Archive for Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Video swing analyzers popular

July 30, 2002


— It's the first and probably last time Tiger Woods and I ever will be seen together. And it's certainly the only time anyone will keep a straight face while comparing our golf swings.

There we were, side by side on a computer monitor, just a couple of guys lining up tee shots. But when the golf pro manning the controls hit play and our backswings began in slow motion, the similarities ended quickly.

I swayed when Tiger twisted. His head stayed still above the tee, while my noggin bounced like a balloon in the breeze.

Amateur and pro golfers around the world are using video swing analyzers to model their strokes after Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam or stars of the past such as Ben Hogan.

The pricier systems are sprouting up wherever golfers congregate: driving ranges, clubhouses and the backyards of well-heeled hacks. Cheaper home-computer versions are also available.

I tested the JC Video Systems Golf Analyzer at Richard Metz Golf store and Interactive Frontiers' V1 system at the Golf Academy at Chelsea Piers.

The systems are similar.

You can't diagram in freehand the way NFL analyst John Madden does with his telestrator, but you can use the mouse to draw lines, circles or squares on top of video to highlight swing errors. The pros drew parallel lines showing boundaries that my shoulders should not cross during the swing.

They also drew lines to represent the plane where the club is supposed to remain during a swing at least in theory.

"At first, the students look at themselves and get demoralized," said Tom Sutter, the $150-an-hour head teaching pro at Chelsea Piers. "But then you show them that it's an easy fix, and they're encouraged."

A half-hour lesson with video swing analysis costs $75 at Richard Metz Golf.

Both the machines can print lesson booklets using still frames from key moments in the swing and the pro's typewritten tips. Or they can record the lesson and the pro's voice on videotape or disk.

Both have microphones that pick up the sound of the ball being hit and use the noise as a trigger that tells the computer to save the previous 1.5 seconds of video.

The professional versions of the systems use digital video cameras with extremely fast shutter speeds needed to capture and dissect a golf swing typically executed in about 1.8 seconds.

But if you have a decent video camera, home versions are available.

They might lack such bells and whistles as hands-free recording, dual camera support and databases that organize thousands of video clips of pros and students. But they do have most of the other features and are much cheaper.

Home versions of V1 and Swing Solutions software are available for $39.95. The JC Video home software starts at $99.

At least 64 megabytes of RAM and 8 MB of video RAM are recommended, though Swing Solutions doesn't specify a video RAM requirement.

Ultimately, however, it's the skill of the golf pro working the controls that makes these systems most useful.

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