ORLANDO — More than any year, the 2019 PGA Merchandise Show is delivering on smart technologies to make a golfer's life—and golf swing—more efficient. Though past years have shown significant technology breakthroughs, it appears golf companies are now refining their innovations to offer a better-than-ever offering. So there were no shortage of products at this year's PGA Show to be impressed by. We chose these nine as ones every golfer should keep an eye on in 2019.
1. We’ve seen remote-controlled push carts. But a hands-free, autonomous push cart to carry your bags and follow you on the course? That’s Club Car’s innovative Tempo Walk, released in 2018 and written about in Golf Digest last fall, which is now being released to the public at the PGA Merchandise Show. With a sensor that clips onto the back of a golfer’s belt buckle, the Tempo Walk uses motion-detection technology, similar to the back-up video used in cars, to follow a golfer with their clubs.
How does the device not roll into a bunker or onto the green? A golfer can toggle the switch on and off through the belt-buckle sensor. So when you get to a hazard, make sure to be careful. The Club Car Tempo Walk also includes space designed for a sand-divot bottle, a clubholder—and even room on the side for a cooler. The product is leased directly to clubs and so a price for retail is not available.
2. LiveViewGolf’s Swing Map: If golf had a version of Google glasses or Spectacles that captured a golfer’s swing, this could be it. LiveViewGolf is showcasing a set of glasses at this week’s PGA Merchandise Show that syncs with an app to provide analysis of your motion. Cameras and sensors can capture all angles of your swing, but diagnosing your swing through sunglasses could provide the added benefit of recognizing what the golfer is feeling or seeing as they’re swinging. The company, whose motion-camera camera system has been a Golf Digest Editor’s Choice winner in 2018 and 2017, seems to be onto something with the glasses. The product is patent-pending.
3. You’re likely familiar with Blast Motion’s motion-sensor analyzing system for putters, which TaylorMade is now embedding into the butt end of its Spider grips, allowing golfers to study their data through a smartphone app. The company is building off that success with a new short-game element of the system, to be released in March. Blast Motion’s short-game system will analyze the tempo of your pitches and chips—even full swings up to 90 yards or so. After hearing feedback from its customers that they wanted more data, the swing-analyzing company got to work on releasing its newest innovation, a sensor that will attach to the butt end of the grip.
4. RoboGolfPro is a product that has gotten attention at PGA Shows in the past. But the update to the robotic swing trainer includes new swings, including Bryson DeChambeau, allowing students to swing in the exact motion as the Mad Scientist. More than that novelty, there are serious instructional benefits to feeling the exact motion of the golf swing in its various components. As many instructors like to say, there's nothing like muscle memory to ingraining a good golf swing. RoboGolfPro takes that to the next level.
RoboGolfPro CEO Scot Nei says the company will be adding a motor to allow where the golf club to rotate through and mimic a proper swing plane. And the company is also working on adding a biomechanics suit with full-body sensors to show a student their swing on a monitor. Price: $150,000.
5. Perhaps the only frustration with a push cart is the struggles that can be associated with opening and closing the product. Especially in a rush, it can be a real hassle. Bag Boy's newest release, the Nitron cart, uses a nitrogen-powered opening system to spring open the cart from a folding position to open instantaneously. Bag Boy's parent company, Dynamic Brands, used to own the stroller company Baby Jogger, providing the inspiration behind the innovation. The product will be available in eight colorways starting April 25th, retailing for $250.
6. Among the accepted truths in golf instruction is that ground force is vital to generating maximum power in the golf swing. Golfers are used to seeing players like Justin Thomas or Bubba Watson coming, almost literally, out of their shoes, while hitting their drives. BodiTrak is a motion-analysis company that measures force and pressure through its vector mats to offer biofeedback on where the golfer's balance and pressure are throughout the golf swing. The goal, as most PGA Tour players have discovered, is creating vertical force to transfer into the ball, to deliver optimum power. The BodiTrak can measure how well a golfer does that. The product is wireless and portable with up to 20 hours of battery life, making it ideal for teachers out spending a long day on the range.
7. The biggest knock on simulators is probably replicating putting in a realistic way. Full Swing Simulators’ Virtual Green is as realistic of a representation as we've seen. Users can change the contours on the putting green using a touchscreen, mimicking uphill, downhill and breaking putts by raising and lowering the surface to physically shift the green. Now with Putt View technology, the product allows you to visualize the line of the break and shows a golfer a track of their actual putt after they've hit it.
8. Billing themselves as the Uber for caddies, CaddieNow is growing as an effective platform for connecting golfers and golf clubs with caddies, in a way that preserves and grows traditional caddie programs. The company has recently signed up with the Dormie Network to be at all partner golf clubs, and it is marketing itself to country clubs as a resource to finding quality caddies and growing their network. The company has a strong foothold, with a strong representation at clubs in the Philly and Washington D.C. areas, and throughout the Northeast, Florida and California thus far, with plans for expanding through golfers and golf courses this year. The company offers suggested tips and rates for its customers as well. It's an innovative model that we expect to keep growing.
9. Any amateur golfer has probably struggled to make ball-first contact at some point. The SQRDUP training aid is an effective way to train proper contact—using lasers, developed by a company in Frankfurt, Germany that also develops lasers for Volkswagen and military companies—to help golfers visualize where the club is bottoming out. The device, which launched on IndieGoGo in 2018, lasts four hours on battery charge and is rechargeable via USB. It comes with an adjustable gorilla pod to adjust the angle at which the laser points. Users will find it just as useful for putting practice, too. The SQRDUP is available at retail for $200 (plus shipping).
(Golf Digest's Mike Stachura and Joel Beall contributed to this report)