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Review: FlagHi App

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Pros: An easy-to-use app that incorporate elevation, humidity and temperature into yardage to give golfers accurate distance measurements.

Cons: As with any product release, there are a couple small functionality issues that need to be addressed to improve user experience. Available for iPhone only.

The Bottom Line: This is a simple and logical app. At a reasonable price point, it will likely attract a wide clientele and will likely be more popular with competitive amateur and professional players.

Overview

Knowing how far you hit each club is integral to scoring. Most serious golfers are aware that changes in elevation increase or decrease carry distances by approximately 10 percent for every 5000 feet of elevation. That said, it’s doubtful avid golfers (competitive amateurs and pros included) have a working knowledge of the role temperature and humidity play in determining the flight of a golf ball. This app attempts to bring clarity to this relationship.

Common sense tells you that knowing how far you hit each club is important. Tiger Woods has been quoted as asserting the secret to golf is “being pin high.” Knowing how far you hit each club in your bag is absolutely critical to playing golf well, at any level. Need more? Bill Murchison of PGA.com said the biggest difference between tour pros and average golfers “is the ability to control their distances with their scoring clubs — in particular, their wedges.” If you want to make more putts, hit it closer. If you want to hit it closer, know exactly how far you hit each club!

Anyone can make something complicated. A true genius takes something complicated and makes it simple. Or so goes the thought process of FlagHi co-designers Mark Stratz and Nate Regimbal. After a golf outing to Bandon Dunes and 7&6 drubbing, Stratz couldn’t put his finger on exactly why he had played so poorly, but his distances were consistently inconsistent. One iron flew too far and then next came up well short.

Had Stratz played well that day he might not have woken up at 2 a.m. in a cold sweat screaming, “Eureka.” Okay, that didn’t really happen, but Stratz’s frustration did lead to some late night thinking and eventually the “aha” that it’s not simply elevation that impacts how far a ball flies. If you really want to understand what’s happening to your ball you have to account for temperature and humidity as well.

Fortunately, Stratz knew someone who could take this concept and turn it into something palatable and perhaps profitable. Enter Nate Regimbal. Regimbal used his expertise from his days as an IBM software designer to build out a user interface and to develop algorithms that utilize condition differentials (and a bunch of other NASA type gobbledygook), which eventually resulted in the FlagHi app.

photo 2

The FlagHi App sells for $4.99 and the “Pro” version, which has the company’s patent-pending “PlaysAs” function, sells for $9.99. Both are available for iPhone in the Apple App Store. According to the company’s, an Android version is in the works.

The Review

Even if you aren’t the most tech savvy individual, this app is super easy to use. The first step is to input the “baseline” temperature, elevation and percent-humidity conditions for your home course. The average temperature and percent-humidity information can be found on any website that tracks historical weather data. For the elevation of your home course, you can also look it up online – or there are a variety of free apps you can download that allow you to measure the elevation yourself right at the course. From there, enter the specific carry distance for each club in your bag. You have now finished with configurations and are ready to go. As conditions change, simply input the new temperature, elevation or percent-humidity, and the app shows you the adjusted carry distance for each club. Once the app was set up it took me about 5 minutes to get comfortable moving between screens and features.

photo 4

That said, there are two tweaks I believe would enhance app usability.

  1. Prior to using the “PlaysAs” screen (the interface in FlagHi Pro where you enter the distance of a shot and the app then tells you the distance that it actually plays), the app requires the user to first input current condition data on the “Current Distances” interface, which doesn’t allow the “PlaysAs” feature to be used right away independently. I would recommend that the PlaysAs interface allow the user to enter the current playing conditions directly as to streamline this experience. 
  2. When you are on the “Current Distances” interface, if you change any of the current playing condition parameters, the app refreshes the screen and reverts to the default sort order – showing your longest club (probably your Driver). My preference would be to persist the displayed club when making changes, so that the effects of your tweaks to the current conditions can be seen immediately for the club you have displayed. This would allow you to more easily “play around” with the app and see how the playing conditions actually affect the carry distances of that club.

photo 3

If you’re trying to make a decision between the basic and pro version, and wondering whether or not the $10 is worth it, I’d suggest you pony up the $10. The “PlaysAs” feature is probably the most unique piece of this app and is only available on the Pro version. My hunch is that some of the usability issues will be addressed in the near future and for a one time cost of $10, the pro version will offer the user a more robust experience.

