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Thursday, March 22, 2007


Equipment: Sonic Golf brings sound to game !

Some say golf is a game of feel. If Dr. Robert Grober has his way, golf will be more a game of sound.

"Dr. Robert Grober shows how the Sonic Golf
system impacts the swing."
Grober developed the technology behind Sonic Golf, a system that translates each golfer's swing into a series of audible tones that reflect speed and tempo. By listening to the sounds generated during the swing, a golfer can more easily make changes, resulting in dramatic improvements for beginning golfers and easy tweaking for advanced players.

"It works across the whole spectrum," Grober said. "Good golf swings are rhythmic, whereas a beginner's swing is not rhythmic. Generally a rhythmic golf swing gets closer to the swing plane and is more consistent."

Grober, a physics professor at Yale, has spent more than a decade researching the golf swing. The Sonic Golf system that he uses with everyone from new golfers to PGA Tour pros utilizes a sensor that can be installed in the grip of a club. With the information about the swing that the sensor generates, sound is transferred to wireless headphones that the golfer wears. The feedback helps the golfer adjust the swing; results can be seen in as little as 20 minutes.

"One thing that's really integral to our whole mission is that we reduce this complex concept to something that's really accessible," said Tony Allen, CEO for Sonic Golf. "Golfers can get penalized by having 400 swing thoughts. With Sonic Golf, they can put on the headphones and that melts away. The biomechanics are simple and accessible."

Unlike most amateurs, pros already have a good idea of tempo.

"One of many things that separates Tiger Woods from the rest of us is his tempo," Allen said. "He takes 1.8 seconds to hit a driver, and he takes 1.8 seconds to hit a wedge. A swing that's repetitive and consistent is the hallmark of a tour player."

So, professionals tend to get different benefits from using Sonic Golf, primarily in how well their transition is timed.

"There's a quiet spot in the transition at the top of the swing,"

Allen said. "They can hear if they're rushing it, hear if they've made a nice turn. I expect to start seeing more pros out on the range with headphones on."

The company plans to release a version of the Sonic Golf system that users can purchase for their own use. Interested golfers will be able to purchase a club already outfitted with the sensor, or can buy the sensor for their own clubs. Plus, Allen says the company is working with a major grip manufacturer to have grips that will open for easy insertion and removal of the device.

"If you regrip with those grips, you can use it very easily," Allen said. "There are a number of different manufacturers talking about back-weighting grips; a lot of people are thinking about what goes on in the back of the grip. That works out well for us. (The shaft maker) had this as an ongoing project of their own."

But you won't find Sonic Golf in your nearby off-course retailer -- at least, not yet.

"You can't just take an idea to Golfsmith or Golf Galaxy and have them sell it," Allen said. "They need to see customer pull, have the customers request it. We need to build that level of demand on our own."

To do so, Sonic Golf will take full advantage of internet marketing.

Its web site, at www.sonicgolf.com, will take orders for the $299 system when it is available in early summer. Internet-based advertising and plenty of online Flash video so potential buyers can see just how the product works are a big part of the mix.

The company is also getting attention from media, including science and golf publications. An upcoming "Science of Golf" series that will air on the Golf Channel in five parts features Dr. Grober and the device.

"They interviewed Dr. Grober for the special to get one quick sound bite, but they ended up coming up and spending six hours going out to the range," Allen said. "Two-and-a-half solid minutes (of the special) are devoted to Dr. Grober and our device. They give a very vivid, clear explanation of how this works."

Sonic Golf is likely to appeal to teaching professionals, too, as another way to get across their messages about swing changes.

"Sonic Golf is what has been missing in golf instruction - the ability to teach timing and tempo - which is the glue that holds the whole swing together," says Randy Burkhardt, Buick Golf's PGA teaching professional, in a testimonial on the company's web site.

That's one of the main reasons why Grober is so excited to promote his invention.

"Most people teach golf position to position, then you go out on the range and try to generate that position. This completely changes the focus," he says.

For information on Sonic Golf, see www.sonicgolf.com.

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