How important is launch monitor data?
All the pundits on Golf Channel and YouTube try to sell us on the idea that we can’t be a good golfer without data. You will never hit it long or straight unless you know your AoA (Angle of Attack) or your FTPR (Face to Path Ratio) or any other extreme data point. We see these magical orange boxes, and strange grey things with “Photovoltaics” and “Doppler Radar,” flashing lights, and buttons. Beep, blup, boink! And yes, scientific progress goes boink!
Dynamic loft, spin loft, and static loft, what do they mean? As a custom golf club fitter and lover of golf tech, we can pull the layers back on all of these terms and what they mean to the average golfer. My question is if you play a round of 18 and have to grind out an 89, do these mathematical formulae help or hurt? Your static loft on your Mavrik Max seven iron is 30 degrees; you flip your wrists before contact and add loft, creating an additional dynamic loft of two degrees. You now have 32 degrees of loft at the impact on a club that generates less spin than others so the ball flight is penetrating and doesn’t spin up, so very little spin loft added. Granted I am using round numbers to prove the point, how much did that information help?
The other side of this argument is this. That was on swing one, and the standard deviation could be something like 5 degrees either way, just on the dynamic loft. Now we add path and face angle and the deviations of those numbers. Unless you can consistently provide similar numbers with minimal deviation there is a very limited purpose for $20,000+ launch monitors. Personal Launch Monitors are a different category and may serve a purpose with drills and training; the same for data-driven tech like Arccos. Data is not intrinsically bad.
I do club fittings here at the golf course, and our Professional Instructors teach on the driving range. We have no plastic mats to hide mistakes, and no net to hit into, just blue sky and green grass in front of you. If I hand you a seven iron custom built for you, you can watch the ball flight and how it lands on the range. If you doubt it’s better than your current club, we can go out to a known distance and hit into an actual green. I have taken a customer to the 150-yard marker on our tenth hole and pulled out the laser rangefinder to test all kinds of products. You hit three balls from 158 yards out, back pin today, with your club and 2 are short. I hand you the latest and greatest custom fit super duper seven iron, and you put two on and one close. Does it matter to you that one iron had 600 more rpm or that the new iron launches 1.5 degrees higher?
The same situation with the new golf ball, you can argue all day that the Titleist Pro V1 is the best ball ever, and it is #1 in golf, but maybe you should be playing the Mizuno RB Tour or the Srixon Z Star. It could be that you are a Pro V1 player not a V1X player. Let’s find a good wedge distance and test 5 of each on the green you play on. Maybe you are correct and the Pro V series is #1 because of performance, not the billion-dollar marketing budget. Perhaps Tiger Woods is right and Bridgestone is the best ball in golf, then again maybe you need to play a ball that suits your price point and feel, and stop worrying about what Tiger, Phil, or DJ play.
I am a tech-head, and I love gadgets, we do have a SkyTrak Launch Monitor at the course because data does have value. In my opinion, though, after I stopped using Arccos and SkyTrak to “fix” my golf game, it became more enjoyable and magically when its more fun you improve. In summation, if your instructor or club fitter can’t help you without a launch monitor, maybe they don’t understand the game as much as they should.