The Doppler Effect

‘Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated’

Arnold Palmer

Whether you’re aware of it or not, we have all heard the Doppler effect in action. You know when an ambulance speeds past you and the tone of the siren changes as it gets further away from you? That’s it, that’s the Doppler effect, what has that got to do with golf though?

Well have you heard of Trackman? Go to the range at a tour event these days and behind many of the world’s top players you will see a small orange and black box. This, golf fan, is Trackman, a Doppler radar system also known as a launch monitor. These small orange beauties, and other similar products (GC2 and Flightscope) are revolutionising golf and how it is taught. These, by the way, are military grade systems that were originally designed to monitor how missiles would fly after being fired!

Through the years I would say there have been two main types of golfer and they tend to be quite distinct. On one hand you have the golfing scientist (the type that would definitely love this particular brand of golf blog) such as a Tiger Woods-type. The other type is the artist, the kind of golfer who cares not for Leadbetter-type instruction and uses flair and imagination to tackle the course. The best example of this golfer is the late and great Mr. Seve Ballesteros. This new wave of technology would definitely suit the former, the scientist. These are guys that crave data. They want to know about spin rates and attack angles and how best to optimise these.

So how is this changing golf? Well, in my opinion, there has been a huge shift in the last decade to almost purely data-based instruction. There is also a sentiment that if a coach doesn’t have a launch monitor then he/she may not be the best. I need to argue that this is not true. Whilst the data that Trackman et al. can provide you with are important, if you cannot make the swing changes needed to improve your numbers then it’s pointless. How do you make these changes? You need a teacher that can get you to make the right move through impact and this is feel-based. My argument here is that, although data is important, feel is more important. In my humble opinion, of course.

This technology has given us many insights into how a golf ball reacts in those precious miliseconds after impact and what the club is doing to cause this. They are clearly fantastic bits of kit (as they should be, Trackman will set you back $25,000!) and there’s no coincidence that the best players in the world use them frequently. My point here is that these have to be used to augment your practice and game development. Golf requires that artistic touch and flare to be played at it’s best, let’s not completely forget that. Thanks for reading.

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