March 15, 2012

GolfTEC helps golfers perfect their game

After 40 years of playing golf, you might think Mitch Seals would be happy with – or at least resigned to living with – his backswing.

After 40 years of playing golf, you might think Mitch Seals would be happy with – or at least resigned to living with – his backswing.

But then you wouldn’t understand golfers, who enjoy tinkering with their technique and equipment nearly as much as the game itself.

That’s why Seals was at the new GolfTEC franchise on Rock Road this week, having his swing captured on high-speed video cameras and analyzed by motion-analysis software.

“I didn’t realize how flat my swing was," said Seals, secretary-treasurer of the Wichita Men’s Golf Association. “Now we’re getting it up where it’s supposed to be."

GolfTEC owners Rich Maril and Don Farquhar are betting that plenty of golfers will be willing to pay for the high-tech lessons. Maril is a longtime teaching pro who teamed with Farquhar, his former boss at Rolling Hills Country Club, to open the franchise last month.

Maril runs the GolfTEC facility, joined by another pro, Brent Beitler. Inside are three bays where clients hit balls into nets, receive instruction from Maril and Beitler and watch the results played back on video screens.

“Look at that, Mitch!" Maril said as they watched a playback of Seals’ improved backswing. “Can you believe it?

“I can talk until I’m blue in the face. … He sees it in 10 seconds on the video."

Maril said GolfTEC is a Centennial, Colo.-based operation with 159 franchises. While video is commonly used in golf instruction, GolfTEC’s swing analysis software is unique.

Clients whose swings are being evaluated are fitted with sensors that record their body movements. Diagrams showing what would be the correct movements are superimposed over the image, and the pro works with the client to make the former resemble the latter.

In addition to lessons, clients can book their own practice time in the bays, operating the video playback system on their own. Their lessons can also be reviewed at home via the Internet. GolfTEC also sells custom-fit clubs, using a ball launch monitor that measures ball rotation.

Another client, Dale Dvorak, said he was at GolfTEC trying to undo four years of questionable advice regarding his game.

“Out on the golf course, everybody’s got an opinion, you listen to everybody," Dvorak said. “This is the best money you can spend. He (Maril) will show you what you’re doing wrong and you can see it."

On Tuesday, Maril had Dvorak swinging while standing on two inflatable discs to improve his balance.

Prices range from $25 for 30 minutes in the practice bay up to $2,829 for the "Maximum Performance Plan," a year-long regimen of weekly lessons, practice sessions and more.

Maril said the franchise has been busy since opening Feb. 27, probably because he and Farquhar are well-known in the golfing community.

“We knew we had kind of a market before we opened," he said. “Wichita is a golf town. A lot of people play a lot of golf, and they definitely want to get better."

Maril, who has known he wanted to be a golf pro since he was 16 years old and has spent 37 years doing just that, clearly has lost none of his enthusiasm for the job.

“Since I’ve started working with this system, I’ve become a better teacher," Maril said. “I see more, and they (clients) see more."

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