April 27, 2019- by Steven E. Greer, MD
I recently had to drive to an indoor golf teaching facility in Dublin, Ohio to pick up a club. It is the second one of its kind in the area.
It was after school and the place was full of about 20 high school golfers. They seemed to be goofing around unsupervised like Romper Room. I got this bad vibe as if the sport of golf has taken a wrong turn for the worse.
Meanwhile, in my own endeavors to learn how to throw a golf club properly, I have noticed that instructors rely too heavily on Trackman. The second that Trackman is on, I want to hit the ball too hard rather than focus on proper form. I usually leave the session feeling as if I learned nothing.
I see a big problem with golf now. As technology for golf simulators comes down in price, more teachers are opening shop in empty strip malls and trying to teach indoors. This is a big mistake, in my opinion.
Are indoor simulators in urban areas, where land is scarce, better than nothing? Yes. During the winter months, are they better than nothing? Yes.
However, the vast majority of golfers can easily find an outdoor range to use even if they do not belong to a club. So, why are these indoor academies taking off?
Most golf instructors lack a proper home for giving lessons. They have to bargain a deal with a local course or range. Then, there are often random people nearby overhearing what is said, etc. Hence, the concept of controlling everything within one’s own studio is a good idea.
The problems with learning how to golf indoors are manifold. First, hitting irons off of artificial turf is not only dangerous to the tendons and joints, but it is also nowhere near simulating real grass. Tiger Woods, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, and Seve Ballesteros are just a few of the names who learned how to make great ball contact because of the turf and dirt they had to work with.
Secondly, one has to see the real flight of the ball. Indoors projectors do not do this.
Thirdly, hitting balls indoors, with a net and ceiling, trains the brain for that environment. When one steps outdoors with an open sky, the brain freaks out and the swing goes to pot.
Fourthly, putting kids in groups is a bad idea. They end up screwing around and talking. I see this even with college teams. One cannot learn how to fix a swing flaw if they are socializing.
Fifthly, as I mentioned, when a Trackman-like device is measuring distance and speed, the player immediately tries to hit the ball too hard. This is the opposite of what needs to happen. To learn a new swing move, one must start in slow motion, using pause drills, etc.
There are some good uses for indoor learning. Whenever I have an idea for a swing fix, I try it out indoors with air-swings. Then, I try it with foam rubber balls. Then, I try it outdoors.
Certain technology needs to be indoors. 3D analysis of the swing, for example, which is very useful, can’t be done outdoors too well.
Also, indoor putting on a flat surface is a great way to learn the putting stroke and build confidence. If a player knows they make 90% of their short putts indoors, then doing it for real is easier. Putting requires two different skills: the stroke and reading the greens.
Technology is improperly used in many different professions. In medicine, for example, the ICU is a place overloaded with data monitors. Only veteran doctors know how to screen out the noise. With golf, I am seeing this same problem of inappropriate use of technology.
I now have one of these tremendous $500 Flightscope mevo gadgets that do the same thing, almost, as a $20,000 Trackman. However, I rarely use it now since I am still building the perfect swing. When I do, I only use it for the last balls in the bucket.