Wearable technology a new trend on TOUR
September 02, 2014
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
- September 02, 2014
- Graeme McDowell has been using the Game Golf platform on the course.
Technology will play a major role in the future of professional golf. This isn't one writer's opinion, mind you. Take a close look at the driving range during a PGA TOUR event and you'll see countless players using devices that measure various aspects of their game -- from swing path and tempo to emotional stress levels and shot dispersion.
Until about five years ago, the term "wearable technology" was non-existent in golf circles. Teaching aids, some of which looked like flak jackets, helped players ingrain certain swing thoughts, but for the most part, those devices were reserved for the range and rarely saw the light of day on the course.
That was the past.
The future is a completely different story. Thanks to Silicon Valley-based company's like Google, Active Mind Technology and Zepp, today's wearable technology is more compact, less intrusive and more intuitive than ever before.
It's gotten to the point that players are now wearing devices during practice rounds to get an in-depth look at their strengths and weaknesses on the course.
"We know for sure we've inspired a category in golf, which is wearable technologies while you play," said John McGuire, CEO of Active Mind Technology. "In my opinion, the future of wearable technology is going to be completely different in three years. It'll be more about the platform than the hardware, because the hardware will continue to get smaller.
"This is only the tip of the iceberg for wearable technology in the golf industry. I believe it's going to play a big role not only in professional golf, but the recreational game as well going forward. It already has in a short amount of time."
Here's a look at five wearable technology devices that are making waves in golf.
If you're looking for a torchbearer for the wearable technology craze in golf, Game Golf is a great place to start. Active Mind Technology, the creator of Game Golf, has only been on retail shelves for 180 days and already the device is being used by Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk -- and President Barack Obama.
So what is Game Golf? It's a lightweight GPS tracking device that captures accurate shot locations and calculates club performance during a given round.
The system is comprised of a small, lightweight GPS tracking device that attaches to your belt and features an accelerometer, compass and a gyrometer. The Game Golf system also comes with red sensors discs -- one for each of the 14 clubs in your bag, plus four extras for additional clubs -- that screw into the butt end of the golf grip.
When the red sensor in the grip is tapped against the GPS device, it lets the system know what club you're using for a particular shot. Simply tagging each shot allows you to log all manners of data, such as club distance, shot dispersion, fairways hit, greens in regulation and putts per hole.
The data logged during the round is then sent to the Game Golf servers and can be viewed on a computer, iPhone or iPad.
According to Game Golf, the device has already been used in 55 countries worldwide with 80,000-plus rounds and 60 million golf shots logged by the system.
Graeme McDowell played a major role in the development process of the device, offering feedback on how it could not only benefit him during practice rounds -- adding a shot dispersion feature that allowed him to see where his tee shots were going -- but the average golfer as well.
“The Game Golf platform is right at the cutting edge of data capture," McDowell said. "It amazes me just how great the feedback is from it. I can share my rounds of golf all over the world via Twitter and Facebook and there’s nothing quite like that in golf today.”
Of course, McDowell isn't the only player using the device on the course. Jim Furyk wore Game Golf during this year's Masters Par 3 Contest, and Lee Westwood was spotted using it at THE PLAYERS Championship.
"What they're using it for is to confirm what their caddie is saying," McGuire said. "They can see an entire breakdown of their round on their phone when they sit down to dinner. So for Graeme, he can discuss the round with swing coach Pete Cowen and figure out what's going right and what he needs to work on."
TrackMan is still the preferred launch monitor option on TOUR, but there's a lightweight option that's gaining traction with players, including 2011 Valero Texas Open winner Brendan Steele.
The device is called Zepp Golf, a lightweight sensor -- it weighs only 6.3 grams -- that attaches to the golf glove and captures, measures and analyzes the swing in three dimensions while recording 1,000 data points per second.
Zepp Golf CEO, Jason Fass, said that during the testing phase, they realized there was a major benefit to attaching the sensor to the glove instead of the golf shaft.
"The last thing you don't wanted to do is add a foreign object or weight to the shaft of the club," said Fass. "So we constructed a whole system where the device could attach to your hands -- in this case the glove -- and through tons of testing we realized that the hands are really telling the club where it's supposed to go."
Zepp Golf's predictive algorithms are within 2 miles per hour of a doppler radar system (TrackMan or FlightScope), which allows the sensor to measure clubhead speed and tempo during the swing. It also has the ability to measure swing plane -- in three-dimensional space -- backswing position and hip rotation.
