Pros: Provides comprehensive statistical data and analysis of your game, as well as GPS capabilities, all delivered in real time via superbly designed, user friendly apps. In all, a mighty, and enlightening, game improvement tool.

Cons: Sensors are not fool-proof, and inevitable editing will be a challenge during a fast round. Lacks a pedometer and calories burned function; batteries are not rechargeable, and will have to be replaced after about 50 rounds.

Who It’s For: Any tech-savvy golfer willing to trade a potentially altered playing experience for a deep data dive into their game.

The Review

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  • Price: $299.99; Arccos Driver $79.99.
  • Compatible with: iOS, Android; sensors screw into any golf club grip.

Jamming Bluetooth sensors into the end of your clubs is a bit like making a deal with the devil. On the one hand, all the knowledge of your game will be bestowed upon you, as if shined down in divine light. On the other hand, you will have crossed a certain technological Rubicon, and there’s likely no going back. Welcome to the machine, and say adios to your old, blissfully simple golf life.

More and more players have made this bargain in recent years, adopting wearable or mobile technology to track stats in one form or another. As this trend has emerged and accelerated, Arccos Golf (of the Bluetooth sensors) has sought to position itself as the premier app-based, real-time stat tracking, data analytics and GPS platform. After launching on iOS in 2014, the Stamford, Connecticut company (and Callaway partner) recently staked out more territory, expanding to Android as well as releasing a driver-only platform, Arccos Driver. In all iterations, the company has developed a sleek and user-friendly product that delivers on the company’s promises (a tsunami of data), while preserving as much as possible an uninterrupted golf experience.

Make no mistake; this is golf with cellphone as essential companion. Fine. What you gain here outweighs what you lose. And either way you cut it, this brave new world of mobile golf tech is here to stay. “Gone are the days of simply playing golf,” according to Arccos. You can say that again.

How It Works: The Setup

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The initial setup and club pairing process is easy, and only needs to be done once. The Bluetooth sensors screw into the existing hole in the end of your grips. They’re all identical, except for the putter sensor, and you can screw them into your clubs in any order.

The Arccos app is free from the App Store or Google Play. Once launched, you are guided through a painless, 5-minute club pairing process wherein you select your clubs, then pair each one by holding down the button on the end of the sensor for a few seconds. An icon appears in the app showing that that club is paired, on to the next one, fourteen times until you’re done. Re-pairing clubs is also easy. If your setup changes, just de-select the club you’re replacing, select the new one, screw in the sensor and pair as usual.

One of Arccos’ numerous strengths is that after this initial setup process, you do not have to calibrate clubs pre-round, or tap them to a separate device before every shot. Just launch the app, make sure Arccos has detected the right course, select your tee, and go.

Stats, Stats, Stats

Here we go. The bulk of the mountain of stats that Arccos collects about your game are accessible directly through the app, in what Arccos calls its Tour Analytics Platform. And when I say mountain, I do mean mountain. Highlights include fairway and approach dispersions; average distance to the pin on greens hit in regulation and on all approaches; and chipping stats and sand save percentages, including average distances to the pin on those shots. Putting stats include average putts per hole, putts after GIR, and a list of one, two and three putts per round.

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A separate handicap is assigned to five categories: Driving, Approach, Chipping, Sand, and Putting. Those numbers are then roughly averaged to give an overall handicap. For obvious reasons, this is unlikely to match your USGA handicap, but breaking it down into separate categories is great for seeing which part of your game needs the most work. Me: putting. Another nice stat is pace of play, down to the second. My personal 18-hole best: 2:41:19, in a foursome.

Moving into individual clubs, Arccos picks apart each of your sticks by showing average distance, standard deviation, longest shot to date, GIR percentage, misses right, left, long and short with that club, and historical usage. The “Smart Distance” page is designed to illustrate the yardage range for each of your clubs. In general, the club breakdown pages are excellent for getting to know your distances, a semi-dark side of the moon for many players.

In addition to the app, there is a separate web-based dashboard through which players can access expanded displays of their numbers in graph form, including dispersion and Strokes Gained data. The Strokes Gained display is done by color coding each shot on a hole from dark green (excellent) to red (poor) in order to show where you picked up or lost strokes against the average for your handicap. This allows a player to see at a glance which clubs are their strength and which are costing them the most shots. For instance, the color coding instantly revealed the extent to which my 56-degree wedge was saving me when I missed a green. It’s an effective way to display the data, though being able to access it through the app would have been nice.

This is not a comprehensive list of all the data that Arccos mines about your game, but it’s enough to give you an idea. Arccos is like a new car; six months in, you’ll still be finding new buttons to push and extra cupholders.

The Playing Experience

Right to the big question: How accurate is it? On average, I found the system to be about 90 percent accurate. I have yet to play a round with Arccos where the sensors didn’t miss a shot, record a shot inaccurately, or otherwise do something that required editing during or after the round. Most of the time, those failures of detection were minor: a tap-in putt, for instance. No big deal. But on rare occasions they were major. For example, crediting me with a 360-yard drive onto the green, when in reality I hit a 120-yard shot in between. (I appreciate the encouragement, Arccos.) Here’s the thing: how accurate should you expect a system like this to be? I don’t know, but my guess is that Arccos is as accurate as the current state of the art will allow. I also know that even with its occasional inaccuracies, Arccos will wow you. It will also sometimes annoy you. And if you’re the wrong type of player for this type of thing, it will stress you out.

