Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ category

Vector Putting – A Review

December 28th, 2011

Vector Putting: The Art and Science of Reading Greens and Computing Break is a book published in 1984 by HA Templeton. It is the only book I’ve been able to find discussing the science of green reading. It covers a wide array of topics from appropriate make percentages, measuring green speeds, ball speed into the hole, balancing golf balls and green reading to cover a few. It is very difficult to find because it has been out of print for quite some time and there were only a few hundred copies printed. I’ve read the book a few times and I thought I would share some of its ideas with you.

It has some nice information on things that I would like to confirm the accuracy of like the phases of a putt and how the ball rolls on top of the grass for a majority of the putt. It only settles down at the very end and then obviously at the beginning as well. This end phase (decay phase) as he calls it is when the ball is most susceptible to imperfections in the green and causes the ball to wobble.[1] I thought he discussed some topics very well like time, grain and a talk about perception and normalization. Another thing I thought was interesting was his talk on time studies where he states that about 2.5 hours of a typical 4 hour round of golf is composed of the time the golfer is judging and deciding what to do. The other 1.5 hours included walking and actual execution.[2]

I also want to go over some of the information provided on the science of green reading and how Vector Putting works. First off, it’s important to understand that HA Templeton did not include any of the math or formula’s for how his break amounts or aim points were computed. He used a computer to run the numbers but mentions many times that the computer simulation was incapable of predicting where the aim point should be on it’s first try and needed mulligans, as he called them, to alter the aim points and velocity amounts to get the right answer (depending on the difficulty of the putt)[3]. He says that his computers accuracy on the first try was quite good for short putts(10 feet and less) on a theoretical surface.[4]

Now let’s talk about how the system works. First, let me define a key term with some quotes from the book. One of the main concepts is the Zero Break Line (ZBL) “when the ball lies on a line (above or below the hole) that is normal to the contour line that runs through the hole. This line, by definition, is the direction of the slope. “Zero Break Line is a line running through the center of the hole which defines the direction of the slope. The zero break line also represents the line of maximum slope at the hole location.” [5] To make it more simple, the Zero Break Line is just the fall line in that location. He recommended creating green books that have a 10 foot grid of ZBL’s and slope percentages so players could determine break direction and amounts. Here’s a picture of one of the green charts: http://puttingzone.com/graphics/VP/VP096Map300x410_78k.jpg

The arrows represent the zero break lines (fall lines) at those particular data points. The arrow points toward low. [6]You can see from the picture that the Zero Break Line is simply the fall line at different points on the green and the slope direction through the hole. He makes a point of saying multiple times the Zero Break Line is where no curve occurs. “Remember that the Zero Break Line is the line where the ball rolls absolutely straight, curving neither right nor left. If you stood above the hole and dropped balls or poured water out of a bucket the balls and/or water would roll/flow down the ZBL and into the hole.”[7]

These Zero Break Lines are used to help the player determine the break. Here’s how it works. If a player hit a put from 10 feet away from the hole directly perpendicular to the ZBL and aimed it at the center of the cup the ball would break below the hole. Assuming the player hit the putt with exactly a foot past the hole speed the ball would cross the lower ZBL at some distance from the center of the hole. That distance now becomes the gravity vector. All the player has to do is take that distance (let’s say 10 inches) and that becomes the point where the player should aim above the hole(on the ZBL) to make the putt. In fact, it is taught that this 10 inches above the hole aim on the ZBL becomes the single aim location for all putts from every angle of the same distance. [9]Templeton claims that this idea works very well for a theoretical surface without too much slope, from too long a distance or that is not running too fast.[8]

When putts become longer, steeper or the greens get faster, HA Templeton recommends using an elastic gravity vector to help with finding the correct place to aim. [9]“Elastic” means that the aim on the ZBL (fall line) moves away from the single point as your position around the hole changes. Charts were made in the back of the book that  players could use that listed the different gravity vector amounts and the amount of elasticity they would have but lack specificity as when and how much to apply them. Here’s an example of one. The subscripts and superscripts represent the elasticity feature of gravity vectors. pg 182[10] You can view a copy of the charts by following this link. http://puttingzone.com/graphics/VP/VP182.jpg

The final topic I want to cover in the book is the Effective Zero Break Line. This is Templeton’s attempt to deal with the real world. Here’s a quote from the book which is very telling. [11] “But what about situations in the real word of undulating or rolling greens where there are obvious changes in the direction of amount of slope between the ball and the hole?  How do you mentally calculate the direction and length of the gravity vector?  Alas the state of the art of Vector Putting is such today that unless you are pretty fast with mental arithmetic, you can’t, within a reasonable time at any rate.  A persistent individual with a calculator, a Green Slope Chart, and a Vector Table could calculate a Gravity Vector in a few minutes but his playing companions (and the foursome behind) might object to the delay.”

