New tech taps into swing

Precision Golf School instructor Jason Payne wears a a strapped device which feeds information to K-Vest, a 3-D motion analysis system in Junction City, Ore.. The system gathers 60-frames-per-second of information that measures the body dynamics and velocity of your shoulders, hips and hands. The colored 3-D model on the screen is green when you swing correctly, and red when you are off.<BR><I>AP?Photo</I>

EUGENE - Doug DuChateau's laptop computer displayed everything he could ever want to know in spreadsheet form, a sea of figures in precise columns and rows.

The information at his fingertips could easily be mistaken for the details of his stock portfolio, but the profit-loss analysis in this case revolved around how his student could get the most benefit from his golf game.

"Right here I literally have the DNA of the player's swing mapped out," DuChateau said at Eugene's Precision Golf School, where he is the director of instruction. "This would be overwhelming no matter who you are (but) for me, I love this stuff. It's the blueprint of the bomb."

From the early days of golf instruction, the professional's job has been to keep players from blowing up on the course.

In the early 1900s, before many courses had driving ranges, instruction often consisted of a professional accompanying a student for a round and assessing the student's game as they played.

As more courses created driving ranges, professionals were able to take advantage of the dedicated practice area to streamline their lessons and make it possible to work with more players.

Lessons used to be no-tech, with the professional watching the player swing and making adjustments. That changed with the use of movie cameras in the 1950s and then video in the 1970s.

RiverRidge Golf Course teaching professional Al Mundle began his career in 1954, and he said the first breakthroughs he experienced in instruction came with the use of video and a Professional Golfers Association program that taught assistant professionals how to teach the swing to players of all ability levels.

"From that they've been able to come up with better information," said Mundle, whose students have included PGA Tour pros Ben Crane and Jeff Quinney. "That in turn really helped new teachers because they didn't have to go through the process of trial and error."

Computer technology hasn't eliminated trial and error, but it has given professionals objective information they can use to help them detect areas of potential improvement.

"We finally have facts," said DuChateau, a 1992 all-Pac-10 selection at the University of Oregon. "If I've got a list of facts I can fall back on, that is so much more reliable in the long term to guiding someone to improve."

There's plenty to play around with, including two of the newer innovations, the K-VEST and the iClub.

The K-VEST program has a sensor that is placed on the ground in front of or behind the golfer and is connected to a computer. The player wears three wireless sensors, one on a belt, one on a backpack and one that attaches to the golf glove.

From setup through follow-through, the sensors provide a snapshot of what the body is doing during each portion of the swing. These measurements can be used to compare the player's setup and swing to that of tour pros whose measurements are programmed into the system.

The K-VEST allows the instructor to assess a player's alignment to the target, posture, hip and shoulder rotation, hip movement at the top of the swing and during the swing, and spine movement during the swing.

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