Review: SkyPro

This review was meant to be published back then but a lot if things got in the way. I’ll talk about how I felt about the SkyPro originally and I want to share what’s changed since then.

This is not your typical review. Instead of having a brief period to use the product I have had months with the SkyPro from late in the 2013 season.

This review was meant to be published back then but a lot if things got in the way. I’ll talk about how I felt about the SkyPro originally and I want to share what’s changed since then.

In 2013

I was initially very excited about using the SkyPro. I took it to the range the afternoon that I bought it. At the time I didn’t have an iPhone but I did have an iPad. Actually it was an iPad 2 with a somewhat bulky case.

One of the first things that you need to do whenever you start or switch clubs is to calibrate the device. This involves putting your phone or iPad on the club face, touching and holding the sides of the screen and then rotating it around you. Even with an iPad 2 and a bulky case the calibration worked flawlessly correctly identifying my club every time.

I then started to hit shots with it. It was very exciting to see the data coming back. There were all these new things to look at. Club shaft lean at address, etc. my swings typically had a couple if warnings and I started to address them I saw things happening. Ball flight started changing, distance, contact etc. It was pretty exciting.

But there was a downside. I didn’t really know how to change certain things or really understand waft they meant. I had no drills or resources to dig deeper. Overall though the device worked as advertised.

Later on there was a glitch. I got an iPod Touch (5th generation). This thing had trouble even connecting to the sky pro at all. In the end I stopped using it with the iPod and just stuck to the iPad.

Fast forward

to now. I have an iPhone 5s and it works great with it. But until recently I still had the same issues regarding really knowing what the different things meant. I didn’t want to create bad habits but I did want to make the right kind of changes.

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An update changes everything

It’s really amazing what an update can do. And the latest update to SkyPro app really makes things great. Along with some new practice modes and tools, the best thing is clear explanations of what each thing being tracked is, what different numbers mean and video explanations from Michael Breed.

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The result is a true SkyPro. It’s feedback that really helps you improve and change your swing for the better. As we all know Michael us an exceptional teacher on the Golf Fix. But he makes each element of the swing that SkyPro measures, not only understandable, but allows to see how and why to change.

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And this is what SkyPro really needed. This is what separates it from everything else. At the end of the day we want to get better. Understanding what to do and why in a clear way makes all the difference. Based on this latest update SkyPro has become my go to practice, training and learning aid. I have not yet tried the new putting feature, but that will come in a future review.

Zen Chili Rating for Sky Pro

5 Zens out of 5

• Immediate feedback you can use
• Groove make practice easy
• Michael Breed explains things clearly

5 Chilis out of 5

• Light, it does not affect club weight
• Easy to charge
• Connects to iPhone easily
• Calibration is easy on iPhone, but a little challenging on iPad
• Useful for full swing, and putting (to be reviewed later)

To learn more about the rating system click here.

Review: Vharness

The Vharness is a swing trainer with the goal of teaching anyone to swing like a pro.  The Vharness is endorsed by Rocco Mediate, who I think is a brilliant spokesperson for this product because of how well heconnects with average golfers.  He looks like a guy in your foursome.  But of course he has tremendous game.  His performance at Torrey Pines in the US Open made him a household name.  He plays what seems to be off the shelf game improvement clubs.  He doesn’t have the fluid easy motion of a Fred Couples, or the power of JB Holmes or Bubba Watson.  These reasons though make him ideal as a representative of this product because he, of all tour players, looks the most like an average Joe, and almost everybody can relate to him.

So does the Vharness achieve it’s lofty goal of teaching anyone to swing like a pro?  No, but it is an excellent swing trainer, and if used effectively especially with some guidance from an instructor it can really help the average golfer to feel their swing better.  Frankly I don’t think there is a single device that can teach anyone to swing like a pro.  Swinging like a pro requires coordination, talent, strength and flexibility.  Provided you have those things, with a good instructor and dedication you can learn to swing like a pro.  What I did find is that the Vharness can enable you to not only create a better swing, but really feel what it feels to swing better.

