- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001

ModelGolf has shattered golf's instructional ceiling.

Nearly two decades ago, former Olympian Ralph Mann began collecting the data that would eventually result in the ModelGolf instructional system with one overwhelming guiding principle:

He wanted to move beyond the shortcoming that he saw in every instructional method the subjectivity of the teacher.

Take, for instance, normal video-aided instruction in which a player has his swing taped and then broken down by a teacher. Not only might different instructors see different flaws when viewing the same videotape, but the assumption is that every instructor has the picture of the ideal swing in his head against which to compare his student. What happens if a given instructor's ideal swing is, in fact, not ideal, or changes from one lesson to the next or one year to the next?

Dr. Mann, who received his Ph.D. in biomechanics from Washington State in the late 1970s, wanted to develop a training tool that eliminated that subjectivity. What he did was convince more than 100 of the world's top PGA, Senior PGA and LPGA players to allow him to chart their swings on a computer.

He then took that sample of swings, from players like Jack Nicklaus, Stuart Appleby, Paul Azinger, Joanne Carner, Ben Crenshaw, Ray Floyd, Scott Hoch, Hale Irwin, Betsy King, Tom Kite, Davis Love III, Greg Norman and Mark O'Meara, and developed a composite model of the ideal swing.

"The model is the perfect player," says Sean Petrone, a PGA professional and the Director of Instruction at Mammoth Golf (Jessup, Md.). "It hits the ball 300 yards off the tee, dead straight, and never misses a pin, much less a green."

Perhaps not coincidentally, Mann's ideal composite is virtually identical to Tiger Woods' swing, though he was not used in the sample.

Once Mann and his team of assistants were armed with the ideal composite swing, they only needed to develop the software that would allow them to overlay the average player's swing with the composite to produce the most technologically advanced teaching aid the game has ever seen. That software is called ModelGolf.

The ModelGolf system is being tested at a handful of facilities around the country. Mammoth Golf, an equipment and retail superstore between the District and Baltimore, is the only facility equipped with the technology in the Mid-Atlantic region.

For between $30 and $135, depending upon which ModelGolf package you select, Petrone and his mates at Mammoth Golf can give you the diagnostic swing treatment of a lifetime.

First, Petrone takes more measurements of you than a tailor. Then, he uses those measurements to scale the ideal composite to your body type. Then, he captures you hitting balls on computer video from two different angles. Finally, the two of you analyze your swing compared to the ideal composite at a dozen different swing intervals from address to follow-through.

Any glaring swing faults are immediately obvious, clearly displayed by disparities between your composite model and your actual swing, making your comprehension of the errors quicker and Petrone's job easier.

"Obviously, we're not going to be able to fix every flaw immediately," says Petrone. "But you'd be surprised at how many people have a major fundamental problem, say at address or with weight transfer, that they can see and largely correct on the spot."

In fact, one sportswriter hasn't snap-hooked a drive since his ModelGolf session instantly revealed his ball placement was too deep in his stance at address.

The other primary benefit of the ModelGolf system is that students can access their swing session at any time on the Internet before further practice or play. And on subsequent visits, new swings can be captured, saved and compared with both the old swings and the model to chart progress.

"The feedback we're getting is that ModelGolf represents a paradigm shift in golf," says Mann. "We're continuously told that ModelGolf's performance measurement tool and customized golf swing comparison application are changing the way golf is taught and learned."

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