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Forsgren helps revolutionize golf on TV with Protracer

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One of my favorite parts of watching golf on TV is when the Protracer is brought out. You know that special camera that tracks the ball’s flight path? Something about it is just so exciting, and beautiful.

It really gives you an idea for what these guys can do with the ball, as well as what it actually looks like. Out of curiosity, I tried to learn more about it so I gave Protracer’s founder Daniel Forsgren a call.

Forsgren came up with the idea when he started playing golf in the late 1990s. As he got progressively more and more into the sport, he decided that he was particularly disappointed with the way golf was shown on TV.

“The idea just came to me from watching golf on TV,” he said. “It didn’t tell me enough. I wanted to know how the ball is performing in the air and what the players are actually doing. The announcers seemed to know what was happening but I certainly didn’t. I started to think of ways to improve the broadcast for ways to make it easier for people see what is happening and get a feeling for the ball flight. I felt like it was just someone whacking a ball and then you see a picture of the ball against the clouds and it doesn’t tell you anything.”

[youtube id=”xI63Ak96TLA” width=”620″ height=”360″]

Forsgren quit his job in IT in 2003 and started building a prototype. In layman terms, his system uses a specialized camera that has a custom-built sensor. It is connected to a computer and looks for a white ball and identifies it through each frame of the shot. He says it differs from a radar system that would send out beams looking for a golf ball and get results from reflecting off it.

“A radar is an active system where you transmit something and look at what it returns,” he said. “Our system is like a passive system. It’s not transmitting anything, it’s just watching whatever it can see in the ambient light conditions.”

It took him several years to put the final product in place, and he credits his background in computer gaming to helping him put the pieces together. He started showing it around and it caught the eye of professional Swedish golfer Ove Sellberg, who made an investment and helped him introduce it to the European Tour. There was a good deal of interest, and in 2006 it was ready to be officially demoed. From there he raised more money to start his company, and he hasn’t looked back since.

Today, Forsgren, who boasts a handicap of 8, goes to about 15 to 20 tournaments per year. Usually he hires freelancers to work the system, and these people tend to be those with backgrounds in television broadcasting. He says that his product has never been in more demand, and he was proud to recently be voted by Golfweek.com as the “coolest golf technology” on TV. He does not have many competitors, apart from a few companies that offer a product that is similar, but more designed for golf shops and instructors than broadcasting.

His clients, which are channels like NBC and ESPN, typically pay him per event. Sometimes the channels will use the equipment themselves, or hire Protracer to find the staff to operate it. Rates per event vary and are on a weekly basis, although he gives discounts for extended use.

His hope is to expand the technology into other sports, and he says he sees a lot of possibilities for its use in baseball. He is also working on a product that will make the tracer more available to individual users, but it is still a way off as prices remain high. However, he says costs are gradually coming down and eventually he’d like to get something released.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Adge

    Jul 25, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Protracer is a fantastic addition to TV golf coverage. Can they follow Bubba around for 18 holes?

  2. Troy

    Jul 13, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Would be great if every shot a tour player took we would see club, club speed, ball speed, smash factor, wind speed and direction along with protracer. Not trying to cover up the screen full of numbers but if we could see this data I think it would show how unique their skills are. Just like a pitcher throwing 98mph.

  3. Steve

    Jul 12, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Protracer is one of my favorite parts of watching a golf tournament broadcast! I want to invent one that you can see live and in-person while playing golf! 🙂

  4. renoaz

    Jul 12, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Any chance of a bionic eye with this feature? Might help me find my tee shots in the desert.

  5. IgnoranceIsBliss

    Jul 12, 2013 at 6:37 am

    Protracer really is a fantastic technology. It’s a shame that it isn’t a permanent fixture at all of the televised golfing events.

  6. JC

    Jul 11, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I enjoy watching golf where Protracer is in use as well. It’s near impossible to really tell what flight pattern the ball is taking without it.

    Super slo-mo Swing Vision is the other broadcasting advancement that I really dig.

  7. Scott Rose

    Jul 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks for the article…really interesting story and what a great compilation. Thanks!

