Launch monitors capture picture

July 12, 2006|By KEVIN VAN VALKENBURG

Club companies such as Titleist, Ping and Cobra occasionally have demo days at driving ranges, and they sometimes travel with launch monitors to those demo days and book club-fittings by appointment. Some private clubs are also willing to arrange club-fittings for the public with their own launch monitors.

Currently, however, Mammoth Golf's stores in Columbia and Timonium are the only retail golf stores in the Baltimore area with launch monitors. Here are five things a launch monitor can tell you about your golf swing that can help you gain distance and accuracy immediately:

1. Swing speed: You don't necessarily have to swing super hard to hit the ball far, but how hard you swing will help the launch monitor specialist determine what kind of shaft you should be playing in your driver. Swing speeds between 80 mph and 95 mph usually require a regular flex shaft. Above 95 mph, and you'll probably be better suited to play with a stiff flex, or possibly even extra-stiff flex. Finding the right shaft for your game is one of the easiest ways to pick up extra distance without changing your swing. Shafts also weigh different amounts depending on their material and model, and can help you swing faster, or more under control.

2. Launch angle: Measuring the angle of the ball as it comes off the face of your club would be almost impossible on the range, but with a launch monitor's high-tech computer software, it's easy. Most golfers, according to recent studies done by PGA teaching professionals, don't have nearly enough loft in their driver. But increasing the launch angle by switching to a higher-lofted driver might mean as much as 20 yards of extra distance off the tee. Higher-lofted drivers also cut down on the ball's sidespin, which means your mis-hits will be less severe.

3. Ball speed: This measurement, which is based on both swing speed and clubface activity (whether you hit a fade, draw, slice or hook), will help you determine what kind of ball you should be playing with. Tiger Woods plays a Nike One Platinum, and Phil Mickelson hits a Callaway HX Tour, but an average player might need a ball with more spin, and might even get better results with something cheaper. A launch monitor doesn't care about a company's marketing campaign, it just spits out raw data, so if you really want to buy that $45 box of Titleist Pro V1s, it's probably a good idea to see if they're the right ball for you in the first place.

4. Backspin and sidespin: Backspin is what makes a golf ball climb and stay in the air longer. Ideally, a launch monitor can help find a ball flight that will maximize both distance and roll. Somewhere between 2,500 rpm and 3,000 rpm is usually the target number that club-fitters try to hit for backspin. Sidespin tells a golfer the severity of his or her draw or fade. Some club manufacturers, like Callaway, sell drivers with a draw or a fade bias built into the clubface to help correct consistent mis-hits. Other companies, like TaylorMade, offer drivers with movable weights that can help square the clubface at impact.

5. Carry distance: Unless your launch monitor is set up outdoors, you'll probably be hitting the ball into a net 10 feet away. Regardless, the computer can tell you how far the ball would have carried in the air, which is where most of your distance will come from.

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