If there’s one thing that struggling golfers can almost always benefit from, it’s a reality check.
Even for a mildly accomplished player like myself — I hover around scratch — I often find myself seeking out eureka moments to help get myself back on track.
Enter a new offering from Rapsodo mobile launch monitors that helps you identify where your game is weakest and what you need to work on. (If you’re unfamiliar with Rapsodo’s mobile units, you can check out our review right here).
The new feature, called “Performance Combines,” is available to Rapsodo’s premium subscribers and runs users through a series of 24 shots to determine their strengths and flaws while, as the company describes it, offering “advanced insight into what should be adjusted in order to progress their skills.”
Advanced insight! I had to try this app for myself.
But first a bit more on how it works:
The 24 shots are split into three challenges: you hit eight balls each to two different target yardages and also eight tee shots.
You can choose the two target distances yourself or let the device select it based on your handicap. The app intentionally selects yardages it doesn’t expect you to practice all that often. In my case, I was assigned 50 yards and 209 yards (gulp).
When the test is complete, you’re issued a Combine Report, which gives a score of 0 to 100. The formula for the score was created by biomechanist and Rapsodo advisor Dr. Sasho MacKenzie, with consulting advice from GOLF Top 100 Teacher Mark Blackburn. To create the feature, MacKenzie leaned on 100,000 shots of data from the PGA Tour and 20-plus years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels.
The test takes about 15-20 minutes, and there are tips you should follow to ensure you’re getting the best experience. The session offers you a few warm-up shots to find your targets and make sure the device is properly aligned. I’d suggest hitting a few practice shots using the “Practice” mode first to dial in your positioning to the unit and its alignment.
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Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor
The other key is trying to visualize a target down the range at your assigned yardages. This can be tricky, given some ranges don’t have targets in a straight line to which you can align the launch monitor. My suggestion is to find a line that has two distinctive points at your selected yardage targets. Unfortunately, I didn’t come to this realization until midway through my test!
Now, to my humbling results:
I started with the long ball, and it wasn’t pretty. I felt like I was snap-hooking every shot left off the toe, perhaps swinging too hard in an effort to impress my launch monitor.
But my score for driving, presumably in part due to my length, averaging 295 yards a pop, actually was respectable a 69.2, or the skill-level equivalent of a 3.9 handicap. This was a few ticks higher than my handicap, but much closer than what I thought it would be, especially considering how poorly I was swinging.
My score from 209 yards was more troubling.
I scored a 55.3 and all but one swing with a 4-iron came up woefully short. The only ball I caught remotely solid was a dead pull.
Perhaps I was working too fast or perhaps, as was the case with my driver, I was swinging too hard. It’s laughable that I was debating hitting a 5-iron for this yardage (you choose which clubs you want to use for each yardage ahead of the combine).
What really shocked, though, was my performance on 50-yard shots. Where I was on my driving range and where I had the unit lined up, I didn’t have a specific 50-yard target at which to aim — and the results showed that. My score: A dismal 45.8, or what a 19.1 handicap would be expected to score. Ouch!
I trust my short game from inside 30 yards but have long had a gap in my confidence from between 40 to 80 yards. The app confirmed this with cold, hard data; my average proximity to the hole was 15 feet whereas the average for someone with my handicap is 6.3 feet. Clearly, I struggle with half- and three-quarter wedges, where I’m too far away to spin the ball, but too close to hit a basic chip or pitch shot. There was one positive — three of my four closest shots were my final three shots — but there’s also no doubt now where I need to focus my practice.
My overall score (drum roll, please) was a humbling 59.9, which suggests my skill level is roughly equal to that of a 10 handicap. I know my game can be inconsistent from tee-to-green, but yikes!
But, really, the big takeaway was how much I can focus on parts of my game that don’t get as much practice, such as long irons and short-distance wedges. For the record, I tried another combine with custom yardages, choosing 70 yards and 180 yards (aka a stock 7-iron for me), and despite not feeling like I pured every shot, scored a 65.8, or the approximate score of a 6.1 handicap — still not great, but just changing to more comfortable yardages made a huge difference.
The Performance Combine feature is available to Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor users with a premium subscription, which costs $99.99 a year and can be purchased in the app. You can pick up an MLM device for $499.99 in the GOLF.com Pro Shop.