Friday, August 1, 2003
Become A Swing Machine
Say hello to Iron Byron. It has the only perfect swing on the planet. That?s why everyone should be copying itWant a 300-yard drive? No problem for Iron Byron. It can hit it right down the middle all day long. How about a 60-yard wedge shot? Just set it up to the ball, and that’s exactly what you’ll get, time after time. It has the only perfect swing on the planet. That’s why almost every major golf equipment manufacturer has used it to test the performance of their products and why everyone should be learning how to copy this machine.
It all began way back in 1963. A man named Gurdon Leslie, who was a Vice President of True Temper at the time, thought that having some kind of mechanical golfer to hit balls would be a good way to test the new shafts they were developing. Other golf ball-hitting machines had been developed in the past, but none of these had ever replicated a human swing or used an actual club. So, he asked the folks at the Battelle Memorial Institute, a research and development facility in Ohio, to build him the perfect swing machine.
Heading up the project was a 28-year-old mechanical engineer named George Manning. I’ve actually had the privilege of speaking with George, and the story he tells of how Iron Byron was “born” is fascinating. His first step was to figure out what exactly was the “perfect swing.” To do this, he and his team captured the swings of many top pros on film using high-speed cameras. They also measured the various stresses that each pro put on their shafts in order to determine who was making the most efficient use of their swing energy. After months of analysis, it became clear that the machine should be designed to copy the swing of golfing legend Byron Nelson—hence the name “Iron Byron.” Even though Byron was in his 50s by this time and had been retired from competition since 1947, he still hit shots with machine-like consistency. George could stand in the middle of the test range, 220 yards from the tee, while Byron hit his 2-iron, and catch every single ball on the first bounce. That’s what I call machine-like consistency!
After two years of hard work, and at a cost of $250,000 (a lot of money in those days), the first mechanical golfer was ready for action. True Temper actually called it their Golf Club Testing Device. In 1966, George moved to True Temper and teamed up with Bob Bush, another young engineer, to fine-tune and market the machine. In the years that followed, Bush continued to evolve the design, but the hitting mechanism remained surprisingly similar to the first prototype. The picture above is a more recent version, with a sturdier base and improved pneumatics. True Temper’s vision of using this machine to improve golf equipment design and performance has become a reality with the installation of almost 40 Iron Byron worldwide. Though its primary purpose is to test golf equipment, I’ll explain how the machine can also be used to give you the perfect swing—a combination of consistency, accuracy, power and control.
Three Key Elements to A Perfect Swing
You’d think that designing a machine to replicate the swing of a human would turn out to be a pretty complex thing, but Manning and his team were able to build something conceptually quite simple. It has three key elements:
1. Circular Body Rotation
The source of power is a drive cylinder that rotates in a circular motion to mimic the coiling and uncoiling of the human torso.
2. Unrestricted Hinge
It has a hinge at the end of a rigid arm that moves freely to mimic the cocking and uncocking of the human wrists.
3. Constant Forward Tilt
The drive cylinder remains at a fixed angle to the ground to mimic the spine angle that should be maintained by golfers throughout the swing.
Circular Body Rotation
The Iron Byron has a drive cylinder that rotates to the right in order to get the club to the top of the backswing and rotates to the left during the downswing. Your torso is the human equivalent of this drive cylinder. You rotate your shoulders to the right in order to start your torso coiling into the backswing, and you rotate your hips to the left to uncoil your torso during the downswing.
The drive cylinder of the machine is powered by a pneumatic motor. Attached to this drive cylinder is a rigid metal arm. It has no power of its own; it can’t move unless the drive cylinder is moved by the pneumatic motor. What’s the implication for your swing? Your arms must also remain powerless during the swing; they shouldn’t move unless you start to coil or uncoil your torso.
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