The Next Big Thing: Shot Tracking for Amateurs

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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?

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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.

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Beyond Stats

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.

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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!

Matt Saternus
Latest posts by Matt Saternus (see all)

6 Comments

  1. Gamegolf has zero advantages in my opinion. For starters 99% of golfers are not in the pga so that shouldn’t matter. Additionally who can remember to tag a shot during their preshot routine? Especially after a bad hole or shot. You have to charge that beeper looking thing and upload your data from it after the round to your computer. Try and recall every error hours after your round when you upload your info. Good luck. As a beta user of Arccos I can honestly say it is instant and hassle free and hands down a better more technologically advanced product for the golf player. The pga will come around soon enough!

  2. I’m very interested in both these products, but unfortunately I don’t think either is perfect and leave the door open for either “version 2” or another player to enter the market.

    Both have obvious advantages so it’s easier to point out the negatives, which are are still large for both.

    Game Golf

    Requires each shot to be tagged – not such a big thing
    Requires a PC / Mac to upload rounds – come on guys, this is 2014. This stops instant feedback and means a lot of hassle. Many people are now scrapping their PC’s in favour of tablets.
    Red Tags. They should be black.
    The unit beeps when you tag a shot. Nooooo! Noone needs that on a golf course.

    Arccos

    Requires batteries in each large sensor – these then need changing (14!) every 50 rounds. Not sure if this is made worse by practicing at the range ? There’s a cost and a hassle factor to this.
    Requires your phone to be in your pocket whilst playing. Many people don’t like to do this and many phones are getting bigger and bigger. This is a serious downside.
    Potentially cannot be used in club competitions. If this is true then it’s a huge negative.
    Because the phone needs to be located on you then how do you deal with bad weather conditions ? You need a weather proof case for the phone and that makes it substantially bigger !

    Just my thoughts without using either system. Right now only Gamegolf is available in the UK and it’s also substantially cheaper than Arccos so I may give it a go.

  3. I currently use game golf and the tapping thing does not really bother me. The main item where you have to click it to does not weigh anything so you don’t even know its there. I have missed a tag or two but I have still at the spot of the shot. I still use the score card to mark my mistakes OB ect. I have no issues with Game Golf product.

    The Arccos product looks like the same statistical aspect. Other than tapping and real time no real difference. So both is just about prefference . I do have a couple concern with Arccos product due to the fact it uses batteries in each unit and the shock sensor is in each unit also with the bluetooth between phone and units.
    1. Batteries what happens over time with effectiviness and club grip. what if the battery leaks.
    2. shock sensors i put my clubs grip down like 100% of us do will that mess with the sensor over time from use?
    3. I am relying on my phone or service to not lose connection.

    I’m not a big fan of realtime as I just like to look at numbers after.

    So then the price is a major part as well. 399 vs 199. ummmmmm
    199 wins and fyi i bought mine for 145.00

    Either way each product is great but for me is Game Golf!

  4. Lee Putnam

    I have the Arccos System in my clubs and can give an honest appraisal of what you can expect. I don’t know how many of you use apps on your mobiles? Arccos is little different except that once you open the app and enter the course you are pretty much good to go. Without exception I have not had one single problem with the course not being found and once ready all you do is pull your club of choice from your bag and hit. The GPS from your phone works in conjunction with the app to provide you with real time positioning of your shot. In addition you get a front / middle / back distance indication on your phone. There are GPS images of the hole enabling you to see the holes layout and avoid hazards by moving a cursor allowing you to know exactly what your distances are to said hazards. Each shot is recorded as you play them. Occasional errors occur but thats mainly down to the user. These are easily remedied using the edit function. Those of you who have concerns about having your phone on you, placed in a back pocket you dont really know its there and can just leave it. I like to see and use the app as part of my course management. Off the course the dashboard tells you all you need to know about where your weaknesses are, which I have found means I spend more time working on those areas and less time aimlessly hitting balls at the range. Has it helped by identifying my shortcomings, I say YES, I’m playing off 15 from 18 in 3 months as I have a clearer understanding of just how far I hit each club, no more guessing and lets face it we all think we hit further than we actually do!

    Hope this helps!

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