Gear & EquipmentJanuary 26, 2012

Swingbyte: It's small, interesting and helpful

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Swingbyte was an idea a native Ukrainian who had never played golf came up with on a whim, partnered with a former Canadian Tour player, and developed with help from University of St. Petersburg (Russia) aerospace instrumentation experts that had experience working on Russian drones.

But that's not what makes the Swingbyte so interesting.

The Swingbyte is a small device that weighs less an ounce and attaches to any club in a golfer's bag, just below the grip. Once the user hits a shot, the Swingbyte transmits instantaneously digitized feedback, via a Bluetooth connection, to a smart phone or tablet.

It will show the swing plane and path the club has traveled from any angle, including an overhead. It features a metric page, too, that will show clubhead speed, lie angle, and other data that might help in identifying a flaw in a golfer's swing.

"We worked with top area pros in Chicago," said Nathan Wojtkiewicz, one of three founders of the company and the vice president operations. "We asked them, 'what do you want to see, what's important [from a teaching perspective]? We've got a thousand data points. Let us know what makes the most sense.'

"Teaching professionals we've shown it too, almost 100 percent of them, are like, 'yes!'"

Among its utilities for a teaching professional, Wojtkiewicz said, is that he can have a student hit 10 shots with the Swingbyte attached to his club, identify a flaw on which they work, then at the end of the session take 10 more shots. "It gives them instant feedback that enables the teaching pro to say, 'see, I'm helping you.'"

It also has value to the "do-it-yourselfers," as Wojtkiewicz called them, to analyze their swing themselves or to take the data to their teaching pro.

The device, introduced at the annual PGA Merchandise Show here, will retail for $149. The information can be downloaded to the web via a free tier or a paid tier ($49 a year), the latter providing additional analysis and the ability to share the information with your instructor.

As for the developmental history of the Swingbyte, the native Ukrainian, Alex Pedenko, is a software developer who was tinkering with robotics technology in a shop one day, thought the technology was cool, and wondered what else he might do with it.

"He thought golf would be pretty cool," Wojtkiewicz said. "He developed a working prototype fairly quickly on a limited budget. He was at the University of Chicago business school and on the first day of orientation they did a speed-networking drill. As chance would have it, Pedenko and Brian Payne, a former Northwestern golfer who played the Canadian Tour for seven years, were seated next to one another.

Payne asked him what he was working on. "Well, I'm working on this golf product with sensors," Pedenko replied, meanwhile explaining the product. Payne was excited and wanted to hear more about the product, suggesting they schedule a game of golf to further discuss it.

"I've never played golf in my life," Pedenko replied.

A partnership was formed notwithstanding, and the Swingbyte was developed with help from University of St. Petersburg experts with whom Pedenko had a prior acquaintance. It was then entered in the New Venture Challenge at the Universitiy of Chicago's Booth School of Business, and came in third in a field of 75 products.

"That kind of validated our product and our business plan," Wojtkiewicz said. The result was on display Thursday at the PGA Merchandise Show, where it stands out as one of the show's most interesting new products.

-- John Strege

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