When Golf Instruction Was Still Guesswork, Ralph Mann Boldly Went Digital

The work of bio-kinesiologist Ralph Mann takes note of landmark studies from the 1960s and ’70s like The Golfing Machine and The Search for the Perfect Swing, but he chooses not to dwell on the physical laws and levers that underpin the golf-swing motion. His original Compusport company made way for the present project, called ModelGolf, and a computer-captured perfect swing, call the ModelPro. ModelGolf authorized teachers use tools that they feel to be unique in golf instruction.

To create this technology, Mann captured and digitized the empirical data of golf-swing excellence. In the late ’80s, Mann completed the exhaustive work of computer-imaging a perfect human golf swing, based on high-speed film images of 54 PGA Tour golfers. His eerily beautiful perfect-golfer sequences have been available on computer CD-Rom programs and even as a screen saver since 1996. With virtually no marketing effort, Mann’s company sold 50,000 copies of the software in 1997 alone. If you happen to be what they call a “visual learner,” you could do far worse than have the repeated perfect swings of the composite super-pro enter your consciousness during work hours.

By bottling up the indisputable reality of golf-swing excellence in his computer hard-drive, Mann seems to have provided golf instruction with the “what-happens” data about a proper swing. Here are the specifics of that athletic movement:

1) At setup, the right foot should be one inch closer to the ball than the left foot (i.e., create a slightly open stance–that’s what basically all the great ones do).

2)  The left knee should be directly in a vertical line with the left ankle and hip, but the right knee is “wrinkled in” toward the left knee.

3)  The physical consensus of the elite players–whether this appears so or not–is toward a “strong” grip. To emulate them, move the thumb of the left hand slightly off the top of the shaft, over toward the right side of the shaft (your perspective is looking down at the club, not in a mirror)

4)  Backswing should be smooth, not slow. “Slow backswing” is an article of faith among average golfers, but Mann’s perfect composite golfer takes just .66 seconds to get from setup position to a point at which the shaft of its club is vertical to the ground.

5) Downswing, as the elite players execute it, is an aggressive athletic movement. The right side of the body should feel as though it’s turning and firing through impact with ferocity. Most of us need practice drills to create this sensation. Compusport teaches a student to put his left hand behind his back, grip the club down toward the shaft with his right hand, and swing powerfully through impact one-handed. Sometimes this results in the student taking a step with his right foot toward the target, which is fine. It shows the proper amount of rotational force is occuring.

So there you have it, perfection that we can all only strive for.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)