Technology helps golfers understand their swing and see their mistakes.
By Golfingnewengland.com Staff

I had no idea where my target was, I had no idea how far my target was and when I finally hit the golf ball, it only traveled 5 feet into a net and I have no idea where it would have ended up. But at Big Sticks Golf Academy, hitting a ball 5 feet into a net will can tell you all you need to know and more about your swing. Big Sticks is owned and operated by Terry Felty A PGA professional and has 9 hitting bays including 3 simulators, 3 video swing training systems, and 3 driving bays. The facility also has a putting green.

Big Sticks is home to the ASTAR video swing system, a multi-camera angle video analysis tool that combines real video with computer tools to evaluate swing plane, arm angles, shaft angles, and more. Big Sticks is also home to Model Golf, a learning tool that Felty calls, “the most sophisticated golf teaching tool on the market today.”

Model Golf takes the average swings of several hundred of the best professionals (ya, even Jim Furyk!) and factors in their common swing characteristics. The goal of Model Golf is to build a golf swing that best represents the characteristics of a golf swing that are important in not only hitting quality golf shots, but being able to repeat the same swing over and over. Model Golf is not a program or teaching tool you use once, but a program you enroll and work in throughout the year. Model Golf uses an individuals height, weight, glove size, shoe size, club length, arm length (and more) and builds a model swing of what “your” swing should ideally look like.

The ultimate goal of the Model Golf program is to swing like your model, which is recreated on a computer is stick form. Once a golfer takes a swing, which is recorded via video camera, a golfers swing is mapped onto the models swing and you can track how close or “’far” you were to your model at each given point in your swing. The system is sophisticated enough to tell you what you are doing right and wrong throughout the different stages of the swing, like a digital professional that provides you feedback. One of the unique features of Model Golf is that once your lesson on the machine has concluded, you can access your swing online to track your progress, and get feedback on what you did right or wrong. The Model Golf system at Big Sticks happens to be one of 21 in the country and the only one of two in New England.

The ASTAR system, while not as sophisticated as Model Golf is also an impressive machine. The ASTAR provides instant slow motion feedback on a golfers swing and allows the teaching professional to track angles and swing planes of your arms, body, and club shaft. It’s one thing for someone (whether it be your friend or club pro) to tell you that you are bringing the club back too far inside, but until you see that on video for yourself, someone simply telling you may have very little meaning. My ASTAR session quickly told me that I bring the club “inside” on the way up and “outside” on the way down, a typical fault of amateur golfers. The ASTAR also shows that my first move of the club is with my hands and that my golf shaft is 30 degree behind where it should be by the time it has traveled 3 feet, something I wouldn’t believe if you told me, but the camera doesn’t lie.

Felty says many golfers are reluctant to try and learn the game of golf indoors because they cannot see where the ball would have landed. “While the goal of any golf swing is to hit the ball where you want it to go, the goal of “the” golf swing is to build a swing that gives you the best chance of hitting the ball where you want it to go over and over again. There are many golfers who can hit the ball pretty well at the range, but when they are faced with a shot at the course with only once chance of success or failure, their swing is not solid enough to produce results over and over, and that’s what makes golf so hard. Once people use our systems for the first time and see their own swing on video and some of the things they do right and wrong, they get hooked.”

I count myself as one of those golfers who hits the ball well at the range but cannot often replicate it at the course. Felty suggests the following for anyone in this category. “Go to the range and hit an entire bucket of balls with your 5 iron. On the very last ball, try and hit it to a specific target knowing if you fail to come close you have to go buy another bucket and go through the exact same process again and that will represent the kind of pressure a golfer has on himself on a course. In most instances this will show a golfer that his swing is not fundamentally solid enough to hit one good golf shot with only one chance when the pressure is on. The video tools here help us help golfers build a swing that is fundamentally sound that can be repeated over and over for the best chance of success.”

Golfers looking for a little more fun can find 2 Double Eagle Golf Simulators that allow play on 8 different courses (Doral, Pebble Beach, Spyglass to name a few). Golfers hit into a screen, the system tracks your ball flight, and then golfers putt to a hole when they reach the green. The double eagle doesn’t provide golfers feedback on their swing or ball flight, and is designed to simply have fun.

There is also an About Golf simulator that is both extremely accurate and impressive. The About Golf simulator allows play on 10 different golf courses and allows golfers to play draws and fades as need be. Once on the green, golfers putt to the actual screen from one of 3 designated areas and the screen provides a detailed grid of the break of the green.

The About Golf simulator also comes with a range mode that provides detailed information on club head speed, ball flight, launch angle, ball speed, distance, and swing path. Launch angle and swing speed are particularly important to professional golfers because these two characteristics dictate exactly how far a shot with a given club will travel. Since professionals can replicate the same shot much better than the average amateur, they usually know exactly how far their shot will travel on a given swing. I quickly learn that my club head speed for my 5 iron is roughly 95 to 97 mph. This presents a problem because the average tour pro is 92 miles per hour and since the ASTAR system has already revealed several problems on both my takeaway and follow-through, swinging harder than a tour pro is the last thing I should be doing at this point.

While I love to hit balls at the range, the only feedback I get is if the ball went straight or not. I learned more in my one session about my swing at Big Sticks using 3 different pieces of golf training equipment than I have in 10 years of hitting balls at the range and not once did I have to see where my shot landed.
No simulator, computer, or video camera will ever replace the trained eye of a golf instructor, but these tools can help golfers see their swing just like the instructor see's their swing and when used in conjunction with a golf professional, they can be powerful teaching tools.

The various simulators and range bays at Big Sticks are available for rental starting in hour increments and there are a variety of discounts and membership programs available as well for frequent golfers. The Model Golf system is a program that an individual golfer enrolls in and works on throughout the year. Big Sticks has clubs to rent for men, women, juniors, and lefties if you are just getting started. For more information click here or visit Big Sticks Golf Academy at www.bigsticksgolf.com

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