Here, Templeton basically says, Vector putting can’t handle changing slopes without the aid of a computer. But even the computer struggles on the first try. Here’s the next paragraph in the book. “However, the computer simulator can find a Gravity Vector for any situation in a matter of seconds. In fact, each time the simulator runs through a mulligan putt it is compiling information as to the ‘effective’ ZBL and slope.”[12]

Runs through a mulligan putt? You mean it can’t do it on the first try either? Basically, to compute Effective Zero Break Lines the player would need to be able to weight average the ZBL directions across the length of the putt in terms of degrees (0 to 360) to determine where to place the gravity vector relative to the hole being played and then determine its elasticity to see if adjustments are needed to the chart.[13]

Personally, I think the books attempt to explain and predict green reading falls short. Really complicated and according to Dr Grober (A leading golf scientist) the break amounts aren’t even accurate. Here’s a copy of a paper Dr Grober wrote discussing the problems with the book Vector Putting. Click on this link to view the paper. Dr Grober Paper – The Geometry of Putting On a Planar Surface. This paper discusses how Templeton’s break amounts are about 20% too low and explains why. He also shows that the single aim location due to the gravity vector is also incorrect.

I still think Vector Putting is worthy of a read if you can get a copy of it. Maybe not for the green reading information but for some of the other stuff. It’s remarkable that it’s the only book on green reading. Too bad the information is overly complicated and inaccurate. Might be why it’s been out of print for so long and has no acceptance on any professional tour. After all, Templeton does have a chapter called “Golf is a two putt game”.[14]

JG – AimPoint Green Reading Certified Instructor

Footnotes:

[1] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pgs 61-62

[2] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pgs 83-85

[3] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pg 18

[4] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pg 147

[5] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pg 93

[6] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pg 94

[7] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pg 135

[8] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pgs 135-136

[9] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pg 153

[10] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pg 156

[11] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pg 156

[12] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pg 156

[13] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pg 157-158

[14] H.A. Templeton, Vector Putting, (Vector Putting Inc., Fort Worth, 1984). pg 147

The Hershey Hurricane – History of Henry Picard

December 16th, 2011

Hershey Hurricane - Henry PicardHenry Picard (pronounced Pea-cod) is the topic in the wonderful biography called the Hershey Hurricane. It was written by Seamus McGee and I recently had the opportunity to read it. Typically, I do not read much history as it relates to golf personalities as I tend to focus on golf instruction. I must say, for a biography, this was an absolute joy to read.

The writing was fantastic and it read very easily. I had it on my list of things to do for far too long cause after I read it, in two sittings, my eyes were opened to one of the great golfers of the last century. That being Mr Henry Picard. To admit, I had heard of the name before but really had no idea of his history let alone his golfing prowess. The book discusses a person and a character that I feel is not often represented in some of todays athletes.

With out giving too much away, Mr Picard was a man a strong moral character as I think was typical for those living through the Great Depression. He did what he needed to do to provide for his family during that dark time in our nations history, not by illegality, but rather testing himself against this wonderful game we call Golf. Each day he would have to prove to himself and the golf course that he could play or his family didn’t eat. The details are very interesting and I’ll let you find them out when you read it.

You’ll also learn about his playing partner, Johnny Revolta as they traveled all over the world competing as a two-some many times including the Ryder Cup. You’ll read about great matches between Picard and Hagen, Sarazen, Nelson and Hogan whom he later coached. For anyone looking for a light pleasurable and historical account of Mr Picard, I highly recommend Mr McGee’s version. You can stop by his website and pick up a copy by clicking on this website.>>>>> The Henry Picard Book.com

I certainly enjoyed my time reading it and I think you will as well. I often get asked during the winter season about book recommendations. I typically mention golf instruction books but this year I’ll be adding The Hershey Hurricane to the list for those looking for a little history and light reading.

After you read it, please come back and leave some comments about your impression of Mr Picard. He was such a good man. I like supporting those that have values I share. Enjoy and happy reading.

Golf Business Network – Teaching Summit – Review

October 14th, 2011

Golf Business Network LogoGolf Business Network, formerly know as AMF, has their annual teaching summit this week and I thought I would share with you my experience. I’ve been a member of GBN since just before their first instructor summit 4 years ago. It is a group of teaching professionals that get together with some of the greatest minds in the industry to learn and share information. I’ve been quite pleased with the summits and the networking created due to their existence.

This year’s summit was in Orlando at the Grand Cypress Resort. I thought the facility was excellent both inside and out on the range. It was very nice this year to have a bunch of seminars outside instead of always being indoors. I had arrived early this year to spend some time with Mark Sweeney researching some things on green reading. Admittedly, most of my time and attention was spent in that mindset.

