Every golfer is looking to improve their game, which is why products like Zepp have gained immense popularity, by promising to unlock the secrets of your swing.
As any budding amateur knows, golf is possibly the most complex (frustrating) of all sports, and one that depends on the finest of margins. It's all about honing your technique, and then doing the same thing every time. One slight lapse, in one of many of areas of your swing, will lead to disaster.
Getting an insight into those nuances and ticks used to be limited to going to see a professional, and of course, spending a lot of cash. Increasingly, those professionals will use tracking systems, to video your swing and play it back to you, putting it side by side with tour players.
That's the premise behind Zepp. For $149.99 you get a glove-worn wearable that connects via Bluetooth to your iPhone, iPad or Android device, so you can get those insights without the lesson. You take a shot, and it tells you which bits were good and which were bad.
But can it help you take shots off your round? We took it to the range to find out.
Zepp Golf: Design and features
The Zepp unit itself is a little green square that's designed to clip onto the back of your glove. Its clipping mount is damned tight, and there's no danger of it coming loose.
The bottom corner is actually a button you press to pair with your mobile device and once its syncs up with the Zepp Golf app, you're ready to play.
While you can take it out on the course if you really wish, Zepp's designed for the range. You pop your mobile device in the bay with you, and start swinging. Every time you swing, it's automatically recognised, and the stats screen will populate with the results of your shot.
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Setting up couldn't have been easier, and within minutes of getting to the range for the first time, we were ready to start hitting.
There aren't a huge range of features, and Zepp is very much focused on analysing your swing data. It's capable of tracking 90,000 data points, using the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, and can store 2,000 swings in its internal memory.
Aside from tracking your shots – which we will come to in detail shortly, Zepp Golf also has a free tool, which enables you to record your swing and place it next to select professionals, to pick out areas you can improve. There's also a library of video training exercises and drills to watch.
Zepp Golf: Analysis and tracking
When it comes to your swing, Zepp tracks a host of data points.
Club speed, club plane (the path your club follows in the backswing and downswing), hand plane (the same with your hands), backswing angle, tempo and hip rotation are all tracked.
When you hit a ball, the data on your swing flashes up in a couple of seconds. It's all a bit baffling for the uninitiated, but each metric is colour-coded to indicate you whether it's good or bad.
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There's also an explainer and a video for each metric, and it's well worth hitting a few practice swings in the back garden and watching all the videos before going to the range, so you understand exactly what's going on.
It's also essential that you get the glove position right. At the start we didn't quite have it flush on the back of the hand. Being the first time we'd used Zepp, we were slight unnerved by the awful backswing angle data, and try as we might, we couldn't affect the result. It turned out that repositioning the sensor, right on the Velcro of the glove, solved nearly every problem.
When you swing, it takes about five seconds for your data to appear in the app. Once loaded you can see your data from the main screen, or toggle 3D view, so you can see a representation of your swing plane, hand plane and club angle.
If you use Zepp with your smartphone, you can place it in your pocket to also measure your hip movement – provided it has a gyroscope. It makes it slightly less easy to see your stats after every shot, but it's a good way to get a complete overview of your swing.
When you hit a shot you're happy with, it's a good idea to star it, which saves it for comparison later.
The good thing about Zepp is that you can then choose to compare a shot you've starred to ones that went wrong, and to the pros who are all video and 3D captured.
Of course, not everyone has a picture perfect swing, and every golfer knows someone with a crazy technique that gets results. That doesn't mean that those with a less traditional swing will turn every dial red, as you can change your swing goals to your own needs. Just wait to hit the perfect shot, then manually input that data into the My Swing Goals option. Every shot you hit will be measured against your perfect shot, which can help you understand the inconsistencies hampering your handicap.
Overall, provided you have your sensor placed correctly, Zepp is a superbly easy to use tool that's capable of capturing a tonne of data. We love the speed and ease it can be used at the range, and being able to adjust the swing goals shows that the company respects the nuances of golfers.
Of course, the real reason to use Zepp is to improve your game, so does all this data actually add up to better golf? Read on to find out...
Zepp Golf: Actionable information
So does Zepp have the power to make you a better golfer?
Once you've got a load of swings in the bank, it's time to analyse, and that's done in a number of ways.
First, for every metric there's a tips video and a drill. They're really clear and useful, but remember to take some headphones to the range, and take some time out to watch them. We felt a little nerdy staring at our iPad in the bay, but there's no point after you've gone home.
The only criticism here is that the videos all require an internet connection. That's inevitably to keep the size of the app to a minimum, but we had to tether our iPad to watch them, and they were extremely slow to load away from WiFi.
When you get home, you get a report of your last 90 swings via Zepp Insights, which calls out the area you most need to work on. It also picks out an appropriate tuition video to help.
Finally, you can compare your starred swings to pro players, which gives you an idea of what you're doing wrong.
So what did we find out? Well, Zepp told us that our backswing was too fast, and we had a tendency to come over the ball too much, which could explain our propensity for waywardness.
And it kind of worked. We hit some more balls, went out and shot an improved round the next time out.
Having this information at your fingertips really does help, and we genuinely learned a lot about our game. As with most golfers, we're obsessed with stats and Zepp's a great way to get a huge amount of data, with very little effort.
It's not a miracle worker. There could be more drills and tuition, rather than one video per issue. Zepp won't fix major problems with your swing or teach you how to play golf – and it's no replacement for personal tuition, but mid-handicappers struggling with niggling inconsistencies who haven't the time for lessons can seriously benefit.
- Easy to use, for loads of data
- Offers genuine training points
- Free app is great too
- A lot of terminology to research
- Hard to watch videos while on the range
- More in-depth drills would be useful