My caddie just joined Mensa- Designing Golf through big data

“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated”

Published: March 15, 2013

Yvonne Buysman, Sports & Fitness Fellow for The (ART+DATA) Institute helps us understand how the data helps design a better round of golf. Her writing reveals the effect of an instant feedback loop in golf . .

Data Analysis in golf : Designing peak performance

By Yvonne Buysman, Sports & Fitness Fellow

As a golfer on the eternal quest to improve my game, trialing new clubs and receiving instant feedback from cutting edge golf simulators trumps the Tom Hank’s FAO Schwarz toy piano scene in the movie “Big”. Edwin Watts, in Orlando, is an example of a golf shop, supporting the club fitting process with an innovative simulator calculating swing angles and lofts. The swing, brand of clubs and courses left on the bucket list may top golf conversations, but numbers are the underlying factor. 18 holes, 9 holes, handicaps, and wedge degrees bring out competitive streaks and bottom line in golf ability. However with leading technology, numbers and data analysis in golf have created an entirely new and powerful language. Players, manufacturers, and coaches can start interpreting data for opportunity.

Martin Kaymer’s final efforts in precision at the 2012 Ryder Cup may have been the result of practicing with advanced data analysis equipment such as Trackman Pro. (www.trackmanpro.com)The innovative tool delivers state-of –the art data by displaying a golf shot’s trajectory in real time along with impact and ball flight information. Detailed data such as club speed and path, spin axis, smash factor, and hang time is being captured in every shot.


As Tiger Woods fights the good fight to climb back towards his top ranking, he embraces data to help understand his standings. Attack angles, “D-planes”, and how numbers relate to ball track and spin can help change a player’s game. PGA Professional, James Leitz, describes the D-Plane as a physics model that is simply ‘The Descriptive Plane,’ “It illustrates why the golf ball flies the way it does because of impact.”In Tiger’s testimony of using innovative technology such as Trackman Pro, he admits every degree is critical to the universal law of numbers and makes a difference in the game.

Golf is about consistency and precision. Trackman’s philosophy is to support recording the rhythms and patterns in players swings, so changes can be made based on the quantitative analysis. When winners of the British Open such as Tim Clarke, or champions of the US Open such as Lucas Glover and Graeme McDowell, take action in using measuring equipment, the results speak for themselves. Data analysis tools such as Trackman provide proven change management to achieve performance and accurate swing and flight ball analysis.

To accommodate the mobile lifestyle, Trackman offers a version with full wireless control catering to tablets and smartphones via the WiFi enabled radar. Truly offering insight and a chance to witness current behaviors, built-in hi-speed camera and performance studio software allows the chance to integrate video with data. The PGA Teaching and Coaching Summit have included D-Plane and new flight laws to meeting agendas. Leitz is a firm believer in the benefits of technology and performance. “Any Summit should always be cutting edge,” said Leitz.


“Any teacher should continually seek better information, then filter it and present it to his or her students. I also have the distinct honor of presenting such information to enlighten my fellow professionals.


The D-Plane concept was first written in the “Physics of Golf” by Theo Jorgenson.He discusses mathematically what occurs and how the ball takes off after separation from the club face. Teachers have discussed the relationships between collision, friction, and energy. Trackman has helped verify best starting positions for ball face. New technology is supporting Ball Flight laws and playing a handshake in physics and mathematics. Again, golfers love talking numbers, and D-Plane analysis may make the conversation on the 19th hole especially interesting.
The D-Plane concept has opened questions in need of 3 dimensional answers. The true path of a swing is a combination of up and down in motion with left and right.Hence a video’s 2-dimensional reflection cannot capture a 3-dimensional action. The development of revolutionary solutions such as Trackman and Flightscope(www.flightscope.com) can provide true insight and the chance to impact swing. If Ben Hogan had the access to such modern inventions as Trackman, then he may have included it in his legendary golf book “The Five Fundamentals” where he addresses grip, knees, arms and hip rotation contributing towards ball impact.

As a tour player desires the perfect club fit and an equipment manufacturer crafts to enhance performance and brand, new golf design language emerges. “Degrees of adjustability”, “deeper heal and toe”, “lighter weight swing weight screw” and “refined cut slot creates a higher launch angle” are just a few phrases pinpointing design tactics for precision. Often technology analysis drives the new design and goal for top performance.

Tracking and data analysis support is not only improving equipment in the world of golf, but also for major sports venues such as the creation of Adidas’s FIFA soccer ball for the World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

From its origins in 15th century Scotland, the game of golf has rested in principles of tradition. The laws of physics and math linking to D-plan philosophies and the developments of sophisticated data analysis equipment are welcome friends to the sport. The language of golf is taking the foundations of numbers and encouraging a fluency of terms in swing direction, spin rates and landing angles. When trying to fix your slice, fade, draw or hook, you may want to consider analyzing quantitative data on your swing made available by cutting edge technology and begin walking the new talk in golf and data.



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