7 new ways golf instruction is embracing artificial intelligence and innovative technology
ORLANDO -- Though golf has a tendency to move slower than most industries, the technology innovations we've seen this week beg to differ. Artificial intelligence and robotics have been terms perhaps thrown around in the past, implemented by only the biggest companies, but now we're actually seeing the results of intense research and development. And that's especially true in the golf instruction realm, where lessons can have so much added value with the right set of data and smart products.
There were too many items to say this is a definitive list. But this is at least what caught our eye at the 2020 PGA Merchandise Show in the ever-expanding tech/instruction space.
1 . Hack Motion wrist sensor. Teachers (and students) want the ability to capture swing data and analyze it immediately. The biofeedback from Hack Motion, a wrist-motion training system, is synced to your tablet or smartphone (or computer). It tracks your wrist movement in real time, measuring wrist flexion, extension and rotation via a device you wear like a watch, in addition to a Velcroed strap you wear around your forefingers. After a quick minute calibration, the system captures any swing you make and delivers the data to the app, where you can study it. There's also access to tour-player data the company has captured over the past two-plus years. A Latvian-based company, CEO Atis Hermanas says the company has sold units to more than 40 countries over the past two years. It had leading coaches David Orr, James Leitz, Brian Manzella and others speaking to the benefits of the technology at the PGA Show. With audio feedback and seven hours of battery life, there's a lot to like about Hack Motion.
2 . TrackMan's new A.I. technology (Tracy). TrackMan's continued iterations on its existing technology will be fun to follow. It will continue to innovate on its launch-monitor technology to expand its offerings, including its simulator business. Perhaps most impressive is its new Tracy technology, which TrackMan unveiled at the PGA Show, with a soft June 1 launch. Tracy, adapted from tracer, is a mode you can turn on and off, which will recommend what you should work on based on a minimum of six shots on a TrackMan device. It will audibly communicate with you (if you want it to), with voice commands that ask game-analysis questions, and it will make recommendations based on the (estimated) 500-million-plus shots the company has collected around the world. As the company says, it pinpoints what you need to work, not how to work on it—encouraging you to seek the advice of an instructor.
3 . V1 + BodyTrak partnership. Applying ground force in the golf swing with proper sequencing is one of the hot instruction applications these days, as we continue to study how tour pros apply such force to their tee shots. A partnership between BodiTrak, which measures vertical force and velocity through a portable pressure mat—and V1 Sports, one of the first to penetrate the instruction/app space—hopes to deliver a complete way to capture data and study the kinematic sequencing. The package goes for $3,500.
4 . K-Motion's Smart Tiles. You've likely seen or heard about K-Motion's K-Vest motion-capture technology, which allows 3-D swing data to be captured and analyzed. With the system's new Smart Tiles, debuting at the PGA Show, a player's wrist and body movements are immediately captured and stored in the system's cloud-based improvement panel, allowing your teacher to provide feedback immediately. Color-coded cues also make it easy to understand which area of your swing you need the most help, along with auditory feedback to specify the positions you need to get into. (K-Player, the individual, consumer version of the technology goes for $2,495. And K-Coach, which includes the Smart Tiles, is $5,495.)
5. Dragonfly. A new player in this space, Guided Knowledge—a British based company—has introduced a smart suit with 18 sensors that a golfer can wear underneath their golf clothes and take it on the course. 3-D data is captured in real time as you play your round, and it's viewable via a remote coaching app with hundreds of performance metrics. Instead of being tied to the range or a pro's teaching facility, you can play your round and have sensors, from head to toe, measure your movements for improvement. "Players no longer have to be in a lab or a teacher's facility," says Jon Dalzell, chief science officer of Guided Knowledge. "What used to be an appointment is now available anywhere, anytime."
6 . Uneekor Eye XO launch monitor. The incredible explosion of simulators and launch monitors within golf has been fun to follow. The new Eye XO from Uneekor is a little different. It's an overhead launch monitor with non-marking ball technology, which will work outside—a convenience for some. With two cameras, down the line and face-on capturing 200 frames per second, in addition to a stereographic lens overhead, the system is able to provide a very crisp, sharp video of the golfer making contact with the ball, with video from each angle showing the ball traveling off the face, without any pixelation. Doug Bybee, with experience over 25 years within the industry as a fitter with Mizuno and Cobra among others, says he whiteboarded the concept for the company's new product just two days before his team in South Korea developed a software and cloud solution. He unveiled the prototype at the PGA Show, with the product marked for a June 1 launch ($10-12,000 for the complete program, or $1,250 for the pair of straight cameras.
7 . U.S. Kids teaching app. One of the leaders in youth golf, U.S. Kids unveiled a new app this week that will allow instructors to organize and track kids' progress to deliver feedback to the player and coach. The digital Player Pathway scoreboard includes color-coded levels for each player, too, for easier sorting and tracking. Just like the other items above, it's making life easier on the teacher, so they can be more efficient with their time, and help more players ... a win for all.