Filming Your Golf Swing

The proper angles and camera positions to film your golf swing with modern technology.

This is an updated (and slimmed down) article to the original one here.

Filming Your Swing

Recording your swing from the proper angles is very important. Consistently filming your swing from the proper locations not only makes it easier for you to compare your swings against previous and future swings, but also makes it easier for others you might show your swing to (for example, to folks in the Member Swings forum or to an instructor) see what’s going on.

Two views are commonly used in looking at a golf swing. If you’ve watched golf on television, you’ll be familiar with them. They are the “Down the Line” view and the “Face-On” or “Caddie” view.

Here’s how to set up and record each. (Mentally replace the camera images with your iPhone 23 Pro if you don’t mind. 😀)

Face On (or “Caddie View”)
Face On

The Face-On or “Caddie View” video should be shot with a camera at roughly “hand height” (near the hips or a little bit lower than the belly button) square (perpendicular) to the golfer’s target line, and centered in the middle of the golfer’s stance. The golfer should likely be a bit lower than the center of the frame to allow for enough room above the golfer’s head to see the hands and at least a little bit of the shaft at the top of the backswing and enough room below the golfer’s feet to see the golf ball.

The camera should be between six to twelve feet from the golf ball. Too far away and not only will the golfer not fill the frame, but the shift in perspective makes some angles and positions tougher to see.

The best way to set the camera up for a Face On view is to use an alignment stick perpendicular to your target line in the exact middle of your stance. Set the camera right on that line, and the stick can double as a ball position aid as well.

The caddie view is illustrative in looking at the length of the golfer’s backswing, any movement side-to-side of his head, the location of weight at key positions, the low point of the club, and any casting of the club or flipping of the hands, among other things.

Down the Line
Down the Line

The Down the Line view is a bit trickier to set up consistently. Again, the camera should be at roughly “hand height.” Of course, rather than being square (perpendicular) to the target line, the camera should be aimed parallel to the target line, as illustrated by the three red lines above. The golfer should be in the left-center of the frame with a little room above his head and below his feet.

Though many are tempted to put the camera ON the target line out where the ball is, centering the ball in the video, this isn’t helpful as it puts the golfer completely to the side of the video, wasting resolution and providing a poor angle for almost every phase of the golf swing due to parallax.

The absolute best position for the camera shooting Down the Line video is parallel to the target line along the rear foot’s big toe – the left-most red line in the image above (and where the green shading is the brightest). A camera pointed parallel to the target line and halfway between the ball and the toes is acceptable but not ideal. Finally, a camera positioned directly behind the ball (the right-most red line) – regardless of how perfectly parallel it may be to the target line – is not very helpful at all as it will distort almost every phase of the golf swing (including the position of the club shaft and head).

The camera should be between eight to twelve feet from the golf ball. Too close and things may be distorted as the club’s arc can get awfully close to the camera during the backswing and downswing.

Yes, if your stance is slightly open or closed, both sets of toes won’t be on the line of the camera. That’s fine, and in fact helpful, as many players have slightly open or closed stances. The best way to set the camera up for a Down the Line view is to use an alignment stick just in front of your toes, parallel to the target line, and to set the camera just inside that stick line.

The down the line view is illustrative of a golfer’s swing plane, his shoulder pitch at the top of the backswing, his setup and balance, his trail knee and footwork, and his head and butt positions, among other things.

Importance of Consistency

Framerates on Modern Technology

Most people have a brilliant camera in their pockets, as the modern smart phone can record HD video at 120 or 240 or even higher frames per second.

For all but the shots or situations listed below, we recommend that you record video at about 200-300 frames per second. Any less and you’ll miss subtle movements and you could miss impact by several inches. Any more and, unless you’re really looking to document something very small or intricate, and you’re just taking up more space and making playback take much longer than necessary. We also recommend recording in at least 720p video, with little need for 4K video at any frame rate (unless you’re recording a swing to print out at a large size or something!). The golf swing is, after all, a fast-moving thing with little time to stop and appreciate the pixels. (This recommendation will likely be outdated several years from now, as technology continues to advance, though there are limits to what the human eye can perceive, too.)

Situations in which you may want to scale back the frame rate include:

  • When you’re looking to see the “rhythm” or “flow” of a shot.
  • Shorter shots like pitches, chips, etc. which have rhythm/flow but which also have less overall intricacy, and less speed.
  • Beginner golf swings with larger, more obvious errors (120 or even 60 FPS is often plenty).
  • When you’re trying to save disk or storage space. We still record videos at 240 FPS, but with lower resolution than HD because we record thousands of swings per year and the file sizes add up quickly.