I have a number of swing trainers in my collection, and they all fulfill different purposes.  I’ve been using the Vharness for about a month.  I wanted to give it a full test before I wrote about it.  The Vharness is definitely different from my other swing trainers.  It gives me feedback that I never got from anywhere else and really helped me to understand and feel my swing better.  It almost acts as a sensation amplifier and you really feel what the club head, path and hands are doing.

One of the main objectives of the Vharness is to help you feel more connected. There are a number of ways to feel more connected that I’ve seen routinely taught. Most commonly is tucking a golf glove under one or both armpits depending on how you are trying to feel the connection. Recently we have been watching players like Sean O’Hair and Justin Rose tuck their sleeves into their armpits. Both are effective ways of feeling the connection.

The Vharness approaches this concept from a different point of view.  Instead of feeling the connection through your armpits as in the other techniques you keep it by by focusing on keeping the “vcords” taut.  As you do your body naturally becomes more connected.  It feels like it is a less tense way of feeling it.

Zen Chili Rating for The VHarness

5 Zens out of 5

• Improves several aspects of the golf swing almost automatically
• Provides great feedback and sense of connection
• Delivers results

5 Chilis out of 5

• Well constructed, should last for years
• Easy to use and works with all of your golf clubs
• Comes with a stylish carrying case

But the Vharness takes it a few steps further. It naturally creates more width in the swing and keeps your hands more in front of you preventing you from getting stuck.  One of my major flaws in my swing is getting stuck.  Working with the vharness, this is dramatically improved, and with it so has my distance and accuracy.  The great thing about it for me, is that it really worked with the things I’ve been learning and working on, and it provides excellent feedback.

When ordering the Vharness you’ll be asked some questions to have it properly sized for your your height and your clubs.  I find that it fits well on all clubs.  It is very easy to transfer from one club to the next and allows you to use it with all your clubs.  The more I use the Vharness the more I enjoy using it.  Give it a shot, I think you’ll like it too.

Learn more about it on their website.

Video showing Taly – eliminating the flip

I came across this video on YouTube and I wanted to share this.  For those of you who read the review of the Taly Mind Set, I wanted to provide a real world scenario of how it used to help golfers improve their swings.  In this video Lynn Blake, the famed TGM teacher (The Golfing Machine), has a clinic and each student has a Taly Mind Set.  Take a look at how he teaches and what he teaches.  It is simple but effective.  Similar to the drill I talk about in the article on achieving left wrist supination.

Enjoy and of course let me know if you have any questions about this.

Review: Tour Striker Pro

According to the website for the Tour Striker:

Finally! A simple training club that intuitively promotes the essentials of Tour quality club head to ball impact!

One percent of golfers strike golf balls correctly. The Tour Striker and Tour Striker Pro training clubs will intuitively help you understand leverage and how to apply the club head to the golf ball in the same manner as the best players in the world. You will gain command of the elusive skills required to compress a golf ball. Best of all, this is not a temporary solution!

Allow the creative golfer inside you to enjoy the game once and for all. You can learn how to have world-class impact conditions and strike golf balls purely, accurately and with great control.

Tour Striker Models

The Tour Striker Pro is the pro version of the Tour Striker, a training aid designed to teach a player to hit the ball with a forward shaft lean and the hands ahead.

Pro Vs Regular Tour Striker
Pro Vs Regular Tour Striker

Here’s the tour striker compared to a regular iron.

Tour Striker vs an iron
Tour Striker vs an iron

Side view of the tour strikers:

Tour Striker Side View
Tour Striker Side View

Photo source: www.tourstriker.com

The only way to get the ball up in the air hitting this club is to have a forward leaning shaft at impact.  If the shaft is straight up and down or leaning away from the target at impact, the ball will fly very low or simply roll on the ground.

Using it on the Right Surface

It is very important that when practicing with the tour striker you are on either very firm closely mown turf or a hard mat.  In fact the best test for your ball striking abilities with the tour striker come when using a lie board.