The Takeaway

The chief benefit for this type of app is clear to the competitive amateur, collegiate, mini-tour and professional golfer. However, if you’ve ever come up a yard short of carrying a hazard or flew a green and you claimed to have “over-pured it,” my hunch is this app has a lot of benefit for you. You might find yourself saying, “I’m not good enough to care whether my 9 iron goes 137 or 139.” It’s funny how much more people start caring when they know how far they actually hit each club. Golf is a game of inches, for everyone.

Moving forward,  I don’t think we’re far off from a synchronized GPS/laser rangefinder that incorporates this type of data to give players a true measure of both visual and theoretical distance in one device. I can see college teams, touring pros and competitive amateurs using this data as a means to prepare for particular courses, conditions and events. To that end, we’ve already seen players hire and invest is statistical breakdowns of particular segments of their games as a means to diagnose and improve. In this case, information is good. And you can’t get too much of a good thing, right?

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I didn't grow up playing golf. I wasn't that lucky. But somehow the game found me and I've been smitten ever since. Like many of you, I'm a bit enthusiastic for all things golf and have a spouse which finds this "enthusiasm" borderline ridiculous. I've been told golf requires someone who strives for perfection, but realizes the futility of this approach. You have to love the journey more than the result and relish in frustration and imperfection. As a teacher and coach, I spend my days working with amazing middle school and high school student athletes teaching them to think, dream and hope. And just when they start to feel really good about themselves, I hand them a golf club!

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Mike McLean

    Feb 18, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    To all golf enthusiasts, weekend rounders, golf tinkerer’s, and aspiring tour players: I finally had the opportunity to play two rounds with the FlagHi App this weekend. I saw an immediate improvement in my distance accuracy and felt more confident over every shot. The benefits became obvious on the greens as I rarely found my ball resting more or less than 5 yards away from the flag. As noted in some of the earlier comments, there is a little room to improve the user experience but even “As Is”, the FlagHi App brings a lot of useful information to your game.

  2. Josh

    Feb 12, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    This would be great if it could pull from the weather channel or a similar weather app. Then there would be no need to have to manually enter the information. Just open the app and it updates based on your GPS location. Just an idea. Neat idea though.

    • Nate

      Mar 2, 2014 at 12:05 am

      The roadmap includes APIs to feed the conditions directly into the FlagHi formulas – resulting in real-time condition-affected carry distance adjustments. Of course there will still need to be manual mode for those who are punching in the next day’s forecast and updating their yardage books prior to the round. Per my other comment and as Philip indicated below – the approach of entering in the conditions prior to the round and making note of updated carry distances is how several pros (and now several college players) are using the app.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this – we assure you we are listening.

      Nate

  3. Steve Stratz

    Feb 10, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Disclosure, Mark Stratz is my brother and I’ve helped him, Nate and FlagHi on the PR-front. However, that being said, I’m a 6.3 handicap and the app is just great data. I did a track man session at my home course for average carry distances and have been using it there. While, at this point, the distances don’t change much due to winter conditions, the PlayAs feature is like having a caddie tell you which club to pull. In my last two rounds (the first I’ve used PlayAs), I’ve had 22 holes where I could use it (full shot into the green) and I was FlagHi 20 of 22 times. Not always on the green — lefts or right — but the club it told me to pull worked! I’m headed to Vegas in less than 2 weeks and can’t wait to use it, as temperature should be at least 20 degrees warmer, elevation will go from 231 feet to 2,000 and I know I won’t be guessing which club to pull!

  4. MJ

    Feb 9, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Well obviously this can’t be used during an actual tournament round, but when you are playing with your buddies and on your own in a non sanctioned round, it is fine. This is of course that your buddies don’t mind. I think it would be very beneficial to have this info on my home course, so I would know how far I hit each club. Has anyone used this? Is it worth messing with?

