FocusBand Review

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50 Words or Less

FocusBand is a training aid that measures your brain activity so you can play in a calm state of mind.

Introduction

If you watch Jason Day’s pre-shot routine carefully, you’ll notice that he stands behind the ball and appears to take a short nap, his eyelids fluttering in a near-closed position.  The reason?  He’s trying to get his brain into a state of mushin or “no mind,” clearing away his swing thoughts and simply being aware of his body and surroundings.  This is the result of his training with FocusBand, one of the hottest new training aids on the PGA Tour.

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Ease of Use & Set Up

The FocusBand is a black headband that pairs with your smart phone or tablet to measure your brain activity.  Pairing it with your device and getting a good signal isn’t difficult, but it’s not seamless.  It worked well with my iPad but was less cooperative with my iPhone.

This is not an idiot-proof training aid.  The app is good, but if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish, you can easily get frustrated.  FocusBand does offer live customer support, and it’s likely something you’ll need to take advantage of if you’re not using FocusBand with your coach.

Finally, FlightScope users can integrate FocusBand into their XV app.  This integration is extremely well done, easy to use, and helpful.
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Effectiveness

There are three questions to answer in judging the efficacy of FocusBand.

1 – Does FocusBand actually measure your brain activity?

I’ll be honest, I desperately wanted to bust the Focusband as being a bunch of sci-fi, woo-woo nonsense, but after extensive testing, I do believe that FocusBand actually measures something meaningful in your brain activity.  When I was calm, my avatar registered calm.  When I was thinking about flexing and extending my left wrist during the swing, the app lit up in bright red.

While I do believe that FocusBand is capable of getting the binary measurement of “calm vs anxious” correct, what I don’t know is how accurate the “score” is.  While you’re using it, you register a score from 0-100, displayed as dark red to dark green with all the shades in between.  I have no way to know how precise these measurements are, but, again, I do think it’s accurate in the broad sense of measuring calm or anxious.
2 – Is getting into “mushin” helpful for your golf game?

The simple answer here is that I don’t know.  On one hand, the answer seems to be yes, but I can also make the argument that there are lots of ways to play golf well and lots of personality types that have had success at the highest level.  Again, I don’t have the data to make the case one way or the other.

For my testing, I paired the FocusBand with FlightScope and hit a bunch of shots.  I hit good shots while in mushin, I hit bad shots in mushin.  I hit good shots while thinking swing thoughts, I hit bad shots while thinking swing thoughts.  Perhaps I’m not good enough to realize the benefits of mushin or maybe I need a bigger sample size.  Bottom line: I have no definitive data on this question yet.

3 – Can FocusBand actually teach you to achieve mushin?

Yes, I think that using the FocusBand with the training app is one way to learn to calm your mind.  As with learning anything else, having feedback is important, and the FocusBand provides that.  On the other hand, it could be true that simply meditating for an equal amount of time would give you the same results.  Again, without data I can’t make a definitive claim.

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Longevity

The FocusBand is truly a mixed bag on the longevity front.  The biggest positive is the multitude of ways that it can be used.  There’s the basic training app, FlightScope integration, and an app that allows your coach to measure your brain activity while you play (this usage got particularly high praise from Matt Jones, a FocusBand user and coach).

There are some downsides to FocusBand as well.  First, wearing a headband on the range is weird.  You can all tell your screens, “I don’t care what other people think,” but we both know that’s a lie.  Even though I’ve done it hundreds of times with different crazy training aids, I don’t like being the guy on the range that everyone is pointing at and talking about, and wearing the FocusBand will definitely get you that treatment to a certain extent.

Beyond that, the app is average in terms of engagement.  At first, you’ll make a lot of progress, and it will be fun.  Then, like any kind of training, you’ll plateau, and it will be less fun.

Ultimately, I think the numerous uses make the FocusBand above average in longevity, but only for those who are really serious about improving their game.

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Value

Retailing for around $500, the FocusBand is certainly not something you’re going to see in every teaching pro’s arsenal anytime soon.  It’s also not a realistic purchase for the average golfer.  That said, for the teaching pro who wants to be on the cutting edge, I think it’s an interesting tool, and for the committed, well-heeled golfer, it could be a worthwhile investment.

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Conclusion

Despite extensive testing with FocusBand, I can’t come to a clear thumbs up or down recommendation.  I think it’s a very interesting piece of technology, but the on-course payoff is unlikely to be immediate, if it exists at all.  There are numerous PGA Pros using the FocusBand – Jason Day, Greg Chalmers, Rod Pampling, Chris Stroud, Mike Weir, Daniel Summerhays, Padraig Harrington, DJ Traham – though Padraig endorsing a training aid is like a fat guy endorsing a bakery – he’s not proven to be terribly selective.

If you’re convinced that your mental game is the last piece of the puzzle, I think FocusBand is certainly worth exploring, but the price will likely keep most golfers from taking the leap.

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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