If you attempt to use the tour striker on fluffy grass or a very soft mat like the Country Club Elite (CCE) mats that allow you to hit down and through the ball you will negate the benefits of the tour striker as the soft grass or mat will allow you dig in to ground and hit a decent shot without the forward lean of the shaft.

I can use Range Mats again (but only for this)

One of the interesting results for me of using the Tour Striker Pro is that using this club actually gives me an incentive to use the hard mats at the range near me.  If you read this blog you know that I am not a fan of range mats.

For normal iron practice I intend to continue to use my CCE mat as that simulates a lush fairway and gives me great feedback on the quality of the strike, but for working on the shaft lean and hands forward at impact I can use the range mats, but only with the Tour Striker.

Once you are on the correct surface the Tour Striker shows its true value.  I consider myself a pretty good ball striker.  Over the past few months as it has gotten colder in the northeast I have not only kept my distances the same in the colder temperatures but have actually increased them as my technique has improved.

Still, the tour striker showed me that I had some work to do with the shaft lean as I hit a number of low worm burners with it.  However, the majority of shots I hit with it were fairly acceptable with a few exceptional ones.

During my practice sessions I alternated using the Tour Striker Pro and my irons and the feedback was great.  My iron playhas improved over the past few months, and I think continued and regular use of the Tour Striker will take it to new levels.

The quality is product is excellent.  It appears to be manufactured to pretty high standards.

I consider the Tour Striker Pro to be a valuable addition to my practice toolset.

Which Tour Striker to Get

“The Regular Tour Striker is targeted for mid-to-high handicap golfers and slower swing speeds (under 90 mph with driver), while the Tour Striker Pro is geared for dedicated practicers with higher swing speeds. We also offer a Tour Striker for women and younger players who wish to improve their game.”

I agree with this description.  If you are mid to high handicapper you will struggle with the Tour Striker Pro.  For the lower handicap players the Pro model adds the right amount of challenge.  The leading edge of the club does look pretty high.  It is a pretty cool and rewarding sensation to see this high leading edge hit a nice high soft shot that carries forever.

On the range I introduced a friend of mine to the Tour Striker and watched him hit a few balls.  It very quickly forced him to make a few adjustments but then he started hitting some great shots.  When he went back to hitting his own irons I could see that the adjustments had carried over and he hit the ball on a better trajectory with a slightly more penetrating ball flight.

If you have a flippy swing where you try and scoop the ball to get it in the air, the Tour Striker will definitely help you to change that.  Be prepared for a bit of frustration as you make the adjustment but the end result will be worth it.

Take a look at the slow motion shot below.  You will see a very nice iron strike.  The shaft is leaning a bit forward, the clubhead hits the ball first, then the ground.  A phrase I was told to remember this was “Hit the little ball (the golf ball), before the big ball (the earth)”.

Website: www.tourstriker.com

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Winter Golf Practice – Get the most out of it

So you live in colder part of the country.  Maybe there’s snow on the ground, maybe there isn’t but the temperature outside doesn’t make you want to hit the golf course.  And it’ll be a while before spring arrives and melts the snow.  What do you do to improve your game.

Actually winter golf practice can be extremely productive.  Imagine that spring time comes around and not only are you not rusty but you feel like you’re ready to play the best golf of your life.  Here are the essentials you need to make this your best winter practice session.

1. A quality golf mat

Nothing is more frustrating than hitting golf balls off rock hard mats at the driving range.  They don’t provide realistic feedback.  They don’t allow you to hit down and through the ball.  The tees may not be adjustable or they are those rubber tubes.  Yech!,

Getting a quality golf mat for your house will offer you some great practice time.  You can hit down and through, you won’t injure your self and you won’t wear holes in the carpet.  Look for a mat that is thick enough to hold normal tees, and allow you to hit down and through the ball.  I recommend the Country Club Elite Golf Mats.  You can find a review of them on my reviews page.  Make sure that you pick a stance mat so that your feet are at the same level as the golf mat.

