News & Opinion

Swing aid focuses on self-reflection

One in a weekly series of stories about golf gear to run each Wednesday.

By Gary Van Sickle

It’s a 90-minute drive from San Francisco to Monterey on a good day. On a bad day, U.S. Route 101 can resemble a maddening 18-wheeler caravan.

Shane Yang has three golfing daughters. The oldest, Megan, is a high school senior hoping to play Division I college golf. But the Yangs live in Cupertino while the girls’ golf instructor, Patrick Parrish, is based in Monterey. 

It was a bridge too far, too often. Yang had a lot of necessity, therefore, that he mothered into an invention. It is Live View Golf’s Digital Swing Mirror, or DSM, which uses software that combines a video camera with a mirror function so that golfers can more easily watch and analyze their own swings.

“We’ve been to Monterey 200 times over the last four years,” Yang said with a shake of his head. “I take the kids to go see their coach, and he fixes something in their swings. Then after a while, they’re more comfortable with their old feel and they revert back to their old form. When they go back to their coach a month later, he tells them, ‘You know that thing you were doing before? You’re doing it again.’

“I thought, if the kids could see themselves the way the coach sees them, maybe they could fix themselves on their own.”

That would mean fewer Monterey drives for Yang and fewer gas-station fill-ups.

So, Yang made the Live View Golf’s DSM a two-fer: video with replay and a straight mirror function so a player can watch himself or herself live during practice swings, plus screen-drawing options, the way John Madden scribbled on the television screen with a telestrator during football broadcasts.

Mirrors are the old-school method for coaching, and they still work. I was paired in a scramble event with a guy last month who was CNN versus Fox News off the tee with his driver: left, right, left, right. He was about a 14-handicapper and kept saying, “I know what I’m doing wrong. I just can’t stop doing it!”

No, he didn’t know what he was doing wrong, partly because he was a 14 but mostly because he couldn’t see it. With a DSM – and a swing coach – he could have figured it out. 

What helps make the DSM so handy is its compact size: a mere 4 inches by 2½ by ¾. It fits into the pocket of even a carry bag. It also has an optional small tripod and a clip that cinches it to a golf bag.

The DSM syncs to a smartphone or, ideally, to an iPad or a tablet, which have larger viewing screens. Yang showed me how it worked when we met on a range recently in Mississippi. 

He clipped the DSM to his golf bag, which was set up to show a view of his swing from behind. He set up an iPad a few inches away from the ball he was about to hit, angling the screen so that when he set up to make a swing, he could see himself in the mirror. Then he tapped the screen with the toe of his club to turn on DSM’s record mode and hit a ball.

Before he tapped the screen, though, he could make practice swings and see how they looked on the iPad screen, like working with a mirror. 

“The camera gives you constant feedback so you can make changes quicker,” Yang said.

The telestrator option to draw lines on the screen is invaluable because it helps focus on a specific issue in a golf swing. Yang said his daughter Megan tends to drop her head and really dive down as she comes into the impact zone – the same move that troubled Tiger Woods two coaches ago, remember? 

“We got the camera set up. We drew a circle around her head, and she could watch her swing and realize, Oh, I did it again,” Yang said. “It’s quicker feedback than waiting a month to see the coach.”

So, it was love at first sight between his daughter and his invention.  Wait, what? Not exactly. “Oh, she hated it the first time,” Yang said, laughing. “She’s like, ‘Why can’t I just go see Patrick [her coach]?’ I said, Because he’s an hour and a half away, and your swing is messed up now.”

Each younger generation is more tech-savvy than the last, and now, Yang said, the girls are fervent DSM users and often send video of their swings to the coach for guidance.

One clever option on the DSM is the automatic-replay feature, which is activated by the sound of impact. So, when you’re making swings, you don’t have to stop, walk over to the camera and press a button to see the previous swing. During our demonstration, Yang paused the video of his backswing and drew a line to indicate where his swing-plane line should be. Then he made another swing, and we watched to see how close he came to his swing-plane goal. 

That replay was when I heard the golf-gear voice in my head say, I want one of these. The Digital Swing Mirror (LiveViewGolf Camera, $179; LiveView+Plus, $249.99, www.LiveViewGolf.com) is cool. It’s ideal for golf teachers, but I could see using it my backyard – not to hit balls, which would lead to lawsuits from neighbors, but to check my swing posture and positions and try to improve them. 

The Yangs know what they’re doing now because they can see it on Dad’s DSM. But don’t you miss Monterey, I asked?

Shane Yang chuckled as he shook his head. “No,” he said, “not at all.”

Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980 for Sports Illustrated and Golf.com, Golf World and The Milwaukee Journal. Email: gvansick@aol.com; Twitter: @GaryVanSickle