How big data can improve your golf game

April 25, 2018

This piece is presented by Austad’s Golf.

“Big data” is the shiny new tool that has made its way into the purview of nearly every Fortune 1000 organization. IBM focuses on solving the worlds problems through big data. Analytics companies harness big data to predict outcomes. Even the White House uses big data to inform policy decisions.

In 2011, Brad Pitt starred alongside Jonah Hill in the movie “Moneyball.” Pitt, playing the Oakland A’s former general manager Billy Beane, hires Hill, a Yale economics graduate, to determine which players the A’s should bring into the organization. Hill’s character uses advanced analytics or “big data” to inform the player selection strategy. This real-life story carried the A’s to a 20-game win streak in 2002 along with a playoff birth.

Professional sports has long been using advanced analytics. You’ll see it on every major telecast, it’s in every scouting report and a part of every professional game plan. In football, opposing coaches use big data to determine the oppositions’ tendencies and play calling. In baseball, big data is used to determine things such as pitch location and infield shifts.

No sport, however, has harnessed the power of big data like golf. Big data is prevalent on every telecast of the PGA Tour. Before Tiger Woods putts from 25 feet, a graphic will appear saying “17 percent chance of making the putt.” The Konica Minolta Swing Vision shows the super slow motion of Dustin Johnson’s drive, which also picks up swing speed, ball speed, carry distance, total distance, spin and more. A professional golfer has access to more data than any other professional athlete.

Golf is also the one sport where big data and advanced analytics aren’t saved exclusively for the professionals.

“I’d argue that big data has had a greater impact on the amateur player,” said Ryan Austad, president of Austad’s Golf. “The new technology that has come out over the past five years is so simple, so easy to digest that you don’t have to be a rocket scientist or mathematician to understand what it’s telling you. I’ll give you a few examples of how technology and big data can quickly improve your golf game.”

Custom fitting your equipment

Gone are the days of selecting a golf club, taking a few swings, determining shaft stiffness and then asking “How’s that feel?” Today’s custom fitting at Austad’s is incredibly scientific with the world’s best fitting software.

“Our fitters use over 20 key data points to find the right clubs for your size, swing and game. Austad’s master fitters look at ball speed, swing speed, smash factor, swing plane, spin, shot dispersion, launch angle, landing angle, distance and more to aid in the fitting process,” Austad said. “We even use a ‘shaft optimizer,’ which will provide recommendations for shafts based on three swings. The optimizer uses an algorithm based on thousands of swing tempos and speeds to determine the perfect match for you. Big data has allowed us to fit golfers into the equipment that will help them play better golf!”

Swing caddie

Most amateur golfers use the driving range as a way to loosen up. Simple stretching can accomplish that.  Austad’s has brought in the Swing Caddie as a way to make your range sessions more impactful.

“The swing caddie is a piece of technology that sits behind the ball as you swing. Each shot is tracked, providing a player key data such as distance, swing speed, ball speed, smash factor and loft angle,” Austad said. “The Swing Caddie acts as a Trackman without the $20,000 price tag. The technology will even provide daily and overall stats for each club in your bag. The more information you know about your game, the more confident you’ll be executing the shot needed on the golf course.”

Arcos 360

Caddies are a huge part of a touring professional’s success. The Arcos is designed to be a “caddy in a pocket” for amateurs. Arcos is a technology that fits on the grip end of each shaft, allowing the product to capture data on every swing.

“The technology sends that data to an app on your phone, allowing you to store data on every shot you’ve ever hit,” Austad said. “Arcos does far more then teach you how far you typically hit each iron. It will tell you how often you hit your target with each club from each distance. You’ll learn what percentage of the time you miss right, left, short or long. The app on your phone shows the golf course you are playing, giving you full visibility to hazards. Arcos allows you to play moneyball on every shot.”

Putting accounts for 35 percent of the average golfer’s strokes. This year TaylorMade included Blast technology in each of the Spider Interactive putters. Similar to Arcos, Blast is put on the grip end of your putter.

Data from each putt is sent to a Blast app on your phone. You also can use the app to videotape your putts. Blast provides key data such as backstroke and forward stroke time, tempo, backstroke length, impact speed, backstroke rotation, degrees open/closed, forward stroke rotation, rotation change, loft change and lie change.

“The app includes a training center that provides putting tips/lessons based on your specific data,” Austad said. “Rather than simply putting around on the practice green before your round, you can dial in your putting with real numbers.”

GPS/laser finders

Smart watches and laser finders are now common in every golfer’s bag. There’s no more walking off yardages or searching for the 150-yard stake. Garmin’s latest watch comes loaded with courses, so a cursory glance at your wrist will give you the distance needed.

Not specific enough? The Bushnell laser finders use laser technology to shoot targets, giving golfers a distance down to the yard. These can come available with slope adjustments, meaning the laser will take into account the degree to which a shot is uphill or downhill. Austad notes that the laser finders with slope are illegal to use in tournament play.

Golf is the one sport that offers amateurs key data that will help make meaningful improvements to their game.

“Golf is leading the way,”Austad said. “In a world where big data is informing decisions big and small, golfers have the opportunity to harness the power of analytics to make meaningful improvement to their games. In fact, this technology is simple to understand. If you are not using it, you are likely falling behind.” Austad’s

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How big data can improve your golf game

Big data isn’t just used in the workplace. It can help your golf game in a big way.

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