A launch monitor and simulator solves a writer’s chipping woes

A launch monitor and simulator solves a writer’s chipping woes

ORLANDO, Fla. — The yelp cure takes five minutes and costs $3,500 plus tax. But it costs a lot less – nothing, really – if you’re lucky enough to take a five-minute lesson with Bushnell Golf’s Ryne Fisher. The key to the cure is Bushnell’s new Launch Pro golf launch monitor and simulator, which uses the Foresight GC3 10,000fps, camera-based platform preferred by guys who don’t suffer from yapping, that is to say the professionals of the circuit.

“There are two things to look for if you can’t play,” Fisher said Tuesday, giving me a PGA Show mini-lesson at the Orange County National Golf Center. “It’s the trajectory of the club and the angle of attack.”

And here I interrupt to reveal that Fisher is no golf pro and there is no such thing as “chipped yips” no matter what I may have written in the weak moments at over the past four decades. Short shots are clipped, clipped, or even blown out because the leading edge of the clubface meets the ball – or the ground – at too steep an angle. Bad technique and/or bad ball position cause fluffy chips, not some obscure nervous system disorder.

Ryne Fisher had the solution to the author’s chipping problems, with the help of Launch Pro from Bushnell Golf.

Fisher, who played college golf at the University of Missouri, caught a 56-degree corner, set up in front of a ground-level Launch Pro unit, and launched a ball into the target field. A stream of numbers filled a nearby computer screen, but it was the cell labeled “angle of attack” that was most relevant. “Minus 4.3 degrees,” he said. “That’s about perfect for a chip.” He handed me the wedge.

For those who don’t remember my 1990s blog on the “Mats Only” driving range or my co-signing as a test model, with John Novosel, of Tour Tempo: golf’s latest secret finally revealed, know this: I forgot more about golf than about…well, pretty much anyone. In particular, I don’t remember how I chipped 30 years ago, when short shots weren’t my kryptonite. Now I’m a septuagenarian beanpole with extra-long corners and a naturally vertical shredding action that suggests a gravedigger with a long-handled soup ladle.

Standing over the ball, I told Fisher that my best results, though still sorry, had come with the ball set slightly forward in my stance and with minimal shaft tilt, in violation of everything I had never been taught about chipping. “No, it makes sense,” he said. “A lot of pros are playing the game.”

Having no more excuses, I tried to kick the ball and put one down and left. “It was stabbing,” I said shaking my head. (I could have said “unstable”.) The number on the computer screen was -14.

“Move the ball a little bit more forward,” Fisher said. I did and hit more than one pull-chunk. The angle of attack was -11 degrees.

“You could play the ball here,” he said, pointing to a spot in front of the big toe of my left foot. “And remember, even with the ball forward, you want to keep your weight to the left.”

I hit the #3 ball on the end of the corner, but it flew reasonably high and registered at -9.2. “Getting closer,” Fisher said. Bullet #4 went straight and high, producing a satisfying click and an angle of attack reading of minus 7 degrees. “That’s the sound of a good chip,” he said. “Now if I could make one final suggestion, you could tone it down even more by rocking around your body a bit instead of straight up.”

Readings on the Launch Pro can reveal many secrets in the blink of an eye or a chip.

Not expecting much, I followed his instructions and hit a chip as perfect as a Shakespearean sonnet and almost as pure as the chips I had seen hit Brad Faxon at the Titleist tent a hour earlier. Fisher and I met in front of the computer screen and read the good news: minus-4.5, close to the optimal angle of attack. He smiled and said, “That’s it!” But just to be sure, I hit a seventh chip and raised my ceiling to the crowd when the final score came down: minus 4.4 degrees.

Now, some may object that two good hits don’t heal, especially since I wasn’t aiming for anything. And that’s right. But like most weekend golfers, I’ve wasted years moving the ball around in my stance, fiddling with my grip, and trying different swing trajectories, only to see my wedges return to their digging way. What I needed to perfect my technique, I now realize, was some sort of stereoscopic optical system capable of taking 10,000 frames per second and spitting out ball speed, carry distance, launch angles horizontal and vertical, tilt axis of rotation, smash factor and other relevant elements. The data.

“How were we able to improve before the data? a viewer asked me. Well, not a spectator; it was Bushnell golf manager John DeCastro promoting Launch Pro’s Foresight GC3 platform. “Until recently, you had to hit thousands of balls to figure it out.”

Or, in my case, hitting thousands of balls and not understanding.

The fact that a tech company sales rep cured my yapping leaves me sorry for all the swing gurus and wedge designers who have tried and failed to fix my flaws. But young Fisher, a self-proclaimed “golf nerd,” reminded me that teaching pros are a prime market for launch instructors, along with tour pros and middle-to-high-income golfers. “We have people who don’t make a lot of money,” he said, “but they are passionate golfers who want to improve.”

That $3,500 price, it seemed to say, is just another data point.

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