Motion sensor-based golf devices are all the rage these days, but they mostly target the full swing. Can such electronics be accurate enough to measure a much smaller stroke, namely the all-important putt? Since golf season's nearly here, we decided to find out with the $200 3BaysGSA Putt, a tiny, lightweight device that fits in the handle of a putter and relays stroke information via Bluetooth to an Android or iOS device. As Engadget's resident golf nut, yours truly put the device through its paces both objectively and in a less-than-formal way to see whether it could accurately track a stroke. Will it help you lift your putter in victory, or make you wrap it around a tree? Hit the break to see how we did. %Gallery-183500%
Maker 3BaysGSA has already made some hay with the very similar-looking (and identically priced) Pro full swing analyzer, but make no mistake: this is a very different device, with an entirely separate app and sensor. To use it, you'll need a putter, ball and place to practice, as the Putt actually requires a ball to be struck -- just swinging won't cut it. To get started, you install the app on your iOS or Android device, insert and align the tee-like device and pair it using Bluetooth. After firing up the app, pausing for a tick to line up your stroke will serve to "prime" the device, letting you start to hit putts. Following each flail, a clear graphic representation of your stroke path along with several key stats will display on your device: the critical putter-face angle at impact and tempo, among others. It does that with a "delicate 9-axis sensor and intelligent algorithm," according to the company, which also detects the ball / club contact. Each stroke is duly filed away, allowing you to chart your progress (or lack thereof) over time.
For a rather chunky $200, the sensor device is fairly plasticky, but seemed to hold up fine during the time we used it -- and a lightweight device was required to not affect your stroke, accord to 3BaysGSA. It claims up to five hours of play time on a charge, but we found we could only net three to four hours of steady use, so it might depend on your putting frequency. To check if it actually works as advertised, we set up a a video camera to film the stroke from overhead, then compared the plotted result with the stroke path displayed on a smartphone, as shown in the video below. The path, tempo and face angle seemed to line up fine in this admittedly un-scientific test, but more importantly, when the device said a putt was bad, we generally missed it. That gave us a pretty high level of confidence that it was correctly tracking the stroke.
Once your putting session is over, you can review each stroke including all the captured telemetry or share a screen-cap on your social network of choice. The included app's well-designed interface shows an animation of your putts and displays a curve indicating the path of your stroke, which can be overlaid against that of a previous, model putt you've chosen. The device saves all the data from each hit, namely the animation, path, putter-face angle at impact and throughout the stroke, angle of attack, tempo, impact speed and swing path distance -- in other words, more information than most players would know what to do with. But since a single degree deviation of the face angle can cause you to miss a six foot putt, this data can help set you straight, once you figure out how to use it.
That's the rub, of course -- the garbage in / garbage out rule applies equally here, so you've got to supplement the 3BaysGSA Putt app and device with the most important thing: practice. As for us? A hands-on isn't enough time to judge whether it actually helped our putting, but when things start to go sideways, it never hurts to have a second set of eyes -- especially if those eyes can read 10 indices at once to the nearest tenth of a degree.