The first day had three talks. The first was on club fitting through instruction (by Darren May), the second was a short game seminar (by Fred Griffin) and the last was a talk from David Leadbetter. The first talk from Darren was quite interesting. I’ve never been that up to speed with club fitting and I thought he did an excellent job explaining how he uses it to best meet the needs of his customers.

The short game seminar from Fred Griffin was great information but I felt it lacked the depth needed for the class that was attending. Excellent information but maybe a little below the audience. I wish it had been more in depth. Just my preference.

David Leadbetter did a talk on what all great teachers need. Very little theory in this talk but I thought it was quite funny. He told a bunch of good jokes and stories and it certainly kept my attention. I tweeted a whole bunch of his jokes while I was there. You can go to my twitter feed if you missed them. (John Graham Twitter Feed)

After that was an outdoor demo day type thing. Nothing here interested me much so I spent the time working with some AimPoint instructors on the putting green. That’s always fun. I did take a second to go see the Swinkey folk and place an order for more AimPoint Swinkeys but aside from that, most of my time was spent networking and meeting people in person from twitterland and the like. I must have met 15 or more new tweeps this year over the 3 days. A great time was had by all.

I decided to skip the morning sessions on the last day, choosing to spend time shooting some video for some AimPoint educational products. I arrived at the GBN talks just after lunch and in time to hear Dr Tim Lee and Martin Hall. Dr Lee had a great talk on learning motor skills and wish he had more time to keep going. It gave me a better understanding of how block and random practice related to each other in many areas and how the brain learns and retains a new motor pattern. Very well received and I’d encourage all to investigate his books further. The last part was a talk by Martin Hall on creativity. Martin used a bunch of the same quotes he used at his PGA Coaching and Teaching summit a few years ago. Not too much there new for me. He showed a couple products he had made but everything related to full swing instruction.

On the whole, the GBN Summit was a great event for me. Less so this year from an information point of view but more so from a networking point of view. I can certainly see the seeds of my social media time paying dividends and the friends and contacts it has helped me to create. One person mentioned that as a teaching force, I was virtually unknown and not a big player at the high levels of the instruction industry but because of my social media and blogging I have become an information broker. He said this in a way not to be mean or to minimalize me but rather to indicate how much those writings have created acknowledgement in the industry as someone that may have a fair and honest answer. To me, that was a huge compliment and right in line with what I was hoping to convey.

I look forward to next year.

Edel Putter Review

September 13th, 2011

John Graham's Edel Putter

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about Edel Golf and their putter line. I decided that it was time to give one a try. This post will talk about my experience and offer a review. So, let’s start from the beginning. A few years ago, I heard about Edel Golf during one of my many winter online research days. I had always heard good things about them but wasn’t in the market for one.  Shortly after that, I got involved with AimPoint Technologies teaching players a more accurate way of reading greens. It was no surprise, that shortly after, Edel and AimPoint got together as they both had products around a similar niche. AimPoint would teach players where to aim and Edel would build a custom putter the player could actually aim.

A year or so goes by and I recommend Edel to a few of my players but I never took the plunge. I knew they were expensive like any high end putter and I wanted to be sure about a few things. With my extensive online network of connections, I start asking around about other coaches experiences with the fitting process and effectiveness of the product.  Like anything, I heard both good and bad. Over the years, it has become clear to me that there really isn’t any consensus across the golf industry on anything. Even though I knew that, I waited and tried to gather more information before going to get fit. A couple of times, I seriously considered becoming a fitter and I think that is still a possibility I haven’t discounted completely. The main reason I decided not to become a fitter was simply my market.

During that time, I took a trip to Europe and was presented with an MLA Putter. I wrote a post about them here. I was very excited about this putter. I could aim it like nobody’s business. It had some features that I wasn’t happy with but I used it for a year with great success on putts 20 feet and in. I had a little harder time than normal on longer putts controlling the distance. It had a little softer feel than I was used to and the ball seemed to come off softer than my previous model. For me, that was a benefit on 15 and in putts as I tended to be a little firm with those. However, it hurt me on the longer putts.

June of 2011 comes around and I’m in Cape Cod running some AimPoint Green Reading Clinics with future certified instructor Jane Frost. She had recently also become an Edel fitter. I thought here was a great chance to get fit and see for myself how good the Edel Putter was. First, we did an extensive fitting. For those that aren’t familiar with the process it is an aim and distance focused fitting. It starts out with an aim check with your normal putter but I didn’t have my MLA to see so we started from scratch.  I chose the most mallet like head they had. I was initially disappointed that they didn’t have any center shafted or face balanced putters as that’s what I’ve used for a very long time.  From there we try a ‘standard’ hosel and other things to see where I’m starting from. How it works is they have a hole sized hockey puck with a laser in it with a black screen behind. They place a ball between the laser and the fitting putter so the laser is blocked by the ball. All the fitting heads have a reflective face so when the ball is removed the reflection of the laser bounces off the putter face and shows up on the black screen behind the hole with the laser in it.

