Golf: Swing analysis goes high-tech at Vitense

2012-10-17T04:45:00Z 2012-10-17T05:38:04Z Golf: Swing analysis goes high-tech at VitenseDENNIS PUNZEL | Wisconsin State Journal | dpunzel@madison.com | 608-252-6486 madison.com

If only the golf swing was as easy to perfect as the swing offense.

For one thing, it would certainly make Bo Ryan's summers a little more enjoyable.

As it is, the University of Wisconsin men's basketball coach has had many a good walk tarnished, if not exactly spoiled, by a treacherous golf swing that all too often produces a nasty slice off the tee.

"I hit it into the trees at Nakoma (Country Club) quite a bit," said Ryan, whose 17 handicap is a testament to his scrambling ability.

"All the sports I played growing up — handball, baseball, tennis, stickball — you always hit a moving ball," said Ryan, who outside of a few tips from Andy North has never had a golf lesson. "But golf … that doggone ball is sitting there and it shouldn't be that hard to hit. So why is it that golf is as tough a game as it is?"

That's the eternal infernal question the new TaylorMade Player Development Center at Vitense Golfland was designed to answer.

The performance lab, which opened in August, is one of just 10 of its kind in the United States and uses the latest high tech developments to help cure ailing golf swings.

"The thing that's unique about this tool is that it's so sophisticated," Vitense president Joel Weitz said. "There's nothing like it."

Unless maybe you're Tiger Woods, working on the next version of your video game.

The lab utilizes MAT-T (Motion Analysis Technology by TaylorMade) system technology to simulate that experience — at the cost of $300 for a full fitting and $150 for an iron fitting. Just as in the making of a video game, the golfer wears a vest, belt, shoe covers and hat with reflectors. Six cameras record the swings and create an avatar of the body in motion.

"It's just phenomenal," Weitz said. "It shows vividly in real time what's happening with your golf swing. It tells you precisely what kind of equipment you need.

"And as a teaching tool, they've taken 112 PGA Tour swings and created an avatar of the perfect golf swing based on that. This allows you to hold the golf club in your own hands and overlay it against the PGA Tour player's swing at any point in the motion and feel what it's like.

"There's nothing else like that on the planet. They're on the cutting edge with that and we've got it right here in Madison."

The center's presence in Madison is the product of a series of personal connections between TaylorMade officials and local golf leaders such as Weitz and Joel Zucker of Nevada Bob's, which operates the pro shop at Vitense.

"It's a lot about relationships," Weitz said.

Sean Toulon, executive vice president for TaylorMade, grew up on Madison's West side and spent his formative golf years at Vitense.

"We put it in here because of the work they do here," Toulon said. "This helps bring Vitense to the next level. I'm sure we'll end up making money, but that's not the driving force behind it. It's nice to do something like this.

"The software is crazy expensive to develop and maintain and improve, but the analytics we get out of it are incredible. You can see things you could never imagine before, so in the hands of a good teacher and a good club fitter, it's magical."

For Jeff Kaiser, manager of the center and certified clubfitter, the big advantage of the technology is it reveals a level of detail about the golf swing that is impossible for even the most trained naked eye to pick up.

"The information presented to you from an instructional standpoint, on where your club is and where your body is and what you may be working on, it's way more than I can show you on my iPad or on my video," Kaiser said. "I might be able to identify to you whether your club face is closed or open, but I can't say, 'Hey, it's closed 4.6 degrees and this is what effect it can have on the ball and this is what I need to do with a golf club to fix it for you.'

"That's just the learning aspect of it. What it really allows me to do is build golf clubs for a player that will minimize any error that is made and allow them to optimize what they can do with a golf club."

Rather than step on the toes of area golf pros, Kaiser said the goal is to work in concert with pros in helping identify and cure ailing golf swings. That goes for scratch golfers looking to detect small flaws to high-handicap players just hoping to break 100.

"That the great thing about golf," Kaiser said. "You can always get better. From my end, it's so cool to see the look on Bo Ryan's face when I tell him: A, he's a much better player than most people give him credit for; and B, here is where your golf clubs fall short and this is what I'm going to do to help you out. He was absolutely blown away.

"That's my job day in and day out, to make people feel better and feel happy about golf."

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(1) Comments

  1. bpro
    Report Abuse
    bpro - October 17, 2012 7:46 am
    Interesting...with all the huge & very costly improvements in golf equipment in especially the last 20 years the "average" golfer has not improved their average handicap stats-scores. Golf equipment improvements have become a financial toilet for people who just plainly said are not able to play good golf. However, this is America & we all have the privilege spend it the way we feel like.
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