If it can hold tees than you can create a gate practice hitting through it and do other drills involving tees.  Plus it’ll give you real feedback.  You know when you would have hit it fat and you can practice getting the right amount of turf.  You can also put a sock or a piece of cloth an inch behind where you would put a golf ball and practice hitting the turf, but not hitting the sock.  This will ingrain the right feeling of taking a divot after the ball.

Get a Video Camera

A video camera will really allow you to see what you’re swing is doing.  I recommend one of the newer cameras that record on to memory cards.  The reason is that on the card, each video is an individual file.  There’s no rewinding or fast forwarding through video tape, and you can copy selected (or all) clips onto your computer for further analysis.  The newer cameras also feature slow motion mode.  My camera can do 240 frames per second.  The beauty of it is that I can really see exactly where the club is throughout the entire swing.

Once you have your camera, you can do a few things.  You can take video from behind you.  This is called a down the line shot (or DTL).  You can also take a Face On (FO) video. Both angles are very useful for swing analysis and seeing faults.  It is very rewarding to see your faults, work on them, and watch as they disappear. Also, get a tripod.  You will need it.  It makes things so much easier.

A Net

If you have the mat and you have the camera, your next best swing analysis tool is a net.  A net allows you to hit actual balls without fear of breaking valuable objects, or putting holes through walls.  Get the sturdiest net you can get if you are going to hit actual golf balls.  Cheap nets have been known to break and allow the golf ball to actually break through the netting.  You don’t want that to happen.  You want a net that can handle golf balls.  If you’re not hitting actual golf balls, you can hit something like the almost golf ball or birdie balls into the net (see the review of BirdieBalls from the reviews page).  These should puts less strain on the net.

The benefit of the net is that you are hitting something.  It’s not just a practice swing and for most people there is a difference.  Hitting something forces your body to react the way it would on the golf course.  This is will make the videos that you analyze more meaningful.

A putting cup or a home putting green

With a putting cup you can practice putting off carpet.  The benefit of doing that is that you can practice a solid stroke on level ground.  You want to know that you’re putting stroke will put the ball on the right line. The downside of putting on carpet is that you don’t know how fast it is.  Without a stimp meter you don’t know what speed you are grooving your putts for.  Odds are that the greens you play on will be significantly faster or slower depending on the type of carpet.  I would recommend that most amateurs practice on a putting surface that closely resembles the courses they play the most.  If you play on public or municipal courses anything around 10 on the stimp meter would be excellent.  If you play at private clubs that have faster greens, putting on a surface with 11 or 12 on the stimp meter would be better for you.

Home putting surfaces do not have to be expensive.  On the birdieball.com website, they have putting surfaces starting at under $100 that can be either 10 or 12 on the stimp meter depending on the options you choose.

The other thing to look for is that the ball drops into a cup.  It doesn’t have to be a big drop but it should drop in.  Putting cups with a steep slope are unrealistic for this reason.

A home putting surface also allows you to create breaks.  This is ideal.  You can practice flat putts and breaking putts on the same surface, and at speeds that are similar to the courses you play on.  What could be better than that?

Take out your video camera and record your putting strokes too.  You’d be amazed at how much you can learn from watching your putting stroke.

A Simulator

Finally, if you have some extra cash lying around, a simulator greatly complements all of the above.  I recommend the Dancin’ Dogg Optishot.  There are several different manufacturers that make simulators.  P3SwingPro is another.  These are fun, allow you to play full rounds with friends, or even have driving or closest to the pin contests.  Plus they tell you important information about your swing.  They tell you things like club head speed, path angle, club face angle and more.  These are great fun and can definitely help you improve.

Combining Training Aids for Maximum Results

Sometimes training aids complement each other.

PBS-orangewhipI found a really good combination this morning.  The Pure Ball Striker (no review yet although one is planned) and the Orange Whip Trainer work great together.

The Pure Ball Striker is designed to help you feel the lag on the index finger of your bottom hand, in my case, the right hand.  Normally when I practice with it, feeling the “lag pressure” is very subtle and it’s hard sometimes to really feel it.

