New technology gives hope to golf's duffers

Technology aids golfers with bad swings.

A new system that cobbles together technology and software smarts is putting golfers' swings under the microscope - well in this case two digital video cameras - in order to lift their handicaps.

Called Ignite Golf, the technology is designed to let teaching pros use a visual aid to help students better improve their golf techniques.

"It is a tool for making you a better teacher," explained Ignite Golf Director Stephen Liddle. "We have to sell to teachers before students. As far as golf pro is concerned it gives him his holy grail."

Ignite Golf comprises a mobile teaching unit and a Web site that allows students to communicate with the teaching pros, as well as view and manage their accounts.

Each mobile unit contains an HP Pavilion DV6000 notebook running Windows Vista; a 22 inch LCD screen; two high speed CCT TV cameras, chosen because they can operate at 1-10,000 shutter speeds; a wireless LAN, Telstra Next G cards, and video analysis software.

When a student swings a club, the cameras capture that action from two angles. Each swing is recorded as a three second file: 2 seconds pre hitting the ball and 1 second post.

Each file, approximately 1.5MB in size, is uploaded using the 3G network to the Ignite server. From there the teaching pro brings up the footage and shows the golf swing to the student. The footage is saved as AVI files and is uploaded to the student's profile. By running the custom built software against the action of the swing, decisions can be made to improve the golfer's technique. The video analysis software also contains captured footage of the swings of Tour golfers, allowing the amateurs a glimpse of how they stack up with the professionals.

"So if I wanted to compare against Stuart Appleby with a 6 iron from the back view, I click on that [footage] and Stuart appears and I can compare my swing to him," Liddle said.

"We can pick up a line and say 'you should be looking at this, are you staying on plane etc'. And students can keep a whole history of what is gong on."

Having the 3G cards installed means instant connectivity for both the teachers and the students, said Liddle. If a student logs into the Ignite Web site to book a lesson they can find the availability of their teacher. If the teacher is free, they can book in a session and the teacher - despite being away from the 'office' - will immediately receive that information.

"Our management system conducts all of their business," he said.

"In essence, what we are doing is giving all the tools to all of our networked professionals in Australia, giving them all the training on how to utilize the program and add value to their lessons. And for us, as a golf marketing company, to be able to push business back to them via the internet with our online booking system."

Liddle said getting Ignite Golf to this stage has taken about seven years, with the past two years largely the beta period.

Although he had the idea, Liddle found there was no system in place to do what he wanted it to do. So, with the help of developers, he decided to build the video analysis software and online management system himself.

"My philosophy is if you build a really good academy with good facilities, it introduces new people all the time. And keeps regular people coming through. So I took the goal of taking teaching as far as I could.

This units are worth about $13,000 each, but are not for sale. Instead, they are licensed to the golf pros on a weekly basis.

Ignite Golf is available across Australia. Liddle said the goal for this year is to take it to South Africa, the UK and then the US, China, Korea and Japan.

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