My TrackMan and how buying one did not disappoint

My TrackMan and how buying one did not disappoint

What is a TrackMan?

First of let me say that it is the most awesome piece of equipment I ever bought for golf. Ok with that said, let’s get more specific. A TrackMan is a golf launch monitor capable of tracking up to 26 impact and ball flight parameters in real time. It tracks the full trajectory of any shot from 6 foot to 400 yards. The main data points it tracks are Smash Factor, Spin Rate, Launch Angle, Carry, Ball Speed, Club Speed, Dynamic Loft, Attack Angle, Club Path and Face Angle. Here is a pdf document from the TrackMan website mentioning all data points with a little explanation and here is a link to their blog explaining the same data but through videos.

The TrackMan v4, which I bought, has two doppler radars and a camera, to track everything at impact and during the ball flight. You can hook up six additional cameras to record different angles of your swing.

TrackMan developed two apps. One is a camera app which allows you to connect your phone and its camera over wifi to the TrackMan and use it as one of the six additional cameras. The second app is the swing tracking app, which allows you to manage everything from different golfers, track your clubs, distance tests and so on. One nice little feature is, that the TrackMan allows several tracking app instances to connect to wifi. That way you can have one app to track and record everything while spectators can connect their own devices to watch the numbers.

Depending on the version you buy you can use it indoors and outdoors. The indoor only version goes for $18,995 and the indoor & outdoor version (which I bought) goes for $24,995. WOW, a pretty steep price for a not so good golfer like myself, right? Well, I will explain further down why it still made sense, in my opinion, to get one for myself.

There are a bunch of articles comparing the TrackMan to other launch monitors and if you really want to know why the TrackMan is better you might want to start looking for those articles. I will not go into detail of why it is or is not better compared to other launch monitors. One thing I can tell you is that it is one of the launch monitors with the most data feedback points. And if you want to go down the, what are the pros using, route. Well, most of the time you will see that square orange box called TrackMan behind them ready to send data to their iPad sitting right next to them.

Why I think it made sense to buy a TrackMan

Let’s start with the inner child factor first and get to some more sophisticated reasons.

Ever walked into a Golf Galaxy or Dick’s Sporting Goods and told your wife you just want to try out that one club in front of their launch monitor real quick, just for 5 minutes max? One hour later you hit several different drivers, having a semi-deep golf equipment discussion with the sales staff there? While secretly dreaming about having such a system at home? Always available to yourself whenever you want to? Well, I would lie to you if I said that wasn’t a small driving force in my decision-making process, but it was definitely not the determining factor.

All my life I loved to teach myself. I have two Computer science degrees (a german one called Dipl.-Inf. and an international Master of Science) and I learned a lot at my university, but my deeper and brought understanding in computer science came from studying different topics on my own. To be honest, that is the essence of higher education in my opinion. The professor gives you a direction and it is up to you to dig as deep as you can or want into a topic.

I always had an entrepreneurship drive and that forced me to branch out and start studying other things on my own, which are helpful for an entrepreneur. In Germany, I had to figure out the tax law, employment law, business law and so on to not run into unnecessary issues. I, of course, also had to teach myself marketing and business strategies to run a successful business and advertise it. When I moved to the U.S., I had to re-figure all those things out. Different country, different laws, and different market. I know you can hire agencies or individuals for all those tasks, but I believe it is better to at least scratch the surface to have a small understanding of those topics. That way you can better choose or semi-ensure the quality of the people you hire for those tasks, have a semi-educated conversation with them and easier follow when issues might occur.

So what does that have to do anything with me buying a TrackMan? Well, such a device is usually bought and operated by individuals that have a lot of knowledge when it comes to golf. Having only a few seasons under my belt, I do not count myself amongst those individuals. But I am a person who loves to jump into the cold water and learn the heck out of a topic to educate and train myself. I am also a pretty quick learner, if I may say so myself. Also truly in love with data and analytics, which makes sense with a background in computer science!

Still not really convinced that it made sense to spend that much money, right? To be honest, I don’t think it makes sense for everyone to buy a TrackMan. Most individuals are probably completely fine with the occasional coaching sessions they get and if that coach or facility is also adding a launch monitor to some of those, they are satisfied.

