Matt Liddon, freshman at the University of Mississippi, talks about technology and how it has helped the sport of golf. Photo by Sean Gillen.
Golf, as we know it, has changed drastically over the last 10 years. Why? The outpouring of research and technology that has gone into equipment and practice aids. Because of technology, golfers can hit straighter shots, adjust their lofts, get instant feedback on their shots and more.
Matt Liddon, 19, is a UM freshman from Yazoo City. “I started playing when I was 6, and then I started playing tournaments regularly around 7 and fell in love with the sport, and continued to play almost everyday since,” said Liddon. He competed competitively in high school and ended up earning a scholarship to play collegiately, which Liddon said he is very proud of.
“Golf has changed a lot since I’ve started playing,” he said. “Technology is the biggest thing that’s changed. Modern clubs make the golf ball travel further distances, and it’s easier to hit the ball straighter. It’s also easier to control the ball around the greens now as well.”
Liddon said technology has caused a leap in the sport, and some golfers are covering too much distance, which in turn makes things easier.
“Tiger Woods was some proof of this,” he said. “Aside from his raw talent, the new technology let Tiger really attack the course. The way courses fought back was “Tiger-proofing” the course. Since then, courses are now designed to be a bit challenging, long, difficult, and so on.”
Liddon said technology has helped his game improve. Whether it’s something as simple as recording your swing and comparing it to your favorite golfer, or lining up on a practice facility in front of a TrackMan.
“TrackMan is awesome,” he said. “You swing and instantly every statistical data is available for you to see. Club head speed, angle of attack, flight trajectory, how much spin you are getting on the ball, club path. Some of the stuff they have I don’t even know how to interpret.”
He said new drivers are bigger and have so much more research that goes into making the next driver, an improvement. A better driver leads to a better advantage.
“I’m not as tech-savy as some other guys,” he said. “Like I can’t tell you exact materials in my clubs or balls, but I can say that I buy into it. All of the efforts made by these companies have helped to sharpen my game.”
Since being introduced to the collegiate golf world, Liddon said the golf team uses TrackMan a lot. “Especially while we are hitting wedges,” he said, “because they try to have us hit exact distances, and it’s nice to see exactly how many yards we are away from the target.”
He said using TrackMan with wedges is particularly important when you are trying to see how much spin you are generating.
“A shot from 60 yards – more times than not you are going to need that ball to stop on a dot or maybe even backspin a little,” he said. “All of this data from practicing we have at our fingertips from things like TrackMan where it can show us our spin rate.”
Liddon said others can use technology to better their game. “I realize not everybody has the thousands of dollars to shed on a TrackMan,” he said. “More times than not it’s teams and teaching pros that use them. And clubs are getting more and more expensive. So I think the most effective way for your average person to use technology is just recording your swing.”
Liddon said the iPhone even has the ability to record things in slow-motion, which is a huge benefit for golfers.
“For the average golfer, I think recording your swing and comparing it to your favorite golfer is really beneficial,” he said. “They are the professionals, and it’s their job to properly strike the golf ball, so if you try and get your swing like theirs, you’ll make progress. Plus it’s the cheapest option. As long as you have your clubs and a phone, you are good to go.”
Taylor Story is another avid golfer who attends UM and enjoys the technical aspects of golf. “Every year, their is some type of breakthrough. Whether it’s a gimmick or legit sometimes takes time to find out, but it’s always exciting to see all these ideas become reality.”
Story first starts with the golf ball. “The golf ball may be the one piece of equipment that has received the biggest makeover,” he said. “Back in the day, the inside of a golf ball was wound-up with rubber bands. Now, the ball can have as much as five layers inside.”
Story said all the layers in a ball help with control and distance. “The more layers, typically the more control,” he said. “It’s like give and take. Since there are more layers, the ball can receive all the impact and still have a controlled flight.”
Story even said the dimples on the golf ball have changed. “The dimples help with flight and spin control,” he said. “It’s all aerodynamics, and somewhere in the world, there’s a team in a lab crunching numbers trying to improve their spin and flight. It’s a nonstop search for improvement.”
Story said adjustable clubs don’t seem like a technological advancement at first, but when you consider things …
“Before, if you wanted an adjustment in loft, or wanted some setup that could favor a particular shot shape, you would have to get your club made that way,” he said. “Now, the fact that we, ourselves, can do it right at our fingertips is just amazing. I feel like people have taken that for granted.”
Story said some of the hot trends in equipment range from clubs being adjustable, to sliding weights on a club-head, to beams being placed on the inside of clubs, to driver faces having grooves or even being twisted.
“All of it is designed to help your game, and it’s all about what fits you,” he said.
Story said technology has also helped retailers.
“I go to a golf shop, and I want a club that is going to be perfect for me,” he said. “So I go get fitted where I hit balls on a simulator, and the simulator offers me and the fitter feedback on my swing and the numbers I am getting. From there, we work on getting the perfect numbers by making the necessary adjustments on the club.”
Story said he read in a golf-specific magazine that many golfers have not been fitted, which means they could be hitting the ball much better.
“The average golfer isn’t fitted,” he said, “so they aren’t playing to their full potential.”
Lately, there has been some worry that maybe golf technology has become too much.
“Yes, people have argued that,” Story said, “but you have to consider there are more amateurs than tour professionals, so not everybody is going to hit the ball as far and as controlled as the pros. I think technology is good for the sport. As time goes on in the real world, technology is becoming used in more and more ways, so why not in golf?”