With golf season in mid-swing, is your handicap going down, or just your morale? If it's the latter, a few extra lessons might be in order. We can't help with that, but we can help you with some technology tips. Here's a selection of golf devices designed to help you score better
The $150 Zepp Golf swing sensor attaches to your glove and measures your hand angle and speed. From that, the iOS or Android app can estimate the club speed and plane, then compare it to an ideal swing. It can also check your swing tempo, and if you place your smartphone in your pocket, your hip rotation.
As shown in the video, after an optional baselining of the sensor, you can start to swing away. It'll duly record each swing, and you barely need to pause between them, if you've got the stamina. If you've inputted your clubs correctly to begin with, it'll register your clubhead speed, hand path, club face path and swing plane. Sometimes, however, those stats may look good despite a shaky swing. As such, the sensor is best used to supplement lessons or video that you've taken yourself.
Once you've got stats and a swing you like, you can share it with friends on your favorite social networks, like Facebook.
Zapp doesn't tell you as much about your ball flight as a doppler radar system like Flightscope, but it's much handier. You can use it pretty much anywhere you've got space to swing, you don't need a ball, and the app gives plenty of useful feedback. But, it's also missing lots of visual cues -- your actual swing may be much worse (or better) than it indicates. As such, you'll need to supplement it with video info and/or lessons if you really want to improve.
The $250 Game Golf swing analyzer received a no-doubt unexpected boost recently when President Obama was seen using it, but how does it work exactly? Crafted by noted industrial designer Yves Behar, it consists of a belt-worn device and NFC tags that are screwed into the handle of each club.
After attaching each tag to the appropriate club, you go online and register with the site. From there, you associate each tag to the correct club so the system knows which you're hitting when you're on the course.
Once you arrive at the course, it can take a few minutes for the Game Golf device to initialize. In order to use it, your golf course has to be "fenced" by the system -- that is, its GPS coordinates need to be recorded into the company's website. (If your local links aren't there, you can request that Game Golf add them.) Once you start playing, the device's built-in GPS records the position of each shot and the club used.
Once you've completed your round, you'll need to connect your device via USB to your computer at home. Unless you've been fastidious, you'll likely need to correct some of the shots -- and that's the biggest problem with the system. It requires you to remember to use it just before you hit each shot, and that's a difficult habit to develop when you're trying to concentrate on your game.
After the round is entered you see your stats as if you were a tour pro. Average drive length, consistency and other stats can be scrutinized. Such information is vital to perfecting your game once your handicap is low enough.
If you're serious about tracking your stats, Game Golf is the easiest way I've seen to do it. The low-tech alternative is the "pencil," along with lots of scrawling and calculations. Other electronic systems for tracking shots require more manual input. The main weakness with Game Golf (other than remembering to use it) is on the greens. The system attempts to guess the pin position based on algorithms, but often gets it wrong, requiring a fix later. But, if stats are your thing, it gives you an unflinching look at your game.
GPS wristwatches that tell you the distance to the hole are great, but a bit pricey. However, if you've already got a Pebble watch ($150 for the original, $250 for the Pebble Steel), all you need is an app like Golf Pad GPS. Though there's a free version of Golf Pad, you'll need to pay a yearly subscription of about 7 euros ($10) per year to use it with the Pebble.
Once synced to your Pebble smartwatch, the Golf Pad GPS app shows distance to the front, middle and back of the green, exactly as it does on your phone. You can then switch between holes using the Pebble, which lets you keep your phone in your golf bag. If you do that, though, you'll have to remember that distances are tracked by your phone, not the Pebble -- in case you've wandered away from your bag.
Golf shoes? Those aren't very high tech! But footwear is definitely important in golf, and Ogio -- a company more known for computer bags -- has nailed with its Synkfit lineup (the City Turf Shoe, $135, is shown at left). The shoes have features like the XWrap foot chassis for support, along with a high-tech treads and spikes and the Synkfit foam insole that "allows your foot to settle into its own imprint." I found them very comfy, but they're a little hot -- I'd recommend thin socks.
I first saw the GSA Putt sensor last year ($200 in black or white), and found it worked wonders to keep my putting on track. You plug the sensor into your putter handle and align it using the arrow, then sync it up to the included app using Bluetooth.
Once you're set up, you can start hitting putts (note that you have to actually use a ball). For each shot, the sensor measures data like your swing tempo and the path of your putter.
The end result? Stats, showing your face angle, attack angle, tempo, consistency and other pertinent details. For me, it forces me to concentrate on the stroke, not try to get the all in a coffee cup. Any time you focus on the results rather than the process in golf, it usually makes things worse.