Combining it with the Orange Whip Trainer basically magnified or amplified it for me.  I could REALLY feel the lag pressure and it was awesome.  It gives me a better idea of what to feel when I use the Pure Ball Striker by itself.

Let me know if you have any successful combinations of training aids.

Review: Orange Whip Trainer

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you know that one of the things I was working on was having my actual swings look like my practice swings.  I received a suggestion to try the Orange Whip Trainer because it helped other golfers with this issue.

The Orange Whip Trainer is, according to the manufacturer:

The Orange Whip is the ultimate golf swing trainer and fitness tool for today’s golfer and athlete. It is versatile, dynamic and the most effective swing aid on the market. Consistent use of the Orange Whip will improve your golf swing and provide an essential core-muscle workout. The elegant design combines a counter-weighting system and flexible shaft that work together to promote the natural golf swing motion unique to each individual. The Orange Whip will help you find your ideal swing plane, create “tour pro” lag, achieve perfect sequence of motion, and promote balance that’s supported from the ground up. Your strength, flexibility, and swing speed will increase, and your shot-making will become more accurate and consistent.

products

As you can see the Orange Whip Trainer comes in three different sizes (Called the Orange Whip Hickory, Golden and Trainer) to accommodate juniors, people under 5’6″ or beginners, and men or taller women.  I have the trainer.

Orange Whip Trainer: • For – Designed for men and taller women.
• Length – 47.5 inches in total length, approximately 45″ actual swing length (Men’s Driver)
• Weight – The total weight is 1.75 pounds.
• More Info – Simulates Driver motion. Recommended Whip for Core Fitness and Flexibility.
• Ideal Whip for Balance and Tempo enhancement

You begin using the Orange Whip with some stretching exercises.  The Torso Twist is done by standing with your feet flat and your arms out in front of you with your palms up and the whip held in the middle of the trainer.  You then begin to twist to one side, then the other.  It is a very nice stretch.  From there you can do the wrist hinge (videos for these are all on the website) with each arm.  As a trainer for strengthening golf muscles I think it does a great job.  You get a very nice work out with resistance, in just the movements/muscles that are needed for the golf swing.

Starting the full swing drills gives you a whole different kind of workout with the Orange Whip.  The full swings really allow you to work on tempo and transition, two elements that I think most golfers don’t really know how to practice.  All too often we simply go to the range and hit balls, hit and rake, hit and rake.  Heavy clubs I think are excellent for doing certain kinds of tempo work.  The resistance they offer ensures that you don’t rush the transition.  I have a small weighted club that I have used for winter training and while it is adequate for working on the transition I think it falls short when it comes to the complete swing.  On the downswing, the heavy clubhead almost feels too heavy.

The flexible shaft of the orange whip seems to address this concern for me.  The orange ball at the end is heavy, but the flexibility of the shaft allows me to build up speed on the downswing naturally, and it can really go fast.  I think this is what they refer to when they say that it can build “pro” lag.  I could really feel the sense of lag, with the orange ball trailing behind my hands and then whipping through the impact zone.

Since you can’t hit balls with the Orange Whip you need to be aware of that when transitioning to hitting balls.  You want to remember the feeling but recognize that your clubs will be different.  I think this definitely takes some practice but the results are worthwhile.  Using the Orange Whip and videoing my swing I have seen substantial changes in those practice sessions.  When I feel what I rehearsed with the Orange Trainer on my actual swings with a ball the results are good.  This is not however a short term solution.  I think the orange whip like anything else in golf requires some dedication, you can’t just use it once and expect miracles.  However, over time I believe it does accomplish the goals described by the manufacturer.  I’d be curious to use the the smaller whips and see if it would be make a difference with my irons.  I do find that the long whip is difficult to use for the shorter 3/4 type swings in an iron shot and it would interesting to see what the results would be with a smaller whip.  For work with the driver, tempo, and fitness I think the Orange Whip is a training aid that any golfer can benefit from.

www.orangewhiptrainer.com

Applying Fearless Golf

How difficult is it to play Fearless Golf?

