Golf's walking wounded are having their swings analyzed by a kindly computer - Sports Illustrated Vault |
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Golf's walking wounded are having their swings analyzed by a kindly computer


Since February about 100 golfers, of varying degrees of skill, have been visiting a new pro golf shop at 147 East 47th Street in New York's Manhattan to have their golf swing analyzed by a new device called a Swing Recorder. The Recorder is an innocent-looking black box, less than two feet high, with a Polaroid camera affixed to the top. It is computerized to take pictures of a golfer at the very moment his club makes contact with a golf ball, recording his upswing, downswing, follow-through, degree of power behind the swing, the ball's angle of climb, and the distance and rate of speed at which the ball will travel. Movies, though they may record a golfer's swing efficiently, are not capable of measuring the "carry" of a ball or the flex of the shaft, matters important in fitting clubs to a golfer's specific needs.

The new shop, called The World of Golf, a branch of Al Liebers' Golf Equipment Co. that has been tooling custom-made Hidden Power golf clubs for 40 years, owns one of the only two Swing Recorders in the country; the other is located at Bob Dargie's golf range in Memphis. Both Frank Malara Jr., president of the New York firm, and Bob Dargie of Memphis swear that the Swing Recorder has taken the guesswork out of club-fitting.

The machine was invented by a consulting mathematician from Chicago named E. J. Betinis, whose golfing father pestered him to come up with a "Tinkertoy" that would take his picture at the moment his club made contact with a ball. Betinis, whose background in problem-solving included three years as a computer analyst for IBM, worked on his Swing Recorder for the next four years and found himself knee-deep in equations involving problems in aerodynamics, ballistics, gravitational pull and other dark mathematical matters. "The key," says Betinis, "was logical circuitry, and the machine works on the electric-eye principle." Who could argue with that?

Malara spends an hour or more with each golfer, in a room set up like a driving range, and takes an average of 16 pictures, which are in turn placed against an analytical chart. Interpreted correctly, the chart will establish the golfer's basic swing pattern. Then the golfer will hit balls with a variety of clubs of different lengths, swing weights, shaft flex, etc., until the Recorder has established which club is suited to the golfer's particular needs. One golfer may require a 12° loft built into his clubs, another an unusually flexible shaft and so on. The analysis costs $25, a sum subtracted from the cost of the clubs. "It's like psychiatry," according to Malara, "only more fun."