  5. Brandel Chamblee

    Feb 8, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    If you play golf in different areas the information provided is invaluable but you don’t need pay for an app to figure it out. All you need to do is figure out density altitude for wherever you are playing. For example, my distances are all calibrated in Palm Springs, where I live, during early summer when the temperature is around 100. There are many free apps to figure out density altitude and the one I use will automatically calculate based off the phones gps location and local weather. Even though Palm Springs is at 480 ft elevation my distances are all calibrated for 2500 ft density altitude which takes temp, humidity, elevation, and pressure alitude into consideration. Simply add or subtract 2% off your normal distances for every 1000ft of density altitude change. If I go play in monterey the density altitudes can be down around minus 500 ft even though it’s around sea level depending on the course. So for me that’s a 3000 ft change so I have to add 6 percent to my distance. At 200yds i need to play the shot like its 212 yds. Simply figure out the density altitude before a round and do the math on the fly.

    • Nate

      Feb 9, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      It is not entirely correct that the Density Altitude calculation factors in Humidity. Both the official formula, as well as the NWS approximation, assume “dry air”; humidity is not a part of the equation.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Density_altitude

      But we note that the patent-pending FlagHi methodology takes the environmental factors into account to generate the relative distances, and any calculation of “density altitude” is just an intermediate step in the process.

      When designing the app and selecting which of the myriad “condition parameters” to incorporate into the 1.0 formulas, it was our belief that because Humidity is such an immediately observed and “felt” condition, that our customers would wonder why we had left it out had we gone with the Home/Away Density Altitude differential approach.

      And as you know, even though humidity changes do not have a large affect on ball carry, it still has an effect.

      Most of the golfers out there (and certainly ALL of Chris’s GolfWRX readers) could look up the numbers and put pencil to paper themselves.

      But we believe Nike absolutely nailed it with their “Play in the now” campaign.

      So from a convenience perspective, and leveraging technology, we believe people would rather just swipe their finger across the screen.

      You of course may continue with the pencil and paper approach. So…for those who choose to emulate you: Where exactly do you get paper made from Persimmons wood? 🙂

      BTW I was at PGA West playing in the member-guest just prior to the crowds showing up at the Humana. Conditions netted out to be essentially the same as San Diego EXCEPT as the temperature went from 45 – 75 I saw a six yard swing in my 8-iron from hole 1 to hole 18. Again we believe it’s all about this critical data but also the convenience.

      Cheers,

      Nate

  6. Nate

    Feb 7, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Hi everyone, this is Nate from FlagHi.

    Huge thanks to Chris and GolfWRX for posting the review. And thank you all for your consideration.

    We are pleased to join in the discussion – we knew rules would come up!

    First of all, we note that we have at least three touring professionals who are using FlagHi regularly for tournament play. We do not believe they are using FlagHi DURING tournament play; it is used prior to the round only.

    So to be safe, FlagHi and FlagHi Pro users should not use the app DURING official tournament play, without prior consultation with the USGA or the local rules.

    However, it is our opinion that using the technology PRIOR to the round, as to make notes on the updated carry distances for your golf clubs, as well as to annotate a course distance booklet with the empathic PlaysAs distances, is entirely permissible – assuming that golfers and caddies are able to bring such “notes” on the course with them.

    This conclusion had been commented already: that players could write down the effects of the conditions, prior to the round.

    Our comments to excerpts of rule 14-3 and decisions made regarding that rule are below, and represent our thoughts on the matter. Our opinions have not been reviewed by credentialed experts on this rule or the decisions related to it. We are preparing materials to send to the USGA to get their official opinion on the matter. Since this is indeed FOAK technology, we don’t believe that current rules and decisions apply to the entirety of what FlagHi technology does.

    From https://www.usga.org/Rule-Books/Rules-of-Golf/Rule-14/

    Except as provided in the Rules, during a stipulated round the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment (see Appendix IV for detailed specifications and interpretations), or use any equipment in an unusual manner:
    a. That might assist him in making a stroke or in his play; or
    b. For the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play; or
    c. That might assist him in gripping the club, except that:

    We note the following:

    Per USGA Decision 14-3/0.5, FlagHi, not having the automatic feeds for current conditions (like an API to a weather DaaS), would not be an instrument that measures current conditions. It only calculates the effects of the conditions as entered by a person; entered values are not validated as accurate.

