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Issue Date: June 2007 Issue


Lord of the Swing


Jim Vickers
vickers@clevelandmagazine.com
There is no Tiger in me.
Turns out I’m more of a Stuart Appleby.
 
My body type makes the Australian PGA tour pro my golf-swing soul mate. The similarities end there. My game is rusty. A series of lessons my parents bought me in middle school is the only thing that has saved me from being a total amateur. It was then I learned that, when you have a tough time breaking bad golf habits, just the threat of having a metal driving-range bucket thrown at you really helps improve your swing --if you’re 13 years old.
 
The strategy at North Olmsted’s Golf Tec is the opposite of my childhood golf pro’s rule-by fear approach. Not that it’s any less intimidating. I’m in a large room, tethered to a wire that’s going to feed information about my golf swing into a computer furan extreme analysis. There will be nowhere to hide.
 
The wire is connected to sensors that have been placed on my tailbone and my upper spine. They will measure how Move through my swing three dimensionally. Lasers installed near the “tee” will evaluate how my clubface strikes the ball. A camera will record me so, for the first time, I can see whether my swing looks golden or just plain goofy.
 
“Up to this point in golf instruction there have been teachers and coaches who use only cameras --that’s a two-dimensional way of instructing. You can only see so much,” Nicholas Paez explains as he finishes hooking me up to the equipment. A former teaching pro at Rocky River’s Westwood Country Club, he is now the president of Golf Tec’s Northeast Ohio franchise. He opened the North Olmsted location in April with plans for three more local high-tech golf centers in the next three years, most likely in Beachwood, Akron and Independence.
 
When it’s time for my evaluation, I step up to the tee and take a couple warm-up swings. Paez senses my worry that I’ll end up doing some damage to what looks like a pretty expensive technology rig.
 
“Loosen up, crack the back,” he says. “You want to hit thatching hard. You won’t breakanything.”
 
I drive through the ball with a satisfying whack.
 
Moments later I’m looking at myself on the screen along side rows of green, yellow and red numbers. “If you see green numbers, that’s a thumbs-up--you’re within the PGA tour average,” he explains. “If you see yellow, you’re slightly outside of it. If you see red, you’re quite a bit away.”
 
I’m getting as many reds as I get greens and a lot of yellows. The analysis is based on an ideal created with information from 150 PGA tour players who were paid to don the same equipment I’m wearing and provide a swing for dissection. Within moments, Paez has determined that Appleby would be a good role model for me. Next, my swing is sharing a split-screen with footage of the pro at the tee. Humbling is one word for it.
 
As the videos play side by side, it’s obvious that I’m standing way too straight. I cringe when I see how sloppy and uncontrolled my back swing looks compared to Apple by’s. It’s enough to get you to wonder if it’s even healthy to do this to yourself.
 
But Paez assures me I could completely reinvent my swing and my game by slowly banishing all of my bad habits with the help of this software. It would help me identify my problems and then learn the correct arm and leg angles, shoulder turns and other mechanical points that make Appleby’s swing a success.
 
And that, of course, would take time. And money. Honing your game in this way is not exactly inexpensive. Fifty-two weekly half-hour lessons runabout $2,500 plus a $95 initial evaluation fee. That’s the bulk pricing. A smaller package of five half-hour lessons runs $365, plus the evaluation fee.
 
But with nearly 50 franchise locations across the nation already ,it’s clear serious golfers are buying into the idea. Paez chalks it up to word-of-mouth generated by actually being able to make drastic improvements to a game in which it’s been historically hard to get better.
 
”If you talk to the national golf foundation, the average golf handicap has not gone down in the last 30 years or so,” Paez says. “We continue to be just as bad as we were from the get-go.”
 
For me at least, a couple of buckets of balls at the driving range is probably more my speed.

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