In ordinary situations, on your favorite course, on your favorite hole, with your favorite club, and with ideal weather it’s probably not that hard.  But what happens when you are in a tournament, or there is some money riding on a putt, or you’re on the 16th hole needing pars in that last two holes to beat your best score.  Is it easy then to play fearless golf?  Probably not.

I think playing fearless golf requires awareness.  You must become aware of when the fear mechanism is triggered and act accordingly.  Too often we get caught up in the moment and instead of taking a moment to gather ourselves we push through, for whatever reasons we have.  Usually we end up with a bad result, a hooked or sliced shot, a shot OB or into the hazard, or a stubbed chip, or a weak or overly strong putt.

I set out this morning to play Fearless Golf in difficult conditions on my home course (temperature in the upper 40s, wind blowing around 30 MPH, with a threat of rain on the way).  You would think that in these conditions it would be difficult to play fearless golf.  What’s the wind going to do to my shots?  How much shorter will the ball fly in the cold?  What are the greens going to be like?  Will my hands be too cold to get any real feel putting or chipping?

I noticed the fear response came up a number of times.  I pictured a drive being taken by a slice wind way right OB.  At that point I had a choice.  What do I do about it?  I didn’t want to just hit then because I had a really ugly picture in my head.  I told my self “You’re playing fearless golf, you’ve hit this drive great before lots of times.”  I would then picture my ball flight as I wanted, relaxed by body, and especially my hands, and swung with confidence.  I hit it down the middle in ideal position.

I made several key birdie putts in the round by thinking “Fearless Putting”, including some breaking downhillers.  In the end I ended up with a score about 7 shots better than I expected.  I was fearless and it worked.

Simulator up and running

So I finally setup the simulator.  This will be my practice “facility” for the winter.  I will get actual rounds on course when the weather cooperates.

The nice thing about the simulator is that it tells me a few keys stats about my swing.  It tells me the swing path (inside out, straight or outside in and by how many degrees).  It also tells me whether the club face is square at impact or how many degrees closed or open it is, and it tells me my club head speed at impact.

In my practice session today I have confirmed through hard numbers that indeeed the over the top move is basically history.  9 out of 10 swings where either coming in straight or from the inside.  10 percent were coming in from the outside but only by 3 degrees, which is not too bad at all.

The one thing I did notice consistently which bugged me is that on 8 out of 10 swings my club face was open.  Most of the time it was open less than 8 degrees (which is still too much), but every once in a while I’d get one open 12 degrees or more.  Really annoyed me.  On a 160 yard shot, 12 degrees open face will send the ball 12 yards right of target.  This is something I will definitely work on.  I want the club head coming in square, or maybe even a degree or two closed through impact, with an inside out swing.

Ben Hogan helping with the OTT issue

Today I had a very good ball striking and ended up hitting a lot of greens.  Here’s what I did that I believe made a huge difference.

In “5 Lessons” Ben Hogan writes about keeping the left arm tight to the chest on the downswing.

So I started playing around with this.  How tight do I keep it there?  What’s the best way to do that?

One of the reasons I thought to do this was that I noticed on my OTT actual swings that the arms begin racing towards the ball.  And I thought, hmm, if I keep my left arm tight to the chest as long as possible, then the arms can’t race ahead.

So I videotaped some swings then I went to bed last night.

This morning I got up to play around.  The course I went to had no driving range, so I couldn’t warm up the swing that way, but I knew the one swing thought that I would keep in mind througout the round.  Keep the left arm tight to the chest.  I used a little visualization on my swings, almost feeling as if the left arm got superglued to my body at the top of the backswing.

I felt super-connected throughout the swing, and even though I had my share of errant shots, I was striking the ball more solid than usual, especially with the driver where I hit a few enourmous drives on a cold day into the wind a lot of the time.  My irons were really crisp and I felt the way I did on my practice swings.  I meant to do the post swing analysis where I rated the shots on how close they were to my practice swing, but I forgot to do that.

Tomorrow I will go to the range with the camera and hit some balls like this, but I have a feeling that it will be good news.