    Per USGA Decision 14-3/0.7, FlagHi does not obtain distance information (like a GPS or range-finder does).

    Per USGA Decision 14-3/5, annotating a “Booklet Providing Distances Between Various Points” with the PlaysAs values for those distances, prior to the round, would not seem to be a violation of the rule since Distance booklets are annotated with this type of information already (e.g. “plays uphill” or “plays longer than it seems”).

    Per USGA Decision 14-3/5.5, the “distance calculation function” is referring to point-to-point calculation of distances. FlagHi distance calculations are not in this context of reading or recording two waypoints and then calculating the distance between them. Rather FlagHi takes a distance value and then, based on the difference between the current conditions and the golfer’s home course conditions (again as entered by the user), provides an empathic distance to the golfer – or what that distance means to them in terms of their home course conditions.

    Per USGA Decision 5-1e/2,FlagHi is not a gauge which determines conditions. It simply allows you to enter the values obtained by such a gauge, or values you enter via a guess (finger to the wind).

    So given all this, we’re not convinced FlagHi presents a clear rules violation across the board. Perhaps it would be disallowed during a round, since assurances could not be reasonably given that other mechanisms on the smartphone had been disabled.

    But we have little doubt in the viability of the use case whereby a pro golfer, or college team – or even amateurs – checks the forecast for tomorrow’s round, or the conditions immediately prior to play, and punches the numbers into FlagHi and then makes note of the effects of the conditions. We think that makes a lot of sense, and why we’re excited about the technology and eager to hear your feedback.

    For those following us on twitter, you’ll see the app provides pretty useful information: the elevation change alone, from last week’s event in Scottsdale to right now at Pebble – is knocking 5 yards off a 170 yard iron. That is a GREAT data point to have ahead of a round, is it not?

    Sincere thanks for all your considerations, and should we earn your business we thank you for that as well.

    Cheers,

    Nate

  7. Philip

    Feb 7, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Using the app during a handicap round may be illegal, however, who says you have to. Enter the parameters before your round, note the adjustments for the day in your notebook, turn off your phone and play. You can even put in a few estimations based on average data if you are playing mid-morning to afternoon to account for the temperature changes.

    Of course, the usefulness of this information depends greatly on a players ability to play close to their yardages – this will not help a hacker.

  8. Zak Kozuchowski

    Feb 7, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Most tournament players play far more recreational and practice rounds than they do tournament rounds. Understanding how much farther or shorter a ball might fly in different regions is huge for them.

  9. JHT

    Feb 7, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    “At a reasonable price point, it will likely attract a wide clientele and will likely be more popular with competitive amateur and professional players.”

    Why would you leave out the part where an app like this would be in clear violation of the rules? Even local rules allowing rangefinders or gps use *ALWAYS* stipulate that it can show distance only – thats why slope features are not tournament legal.

    Clearly against the rules yet you think it will be popular with tournament players?

    • JCorona

      Feb 7, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      but it is not illegal to use in practice…. see Zak’s comment above where he emphasizes REC and PRACTICE rounds……

      and that is why it will be popular with them… but alas, there is always someone who goes against the grain….

    • Chris Nickel

      Feb 7, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      Yes, please see Zak’s comments above – I didn’t think it was important to discuss the current rules as it would be understood that players would use this for tournament prep, practice rounds or novelty –

  10. Mat

    Feb 7, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Can’t get too much of a good thing? This app is a clear rules violation. I am all for using distance measurements on a phone, which is also illegal in tournament play, but weather instruments are clearly banned. That you left this out of the article surprises me.

    • JCorona

      Feb 7, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      Yes, they should not have left it out but for the people who will use this app their common sense prevails…. I mean even YOU knew it was against the rules… do you really think tourney players would try and play the ignorant card???
      This will be a great tool in PRACTICE…. Most players don’t spend time practicing… they play… to which this app will simply be a waste of money or just a tool to show their buddies… but, if a serious player uses this app in practice it could help them in tournament play. Confidence is key….. so is reading comprehension.

