All golfers inherently understand that to score well, they need to putt well. We all know the cliché, but we don’t always listen to the voice in our head telling us to go to the practice green instead of the practice tee.
A repeatable, consistent stroke will always give a golfer the best chance to drain those putts to save par, drop a birdie or even make that bogey putt that keeps the round going. The best way to achieve a repeatable stroke is by understanding your current stroke and making improvements. The 3BaysGSA PUTT, a lightweight putting analyzer designed to deliver key feedback about your stroke, is one of the ways to help you achieve that consistent, reliable putting stroke.
The PUTT is available now for $199 and you can learn more on its website. Unlike other swing analyzers on the market, there are two different products: the GSA PUTT for Android and the GSA PUTT for iOS. You need to purchase the appropriate product for your device, which also includes the free companion smartphone app that can be downloaded from the iOS and Android app stores. 3Bays also has a swing analyzer designed for the full swing, but this review is focused only on the 3BaysGSA PUTT.
- Accurate representation of the putting stroke.
- Great collection of key data points.
- In-app video integration.
- Only analyzes the putting stroke (but does it well).
- Requires separate hardware for iOS and Android.
- Works on tablets, but not optimized for the larger screen.
The PUTT packaging and hardware is very solid. When you first open the box, you get the feeling you’ve purchased a high-end product. It is one of the nicest presentations I’ve seen yet. The box includes a carrying case, a micro usb cord with a wall adapter for charging and a quick start guide. The PUTT fits securely in the top of your club instead of attaching to the shaft like other analyzers. It is extremely light, weighing just 9.8 grams and appears solid enough that if you accidentally drop it, it won’t instantly shatter. Since the sensor is at the top of the shaft, some golfers might find the sensor could be in the way depending on their grip and position. The only time I had any issues was when I was practicing at home with my watch on my wrist. At the range or the course, the sensor was not in the way.
The real magic is what is inside the case. Because 3Bays decided to focus on two separate devices — one designed for high-speed capture (GSA PRO) and one designed for low-speed motion capture (GSA PUTT) — the PUTT includes very delicate sensors that can detect even the most subtle movements during the swing.
Device setup, golfer and putter info
Setting up the PUTT was simple. You need to download the companion app first, then power up the device. You can expect the same process as pairing other Bluetooth devices and the smartphone app will guide you through the process. I didn’t have any issues pairing the first time and have not experienced any issues pairing or staying paired with the device. If you have any issues, there is a nice help section within the app.
Like most motion analyzers, PUTT will deliver more accurate results if you take the time to fill out your profile and putter information. For the golfer, you should at least enter your height, but you can enter your gender, weight, handicap and name.
The putter data is very important. You can select the head type from a variety of options including mallet, Anser-style, center-shafted, futuristic and others. Length, loft, lie and head weight are other data points you can modify. The more accurate you can be with this data the better, but don’t worry too much if you can’t find the specs on the lucky gamer you’ve had in your bag since you were a kid. You can also change the color of some of the elements and set the distance, speed and force units, which is a nice feature.
App and swing path animation
PUTT includes a free app available for iOS and Android. For iOS, you need to have a 3GS or newer running 5.1 or later, and for Android you need to be running 2.3 or later. For this review, I’m focusing on the iOS experience. One thing to note is that these apps will run on tablets such as the iPad, but they are not universal apps and are not designed specifically for tablets. That means instead of presenting the golfer with an interface that leverages the large screen, you’ll see a magnified iPhone app. 3Bays is considering tablet-optimized apps in the future, but is focusing resources on new products for now.
After you pair your PUTT, the app goes directly to the swing screen. Once you enter your basic specs, all you need to do is roll putts. To make sure it registers, line up your putt, pause for one second and then start your swing. The app will automatically analyze the data and present the swing path animation on the screen. You can keep putting, the app will continuously record your swings.
