|The Sonic Golf System-1 includes a transmitter, receiver, earphones, special grips and a carrying case. (Mike Bailey/WorldGolf.com)|
What if you could really hear a good golf swing? Not the click of the ball or the swish that really good players make, but a signature of tones that's unmistakable.
Well, that's exactly what the folks at Sonic Golf have done. They've come up with Sonic Golf System-1, which essentially measures speed and rotation of the golf club and translates it into sound.
Golfers or teachers who use the device can listen to those tones through a set of hi-fidelity earphones, immediately getting feedback on what the club is doing in the golf swing. And good swings have a certain pattern and tone to them. Bad swings do as well.
Sonic Golf comes in a couple of configurations - Pro and Solo. I tested the Solo edition, which comes with a transmitter, receiver, three special grips, earphones and instructional DVD.
You start by fitting a golf club or two with the special grip, which has a removable cap so you can insert a wireless transmitter into the butt end of the club. To use it, you can then clip the receiver onto your belt, turn both to the same frequency and swing away.
The Sonic Golf System-1 uses accelerometers, wireless signals and music processing chips to convert your swing motion into musical tones.
"Fundamentally, we measure how fast the club is moving, and we can convert that to sound," said Bob Grober, Ph.D., and founder of Sonic Golf. "Very simply, we turn motion into something you can hear."
Grober, a professor of applied physics at Yale, invented the Sonic Golf System. Essentially, slow swings produce low-pitched, quiet tones. Swing faster and the pitch and volume gets higher. With each swing you can hear your rhythm and tempo, transition, and the timing and speed of your clubhead release.
In no time at all, you start to recognize the good sounds vs. the bad ones.
Let's say you or a student tends to swing over or from the top. More than likely the sound would reach its loudest and highest pitch well before you hit the ball. There would also be very little pause, if any, in the transition at the top.
So a teacher might tell a student to try to get the sound to come in front of the ball. More than likely, that student, in an attempt to do just that, would get the crescendo to occur more at the bottom, which is exactly where it should be.
As Dr. Bob might say, a student would do that not by consciously changing any mechanics but by simply intuitively letting the club gather momentum on its own. The result might be waiting a little longer at the top, giving the legs and lower body a chance to get involved in the swing as it should be instead of trying to rush everything from the top.
The Sonic Golf Solo Edition isn't for everybody. If you're a beginner - or perhaps even a mid-handicapper - you're going to need some guidance in interpreting what you hear and, more importantly, what you can do to get the club in a swinging motion to get the sounds you want.
The system also doesn't teach the important fundamentals of setup - grip and posture - so those need to be solid first.
The Pro Edition allows teachers or another observer to hear the sounds along with the student or golfer. And very quickly you can see how a pro could benefit from the feedback of Sonic Golf as well as the student.
Still, if you kind of know what you're doing, the feedback you get from Sonic Golf in terms of timing and tempo can't be underrated. Too often players merely pay lip service to these terms, but the really good players usually have this figured out.
If you're like me and can hit a lot of really good shots during most any round but seem to lose it if you hit a bad shot or two, Sonic Golf can really help you instill good rhythm in your golf swing, which is an important element, whether your tempo is fast, slow or in between.
I found that after just a few minutes, Sonic Golf became very intuitive. My goal changed from mechanics to simply trying to duplicate the desired pitch and loudness out of the unit. And while every shot I hit wasn't perfect, I was a lot more consistent, and it seemed to take a lot less effort.
My guess is that like most training devices, Sonic Golf System-1 will benefit golfers to varying degrees. But as a fresh idea in the marketplace, that takes the idea of a metronome to a whole new level, I give Dr. Bob a lot of credit for coming up with this.
July 22, 2009
Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 15 years in the golf industry. Before joining the WorldGolf.com team in 2008, he held positions at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Read Mike's golf blog here and follow him on Twitter here.