I’ve always been interested in stats about my golf game. How many fairways I’ve hit, putts I’ve taken, where the strengths and weaknesses of my game are statistically. Now, I am a very average 14 handicapper and you may well ask why such detail matters, and you may well be right, but I do get some enjoyment from knowing I can putt like a 5 handicapper and something strangely affirming to know I play like a 20 handicapper from the tee. In recent years there have been innovations to help with this and I have eagerly jumped at the chance to learn more.
The idea that you can use GPS now to inform performance on the course is one that intrigued me from the off. First out the blocks was Game Golf and then this was followed by Arccos. There are others but I have tried both extensively so feel these are the ones I can comment on the best. This is not designed to be a definitive guide to the features, there are plenty of places on the web to get a blow by blow account of how to set them up. Instead this is just a few thoughts about both and where I ended up.
Firstly, GameGolf. The problem with this one is that you have to tag the end of the club against a GPS device you attach to your belt before every single shot. After the round you hook the device up to your computer and download all the information, adding any shots you may have missed. They have tried to turn the nuisance of having to tag into a positive ‘tagging helps you get in the zone’ type stuff but in reality it doesn’t. It just plays in the back of your mind ‘did I remember to tag’ and to be honest you feel a bit of an idiot sometimes when you’re beeping away before every shot on the course. They have now launched a Game Golf live but tagging is still central to the experience.
I used GameGolf for about 30 rounds but frankly it was just too much of a pain to remember to tag every shot and then download all of the data and make the changes to the wrong tagging etc so I just gave up in the end. Grrr.
That’s why when Arccos came along I was so excited. You just screw the widgets into the end of the club and play away to your heart’s content, as long as your phone is in your pocket every shot would be stored. Quite a lot of people have moaned about the phone being in your pocket think but it never really bothered me. This was going to be the answer. The analytics engine was really great.
There were so many great features – ranges and average distances by club, strengths of different parts of your game. It’s also possible to overlay on a hole all the different rounds you have played and how you have scored from different places, fantastic stuff. I could see which holes I played well on from different places and this was really going to help me shave some shots off my handicap.
I also loved on Arccos that I could go back and look shot-by-shot any round I had played in the past, great to relive the memories or plan the next round.
This was all too good to be true of course. What really bothered me was that the sensors kept packing up. As a result I spent a really irritating amount of time on the golf course trying to reset the sensors, put in new batteries and generally swear and curse.
The customer service was great and they sent me new ones but there always seemed to be one club which wasn't registering or playing up. A friend of mine who also bought the system spent two hours staying up the night before we played The Old Course trying to get the things to work, replacing all his batteries just to give up in the early hours of the morning.
The data you get from both systems is great. As a fan of Mark Broadie and all the shots gained type data this was right up my street. The Game Golf interface was good, the Arccos one fantastic.
But the on-course experience wasn’t enough to compensate for the hassle factor. I know 4 people who have bought Arccos and 3 who bought Game Golf - none of them are using them any more.
Eventually, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when I went for a fitting for new clubs. The pro doing the fitting took one look at my set and asked why I had come for a fitting if I was going to put these plugs on the end of every club. He got them on the scales and said that the swingweight adjustment was significant enough to affect the fitting and I should think long and hard before using them. Now, I am a 14 handicap hacker so would it really make a difference? I doubt it. However, the seed of doubt was planted in my mind. Would the benefit I have from tracking my progress be offset with the pesky swingweight change? I could find nothing on the web to validate either view apart from the official blurb from Arccos saying it would be fine.
So in the end I gave up. It was too distracting on the course constantly wondering whether clubs had tagged correctly and then combined with my swingweight thought I just didn’t bother putting them on the clubs when the new ones arrived.
In a nutshell, the problem with both systems was that neither system was reliable enough and became more of a distraction on the golf course than a benefit
I'm sure the industry will continue to develop and one day it will be both reliable and not a distraction. Arccos have some tie up with Callaway and Game Golf have worked with Golf Pride grips so hopefully that innovation will be with us before too long. In the meantime, I will just play in blissful ignorance of the statistical minutiae of my game. And anyway, it doesn’t take a genius to know I need to improve my driving!