Once you are ready to review your swings, you’ll see that you have two views on the screen. The top view displays your attack angle. The bottom view displays your face angle. There are many other data points, but I like that 3Bays highlighted these two metrics because they are two of the most important pieces of data in the putting stroke. You can tap the play button to view an animation of your stroke. You can auto play the animation at full, 1/4 and 1/16th speed and you can zoom in close allowing you to see even the most subtle moves during the swing. If you turn your device to landscape, the view changes to show a bigger view of the animation.
Data and accuracy
I tested the PUTT outside on the putting green and inside on a putting mat with guide lines. I also leveraged video separate from the app, as well as other swing analyzers to help test the accuracy of the data. We all know a $200 analyzer is not going to be as accurate as the larger commercial systems, but PUTT does provide very accurate data that will be useful to the majority of golfers looking to improve. The sensors picked up my stock stroke exactly as I expected. When I tried to manipulate the stroke with subtle movements such as taking the club back outside or coming back into the ball inside, the app picked it up with really good accuracy. Downward angle of attack and upward angle of attack also registered accurately. The app presents eight data points including consistency, tempo, face angle, attack angle, downswing time, backswing time, impact speed and swing path distance. The one data point that really stands out as unique to other analyzers is the swing path distance. The app presents a colored graph showing the distance of your backswing and your follow through. You can also view historical charts showing your consistency over time.
In addition to using the PUTT to help improve my swing, I also used it to help me decide to switch putters. I’m not advocating using the PUTT instead of a proper putter fitting, but I did find it very interesting when I stacked two of my putters against each other, I found that my old putter actually allowed me to square up the putter face much more consistently than my current putter. While this type of comparison testing isn’t the No. 1 purpose of the product, it is a nice bonus.
PUTT packs a lot of great information, data and path animations into this app. For me, I’d like to see a redesign and a streamlining of the app to make it more intuitive. It is a solid app and there are some nice design features, such as super smooth swipe gestures to move between swings. However, I believe there is an opportunity to further enhance the experience especially as the company considers rolling out a version of the app that truly capitalizes on the screen real estate available on tablets.
I love seeing companies squeeze every ounce of functionality out of our devices. Integrating video into the app is a no-brainer. It is one of the most common ways to understand, learn and improve your swing. 3Bays recently joined the list of swing analyzers to integrate in-app video with their most recent PUTT app update. From the main swing screen, you can tap on the camera icon which will pull up the video recording screen. You can choose to record continuously, or just one time. The video can be recorded in landscape or portrait mode, but I’ve found landscape provides me to be close-up but still see the full path of the putter back and through. The video is automatically in slow motion, and although limitations in the frame rate of smartphones won’t turn this into super slow motion, it is good enough to give you a sense of what is going on during your stroke. The video playback screen allows you to swipe through the video, draw annotations and also displays the attack angle and face angle at impact.
3Bays spent time including quite a bit of help information within the PUTT app. You can tap the help icon in the navigation bar, which pulls up an overlay allowing you to see information about each element on the screen. They have a nice Connection Wizard to walk you through the pairing process and helpful tips on how to pair your PUTT.
There is a golf tips button in the app, which loads the 3Bays website. However, the tips are limited right now and are only covering the full swing and not putting. I like it when swing analyzers include tips, but it isn’t one of the top-10 features I’m looking for. There is a wealth of resources available these days to help us learn about the golf swing, and more importantly, many teaching pros out there who are able to give us personalized instruction. Leveraging the data and insights available through the PUTT app with your local pro really creates the best of both worlds.
There are many ways to roll putts. But one thing is constant: we have to deliver the putter head square at impact to sink more putts and lower our scores. 3Bays understands that offering a product aimed at only one part of the game has its limitations. They are looking at alternatives, such as packaging both products together, but at the time of this post, do not have any official plans. That said, 3BaysGSA PUTT is a solid product that provides golfers of all skill levels a very accurate picture of their putting stroke and plenty of data to help understand what is going on, allowing you to make improvements and hopefully sink more putts.