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Accessory Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Putting Perfecter

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Putting can be one of the most frustrating parts of the game, it mystifies scratch golfers as much as high handicaps and can make anybody tremble over a three-footers. It’s one of the biggest factors in scoring, especially for the club-level player, but it’s often one of the last things people actually work on. Let’s be honest, it’s a lot of fun to pound drivers on the range, am I right?

But if you are seriously looking for a simple tool to help get you into the proper address position, the Putting Perfecter is a great one to start with.

The beauty of the device is in its simplicity. Fitting under your arms and across your midsection, it “locks” the player into the proper position to create a pendulum putting stroke. After giving it a shot and hitting putts for just a few minutes, then going back to putting without it made me feel like I was much more connected.

Don’t think it’s just for putting though.

Funny story, when I first took it out to work on my putting, I used it for about 30 minutes and then moved onto my chipping. After a few trips around the putting green I tried chipping with the Putting Perfecter in the same position and “WOW” same connected feeling was produced—it was perfect for working on low-flying “runners.” I was excited to tell my friend about it, until I went home and realized they actually advertise it to help with that too. Guess I’m not as clever as I thought…

No matter how you use it, the Putting Perfecter is a simple and effective training tool that can be carried in a bag to be used before or after a round, takes NO time to set up (a big plus), and is light—so you don’t feel like its dragging you down if you actually keep it in your bag. Since it’s a putting tool, you can even use it indoors very easily. If you are someone that struggles with consistent address position on putts or disconnecting when chipping, I believe the Putting Perfecter is a great tool to try.

For more information check out the Putting Perfecter website.

 

 

 

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Apparel Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Linksoul golf apparel

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Product: Linksoul golf apparel

Pitch: From Linksoul “Linksoul is more a philosophy than a brand. More of an experience than a clothing company. Linksoul is the collective life’s work of people who care about each other and enjoy collaborating. We believe in creating products we value, with the people we love, for the good of our families and our community. Our roots are in golf. We descend from a long line of golfers, craftsmen and artists. But now we fill our time with many interests, including surfing, skiing, hiking, yoga, travel, cooking, parenting, dog walking…We believe that these everyday practices teach us the most about ourselves.”

Our Take on Linksoul’s golf apparel

Linksoul, whose mantra is “Tempus Fugit” (Time Flies), primarily provides golf clothing made to be just as appropriate and comfortable to wear on the course as off of it. The company has a range of different types of polos, tee-shirts, shorts, and pants available, but it was a button-down shirt from the company which I was most intrigued to check out.

Right off the bat, the brand’s Anza Heathered Button-Down shirt impressed with its ultra-soft fabric. To complement that softness, the shirt is wonderfully light and boasts an excellent fit. The length of the shirt sleeves is ideal, so you won’t need to keep fidgeting before and after each shot, and the comfort and fit combined gives you that added flexibility in your swing. The collar fits naturally the moment you put the shirt on and marks the clear quality that went into its creation.

It seems many are on the fence about whether button-down shirts on the course are for them (I was one of those!), but my take now is that they are the ideal summer shirt on the course. In the heat, comfort has to be the number one priority, and the button-down structure gives you so much more air. With Linksoul’s Anza button-down you’ll experience maximum breathability.

Linksoul offers the shirt in six color codes (White, Black Heather, Tidepool Heather, Ink Heather, Dark Gray Heather, and Dawn Heather). For $80, considering the caliber of the shirt, the only gripe I could make is that there aren’t more exotic colors available!

The brand’s Boardwalker Shorts are another piece of apparel that I found to contain the perfect blend of comfort and quality, as well as looking great. The shorts contain a four-way stretch fabric which gives you a plethora of flexibility during your swing, while the weight of the shorts I also found to be on point. The shorts are lightweight but not so much as to take away from the durability and quality of the shorts.

 

There is plenty of mobility on offer with the Boardwalker Shorts, while I also enjoyed that the shorts are a classic style length and sit right at the knee.

You can choose from eight different color codes (Black, Chalk, Khaki, Dark Gray, True Black, Bronze, Navy, Army, and River), and the shorts retail at $76. With their no-fuss look, high quality, and a clear focus on comfort, Linksoul’s Boardwalker shorts offer everything you’d want in a pair of golf shorts.

