhead and ball speed, and even smash factor, which basically lets you know how efficiently you’re delivering the clubhead to the ball.
Once you get all this information, though, then you need to figure out how to use it to get better. Phelps refers to this as “quantifying practice,” which means you have to practice specific situations to address your weaknesses. So instead of just banging 20 straight seven irons on the range, set up situations, whether they are on the range, the putting green or the short-game area.
“If you can’t measure it,” Phelps says of practice, “then what good is it?”