Edel Laser FittingMy first attempt was inside the left edge of the hole and a little high. Not to surprising. I thought I always had a bit of left aim issue and I tend to forward press a little just before the stroke. We fiddle and fiddle and my aim was pretty good with virtually everything we tried. It was inside the hole with every combination we tried. The thing that surprised me was the time it took me to aim certain designs over others. For me, Anser style was the hardest and most to the left. At the end of the day, I could aim them all but some I really had to grind over and I certainly wasn’t as confident with those designs. The one I ended up with, I could put it down and know it was good.

The whole first part, I was not allowed to line up the ball when doing my aim. I’ve read in many places that most people can’t actually aim the line on the ball so it wasn’t really worth it. I knew for sure that it helped me so I wanted to double check. I did a few tests were I was able to line up the ball first than my putter to the line. Not surprising, I was perfect with the line on the ball. I mean perfect. This made me feel much better because I had always searched for putters that I could square up with the line on the ball. That’s what made me say I could aim the MLA Putter so well because it was so easy to square to the line on the ball.

The second part was the distance fit. In all my research, I didn’t hear about this part. Basically, they set down a line about 15 feet away and ask you to roll 3 balls and try to stop them on the line. This was much harder than I thought it would be. We tried a bunch of combinations and our last one I got all 3 very, very close. It was interesting to see how the location and amount of weight changed my ability to control the distance of the ball. It turns out that this piece is the reason my Edel Putter has stayed in my bag. My touch has improved across all distances. It is amazing to see the difference. I still tend to be a little more firm than I would like on some of my 10 footers but my putts outside of 20 feet are consistently close. Certainly, some of this has to do with proper targeting thanks to AimPoint but not all. When you have the right target and you know it, your focus shifts to speed. With better control of my speed, I am making more 30+ foot putts. To me, that is a big deal.

The fit alone took an hour and a half and typically has a cost associated with it as well. It’s basically just like going to get a high end driver fitting. A little extra cost but a much better product at the end. As you can see on mine, you can also add personalized stamping to the head. Mine includes an AimPoint logo and my twitter hashtag.

I certainly recommend Edel based on my experience. They are pricey like a Cameron. About the cost of a new driver for the least expensive model (which is the one I have) but way more useful in my opinion. You also get a significantly better fit than with most Cameron’s. If you are serious about wanting to aim better, control pace better and shoot lower scores, give Edel a look.

If you know someone in the market for a new putter, please considering sharing this post with them. You can email them the link or share by using one of the social media buttons located at the bottom of the post.

Trackman Review – Trackman Vs Trackman 2011

July 19th, 2011

Trackman Review - Trackman Vs Trackman 2011I’ve written a few blogs about how Trackman has compared against Flightscope (last comparison here) and I thought it would be interesting to see how Trackman compared to itself.  Here’s a blog of the results from a Trackman vs Trackman side by side test.

I’ve been traveling around Europe the last couple weeks and my last stop was in  Linz, Austria to see my good friend Christoph Bausek. Christoph is a very bright guy and a critical thinker.  We met each other over the internet and quickly started to research together about certain high level swing theory items.  You can learn more about Christoph by going to his website. www.golf.bausek.at Christoph is one of 4 Trackman owners in Austria and he was able to arrange a day of testing with another one of the machines.

Here are some pictures(from the same shot on each machine) and a video summary.

Trackman vs Trackman Screen shot

Trackman vs Trackman Screen shot2

As you saw in the video’s, the short answer is that the two Trackman machines were nearly identical when it came to ball tracking and all the data made sense. There were no results that seemed outside the realm of possibility. As far as club geometry goes, there was a 1.5 to 2 degree difference in some aspects including horizontal launch angle, horizontal swing direction and clubface. It was very difficult to get both machines calibrated to the exact same target and this may explain the slight difference between them in our first test. That being said, the club path to club face relationship between both machines was nearly identical in terms of spread within 0.4 degrees. Those differences were reduced after a recalibration of the machines toward the target and by rotating their positions. Clearly, having both machines point at the exact same target is one of necessary pieces needed to collect the most accurate data.

One thing that is very clear. Both systems were quite stable and very similar. Their set up is very simple and it’s no wonder that they are currently the market leader in the Doppler Radar Club and Ball Flight monitoring category.  That same day, we were also able to do a Trackman vs Flightscope X2 side by side test and those results will be in another blog.