For those that prefer to play solely in trousers, you’ll be glad to hear that the company provide the same product in a pant style—the BoardWalker Pant.

There’s a huge amount to like about the apparel Linksoul is offering up, and at prices which are extremely reasonable considering the quality provided. Their site Linksoul.com offers a multitude of polos, button-downs (in both short and long sleeve), shorts, pants, and tee-shirts. If high-quality adaptable golf apparel is your thing, then it’s a company well worth checking out.

 

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Equipment

WRX Spotlight Review: Eminent Golf’s Conic putting trainer

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The golf world is full of training aids. From the simple to the silly, there are no shortage of tools and machines being thought up to (hopefully) help golfers improve their games. It’s not very often you come across something that really has the potential to help improve consistency and “ingrain” a feeling (or “feels” as the pros say) into a part of the game that so many struggle with.

This is the Conic putting aid.

Before we go any further, let me be very up front: this is NOT a training aid intended or designed to be an impulse purchase during early morning reruns on Golf Channel. The Conic costs $1,350.00…but for good reason. It’s designed, manufactured, and built right here in the USA, milled from solid pieces of steel and aluminum. The entire system is built to last and to be a true lifelong training tool. The likelihood of this thing ending up the in a dusty corner of your garage is slim to none. Even the carrying case is something to behold.

On my first try, it took about 5-7 minutes to set up (I went full “dad-building-Ikea-furniture mode” and initially ignored the entire instruction manual. That’s on me), but after the first setup, getting this thing from the case to on the green took just a few minutes after that. It’s 100 percent NOT a “warm up before my tee-time, and throw it in my golf bag” style of training aid because of its size, but if you are headed to the green for a real “session” this is an indispensable tool.

So what does it actually do?

The Conic is designed to get you into the perfect putting setup and help you learn to make a repeatable motion built for your stroke and body type. This is not a one-size-fits-all training aid. It also works for both right and left0handed golfers.

So how does it do all of this:

  • The Conic has five adjustable plane angles for different size arcs: 85,80,75,70,65. This makes sure you get set up based on putter type and your optimal stance. The goal is to have you get more consistent with your stroke not some arbitrary “ideal stroke model”
  • The trainer controls the X, Y, Z axis of the putter head: Lie, Loft & Face Angle. Each one of these variables can make or break a putt (first putting pun in the bag), and so by being able to control those helps improve repeatability when on the course
  • It puts you into the same position time after time to help develop the feeling of a correctly made putting stroke. As much as people might say it, muscles DO NOT have memory — your brain does. The Conic helps develop motion patterns which again lead to helping you be more consistent on the greens
  • There is a built-in detachable arm that helps the golfer visualize both the target line and line the putter head up perpendicular to the target — a great tool for those that struggle with direction.
  • The putter arm can also be controlled to help maintain a specific stroke length — little stops get inserted into the slide and create instant feedback when you take the putter back too far.

So does it work?

Heck yeah it does! Although not meant for extremely long putts, you can use the Conic 1.0 easily on anything inside 20 feet, and it really helps with the 6-10 footers. With all of the adjustability, it’s also easy to switch between putter models that you might have.

My personal theory with putting and alignment is quite simple:  “Every putt is a straight putt. Just get it rolling and let gravity and speed take care of the rest.” The moment the ball leaves your putter face, your job is now over, and what the Conic does is allow you to work on, in a very structured way, hitting putts on line. My favorite use for the Conic was on roughly 7-9″ putts where you just set up, make the right stroke for speed, and watch the ball work its way into the cup.

This is an expensive tool — even PGA Tour pros that are using them paid in full. But like I said before, you get what you pay for with the Conic. Another feature is it can be used inside and out as long as you have a “green” or a nice piece of carpet to roll some putts. Beyond the players who spare no expense on clubs and fittings this seems like a bit of a no brainer – roughly the cost of three nice putters gets you something that will work for you, as long as you want to work with it.

I believe that one of the biggest markets for the Conic currently is for teachers to help students ingrain the feeling of making a solid stroke and increase consistency at setup. The cost is still the biggest factor that will detract people from purchasing this, but for the golfers looking for the ultimate putting aid, the Conic trainer could be your answer to those missed three-footers.

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