Getting into the swing

JOHN HERBERT -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

TORONTO -- If you worry there are better swings on a playground, having your swing examined by nine high-speed cameras in a private studio and shown in 3D on a flat screen might not be for you.

If you want the truth, check it out.

TaylorMade Adidas Golf Company recently opened Canada's first motion analysis technology performance centre -- called MATT -- and some PGA Tour players say one hour is worth 10 hours on the driving range.

The MATT system integrates data in "real time" to create graphic three-dimensional images that can be viewed in motion from 360 degrees. The system also incorporates a launch monitor to measure ball speed, launch angle and the spin of the ball.

At the end of your assessment, a permanent record of your swing is stored in the computer and you take home printed information about swing movements and a CD.

For serious golfers, the motion analysis system is a huge step in understanding what needs to be fixed using scientific data for club fitting. The data also proves just how far you hit the ball and not how far you think you do. Peter Chandler, a CPGA pro who now works at the centre, said one of the strangest situations was dealing with a customer who refused to believe he could only hit the ball about 250 yards, insisting he could hit it 300.

What's in it for TaylorMade is obvious -- to sell clubs.

What's in it for the serious golfers trying to get an edge on their playing partners is you leave knowing everything that works or doesn't with your swing.

London native Matt Bryce, a former caddie on the LPGA Tour who is now a custom fit technician with TaylorMade, said the MATT system in Toronto is exactly the same as the centre in Carlsbad, Calif., at TaylorMade's world headquarters.

That centre is exclusively for PGA and LPGA players under contract.

There are only three others in the world.

Bryce said one feature of the system for pros is they can be retested and new results compared to old results. He said that allows tour pros to discover unwanted swing changes.

"They can look at the flat screen in real time and overlay their swing today and their swing from another time to see where they made changes, and, if they like the changes. That's what helps make it state of art because nobody else offers that.

"I think the important thing is it allows people to get the same level of club fitting and analysis as what pros have been receiving. Obviously, what's best for every golfer is to get the most for their investment in clubs."

The system uses the same technology that brought to life the animated characters in Lord of The Rings and the Polar Express to create a graphic three-dimensional image of the golfer.

Golfer who visit the MATT centre are outfitted with a special suit and club. Both have numerous infrared reflective markers located on their body. The movements are tracked using nine high-speed cameras positioned around the studio, feeding information to a computer.

Information includes clubhead speed during the swing, swing planes, ball speeds, ball position, shoulder alignment, hips, knees feet and spine -- angles that change as the player moves.

It's not cheap: $250 for an assessment.

But when you pay $500 to $700 for that latest high-tech driver from any company -- TaylorMade, Titleist, Callaway, Ping and the others -- at least you'll know what you need in that driver to hit it farther -- and, hopefully, straighter.


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