Tiger Woods often talks about finding “the feels” in his golf swing.
RoboGolfPro has all the feels.
At first blush, RoboGolfPro might look a little like Iron Byron, the old robot the U.S. Golf Association used to use to test golf balls. But whereas Iron Byron can only replicate a great swing, RoboGolfPro can teach it.
RoboGolfPro was invented by Chicago-based golf instructor Scot W.R. Nei and has been around for a few years. But as one might expect for such a large and elaborate teaching tool, it’s not readily available. It’s not like a TrackMan that fits in a briefcase and goes anywhere.
When Drive Shack near Orlando International Airport purchased RoboGolfPro for its instructional program, my colleague Jason Lusk and I decided to see what it was all about.
It quickly has become an integral part of Drive Shack’s instructional program, helping to ingrain proper mechanics – those “feels” – into students.
“We’ve seen some dramatic results,” said Steve Miller, Drive Shack’s director of instruction. “The best part is that it doesn’t take away the golf professional. It makes our jobs easier because we can really attack what the student needs and use their feedback as well. But the best part is putting them into the multiple repetitions.”
To demonstrate, Miller put Lusk through a lesson, first having him hit a few balls with a 7-iron to loosen up. Miller took video of Lusk’s swing and quickly identified a flaw he wanted to address.
“Just watch how quickly he loses angle (on the downswing) and the hands kind of stop moving,” Miller said. “Basically, he’s back to his address position, and what we would love for him to get to is having the hands more here, toward his front pocket, getting that forward shaft lean. This is actually very normal with a good player.”
Even better players such as Lusk, whose handicap hovers near scratch, often throw the clubhead at the ball, leading them to hook it, Miller said.
“What RoboGolfPro allows us to do is mess around with the delivery zone and force you to get into that (proper) position,” he said.
That’s exactly what Miller did. After Lusk hit a few balls, Miller set him up on RoboGolfPro and programmed in a swing to help groove the proper positions as the club arrived at the impact zone. Lusk gripped the club and RoboGolfPro’s long arms took him along for the ride. Miller programmed the machine to move slowly at first, in segments.
“Tell me when something either hurts or feels different,” Miller told Lusk.
RoboGolfPro guided Lusk through the takeaway.
“That’s different,” he said. “That’s really different.”
“I’m going to make it even more different,” Miller said, moving from behind the monitor to adjust Lusk’s hands slightly to square up the clubface.
RoboGolfPro continued to guide Lusk to the top of the swing.
“That actually feels pretty good and extended. That’s feels wide,” he said.
On the downswing, Miller stopped RoboGolfPro with the club parallel to the ground.
“Here’s your move,” he told Lusk.
RoboGolfPro subtly moved Lusk’s hands forward, toward the target, at the point where most players tend to cast the clubhead and flip it at the ball. As the club rotated through the impact zone, toward the finish, RoboGolfPro created more extension.
“That feels very different versus me with the hold-on, straight-up lift that I do,” Lusk said.
“Remember, this is a perfectly planed golf swing,” Miller said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the perfect swing for you. You’re always going to put your play on it. Even some of the best players in the world don’t follow the perfect motion.”
Miller gradually sped up RoboGolfPro, ingraining the proper mechanics through repeated swings.
“Just try to stay in posture and hold the loft on that face,” he said.
RoboGolfPro has a catalog of swings that Miller can call on to address specific flaws his students are trying to correct. Do you want to experience the ultimate in clubhead lag? Miller programmed in Sergio Garcia’s swing.
“Are you ready for the wrist-breaker?” Miller asked Lusk, laughing because he knew what was coming.
From the top of the backswing, Lusk’s hands dropped from above his shoulders to below his waist, all while significantly increasing the lag of the club.
“That drop is nuts,” Lusk said.
It is. When I tried it, I had to release the grip. My wrists simply couldn’t replicate Garcia’s clubhead lag, even in slow motion. If I had held onto the club, I would have needed an ice pack on each wrist. It was another reminder that professional athletes simply are different than the rest of us.
Miller views RoboGolfPro as a tool to “speed up the learning curve” for new players and fine-tune the mechanics of better players.
“It allows me, the instructor, to put somebody into a swing that’s either perfectly planed or very exaggerated for the drills an instructor would want a student to work on,” Miller said. “Where we used to have to walk away and hope that (students) were going to make the right move, we can guarantee it with multiple repetitions here. …
“For the new player, people always say, ‘I’ve never felt what that swing is like,’ and that’s huge because basically they now have a feel. For accomplished players, we can pick up on things quicker because it’s what we’re used to.” Gwk