I was intrigued when I got a call from the TaylorMade people asking me if I would like to journey to Boston and get a first-hand run through of their new TaylorMade Performance Lab, one of six such facilities the company has around the U.S.. Not to mention that legendary instructor Jim Flick would be there to review my fitting and give me a few pointers on improving my game.
The lab opened at The International in late April and gives golfers of all abilities the chance to work with highly-trained, certified professionals as they fit you with a custom set of TaylorMade clubs using an exclusive process previously available only to Tour professionals. It’s called “Motion Analysis Technology by TaylorMade,” or MAT-T, and I couldn’t wait to get involved.
When I arrived at The International, a wonderful, storied 36-hole club, I was met by TaylorMade’s very friendly and attentive staff. After warming up, I was placed in a suit that had 34 reflective markers placed at strategic points of my body as well as on the shaft and head of the hitting club to capture a number of swings with the driver, iron, wedge and putter. I felt like I was going to be in one of the ES Sports games that are so popular with the kids nowadays.
The technicians pointed six high-speed cameras at me to detect the reflectors and display three-dimensional computer animated images of my swing that was viewable from every angle. This allowed the fitting professional to make accurate critiques and recommendations. The process took about two and a half hours and I found it extremely interesting to see how the entire fitting worked. When it was complete, I was given specific recommendations for a driver, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, wedges, putter and even the correct golf ball I should be using to optimize my playing ability and swing characteristics. How cool is that?
Another neat aspect of the process is that demo clubs were built on-site so that I could validate the pro’s recommendations on the driving range. And I only had to wait 48 hours to get the specially designed clubs in my hands to take to my range and course.
A by-product of the fitting process was that the TaylorMade professionals were able to also give me solid pointers on improving my swing. It was easy for me to see what the pros were telling me because the MAT-T system quantifies what a teacher tells you. I also got a video of my swing in 3D to take home and analyze or share with my instructor to help me further fine tune my game.
Herb Meistrich, president and CEO of TaylorMade Performance Labs, said the company knew it had to place a facility in the Boston area after a visit to The International.
“The International is steeped in tradition and we knew golfers from the Northeast will take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy an unparalleled custom fitting experience at a world class facility. With our Tour-proven technology developed by TaylorMade, we are confident that we can improve the scores and enjoyment of golfers of all ages and abilities by fitting them into the perfect set of clubs.”
Dan Weadock, Jr., president of The International, said he was thrilled that TaylorMade had brought its Performance Lab to the club, saying that it will benefit members, gusts and golfers from around the world who come to play the club’s two fabled courses.
I found out that TaylorMade now has Performance Labs in six U.S. locations. In addition to The International, the labs are at the Four Seasons Resort in North San Diego, the Desert Springs Marriott in Palm Springs, the Hyatt Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, Olympia Fields Country Club in Chicago, and Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga. There are three international locations in South Africa, Spain and Dubai.
So how important is it to get fitted properly for a set of clubs? Kip Putterbaugh, director of instruction at the Aviara Golf Academy at the Four Seasons Resort in San Diego says, “Comparing the TaylorMade Performance Lab to other swing analysis systems is like comparing the space shuttle to a hot air balloon. The level of sophistication and the quality of the experience that MAT-T delivers is truly remarkable.”
Says Meistrich, “Before purchasing new equipment it is critical that consumers are properly fitted into a set of golf clubs that best fits their swing. Using motion capture technology, our fitting experts are able to dissect the golfer’s swing and provide invaluable feedback to the customer. Meanwhile, the computer will produce a detailed recommendation of TaylorMade golf clubs based on the golfer’s swing characteristics.”
The labs can benefit men, women and junior golfers of all abilities. It’s crucial that golfers understand the nuances of their golf swing and be properly fitted rather than purchasing stock equipment off the store rack. The first step to becoming a better golfer is to be swinging the clubs that fit your body and swing type. This technology was once reserved for TaylorMade Tour pros, but now the general public has the same access to its amazing experience and benefits.
The cost of the fitting session runs generally around $400, depending upon the location of the fitting, the season and extensiveness of the session.
The clubs that are custom-built are priced competitively, matching the lowest prices available at authorized TaylorMade retailers, including discount stores and the Internet. The company also accepts trade-ins, using an independent company for the pricing of a customer’s trade-ins and offsetting the trade-in price against the price of the new set of clubs. If a customer changes his or her swing, the custom clubs can usually be altered to accommodate the new swing tendencies. The labs are placed in locales that offer first-class accommodations so as to enhance the customer’s overall experience.
