Who knew golf professionals would carry briefcases? Walk around a Tour stop on practice-round day and about 75% of the field at any given event will bring their launch monitor for game refinement. Those distinctive black briefcases, sporting orange TrackMan lettering, have become the elite player’s most effective tool for a variety of needs, from club fitting to swing maintenance to simple enhancement of practice.
“It’s almost compulsory,” said Geoff Ogilvy who is among the 700 worldwide Tour professionals to have purchased a $20,000 TrackMan launch monitor that comes with plenty of service and updates by the Danish company. “It’s an incredible tool.”
So how does this little gray box make 84 of the world top 100 players spend their money and take such an expensive tool everywhere they go? Briefly viewed as a fitting tool for elite professionals a little more than three years ago, the device has essentially replaced the camera as the best way to get answers to swing performance.
Ogilvy said the ’80s and ’90s were dominated by the camera as a tool, driven by Nick Faldo’s successful rebuilding of his swing with instructor David Leadbetter.
“The approach was, you can change your swing, get the video out, see what you’re doing, and we’ll show you what to do,” Ogilvy said. “We’ll work on those positions and you’ll get better. That was an awful era for golf technique.”
Ogilvy said there is good reason for launch monitors driving the stunning adoption rate by golf professionals.
‘It’s much closer to the truth’
“The video camera era was everyone trying to have a pretty swing a certain way,” he said. “You wanted to please the camera. Now you want to please TrackMan. And if you’re pleasing TrackMan, it doesn’t care what you do except at impact. It’s much closer to the truth. Everyone should aspire to hit good shots, not good swings. Because if you’re hitting good shots you’re probably swinging it well.”
For Charles Howell III, a player who has moved from that visual era of game improvement to being a TrackMan “numbers guy,” the device goes with him everywhere. But it doesn’t necessarily appear with him on the range daily.
“It measures things that we can’t see,” Howell III said. “It’s a baseline where, when I’m doing well, this is what I’m seeing, and when I’m struggling I’m seeing things of that nature.”
Howell says TrackMan’s variety of uses and constantly refined software makes interpreting its practicality for different players almost impossible.
“It could be as simple as honing distances with their wedges, or it could be something much deeper, like what is their spin, loft, angle of attack and face and path numbers,” he said.
Jon Rahm owns one but only looks at two specific elements: carry distance and driver angle of attack.
“I know that if the attack angle is a plus 2 or plus 3, I know I’m hitting it good,” Rahm said. “If it’s below that, I know something is going on. So that’s the only club I can actually fix looking at the TrackMan.”
The days of judging players by their use of technology are gone. The launch monitor’s transformation of fitting, instruction and the execution of shots has forever changed the professional game. Gwk