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I tried the great Golfboarding experiment… here’s how it went
Corica Park Golf Course is not exactly the first place you’d expect to find one of the most experimental sports movements sweeping the nation. Sitting on a pristine swath of land along the southern rim of Alameda Island, deep in the heart of the San Francisco Bay, the course’s municipal roots and no-frills clubhouse give it an unpretentious air that seems to fit better with Sam Snead’s style of play than, say, Rickie Fowler’s.
Yet here I am, one perfectly sunny morning on a recent Saturday in December planning to try something that is about as unconventional as it gets for a 90-year-old golf course.
It’s called Golfboarding, and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an amalgam of golf and skateboarding, or maybe surfing. The brainchild of surfing legend Laird Hamilton — who can be assumed to have mastered, and has clearly grown bored of, all normal sports — Golfboarding is catching on at courses throughout the country, from local municipal courses like Corica Park to luxury country clubs like Cog Hill and TPC Las Colinas. Since winning Innovation Of the Year at the PGA Merchandising Show in 2014, Golfboards can now be found at 250 courses and have powered nearly a million rounds of golf already. Corica Park currently owns eight of them.
The man in pro shop gets a twinkle in his eyes when our foursome tells him we’d like to take them out. “Have you ridden them before?” he asks. When we admit that we are uninitiated, he grins and tells us we’re in for a treat.
But first, we need to sign a waiver and watch a seven-minute instructional video. A slow, lawyerly voice reads off pedantic warnings like “Stepping on the golfboard should be done slowly and carefully” and “Always hold onto the handlebars when the board is in motion.” When it cautions us to “operate the board a safe distance from all…other golfboarders,” we exchange glances, knowing that one of us will more than likely break this rule later on.
Then we venture outside, where one of the clubhouse attendants shows us the ropes. The controls are pretty simple. One switch sends it forward or in reverse, another toggles between low and high gear. To make it go, there’s a throttle on the thumb of the handle. The attendant explains that the only thing we have to worry about is our clubs banging against our knuckles.
“Don’t be afraid to really lean into the turns,” he offers. “You pretty much can’t roll it over.”
“That sounds like a challenge,” I joke. No one laughs.
On a test spin through the parking lot, the Golfboard feels strong and sturdy, even when I shift around on it. It starts and stops smoothly with only the slightest of jerks. In low gear its top speed is about 5 mph, so even at full throttle it never feels out of control.
The only challenge, as far as I can tell, is getting it to turn. For some reason, I’d expected the handlebar to offer at least some degree of steering, but it is purely for balance. The thing has the Ackerman angle of a Mack Truck, and you really do have to lean into the turns to get it to respond. For someone who is not particularly adept at either surfing or skateboarding, this comes a little unnaturally. I have to do a number of three-point turns in order to get back to where I started and make my way over to the first tee box.
We tee off and climb on. The fairway is flat and wide, and we shift into high gear as we speed off toward our balls. The engine had produced just the faintest of whirrs as it accelerated, but it is practically soundless as the board rolls along at full speed. The motor nevertheless feels surprisingly powerful under my feet (the drivetrain is literally located directly underneath the deck) as the board maintains a smooth, steady pace of 10 mph — about the same as a golf cart. I try making a couple of S curves like I’d seen in the video and realize that high-speed turning will take a little practice for me to get right, but that it doesn’t seem overly difficult.
Indeed, within a few holes I might as well be Laird himself, “surfing the earth” from shot to shot. I am able to hold the handlebar and lean way out, getting the board to turn, if not quite sharply, then at least closer to that of a large moving van than a full-sized semi. I take the hills aggressively (although the automatic speed control on the drivetrain enables it to keep a steady pace both up and down any hills, so this isn’t exactly dangerous), and I speed throughout the course like Mario Andretti on the freeway (the company claims increased pace-of-play as one of the Golfboard’s primary benefits, but on a Saturday in the Bay Area, it is impossible avoid a five-hour round anyway.)
