FORE!!!! With a Little Bit of Help

It's time to dust off the old golf clubs and, for many of us, prepare for a season of high handicaps and frustration. But, by using a few devices ranging from high tech to simple exercises, we can cut or eliminate the season-long cursing and club-throwing incidents.

The Swing Wizard ($149.95) from Wizard golf combines a few simple elements - - - and a bit of dedication - - - to help you "groove" your swing to hit the perfect shot.

Invented by Keith Rogers, a former high handicapper, the Swing Wizard consists of two seven irons attached at the grip creating a single club with two heads and a couple of aiming sticks. The theory here is to retrain yourself so you develop a more accurate back swing and follow through. Because the club has two heads, you get to see how the club face lines up to your target as you swing. The aiming sticks are used to show you the plane of your swing toward the target with the objective being for the club heads to align with the sticks.

Do this enough times and you begin to feel more comfortable with your reconstructed swing so that it becomes more natural - - - and habitual.

Rogers recommends warming up with the Swing Wizard for about five minutes before hitting the links in place of taking practice swings with a normal golf club.

The M-Tracer Golf Swing Analyzer ($299.99) from Epson breaks down your swing using data analysis, instantly reporting the results to Apple or Android devices.

The M-Edge is a small device that attaches to the grip of a golf club and captures the details of your swing at a rate of 1,000 samples per second, accurate to a tenth of a degree. It then takes this data and instantly delivers a report showing:

  • Your swing path
  • The impact zone (where the club strikes the ball)
  • Your swing tempo
  • The speed and distance of each shot, which can also be helpful in deciding what type of golf ball is best to use

The Android or iPhone M-Tracer mobile app can store up to 200 swings. But, if you really want to compare data, you can wirelessly upload your analyses to the M-Tracer View website, which can store up to 3,000 swings.

The Optishot 2 Golf Simulator ($499.95) was designed for those of use that need to have a bit of fun while we're learning.

Basically the Optishot 2 resembles the much larger golf simulators we've seen at indoor golf ranges or arcades that allow us to "play" various courses we've seen professional golfers play. The big differences here are the cost of ownership and the system's ability to analyze every aspect of your swing as you play.

The package consists of a turf mat, a DVD with 15 courses and the swing analysis software, a rubber tee, a USB cable and a foam rubber ball. It's designed to be used indoors, which brings us to our first - - - and only - - - problem: You need to use it in a room or garage with 8.5-foot ceilings to allow you to take a full swing.

Once you've set it up you can either project the courses and see your swing analysis on a computer or TV screen or you can project the images onto a wall or sheet.

The Optishot 2 is designed to analyze all of the aspects of your swing - - - from swing speed, accuracy and ball speed to shot shape and club face contact in the hitting area. You are able to see the results of the analysis instantly as you watch your "ball" fly down the fairway or roll into the cup.

One of the most impressive features of this system is that you don't need to use a ball. The analyzer simply records your stroke as the club face moves through the impact zone.

On the gaming front, the Optishot 2 tries to recreate every hole on every course as accurately as possible. This includes ambient "natural sounds" and the ability to change weather conditions for each course. You can also specify which type of game you want to play, whether it be stroke play, "skins" or alternate shots.

Twenty-three additional courses can also be downloaded for $29.95 each.

Of course, the effectiveness of any of these devices depends on how the data is used and your determination in improving your game.

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