Well, that is not how I do things. I pretty quickly realized that standing on the range and hitting one or two buckets is pretty much a waste of time. More so for high handicappers than it is for low handicappers. A trained individual with a trained eye, a trained feel and so on is able to understand what their swing just did (most likely), what they might have to do to fix it or be aware of and what produced the outcome of the ball flight. Well, I am not trained and I don’t have 20 years of golfing and feel under my belt. If I hit two buckets on the range I can tell you if I hit some well or not and that is about it. Bottom line I had some kind of feel, but just no data to allow me to say I am heading in the right direction.

I tried coaching before, but to be honest. Different coaches, different strategies, different explanations and not enough data to make me understand why and what is happening at impact. Golf is pure physics, nothing more and nothing less. If you tell me that I should feel like I am throwing my left arm away from my body, I have 20 more question marks above my head and I am trying to interpret for the next several days what exactly that means. Tell me what swing direction and club path is and that my current values are negative and if I want to play a nice draw into the target line I need to change those values. Some people like and understand the first version more, but my universe is focused on numbers. Put me in front of a device and let me see every single swing through data and I suddenly know what I’m supposed to do. Simply said, I needed to be able to connect “my” golf swing’s feel to some data which I can analyze.

First week with my TrackMan

Once I ordered it, I was nervous that I had just bought the most expensive paperweight in my life. It arrived on 9/13/2016 at approximately 10 am. Unfortunately, it was raining that day and as far as I remember I had to wait a couple of days to test it. My current house does not have enough space to properly set it up indoors and so I had to wait and stare at my impatiently awaited TrackMan. Well, the clouds cleared and I was ready. First session and I was overwhelmed with the flood of data it gave me. Hovering over it with my phone researching what every parameter individually meant and how they all together influence what is happening to the ball flight. I was never happier on the golf range in my life before. I did not step on the actual course for about two weeks. One thing it immediately confirmed was that I had an out-to-in swing. Obviously, I was able to see that myself without the launch monitor just looking at the ball flight (fading the ball or having a straight pull shot). But it also showed me something very strange about my impact when it came to straight shots.

Most of my straight shots still had a pretty significant out-to-in path and all those numbers together should create a fade. For example these numbers: swing direction -8.9, club path -6.1, face to path +4.8, spin axis -0.1. Yes, those are horrible numbers and the smash factor for that shot was only 1.24 and this horrible 7 iron shot only carried 140 yards. But the real interesting part was the spin axis of -0.1. All the numbers should have produced a more significant negative spin axis value, but it was close to zero. Welcome to the world of golf swing data. I hit the ball of the toe and a gear effect influenced the outcome of the ball flight, counteracting the forces to produce a lower spin axis value. Well, you don’t need an expensive machine to tell you that. You can put some impact tape on your club face and you will see the impact of the ball, but I think in numbers and they give me some kind of security.

After checking most of my clubs during those two weeks, I had the same issue with all of them. If I hit them straight, they all had the same data pattern. WOW, mind blown. Not only am I hitting very weak shots, but I falsely thought that I was able to at least hit a few straight shots here and there. Well, I did hit some straight, but not the way you want to hit them straight. Along those two weeks, I identified some other weaknesses which I am currently working on. For example, I had a negative attack angle with the driver, which I actually was able to overcome pretty quickly.

Those are just some small examples about how easily you can detect a weakness with a TrackMan by yourself without deeper golf knowledge and some basic understanding of the data it provides. TrackMan does a good job educating its customers and users on all their parameters. They have a system called TrackMan University, where they offer free lectures explaining what each parameter means.

Before I got the TrackMan and I already knew that I have an out-to-in swing, a golf pro told me it will take almost a whole season to make significant changes to my swing. With the help of the TrackMan and a lot of hours on the range, connecting different swing feels with data I want to produce. I managed to make significant changes within two to three months. It feels way more natural for me now to produce an in-to-out swing. But I am also able to go back to my out-to-in swing. Which is helpful because I am more of a cross country golfer and love to play with trees in my way ;). Playing from the fairways all the time is pretty boring, right?!

Long story short. I am not trying to say that coaches aren’t necessary. There are a lot of great coaches out there and I truly appreciate it when they make their videos and other things freely accessible. I am somebody who loves to conquer something by himself, with accessible knowledge and data around myself, diving into the depths of a topic and see where it takes me and how far I can get.

I truly believe in my way and I understand that this is my approach. There isn’t one perfect approach. The most important part in life is to identify what kind of person you are and what works for you. Once you figured that out, you can build your own path towards your goals.

If you want to know more about what I am trying to achieve, take a look at my goals.

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