Few things in life can match the exhilarating emotional highs and excruciating lows of golf. Both veteran and novice players know all too well that you're only as good as your last shot, and that the slightest modification to your stance, grip, or swing can make all the difference between a par performance and a painfully long afternoon in the bunkers.
For years, those determined either to learn the game or improve their own game found themselves making adjustments to their approach based on the guidance of their instructors, without really knowing what they were doing wrong, why the adjustment made it right, or how to retain what they'd learned when on the course alone. The advent of video recording technology finally made it possible for student golfers to see what their trained instructors saw and to adjust their approach accordingly. Even then, though, students were limited to watching themselves in action when at home or work in front of their TVs and VCRs.
Enter recordable DVD, with its crisp picture, frame-by-frame rewind and fast-forward functionality, and portability—qualities perfectly suited to the golfer committed to understanding the nuances of the "perfect" swing, chip, or putt. Once too costly and unproven for the average consumer or even the corporate user, DVD recording is on the verge of mainstream acceptance.
Consider that the Florida-headquartered David Leadbetter Golf Academies (DLGA), among the world's leading golf instruction facilities with 16 training academies in 13 countries, is an early adopter of the technology. This spring, DLGA's ChampionsGate Academy in Orlando began offering its students recordings of their lessons on DVD, and recently expanded the technology to three other U.S. facilities. According to founder David Leadbetter, the migration to DVD was simply a natural evolution. "We are constantly looking for new ways to incorporate the latest technology into our students' instruction," he explains. "As we did when we pioneered the use of video in golf instruction, we are once again offering our students the best technology solution" currently available.
Leadbetter's solution of choice is the Philips DVDR1000—the first-generation DVD recorder that made its debut last fall. Based on DVD+RW technology and designed to be compatible with both existing and future DVD-Video and DVD-ROM devices, Philips' silver-cased DVDR1000 allows users to record their own DVDs and play them on their laptops, home computers, or DVD-Video players, thus giving the discs a portable functionality, ease of use, and visual acuity not possible with VHS tapes.
Features of the DVDR1000 include a built-in TV tuner and AC-3 decoder/encoder for superior sound quality; variable bit-rate recording; Crystal Clear Pro Progressive Scan and Motion Adaptive Systems, which optimize and correct for artifacts for improved picture performance; and a digital i.Link data-transfer connection that allows users to seamlessly transfer camcorder footage to DVD. The device also is software-independent, allowing users to linear-edit footage on the recorder using the television as a display monitor. Finally, the recorder is designed to read a comprehensive array of media types, including DVD+RW, DVD-Video, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, S-VCD, and VCD discs. (The company's DVDR985, which began shipping in May, records to DVD+R discs as well.)
Plugging and Playing to Par
"DVD recording allows golfers to enjoy the same digital quality levels they enjoy on pre-recorded DVDs" such as movies or educational titles, says Leadbetter, a well-respected instructor with an impressive roster of former students, including Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, and Ernie Els. "Along with this comes the same functionality, so watching your swing in slow motion is no longer a problem. In addition, we want our students to be able to maximize their lessons after they leave the academy. The digital quality offered in DVD recording gives students a clearer way to view their lessons and to practice the proper techniques" that will improve their game.
Among other things, Leadbetter reports that students appreciate "the flexibility of being able to watch their golf game in the airport on their laptop, their office PC, or their home DVD player and share it with family and friends." Similarly, digital recording "allows students to compare their swing over the years as they continue to improve their game and build a life-long game"—a benefit not possible on VHS tapes, which degrade over time. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, DVD's index picture-screen feature "allows our students to quickly and easily find the most important parts of their lesson," Leadbetter explains. "We often find that our students utilize the summary portion of their lesson the most. With DVD, there is no fast-forwarding or rewinding to find the lesson summary."
It's in the Mechanics
DLGA has offered videotaped lessons to students for years with the goal of enhancing their students' experience by giving each a visual record of his or her performance and progress. The debut of DVD recording at the ChampionsGate facility earlier this year is the first phase of a partnership between DLGA and Philips Electronics to give students access to the latest technology solutions available. (A Web site linking DLGA's site with the Philips site is currently in development. Once launched, the site will provide consumers with Philips product information and details of the solution in place at select DLGA facilities.)
Currently, DLGA is using the DVDR1000 to transfer students' lessons onto a DVD+RW or DVD+R disc. DLGA instructors videotape each student's swing and their own analysis using a camcorder, then digitize the tape on academy computers. Students' lessons are then recorded to DVD in conjunction with previous recorded lessons or footage of golf professionals in action for comparison purposes. According to Leadbetter, all recording and transfers are conducted by DLGA staff, with Philips providing ongoing technical support.
"It was a natural fit for DLGA to move from VHS to DVD to preserve their students' golf lessons," says Marc Harmsen, DVD recording product manager for Philips Consumer Electronics, North America. "DVD recording is starting to move into the mainstream now, and we expect that the technology will be a hot gift item this holiday season. Now that the prices have come down and the recorders are available at most national retailers, consumers are really starting to take advantage of the benefits of recording on DVD versus VHS." Harmsen adds that a number of professional sports teams have begun using Philips' DVD recorders for training purposes as well. "Students have been asking for their lessons on DVD" for quite some time, Leadbetter confirms. Whether it's helped them become masters of their game remains to be seen.
(David Leadbetter Golf Academies, 1410 Masters Boulevard, Davenport, FL 33837; 888/633-5323; www.davidleadbetter.com. Philips Consumer Electronics, 64 Perimeter Center East, Atlanta, GA 31146; 800/531-0039; www.dvdrecorder.philips.com.)