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: The best drill in golf (throwing the club)

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If you are struggling with weight shift, clearing your hips, or have issues freeing up your golf swing, then what you want to do is start chucking that golf club. No joke! In this podcast, we will explain how to properly throw the golf club from a safe area and the results will be absolutely transformational.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: A New No. 1 – How Justin Thomas overcame a poor putting performance

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In the final tuneup before the PGA Championship in San Francisco, many of the world’s best teed it up at Memphis’ TPC Southwind in the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational. The final day showcased a stacked leaderboard and plenty of volatility, but in the end, it was Justin Thomas who came from four back to win for the third time this year. This was a quick bounceback after a letdown at The Memorial just a few weeks ago. Winning on the PGA Tour certainly takes stellar play and, typically, a little luck like Thomas’ pulled drive on 15 that skirted off a cart path, over a bridge and into prime position for a late birdie. Had that tee ball found the hazard instead, this article would likely be about Brooks Koepka and his late charge.

Golf is a game of misses and taking advantage of good breaks. That is not to take away from JT’s week of stellar ball striking. He finished the week first in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and second in Strokes Gained Approach. That’s no surprise for the new number one in the world. What is surprising is how poorly Thomas putted throughout the week. It is extremely rare for a PGA Tour winner to lose strokes to the field with the putter, but that is exactly what Thomas did.

In Ways to Win, it is rare that we highlight Short Game as a differentiating factor for winners. That is typically because to excel in the short game, one has to miss quite a few greens. When you miss greens, it’s hard to score. However, Justin Thomas was able to consistently get himself out of difficult situations, minimize damage, and turn bogeys into pars throughout his four rounds.

If you want to be an elite player, you can’t do it with your short game alone. It sure comes in handy on those off days, though. Just how good was Thomas’ short game? He finished fourth for the week in Strokes Gained Around the Green and got up and down inside 75 yards more than 80 percent of the time (including several clutch up and downs late on Sunday). His touch was particularly crucial, given that his putter wasn’t really cooperating.

Again, it is very rare for a PGA Tour winner to lose strokes with the flatstick. Typically the winner is the best putter out of the best ball strikers, but not so this week. Thomas only three-putted twice for the week. However, he lost strokes to the field from three out of nine distance buckets that we analyzed using V1 Game’s putting breakdown.

In four other buckets, he was almost “net zero” in strokes gained with the putter. He only gained strokes with the putter from inside six feet. Making short putts is certainly a big key to golfing success. That is why short misses are highlighted in V1 Game’s post-round analysis: missing short putts is a quick way to compound errors. Thomas is not an elite putter by any means, but he is typically solid in the clutch.

V1 Game makes it easy to keep track of personal bests and track progress in a tournament. Any stat that the PGA Tour gives can be recreated with V1 Game. Here are some quick stats for Thomas’ week using V1 Game’s Personal Bests feature:

Total Score: 267
Best Round: 65
Worst Round: 70
Longest Drive: 347 yds
Longest Holeout: 28 ft
Most consecutive holes without a bogey: 24
Scrambling Streak: 9 in a row
Holes without a 3 putt: 20
Most birdies in a round: 6

Thomas certainly played well when it mattered, resisting the urge to look at a scoreboard throughout the final round and focusing on the job at hand. His patience paid off with his 13th victory in a young career. Short game play is a fantastic equalizer and a great tool for any golfer’s bag. However, Thomas really separates himself with ball striking.

The best way to improve your short game is to miss fewer greens, like JT. For most amateurs, short game practice should focus on eliminating mistakes, such as “two-chips” when you do miss the green. Once you can consistently get on the green and have a putt to get up and down, focus should shift to the long game. Tee to Green play is where the game’s best separate themselves from the weekend warriors.

V1 Game can help you with each of these items.

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On Spec

On Spec: Talking Kirkland wedge, LPGA Tour, and teased irons from TaylorMade & Mizuno

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In this episode of On Spec, host Ryan talks about the recently discovered Kirkland Signature wedges on the USGA Conforming list, as well as what recently spotted TaylorMade and Mizuno irons may have in store
Also with the LPGA Tour back in action, Ryan also discussed why it is a good idea to check out how LPGA players gap their bags compared to players on the PGA Tour.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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