The first golf major of the year is in the books, and we all know what that means. Yes, over the next couple of weeks, across the globe, countless amateur players will be dusting down their clubs and hitting up their local course.
And while this trend usually fizzles out (at least until the next major) once players are reminded of their own golfing limitations, the rise of shot trackers and swing analysers now mean it's easier than ever to actually break this seemingly never-ending cycle of mediocrity and improve into a solid regular.
Whether it's through GPS watches or trackers from the likes of Garmin, or more dedicated club sensors from companies such as Game Golf and Arccos, receiving insights into your round has never been easier. But despite there being plenty of devices to choose from, few put together a complete tracking experience.
Looking to change that is Indian startup Golfication, whose wearable tracker combines swing analysis, shot tracking and GPS mapping with artificial intelligence in order to give the wearer the detail behind basic metrics currently offered in this space.
Its Golfication X wearable is seeking $50,000 through Indiegogo, with early backers able to get in on the ground floor for $119 (rising to $219 once the device makes it to retail).
"Myself and my co-founder are major techies, and we just decided that we wanted to improve sports through data," Golfication CEO Anirudh Arun tells us. "We actually worked within multiple sports at the beginning – obviously India is very cricket-orientated – but the further we went into developing the product, the more we realised that the solution we were building was most suited to golf.
"With the likes of tennis and cricket, you have a lot of random motions, but golf is a lot easier to track and provide feedback. And so the goal is really to understand each person's ability and technique, then have something that learns about their game and helps them in a unique way every time they play."
Crucially, unlike other trackers and sensors, Golfication X doesn't require any input from the user, such as tapping before each shot. Users simply attach the wearable to the velcro of their glove, add the included 14 sensors to the top of each club's grip and they're ready to have their swing motion and shot distance tracked. The system can work without a phone, though the GPS rangefinder data available through the companion app also lets wearers receive suggestions at over 10,000 courses for a possible next shot, based on variables such as wind, shot history and elevation.
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But while similar features have been available in various golf wearables for some time, Arun noted that Golfication X's ability to allow each of its tracked elements to talk to each other and have the data interpreted through AI is what separates it from the pack.
"Artificial intelligence has solved a lot of things, but it hasn't necessarily trickled into wearables just yet. Let's use two players from The Masters, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, as an example of how this relates to the wearable," Arun continued.
"These two have very different golf swings, but they both really work for them. Now, imagine if there was a wearable that said Reed needs to sharpen up his swing and put it more in line with Spieth's, because it's more textbook. He's probably going to lose his game, and so you need artificial intelligence to help you improve whatever the specifics of your personal game may be.
"And when you combine this with a GPS rangefinder and a swing analyser, you have a very complete package. There are a bunch of wearables out there today, like Arccos and Game Golf, that track where your ball started and ended, but they don't tell you why it happened.
"For example, if the system is seeing data that involves you missing most of the greens to the right, or missing most of your fairways to the left, obviously you can see that happening, but we have our components working together and we use that swing analysis to build a picture of why the shot went the way it did. Maybe you're coming over the top with a certain club, maybe you don't have a repeatable tempo or swing plane, whatever it may be, it can be tracked to help you realise and improve."
And while this is the crux of what Golfication is trying to bring to golfers, there's also plenty more data to dive into with the app. Players can challenge an AI version of their friends or professionals, see graphs related to their success with individual clubs and even access info regarding strokes gained.
With strokes-gained analysis, the data will be charted to show the user how to knock shots off from the tee, in approach, around the green and through putting, as well as giving the option to compare this, again, to friends and the pros.
Though this is the Indian startup's first foray into the world of sports trackers, it's clear Golfication X has the potential to be one of the deeper and more intelligent wearable systems available to golfers.
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Not only does it aim to bring something that goes beyond the usual surface scratchers, it's also doing it in a way that doesn't interrupt from the usual flow of your round. One of our big gripes with some trackers is doing things out of your usual habit (i.e. tapping before every stroke), so it really is a luxury that Golfication is able to pick this all up automatically and without the help of a smartphone.
You can leave your device in your bag and check on your round after you've strolled off the 18th hole, or stay glued to it for real-time advice and detail. That's a really healthy choice to have at your disposal.
That said, there are naturally concerns, too. A lot is promised on paper here, while just how accurate the features are in use remains to be seen. If this startup is able to drive past its funding goal and bring this next-level golf wearable to life though, we look forward to testing it out on the course and seeing for ourselves.
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