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Where ‘feel’ becomes ‘real’

The frustrating part about being a 10-handicapper is I can hit just enough good shots to think I can break 80 but — with the exception of a handful of rounds — lack the consistency to do so. Banging balls until my hands bleed hasn’t worked. Nor has reading instruction books, watching video tips or the occasional lesson on the range.

But maybe a robot could?

So I headed to Boccieri Golf in Scottsdale, an indoor facility that’s home to two of just 15 Robo Golf Swing Trainers in the world. Before hopping on that high-tech machine though, an on-site professional —Blake Isakson, in my case —put me through a brief physical evaluation and then watched me hit balls on a simulator while a TrackMan compiled my ball flight info.

We then moved over to another hitting bay where close to $200,000 of technology was waiting to perform an X-ray of sorts on my swing. In front of me was the Robo Golf Swing Trainer, a nine-foot tall, 1,000-pound machine controlled by Blake from a nearby computer. My hands gripped an iron that was attached to its arms. Under my feet was a SAM Balance Lab force plate that measured weight shift during the swing. Strapped to my upper body was a K-VEST with multiple but unobtrusive sensors that created a 3-D avatar of my swing. In front of me were computer screens showing the live output generated by the two latter contraptions.

The overall diagnosis? That physical evaluation revealed a limited mobility through my rotator cuffs — not good. That flaw doesn’t allow the top of my backswing to get as high as it should be, so Isakson programmed the robot to guide my arms to a slightly lower position — doing so enabled me to stay in a better posture. Then there was a rather inefficient weight shift revealed by the force plate I was standing on. When I lifted the golf club and my arms started to separate, my weight shifted to the toes of my feet — a perfect recipe for an over-the-top swing. That was addressed through some biofeedback obtained through the K-VEST in conjunction with the robot. It creates and emits an audio tone that only sounded when I got the club in the proper takeaway position halfway back and loaded my weight more efficiently into the right heel.

No tone? No good! Try again. Repeating the aforementioned process a dozen times started to reinforce the feel of the exact point where the club should be during the takeaway.

The best part of the session was making the “feel” become “real.” Isakson didn’t just talk at me with a torrent of indigestible information about spin rates, proper swing planes and obtuse geometric angles — he programmed the robot to help me get into the best positions to enhance the swing I was physically capable of making. For all the numbers generated by the high-tech set-up, Isakson distilled those down into a handful of understandable suggestions, all based on how my body moves. One session won’t get me on the PGA Tour, but return visits will reinforce the right swing positions enough that I’ll be able to bring those out on the course and remove a few strokes from the scorecard. It’s an eye-opening experience for beginners, scratch golfers and this 10-handicapper.

“The biggest thing we see on a daily basis is people come in here and leave with a much better understanding of what it is they do and why they do it,” said Isakson. “And they know what the corrections are needed in order to get better. That leads to neuromuscular re-patterning.”

“It really should be the simplest golf lesson you have every taken because we’re able to measure everything that happens in your golf swing,” he continued. “Then we can pinpoint the cause and effect, enabling us to then make the fewest amount of swing changes with the greatest impact.”

Lessons on the Robo Golf Swing Trainer at Boccieri Golf range from $175 for a one-hour session to $2,550 for a 2-day Boot Camp that includes 18 holes with an instructor. But here’s some good news: anyone can try it out for free during a 30-minute demo.

“That demo yields an almost 76 percent conversion rate to future lesson packages,” said CEO Stephen Boccieri. “The Robo Golf Swing Trainer is the next evolution of learning how to play. I think a true golfer is always looking to get better. That’s always been my primary goal. We golfers always think we can improve and this provides that opportunity.”

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