Lighting

GOOD lighting is important. Though a camera recording at 240 FPS could have a “shutter speed” or “exposure time” of each frame of up to 1/240th of a second to properly expose the image in each frame, more light allows the shutter speed/exposure time to be much shorter.

We installed several lights in our academy to record video at 1/1000th of a second, which is very nearly the bare minimum shutter speed we recommend. Outdoors, even on a cloudy day, modern cameras are able to achieve 1/1000th or faster quite easily, but indoors some individuals will have a hard time getting 1/500th or so.

Why is this important? Because at higher shutter speeds, not only do we see the smaller motions, but objects are less blurry. If you’re trying to look at the leading edge of the clubface at A6/P6, you’ll see it pretty clearly at 1/2000th of a second, and you’ll barely be able to tell where the clubhead is at 1/500th, let alone make out the leading edge.

Get a Tripod

GorillapodIn addition to a camera, there are a few other accessories you may want to buy.

Some sort of tripod, or a phone clip that attaches to an alignment stick, are absolute musts. Your tripod could be anything from the $30 Gorillapod (shown at right), which can attach to a push cart, a golf car, your driver, etc. to a more expensive tripod. If you’re in a pinch, search the Internet for “bottle cap tripod.”

The purpose of a tripod? There are two. The first is to keep your video stable, so that any movement you see is due to the movement you’re doing, not the camera person moving as they record your swing. Second, and perhaps most importantly, to get the proper angles, particularly height. Without a tripod, many will resort to recording swings by setting their phone on the ground.

Want to Improve? Check out the X Mount

Check out the X Mount – the solution to recording your golf swing (and more) with your phone.

Protosports Holster
I’m sometimes asked why I got into golf instruction, and the answer is very simple. I am passionate about the game, and by helping others, and improving their ability to play the game, I am acting as an ambassador for the game of golf, and bringing a little bit more joy to the lives of others.

One of my favorite sub-forums on the forum section of our site is the Member Swings sub-forum. In here, forum members post videos of their golf swings, drills, putting, and more, and the knowledgeable members of the forum along with my co-owner Mike McLoughlin and myself help them out.

There’s a common saying in the world of photography that the best camera is the one you’ve got with you, and more and more, smart phones these days are equipped with some pretty decent cameras capable of capturing good video at high frame rates. My iPhone 5S, for example, records 720P video at 120 FPS, and I’ve always got my phone with me.

Filming Your Golf Swing

Technology is a wonderful thing, and with all due respect to Vijay Singh, it can help you quite a bit.

Casio FH25Vijay Singh was once famously quoted for saying that he doesn’t look at his swing on video because he’d be tempted to make it look pretty rather than focusing on building a swing that works. This quote is often used by people trying to justify why they won’t record their swing or buy a camera.

Unfortunately, Vijay’s quote was taken out of context, misunderstood, or was simply untrue. Singh has used high-speed cameras to record his swing for years and maintains a large library of his videos. While practicing, he often has his caddie or others record his swing, and will stop to look at things and make adjustments.

I think that what Vijay Singh was trying to say is that he values function over form. That’s fine – and something virtually every good golfer has in common. And while it’s true that form follows function in the golf swing, the opposite is also true: function follows form. A high-speed video camera is a useful, valid tool in improving both the form and function of your swing.

Ball Flight Laws

For decades golfers have employed an incorrect understanding of why the ball flies the way it does. Science has set things straight, but many golfers remain unaware.

For decades, golf instructors have been teaching the ball flight laws incorrectly. Many blame the PGA Teaching Manual, and have said that it has contained some incorrect or incomplete information pertaining to a golf ball’s flight. These pros – from Butch Harmon to Nick Faldo – often state the ball flight laws as follows: “The golf ball starts on the direction of the swing path and curves back to where the clubface was aimed at impact.”

Put another way, many instructors and famous golfers have stated that the swing path is the primary determinant of the golf ball’s starting direction. This information is wrong, and it’s slowly coming to be understood as such in recent years. Unfortunately, many golfers – famous or otherwise – and instructors – famous or otherwise – still believe these outdated and incorrect ball flight laws.

The Instructor Quiz: Nine Questions You’ve Gotta Ask

How to avoid wasting your time and money: put your instructor through this simple quiz.

There are a lot of golf instructors out there. Many of them are qualified, intelligent instructors with the best of intentions. They want to help you, they want to see you improve, and they enjoy doing it.

