The Data Revolution
Data. Big data, metadata, more data. Stats, stats, and more stats.
Even casual sports fan are seeing this trend pop up everywhere from the baseball diamond to the basketball court to our beloved links. What started in baseball with Sabermetrics is now a full on data revolution across the sports landscape, and nowhere is it more evident than in golf.
On the PGA Tour, every shot is measured to the inch with ShotLink. This leads to an unbelievable amount of data and statistics – not just Greens In Regulation but Distance to the Hole, not just Total Putts but Feet of Putts Made. Tour Pros take this data and use it to fine tune their games. Should regular golfers be doing the same thing? And can shot tracking technologies help to grow golf?
ShotLink for Hacks
Not long ago, the Indiegogo campaign for Game Golf lit the golf forums ablaze. The concept of us regular hacks being able to see every shot and track our stats seemed as amazing as flying cars. The questions were as plentiful as the possibilities: What stats would it provide? How well would it work? Would it interfere with my game? What will it cost?
Early reviews of Game Golf have been largely positive. Aside from people forgetting to “tag” their shots (aka: user error), the system seems to work well and the user interface has been praised. So is this kind of technology going to become standard in golf, or is it just a fad?
To Fix a Problem, You Must Know It Exists
For players who really want to improve their game, it seems to me that systems like Game Golf and Arccos will be invaluable. Why? Because in my experience, very few golfers, myself included, can accurately assess their own game. I’ve lost count of the number of students who tell me that they struggle with ___ thing, only to show me five more serious issues on the course.
As an instructor, I would kill to have a student come in with the kind of data that these systems will produce. It will eliminate all the guesswork, the questionable stats, and the observational biases that hinder our ability to fix our weaknesses and play better golf. As a tool for improvement, I think these systems will be tremendous.
The next question is, do these systems have anything to offer beyond game improvement? I think the answer, potentially, is yes. I think these systems hold immense potential for increasing our ability to share our rounds with our friends and potentially make new ones.
Let’s consider my most common golfing frustration: not having anyone to golf with. It would be amazing if I could go to my Game Golf or Arccos network, search for players who play the courses I do, shoot the scores that I do, and then connect to actually play golf. This is just one of many ways in which these technologies can enhance our enjoyment of the game.
A person associated with Game Golf told me that one of the biggest reasons that he likes Game Golf is that it acts as a memento of the round. It allows him to relive each round shot-by-shot. He went so far as to say that playing golf with Game Golf would be like living without a camera.
While I’m not sure that all of the applications will be there on day one, I do think that these systems can be one piece of the puzzle that helps to grow golf.
Game Golf vs. Arccos
At the moment, there are two players in this segment, Game Golf and Arccos. Game Golf possesses a number of advantages currently. They were the first to been seen, and they were the first to retail. Additionally, they have the backing of PGA Tour players like Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, and Jim Furyk, and buy-in from the PGA of America and the Golf Channel. Their device has also been approved by the USGA, something Arccos is working towards but doesn’t yet have.
Though it won’t reach consumers until late this summer, Arccos should not be counted out of this fight. Arccos may prove to be easier to use since it doesn’t require “tagging” your shots and it works through your phone. Arccos also trumpets the immediacy of the feedback – shots are displayed in the app in real time so you can brag about that 300 yard drive as soon as you hit it or in the bar after the round. Additionally, Arccos provides GPS measurements to the green in their app. Finally, Arccos currently has deeper statistical analytics than Game Golf. Though I suspect this is s gap that Game Golf will close in the coming months, it’s currently an advantage for Arccos.
What Do You Think?
Are you excited about these new technologies? Do you plan to purchase or use them? Do you want your stats to be simple or do you want the advanced metrics? Do you think this can help grow golf? Would you actually share your rounds with your friends or the world?
Tell us what you think in the comments section below!