Note to readers: This is the third article in a seven-part series on the different aspects of golf and improving a player’s game.
HILLSIDE – Jake Thurm has a graveyard in his office.
The PGA professional and lead instructor at Fresh Meadow Golf and Learning Center in west suburban Hillside uses high tech software in V1 Pro, TrackMan and FlightScope to analyze his students’ swings on a large high definition monitor.
A photo of him working with a prized pupil and a black and white photo of Ben Hogan hang on the beige walls of the office which is roughly the size of a large walk in closet.
Yet, there’s the lonely corner where the graveyard, Thurm’s nickname for an old golf bag where instant fix gizmos and trinkets that students bought for guaranteed game improvement go to die.
“Students will come in and hand me their supposed game improvement devices and tell me they don’t need them anymore,” Thurm said. “Because everyone has a different body and different learning style, there’s no way there can be a training device that is fit for all swings. Technology has proven there’s no one perfect swing plane.”
With the zeal of someone who just figured out the solution to a complex problem that always confounded them, Thurm quickly double clicks on his mouse to show PGA Tour player Bubba Watson’s steep swing plane with his driver.
Then, a clip of David Duval when he was at his peak. With an extra strong grip, completely closed club face pointed to the sky at the top and a bowed left wrist, Duval hit a fade.
Both break the previously established standards of golf swing teaching, with Watson’s incredibly steep downswing yet still managing to swing up with his driver and Duval hitting a fade despite a closed club face.
Technology has allowed the golf swing to be slowed down to fractions of seconds. No longer must an instructor guess or use the naked eye to judge what is taking place when the club face comes in contact with the golf ball.
That split second, quicker than the blink of an eye, can be recorded, watched, magnified and repetitively viewed to illustrate what’s really taken place at impact.
“Golf instruction is about cleaning up misconceptions,” Thurm said. “Because there’s a lot of them out there amongst all players from high handicappers to scratch golfers. Even professionals struggle with what we now know. It’s only been recently that we know 100 percent what the ball does. It was always a matter of opinion.
“I record players at every single lesson regardless of handicap. TrackMan and FlightScope has been a game changer in the world of golf instruction. They’ve shown the true ball flight physics.”
Future waves of technological advancement have Thurm just as giddy when it comes to new ways to improve his methods and his student’s knowledge of their golf swing. 3D motion capture technology will provide depth to a two-dimensional image and Swing Catalyst technology can measure the force with which a golfer pushes down on the ground and the ground in turn pushes back at the student.
Even though he’s armed with the kinesiology and physics of the golf swing, Thurm doesn’t sounds like a professor at a lesson. He’ll teach to a player’s strengths. The former Bulls and Bears players he’s coached simply want their body parts put in positions to succeed. So, Thurm is hands on. Moving elbows, hands, bending knees or holding the player’s head in place.
A more analytic mind, an engineer for example, wants the data; a given explanation for what’s going on so that it can be processed.
“I learned sounding smart doesn’t make anyone better at golf,” Thurm said. “I can get a players path to the right simply by using noetic images. I understand the physics but if I am coaching someone that’s played baseball, I might tell them to point the club at the left field foul pole and then draw a red stripe down to first base. Now, they’re on a path to hit a draw without doing any physics.”
As a student Jake Thurm always asked why.
His teachers and mentors constantly fielded his questions.
“Any teacher that couldn’t answer why or told me that’s just the way it is I’d run from,” Thurm said. “Find an instructor that can answer your question and do so in a way that will maximize your potential as a player.”
Thurm can be reached at email@example.com or at the Fresh Meadow Learning Center at 708-449-6767. His Twitter musings vary from the instructional physics of the golf swing to the whimsical when he hears outdated golf commentary on a telecast.
“I’m the worst guy in the world to watch golf with,” quipped Thurm, whose Twitter handle is @JakeThurmGolf. “I’m mostly teaching so people are spared of my commentary.”