Unfortunately, intentions don’t always translate into ability, and there are a good number of instructors out there who may not be helping their students as much as they’d like.

Over the last few years I have become increasingly frustrated with feedback I have received from students who have taken lessons from seemingly “qualified” instructors. In this era of the Internet and YouTube, I have also had the chance to view a large number of videos and read many instructional articles online and, again, it seems that much of the information is misleading at best. Because of this I took the time to devise a short nine-question “test” for golf instructors.

I would like to point out upfront that I, and all the instructors at my academy, teach based on the 5 Simple Keys®… but all of the questions and answers are the same for any efficient method of swinging the golf club.

Stack and Tilt vs. Power Pivot: A Conversation

Read the debate between Stack and Tilt versus the “classic” golf swing, as discussed by T.M. O’Connell and Dave Wedzik.

Aaron BaddeleyA few years ago, two instructors made a large splash in the relatively small pond of golf instruction when they shared their thoughts on what was perceived by many to be a radical new way to swing the golf club.

Though Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett studied the moves of some of the greatest golfers in history, including Ben Hogan, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and others, the The Stack and Tilt golf swing was rejected by virtually every known teacher as a fad. It was tarnished with “that’s a reverse pivot” and “you’ll hurt your back with that reverse C finish.” Mudslinging, golfers discovered, wasn’t just for politics anymore.

In the years since, the Stack and Tilt golf swing has gained a steady following on the PGA Tour. Some high-profile names “gave up” on the swing, but many more higher-profile players have joined the ranks as well. What’s more, the violent reaction a lot of “traditional” instructors have had to the Stack and Tilt move has subsided and allowed for some real study, and many instructors who take the time to understand the swing have come to see that it’s not as different as they once thought.

On October 15, 2009 we held a chat between Stack and Tilt instructor David Wedzik and The Sand Trap‘s own T.M. O’Connell, Swing Check columnist and author of “Golf’s Not Hard.” Dave Wedzik just opened the first Stack and Tilt certified academy. T.M. O’Connell is a proponent of what he calls the classic move with a “Power Pivot.”

The chat was a revealing one, and given the popularity of The Sand Trap‘s lone article on S&T from 2007, I suspect a lot of you out there may benefit from reading it.

Scorecard Golf Statistics Software Now at 2.0

Track your statistics to get better at golf.

ScorecardThis is one of our off weeks from doing the Golf Talk podcast, so I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about the recent release of some golf statistics software – Scorecard – which was just bumped to version 2.0 with some well-requested features.

In the interest of disclosure, I’m a partial owner of the software company that makes Scorecard as well as one of the developers/designers for the software. It’s not free ($29.95, or $14.95 for upgrades from 1.x), and thus, I make a bit of money from the sales of Scorecard.

As I said, Scorecard 2.0 was just released with several user-requested features, including full nine-hole support for both statistics and handicap calculation, per-hole user notes (so you can document what clubs you hit or anything else you’d like), and graphing of over 35 statistics (with markers).

A Few Months Later: Stack and Tilt

Stack and Tilt: a fad or a little bit closer to a universal golf truth? We’d like your feedback.

Aaron BaddeleyThree simple words – Stack and Tilt – have done about as much to turn the world of golf instruction upside down as anything in recent memory.

It’s the move that led the U.S. Open through three rounds this year. It’s the move that’s led to the resurgence of the careers of a number of pros, including former Masters champ Mike Weir. It’s a move pros have been adopting in quantity, and a move amateurs have been adopting with sometimes remarkable success.

It’s also been a few months since the Golf Digest article first hit newsstands. I postulated that a lot of the early success amateurs were experiencing was simply a result of a temporary short-circuiting of their brain and that, eventually, the old swing flaws would return. Perhaps that was a bit short-sighted…

Almost Everything I Know About Making Putts

I also know that 90% of putts left short don’t go in, but you probably already heard that one from Yogi Berra.

PuttingA member of our forum, after noticing that my putting stats are pretty good, asked me what tips I could offer to help others become a better putter. After thinking about it, I realized that being a “good putter” is more about the sum of the parts than any individual part. So, I wrote back to the forum member and said “I’ll write something up in the future and post it for all to see.”

This is the answer to that question. I can’t promise that this will help everyone become a great putter – though I believe great putters are made, not born – because this process is mine. Still, a piece or two can likely be adapted to fit anyone, and I encourage comments from others about the different things they do to make themselves good putters.