The device takes a snapshot of each swing and sends the data directly to a smartphone or tablet. From there, a golfer can replay the swing, analyze the data and do a side-by-side comparisons.
The device also logs the data for every swing, giving you the ability to build detailed reports about each round and practice session.
"The feedback has been great," Fass said. "We've been working with Brendan Steele for over a year and he's given us a lot of feedback. The ability for them to see their swing in a different way has been huge.
"For instance, their tempo could be nearly perfect on the range, like a 3.1-to-1 ratio. But then on the 15th hole during a round, you could be getting a little tired or antsy, and your tempo speeds up. Immediately, you can see that's different then your ideal number, so someone could tell you, 'Hey, you're getting quick; slow down the backswing.'"
Fass also noted that aside from giving TOUR players instant feedback on every swing in a lightweight, easy-to-use package, wearable technology could play a role in the golf fan experience in the not too-distant future.
"I think [wearable technology] is going to be driven by the fan experiences that can be made possible. I think there are going to be some amazing opportunities where fans can follow their favorite player in a technical way on their phone or tablet. They can compare their swing and swing signature to guys on TOUR. I think that's where wearable technology can improve the entire game of golf."
Having a heads-up display that offers yardage, swing speed and launch angle with voice or finger movement sounds almost too good to be true, but that's exactly what Google Glass is able to do for golfers.
Glass, a lightweight wearable technology, has been worn by a number of players in the last year, including PGA TOUR winners Billy Horschel and Jordan Spieth.
With the help of two different apps, Swingbyte and GolfSight, players can put the glasses on and receive swing analysis on their round without having to look down at their smartphone or tablet.
The info appears in a heads-up display in front of their eyes, allowing players to go about their round. Even Billy Horschel noted that Google Glass was easy to use and didn't pose a problem during his setup and swing.
“You're not looking at the top of your eye socket,” said Horschel, the 2013 Zurich Classic of New Orleans winner. “So you're looking down. It doesn't even bother me.”
To see Horschel using Google Glass before the 2013 The Barclays, click here.
Being able to self-regulate emotional stress levels during a critical moment in the round can be the difference between a million-plus dollar check and second-place.
Every player deals with nerves during a round -- it's the ones that are able to turn off the "inner voice" in their head that usually find a way to come out on top.
For years, players sought the help of sports psychologists to deal with their inner demons. But instead of seeking outside help in recent years, some players have looked within for the answer with the help of the iFocus Band, a wearable brain training device with three sensors that determine brain activity.
To use the device, simply slip it inside the sweatband of your hat, and within minutes it's gathering data. That audio and video data your brain converts is then transmitted, in realtime, to an avatar on a smartphone or tablet device, giving the user a graphical representation of their brain activity.
With the help of simple breathing exercises, iFocus believes users will be able to switch to and execute from the right brain, which gives golfers the ability to make appropriate decisions in a shorter period of time.
Jason Day has already noticed a big improvement in his mental approach to the game. The Aussie began using the wireless electroencephalogram device last year and within a month of training with it finished sixth at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and third in the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. He followed up the top-10 finishes with a third-place showing at the Masters, second at the U.S. Open and eight at the PGA Championship.
“It teaches me how to get in the zone, shows me what it feels like when I'm in the zone and allows me to work on replicating it,” Day told PGATOUR.COM.
Day uses the device during the morning and night and said he also trains with it during practice in an attempt to replicating the feeling of using his right brain on the course.
Burning calories and counting steps may not be at the top of every golfer's list, but it's always nice to know you've logged over 5 miles on the course (when walking) and burned over 1,000 calories.
Fitbit is one of the wearable devices on the market that allows golfers to track their steps, distance and calories on and off the course.
The device, which is smaller than a thumb device, can be attached to clothing or stored in your pocket. Fitbit is also available in a "Flex" model that can be worn on your wrist.
The information is then logged as you go about your daily routine. Some of the more health conscious players on TOUR noted that the device allows them to keep track of another aspect of their game -- albeit one that doesn't usually end up deciding the tournament on Sunday afternoon.
Along with tracking steps and calories, Fitbit measures your sleep quality and helps you learn how to sleep better, while also waking you in the morning, eliminating the need to set an alarm clock for that early morning tee time.