Last year I wrote about my experience with both the Arccos and Gamegolf wearable golf devices. The upshot was that the idea was great but the execution just wasn't good enough. They both proved pretty much unusable over time. I can only imagine that my blog spurred the folks at Arccos into action because late last year they released the Arccos 360. And believe me, it's a gamechanger.
There were two main problems with the original Arccos system. Firstly, it was just unreliable. Some clubs wouldn't register when you hit them and fiddling around changing batteries mid-round was not conducive to good performance.
Then when I was getting a fitting for a new set of clubs the pro looked at the devices at the end of every club and pronounced them too big - he sowed the seeds of doubt in my mind and so, after almost a season's play they were consigned to the drawer never to see the light of day again. I wasn't alone, three friends of mine all went for the Arccos system when they first saw them, and none of them stuck with them for more than a few months.
Anyway, I am a sucker for new gadgets and when I saw the new and improved version was coming out I was eagerly awaiting the release. I've played about a dozen games with them now so here are some thoughts. But if you want the edited highlights - they've fixed the problems and using the system is now pretty close to faultless.
The sensors at the top of the club are about half the size of their predecessors and very light indeed. That means I don't worry about the swingweight questions raised by my pro with the larger original version.
There is also no faffing around with batteries and they need a 'one time only' pair rather than the previous design which involved taking batteries in and out a lot and a little praying.
The process of pairing each club the first time was a doddle and they were up and running within a couple of minutes.
The only slight question mark for me is what happens in a couple of years. The website says the following - 'Arccos 360 sensor batteries are not replaceable. We guarantee these sensors to last a minimum of two years. Internal testing, however, has shown that the batteries may last longer than two years'.
Elsewhere on the site is says they should last for five years. I guess time will tell. Maybe they figure that the next generation will have come along by them and everyone moved on, or everyone will be paying a subscription for new services so they will send them out for free.
The other thing that is great about the 360 versus the original is that the sensors seem to pick up pretty much every shot you play - which wasn't the case before. The only slight catch is that you need to have your phone in your front pocket for it to pick up the sound of the ball to register your shot. They are a little sketchy on how that all works but frankly I don't really want to know. The phone in pocket thing really doesn't bother me at all and I've not been distracted by it once yet.
So there we are. The two problems before had been the sensors were both too big and they didn't work reliably, those problems have both been addressed.
The other thing that has changed for me since my first experience is I now have an Apple Watch which works together with the Arccos 360 really well.
I use it for two things.
Firstly, you just need to glance at the watch to get yardages to the front, middle and back of the green (and a club recommendation in non-competition mode). There are other GPS apps which do something similar but the other thing this gives you is the ability to add a 'gimme' putt to a hole so you really don't need to take your phone out your pocket all the way around the course now to keep track of your game.
However, I do find myself pulling my phone out of my pocket to look at the Arccos app during the round for a couple of reasons.
I tend to use my putter around the green quite a lot and you need to let Arccos know this should count as a chip for your stats rather than a putt. You can do that after the round but I tend to do it on the way to the next tee. The other thing I sometimes do is manually move the flag position if I remember so the Arccos algorithm can take that into account when coming up with your stats.
The other thing I use it for is for showing me distances using the maps and built in GPS. You can touch any point on the map on your screen and a target will come up which shows you both how far away that point is and what that would leave you next to the middle of the green. On a course you don't know well that is really helpful and allows you to plot your way around in a way you can't with just a scorecard in your hand.
So, that's about it for the way around the course. It's when you finish a round that the analytics really kicks in.
For every round Arccos will calculate your 'handicap' for different parts of your game (driving, approach, chipping, sand and putting) and an overall handicap. Again, they are relatively opaque on what goes into the creation of this score but it is kind of similar to a 'strokes gained' type methodology. You can look at that on the app or website for either an individual round or your average over 10 rounds.
It definitely gives you a good sense of which areas of your game you should be working on and may change your strategy on the course. For example, my driving numbers were awful in the early part of the year and I could see the positive impact moving to a three wood from the tee had on both my stats and my scores when I made a move for a couple of rounds.
You will also be able to see a bunch of other statistics for your game - fairways hit, putting stats, up and down etc both for individual rounds and your game as a whole. For every club in the bag you will get average distances hit. The algorithms are pretty good at being able to tell if you a punching a 6 iron back onto the fairway form the trees so as not to include in your overall numbers. It is this technology which allows the app to make the club recommendations on your watch on your way around.
The other thing which I enjoy on the app is the ability to pull up any round you have played and go back and look at every shot you took. This is good fun when you are re-living the round afterwards, or looking at a course you've not been to for a while before playing it again.
It can be quite sobering too. Melting a drive down the middle and finding out it went 40 yards less than you would have guessed does bring a bit of a reality check!
For many, that will be enough. Some nice stats and the chance to have a momento of your round. I imagine lots of users never log-in to the dashboard on the website but it is quite something. I won't be able to do it justice here but there are a plethora of features -
- Edit shots with precision after a round
- A heatmap of every shot played so you can see which gave you shots gained or dropped
- Overlay shots played from multiple rounds on a map of a hole to look for trends
- Plots different attributes of your game versus others of same handicap
- Shows you where your misses are (clue, most people are short!)
I haven't spent that much time yet looking at all the ins and outs of the site but there is plenty to get stuck into and I think a bit of focus could really help you develop different strategies for holes on your home course.
Next week Arccos are releasing a new product to go alongside the Arccos App - Arccos Caddie. It will use all of the data on your game, combined with an analysis of the hole your are playing plus current conditions to give you advice on how to play the hole.
This will be a subscription based model and you can see the attraction for sure. It will be interesting to see to what extent the algorithm copes with a higher handicap where consistency is a problem but advances in data science and AI should mean this only gets better and better.
However, none of that would matter if the basic functioning of the sensors still wasn't there so well done to Arccos for leading the way. Let's see what the future brings!