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GolfTEC's Data-Driven Golf Lesson Has Made Me a Believer

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Thursday, 08 Oct 2015 01:07 PM Current | Bio | Archive

One of my prized golf possessions is an old, worn copy of Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book.” I’ve read the Texas teacher’s iconic, simplistic, common sense lessons dozens of times, and refer back to it time and again. He teaches in parables, in sayings, such as “Just knock the tee out from under the ball,” and “feel like you’re swinging a bucket of water.”

So when I was invited to learn more about — and experience — the nation’s leading provider of golf lessons, I was a mix of skeptical, doubtful, and curious. GolfTEC's g-Swing video and motion-measurement teaching technology sounded like the polar opposite of the way I’ve learned since picking up Penick’s book as a teen.

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It turns out I was right; it’s a whole new way of learning. But I was wrong in my preconceived notions: It’s not scary or overwhelming. It’s actually exciting and easy to embrace.

The GolfTEC story is compelling. The Colorado-based company, which is celebrating its 20th year in business in 2015, boasts size and reach unmatched in the golf industry. With 190 teaching centers, the company is the largest employer of PGA professions nationwide. Through the years, they’ve taught more than 400,000 golfers, and they have a 96 percent success rate. This year alone, they’re closing in on 1 million lessons.

But with that sort of volume comes the question of scalability. How, I wondered, could those hundreds of “coaches” (as they’re called at GolfTEC) provide consistent teaching that would improve golfers so frequently and consistently. I worried that there must be a cookie cutter approach, some gimmick that gets results for the higher handicappers. As a single-digit golfer myself, and someone with a basically self-taught golf swing, I worried that they’d try to overhaul me to learn a “system” swing.

What I experienced was quite the opposite.

My “real” job is working with news content, and I have learned since my days at newspapers that one of the great advancements in our business is having real-time data to help determine how readers are responding to and interacting with our stories. So I was especially fascinated by GolfTEC’s usage of technology to help define what’s “good” in the golf swing.

By studying the mechanics of the best golfers in the world, the company has devised certain measurements that indicate proper positions throughout the swing. Sure, there are some crazy-looking but successful golf swings on tour and throughout history. But they all have to be in certain positions at certain points (like when striking the ball).



GolfTEC uses a very light harness that measures body movements and positions at address and through the motion of hitting the ball. That provides a sense of shoulder and hip turn, angles, rotation, etc. Taken together, they can offer a data-driven snapshot of the swing. Relying on a month’s worth of golf scores to assess the swing is like monthly circulation reports for newspapers. GolfTEC’s technology is like real-time website traffic analytics. And I loved it. Sorry, Mr. Penick.

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As it turns out, the golf swing I thought I was making wasn’t even close. Being able to see my swing on video from two perspectives felt like I was being dissected by Peter Kostis on CBS’s Sunday afternoon coverage. My chief complaint this year has been a big drop in distance with my irons. I’d played around it all year, but it was getting discouraging that I’d lost 20-25 yards per club. Almost immediately, my coach saw how open my club face was as I took the club back. Seeing it on video made it unmistakable. Sure, I could have practiced and improved by swinging a weed cutter, one of Harvey Penick’s classic lessons. But instead, my coach drew a line that measured my club face being 16 degrees open, and compared it to major champion Graeme McDowell’s, whose was square, and then we had an explanation for why I was launching my 7 iron so high (based on the ball flight data, a whole other set of data points) and robbing me of so much distance. It was also the core culprit in a series of body manipulations I was making to try to compensate.

We worked on a few drills and he gave me some “homework” to get into a better position. The next day I was out on the driving range and course and could see the improvements immediately. My fears of being mangled into a mechanical mess, focusing on everything but hitting the golf ball, were quelled. And my excitement for seeing how much I can improve is at an all-time high. My only regret is that I spent a year fiddling to fix myself, instead of seeking out help and spending my season getting even better.

Surprisingly, GolfTEC’s busiest months aren’t in the winter. Considering they’ve got indoor hitting bays with video and launch monitors, it seems to be the perfect time to work on your game and emerge better than ever in the spring.

For someone who is on the fence about GolfTEC, the company is offering a 30-minute lesson for golfers who donate $20 to PGA REACH, a charitable organization that drives inclusion in the game. The promotion runs from Oct. 9-11.

“As the largest employer of PGA Professionals, it’s evident that GolfTEC shares a common goal with the PGA of America to grow the game of golf,” said Scott Kmiec, senior director of PGA REACH. “We are excited that PGA REACH will serve as the beneficiary of GolfTEC’s 20th anniversary celebration, in order to make an even more meaningful impact on the lives of youth, military, and diverse communities.”

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Ron Varrial is Newsmax Media’s Digital Content Director and curates A Golfer’s Life. He has nearly 20 years of experience working in and covering the golf industry and lifestyle. In an effort to bring a diverse array of opinions and perspectives to A Golfer's Life, we are actively seeking contributions from industry leaders and newsmakers from the world of golf.

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When I was invited to learn more about GolfTEC, the nation's leading provider of data-driven golf lessons, I was a mix of skeptical, doubtful, and curious. But the experience turned out to be exciting and easy to embrace.
golftec, golf, swing, evaluation, lesson
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2015-07-08
Thursday, 08 Oct 2015 01:07 PM
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