Kevin Duke

It is billed as one of the most advanced teaching devices for golfers available today.

And after one short lesson with Bend Golf and Country Club’s new pro, Chris Meyer, the advantages of using his TrackMan Pro teaching system were obvious.

When Meyer arrived at the club in August, we talked about the teaching device he brought with him — and I was intrigued.

Meyer typically charges $100 an hour for a lesson with the TrackMan Pro, offering lessons to members and the general public.

The notebook-sized pad, which doesn’t look like much, is a true technical marvel.

Equipped with five (obviously small) Doppler radars inside and a camera to record a golfer’s swing, the device measures 26 data parameters of the club and the flight of the ball, giving the pro hard data to analyze before going to work on a student’s swing.

“The TrackMan measures things that we can’t see in real time,” Meyer explained. “It gives us the data so we can see what is happening and does it instantaneously, as soon as we hit the ball.”

And after a scant 30 minutes, the pro was able to make the adjustments necessary to my swing and get me hitting the ball the way I desired.

Getting results like that in a single lesson is unusual, to say the least.

Downright amazing might be a better description.

The prep

When I contacted Meyer with the idea for this column, he emailed me three questions prior to our lesson.

Asking about my ball flight (right to left, or left to right), the trajectory of my shots (high or low), and the characteristics of my divots on a midiron shot (shallow to deep), the pro had an idea what was going on before I got there.

My answers: the shot was right to left, the ball flight was low, and the divots were middle to deep.

Since coming to Central Oregon last spring and playing the courses here, I was struggling with that ball flight — a low draw. Holding the elevated and firm greens at most of our area courses was an issue, therefore I wanted to hit it higher and land it softer with my irons.

“What we are looking for is the peak height of the ball,” Meyer said, when I joined him recently on the practice area at the club. “Peak height, spin rate and launch angle is what we are trying to control.”

By the numbers

Within a few swings with a 7-iron and driver, the TrackMan gave the pro the numbers he needed to determine why I was hitting a low-flighted draw with my natural swing.

Quite simply, my angle of attack into the ball was too steep, my hands were too far in front of the ball at impact, and I was hitting too much down on the ball — all of these factors leading to a lesser degree of loft on the club, thus a lower ball flight.

“Knowing that you tend to take a deeper divot than most tells us that the ball is launching flatter than we want,” Meyer explained.

Of the 26 data parameters provided by the device, Meyer focused on a few key numbers.

“Initially we were looking at attack angle, dynamic loft, or the loft of the club at impact, and the height of the shot,” Meyer said. “We can see the height the ball gets, but it’s nice to put a number to it that we can track over time.”

Landing angle, spin rate and carry yardage were also some of the key numbers he used in the analysis of my swing and ball flight by the device.

After I hit a few 7-irons, Meyer showed me the numbers from the TrackMan on his computer, proving his point.

The club was coming into the ball at about a six-degree attack angle, two to three degrees steeper than it should.

This led to a lesser degree of loft on the club, my 7-iron at impact showing 20 degrees. The golf ball was carrying about 150 yards and the peak height of the ball averaged about 55 feet.

The fix

Meyer noticed two main things with my swing that needed to be addressed.

As previously mentioned, my hands were too far in front of the ball at impact, closing the face down and decreasing the loft of the club.

Also, I had a linear motion in my turn as opposed to a more rotational motion — in other words, I was incorrectly sliding through the shot, instead of turning.

After working on the turn and taking a few practice swings, I stepped up to hit the first shot with the new motion.

The effect was immediate and impressive — and the TrackMan told the story, with Meyer translating.

“Our attack angle, the vertical movement of the club at impact, went from six degrees down to 3 1⁄2 degrees down, so it came in a little shallower,” Meyer began. “The dynamic loft changed from 20 to 22 1⁄2 degrees, so we showed more loft at impact, and the launch angle went up by two degrees.”

All of those factors led to a shot that had to be seen to be believed, my 7-iron producing a peak height averaging an astounding 72 feet.

That was 17 feet higher than I had been hitting it. Because there was more air under the ball, my carry improved by about 8 yards, from 150 yards to 158, and my landing angle improved by five degrees.

“That is unbelievable!” I exclaimed to the pro after seeing the numbers.

“You carried it 8 yards further, landed it steeper and hit it higher, which will improve the ability to stop the ball,” Meyer said. “All without changing club speed or ball speed.”

Absolutely amazing, and all in the space of about a half-hour.

The TrackMan also videotaped my swing and showed me something I had not seen in a while — the looseness and movement of the club at the top of my backswing.

It’s ugly — but I guess the fix for that will have to come in another lesson.

In the meantime, I will try to groove the first major swing change I’ve had in many years.

— Reporter: 541-617-7868, kduke@bendbulletin.com

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