How Technology Helped My Golf Game

Perhaps the most important part of becoming a good golfer is developing a good tempo for your golf swing. A good golf tempo means that every swing is smooth and consistent, and identical shot after shot, through the backswing, transition and forward swing.  With a good tempo, the quality and consistency of your golf game greatly improves.

Like any avid golfer, I’ve used a wide variety of golf tools, techniques and gimmicks to improve my game, but I have never found a device that truly helped me to improve my swing. This is probably because of the fact that you need positive or negative feedback DURING each golf swing while it is happening.  If you can receive real-time trusted feedback as you swing, then you can ingrain the optimal swing tempo.

As it turns out, there is proven science to determine exactly what the optimal tempo is for any golfer. There is an excellent research paper on this topic by a pair of Yale researchers (Dr. Grober and Dr. Cholewicki), explaining the body/club system as a harmonic oscillator, and how the rotational inertia and elastic properties of the human body point to an optimal tempo to maximize consistent impact.

Explained simply, if you measure how much time it takes for you to normally perform your backswing, then there is a corresponding optimal total duration of your downswing. There is a ratio of backswing to downswing time that does not change, regardless of your skill level or the club you are using. It turns out that for a golf swing, this ratio is exactly 3:1. Golf professionals all maintain a tempo very, very close to the optimal 3:1, regardless of the fact that each professional may have a highly personalized swing. As golf handicaps rise (golfers get worse), the variance of tempo from the golden 3:1 moves out more and more, as one would expect.

So, the path to becoming a better golfer is clear. Whatever your swing speed on the backswing happens to be, don’t change it. Just ensure that the backswing time stays the same for each swing, and the downswing takes 1/3 as long as the backswing. Permanently record a smooth sequence of motion using these rules in your muscle memory and you will play better golf.

I decided to build a device to help me perform that optimal sequence. Full swing training is usually done around other golfers, so a training device should not distract other golfers (ie – it should be quiet), and it shouldn’t have flashing lights or other visual distractions. Figure 1 shows the device I built to help me train, which I call “Buzz”.

Here’s the spoiler: I’ve personally used Buzz sporadically for about 3 months, after golfing for the past 30+ years. My contact with the golf ball has improved. At 55 I’m hitting all of my irons longer than I ever have in my life, increasing the distance on each iron by about 5yds. Although I have not measured this, my number of mishits has clearly decreased. For the first time in my life I can swing freely on my driver with confidence that my drive will land in the fairway. All from establishing better tempo.

Buzz is worn like a watch, and works by providing haptic feedback (a buzzing sensation on your wrist) WHILE you are swinging the golf club. First, I used Buzz to measure my backswing duration 1 time and store it (or you can use an average of your backswing times). Figure 1. The Buzz Golf Tempo Watch



Figure 2 shows the screen I used to do this. You just ask a friend to hold the watch, press the start button when you start your backswing, and release it when the backswing completes. Now that Buzz knows the backswing time, it can compute the proper time to transition and downswing time. 



Figure 2. Measure Backswing

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To use Buzz during practice, you simply press the start button when Buzz is in swing mode (shown after press of button on the left).

Buzz then gives you a countdown to start your swing.  

4, 3, 2, 1...

At zero, Buzz starts vibrating with the backswing vibration. 

At the point in your swing that you should start your downswing Buzz alerts you with a different continuous downswing vibration. 

The vibration stops at the exact point that you should be making contact with the golf ball. 

Figure 3. Swing Mode Photos

Synchronize your swing with the haptic feedback being continuously provided and you will train your muscles with the optimal swing tempo for you. 

Do you have any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions on how to improve Buzz or add other functionality? Are you interested to know more about the hardware used, future plans, or engineering challenges? I would love to hear any and all feedback!