IRL: 18 holes with the Zepp GolfSense swing analyzer

Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.

IRL: 18 holes with the Zepp GolfSense swing analyzer

File this under "things we don't normally review at Engadget": a hand-worn sensor that analyzes your golf swing. Truth be told, it's too niche a product, and most of us are too busy playing around on Moto Maker to be bothered with a putting green. That said, we do have at least one golfer on staff: contributing editor Steve Dent. With his $112 gadget in tow, he headed to the nearest course -- and brought his A-game.

Zepp GolfSense swing analyzer

Despite its reputation as a calm sport, golf can turn the most zen among us into club-bending, cursing lunatics. Now, though, when things go wrong, you don't have to pony up five figures for a Doppler radar system -- not with devices like GolfSense, a glove-attached sensor. I recently had a chance to play a few rounds with one, and though I was initially put off by a product fixed to my hand like a leech, I soon warmed up to it.

The GolfSense is lightweight, but not negligibly so, adding more heft than a device like 3Bays GSA swing analyzer, to name just one example. Still, I got used to it quickly, and after a few minutes forgot it was on my hand. Before hitting the links, you need to pair it up with the corresponding iOS or Android app via Bluetooth, then do some prep work to set up your clubs and create goals like desired swing speed, tempo and backswing position. That can be a bit onerous (hint: follow the instructions), but once you've done it once, it's done for good.

With that accomplished, all you have to do is charge the sensor and attach it to your glove, where it should last through an entire 18-hole round and then some. When ready to swing, you can choose the appropriate club from the app, which will dutifully record each flail, resetting quickly for the next. The device will give you swing info whether or not you hit a ball, unlike other devices that require you to actually make contact -- handy for those who like to swing at (or in) their homes.

Another big plus: I didn't experience any Bluetooth connection problems, meaning there was no futzing -- something I can't say about competing products. As for accuracy, though I couldn't test the GolfSense against a professional device like the TrackMan Pro, the swing speeds it generated seemed to correspond with the distances I hit the ball. For example, a swing speed of 97MPH was generally netting me drives in the 250 to 260 yard range, which corresponds with typical TrackMan data. A Zepp spokesman confirmed that by saying, "When (it's) calibrated properly and your clubs are configured in the app, GolfSense club head speed ratings are within 2 to 3MPH of TrackMan." On top of swing speed data, the app also gives you hand plane, club plane, backswing position and tempo -- individually or over time -- enabling you or your instructor to parse your swing. You can also see an idealized animation of your swing from any angle, plus an overall rating out of 100.

All told, I found Zepp's GolfSense device to be the most helpful lightweight swing analyzer I've used yet, particularly considering the $112 price on Amazon. Still, it's not without some kinks: while the Bluetooth connection was solid, the Android app crashed a few times, and battery consumption increased considerably on my Galaxy Note II during use -- about half the battery life after a 3-hour round. Another thing would-be buyers should consider is that Zepp has just launched another glove-borne sensor, the Golf Zepp, for $150. That aside, for those of us who can't stop fiddling with our swings, GolfSense could finally attach some meaningful data to all those waggles.

-- Steve Dent