Gliding along, my feet a few inches above the grass, the wind in my face as the fairways unfurl below my feet, it is easy to see Golfboards as the next evolution in mankind’s mastery of wheels; the same instincts to overcome inertia that brought us bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, skateboards, and more recent inventions such as Segways, Hoverboards and Onewheels are clearly manifest in Golfboards as well. They might not offer quite the same thrill as storming down a snowy mountainside or catching a giant wave, but they are definitely more fun than your standard golf cart.
Yet, there are obvious downsides as well. The attendant’s warning notwithstanding, my knuckles are in fact battered and sore by the time we make the turn, and even though I rearrange all my clubs into the front slots of my bag, they still rap my knuckles every time I hit a bump. Speaking of which, the board’s shock absorber system leaves something to be desired, as the ride is so bumpy that near the end I start to feel as if I’ve had my insides rattled. Then there is the unforgivable fact of its missing a cup holder for my beer.
But these are mere design flaws that might easily be fixed in the next generation of Golfboards. (A knuckle shield is a must!) My larger problem with Golfboards is what they do to the game itself. When walking or riding a traditional cart, the moments in between shots are a time to plan your next shot, or to chat about your last shot, or to simply find your zen out there among the trees and the birds and the spaciousness of the course. Instead, my focus is on staying upright.
Down the stretch, I start to fade. The muscles in my core have endured a pretty serious workout, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to muster the strength for my golf swing. It is no coincidence that my game starts to unravel, and I am on the way to one of my worst rounds in recent memory.
Walking off the 18th green, our foursome agrees that the Golfboards were fun — definitely worth trying — but that we probably wouldn’t ride them again. Call me a purist, but as someone lacking Laird Hamilton’s physical gifts, I’m happy to stick to just one sport at a time.
Review: The QOD Electric Caddy
If you want an electric golf caddy that doesn’t require that you wear a sensor or carry a remote — one that will be reliable and allow you to focus on your game, and not your cart — then the Australian-manufactured QOD is worth checking out.
The QOD (an acronym for Quality of Design and a nod to its four wheels) is powered by a 14.4-volt lithium battery, good for 36 holes or more on a single charge. It has nine different speeds (with the fastest settings moving closer to jogging velocity) so the QOD can handle your ideal pace, whether that be a casual stroll or a more rapid clip around the course.
The QOD is also built to last. Its injection-molded, aircraft-grade aluminum frame has no welded joints. Steel bolts and locking teeth take care of the hinging points. The battery and frame are both guaranteed for three full years. If you need a new battery after the three-year window, the folks at QOD will replace it at cost.
Its front-wheel suspension gives the QOD a smooth ride down the fairway, and the trolley is easy to navigate with a gentle nudge here and there. The QOD is always in free-wheel mode, so it is smooth and easy to maneuver manually in tight spaces and around the green.
The caddy also features three timed interval modes for situations where you might wish to send it up ahead on its own: when helping a friend find a lost ball or when you will be exiting on the far side of the green after putting, for example. The clip below includes a look at the caddy in timed mode.
Another area where the QOD excels is in its small size and portability. When folded, it measures a mere 17-inches wide, 15-inches deep and 12-inches tall, making it the smallest electric caddy on the market.
Folks Down Under have been enjoying the QOD for some time, but it wasn’t until a few years ago when Malachi McGlone was looking for a way to continue walking the course without putting undue strain on an injured wrist that the QOD found U.S. fairways. After first becoming a satisfied customer, McGlone convinced CEO Collin Hiss, who developed the product and oversees its production in Australia, to allow him to distribute and service the QOD here in the states.
The QOD has no self-balancing gyroscope, bluetooth sensor or remote control. Bells and whistles just aren’t its thing — though it does have a USB port for cell phone charging that can come in handy. However, if you are looking for a no-fuss workhorse to move your bag down the fairway, the QOD should be on your radar.
The 2018 model has begun shipping and will be on sale at $1,299 for a limited time. It normally retails at $1,499.
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