Listen, take it from me, you’ve got to check out the TaylorMade Performance Lab. Once you completed the process and received your new sticks, you will finally feel like you can play golf to the best of your ability.
Ah, the miracles of modern technology!
For further information, call 619-297- 8700, or visit www.TMPLabs.com.
We caught up with legendary golf instructor Jim Flick at the opening of the TaylorMade Performance Lab at the International Golf Club in Bolton, MA. Some people are natural-born teachers, and Jim Flick is certainly one of them. He has spent a lifetime dedicated to helping golfers become better players – from novices to some of the greatest champions of our time. Jim has been motivated and driven by his enthusiasm and love for the game of golf. His 53 years of experience with over 200 touring professionals has earned him the uncontested title of America’s Master Golf Teacher. In addition to teaching, Mr. Flick is TaylorMade’s Golf Ambassador.
GM: You’ve taught thousands of golfers and they all seem to have one thing in common--they all want to get better. What advice would you give to average golfers to improve and enjoy the game more?
Jim Flick: I would have them spend more time on their short game. I think they can feel more for their swing in their short game and they can shoot lower scores faster working on their short game.
GM: What’s your main role at TaylorMade and the Kingdom?
Jim Flick: Well, I do my individual instruction there and I’m kind of an ambassador.
GM: What advantages does the TaylorMade MAT-T system provide you as a teacher?
Jim Flick: It helps me understand the priority of the swing and it helps me understand the numbers. It actually defines what the clubs are doing in the golf swing and helps golfers use the club more efficiently.
GM: With all this technology, have you learned something that you’ve taught for years or are you making adjustments in the way you teach?
Jim Flick: It’s made me to get people more lateral through the stride and that has helped them support the club through impact, with their arms and body in harmony so as to be compatible as opposed to being out of kilter. Most people try to do too much with their body. To have the club show up right, we try to get them synchronized using their arms and hands and club.
GM: Is that something that you’ve always believed in and that this system gives more validation to? Does MAT-T provide a golfer a better fitting than you would get from a regular golf professional?
Jim Flick: Again, I go back to the authenticity. It shows what happens from all the different views. You’ve got overhead, back, behind, underneath. There’s no doubt that when you see what your body’s doing in those positions and what the club is not doing, it demonstrates what you need to focus on.
GM: Do you think the MAT-T system can help golfers learn feel and provide better technical information?
Jim Flick: It can get too mechanical, but if you use it as a way of building a relationship more with your body and the club then yes, it makes you know what you’re doing is right and gives you more confidence. I find most people cannot do is this--their mind processes the information of what they want to do but once the swing starts they can’t feel what’s going on. So, if you do it in slow motion they can begin to sense and feel where the club is and what they’re doing as opposed to just a regular back swing.
GM: Do you feel that you have to be careful to not overload your student with information?
Jim Flick: That’s where Mr. Penick was so good. He said that you were better off to under teach than over teach.
GM: What do you believe the most important or unique features are concerning the MAT-T system and the performance lab?
Jim Flick: The various views it shows you is number one. Number two is all the numbers that are flashed up there based on where your body parts are, where the club is moving and all those things. Nothing today that I know of has the completeness that the MAT-T system has.
GM: Why do you feel that golfers should invest money for a fitting session with TaylorMade?
Jim Flick: When you can have something validated to the tenth degree it may not always work for you but I feel that it has the greatest chance to work for you. There are some people that we have had come through where the system showed they should be in a stiff shaft but they play better with an arc. I think that’s one of the reasons you should hit golf balls on the range after you’ve finished, to make sure the fitting is what you needed. The system removes any doubt as to what you need. But there’s nothing that takes the place of actually hitting balls and watching the ball flight. That’s one thing we try to do after a fitting. We go out with the customers and their golf clubs and see if they’re comfortable with them
GM: Anything you want people to know about TaylorMade and their performance systems, the lab, the clubs and what TaylorMade is doing?
Jim Flick: It’s interesting to see how much TaylorMade is making equipment to help the average player and that their designs are not just for Tour players. Average players are looking for clubs that are more forgiving, while Tour players are looking for clubs that, in most cases, give them the most accurate feel. TaylorMade is addressing both spectrums.