Take the wow factor: the app is an expertly designed, sexy interface. It is friendly and intuitive to navigate, and never feels clunky or over-engineered. As you play, your shots appear as pro-tracer style arcs over an aerial view of each hole, with the club and distance displayed. Way cool. Swiping back over holes within the round is simple, and every past round is available to view in its entirety, with full stats. It is oddly arresting seeing your game laid bare this way for the first time, like some form of golf exposure therapy. As such, expect to be visited by every emotion from exhilaration and pride to black rage and denial. I know I was. I cried both kinds of tears. Because what Arccos gives you is the cold, hard truth. A lot like Miguel Angel Jimenez’s stretching routine, once you see this you can’t unsee it. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

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Now for the annoying part: like it or not, you’re going to have to make edits. To Arccos’ credit, they do their best to make this process as easy as possible. For example, adding or subtracting a putt to your hole score is a breeze. There are prominent plus and minus icons. Worse is if you have to add an entire shot. That process involves selecting a start and end point for the shot, etc., etc. It’s not something you can comfortably do mid round, unless God forbid you’re waiting on the tee. But the need for that type of full shot editing is acceptably rare.

It is around the greens — where the game’s nuances (and often most heinous crimes) present themselves — that you will likely find your patience with Arccos being tested most significantly, and even then, not by a prohibitive amount. Nonetheless, a few items bear mentioning. Approach shots that end up just on the fringe will often get logged as a GIR, and you’ll have to edit that. Putt distances are not displayed on the hole overview, nor are penalty shots, which you must also manually input. Chips with mid-irons sometimes went undetected. Should these blemishes be deal breakers if you’re on the fence about diving in? Absolutely not. These shortcomings seem not so much design flaws as the system and sensors running up against the limits of current technology. Don’t let that turn you away, especially if you feel you’re geared for this type of techy golf experience.

Which raises an important question: are you? You may hunger for all these stats and data, but there is a trade-off here, and it involves an altered golf experience. Sure, you can keep your phone in your pocket for the whole round, leaving any edits for the 19th hole. But you won’t. Like me, you’re going to feel compelled to pull it out periodically and make sure every shot is being recorded properly. Or maybe narcissistic urges will simply dictate that you admire that bomb drive in digital form, perhaps even texting a screenshot to a friend. Point being, those thoughts will sit in your mind throughout the round. And therein lies the conundrum: the very thing delivering your game to you here can at times have the inverse effect of taking you out of your game.

A round of golf has a rhythm, in body and mind, and the introduction of this type of high tech gadgetry alters that rhythm. For some players, this won’t be a problem. But for others it has the potential to become a low level of stress humming along with you as you play. I speak from experience. That’s not a mark against Arccos, but it is something you should consider before going down this road.

The GPS

Arccos’ GPS feature will be love at first sight for most. Fast, intuitive and accurate, it will likely trounce any other phone-based GPS app you’ve used. On the tee, the default screen is a bird’s eye view of the hole. To get distance info, press and hold your finger anywhere on the screen to produce a circle and cross hair. A line from the tee to wherever your finger is touching appears, as well as a line from your finger to the center of the green, along with those corresponding distances. Slide your finger across the screen to anywhere on the hole, and the numbers change instantly to display a distance to that spot, as well as what you’ll have left from there. The interface is ultra smooth — important for not slowing down play — and the distances are accurate. If you’re going to use a phone to get your numbers, you will be hard pressed to find a better platform.

Arccos Driver

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Arccos Driver is the stripped-down, machismo-heavy, driver-only version of Arccos. With World Long Drive Champion Jamie Sadlowski as brand ambassador, this is a product clearly aimed at the bomb-it-and-brag crowd. In the box is a single sensor for the big stick. Like the regular Arccos app, the Driver app is available free in the App Store and Google Play. You’ll have it set up in minutes. One notable difference between Driver and the full version of Arccos is that after the first year, Driver requires a yearly subscription of $40 to continue accessing premium features and games within the app. (This optional subscription does not affect the availability of stats or GPS, but access to historical data will be limited to your two most recent rounds should you decide not to renew the subscription.)

Most of the stats available in Arccos Driver — including fairway dispersion, smart distances, and smart range — are tracked in the full version of Arccos, which makes Driver’s main selling point its emphasis on social media, games and competition. There is a live leaderboard to check your standings in “Arccos Yards” (aka. total driving yards per round) and one-touch posting ability to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The centerpiece of the subscription version of Driver is a game called Crowns, in which you are handsomely awarded a greater numbers of “crowns” for longer and more accurate drives. This general pivot away from hard and heavy game improvement and toward competition and bragging rights will no doubt make Driver more attractive to some than the regular version. The design is just as sleek and is obviously simpler, since you’re tracking only a single club. Indeed, with Driver you can focus all of your energy on seeing which of your buddies has the longest…drives. Ladies, you’re invited too.

The Takeaway

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Arcoss’ design borders on superb, with minor room for improvement. It is an extremely impressive product generally hampered only by the confines of current technology. But the fact remains that this type of golf gadget can be a double-edged sword.

Depending on what kind of golfer you are — or what kind of person, for that matter — the world that Arccos masterfully opens up can feel either like an enlightening revelation or an invasive technology straight jacket. For the vast majority of golfers, Arccos will likely be the former. In which case, all of this bleeding edge technology can, and probably will, improve your game on a noticeable scale, and is worth the money. There just might be a part of you, perhaps heavy with the psychic weight of all this digital tracking, that misses the old days out there, when it was just you.

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James Caldwell is a so-so golf writer and holder of a standard day job. Notable golf accomplishments include a five-putt, three lost balls on one hole, and leaving a banana in his golf bag for an entire month. Hates water chestnuts. New York City.

17 COMMENTS

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  1. I’m usually pretty critical of gadgets but this is one that I’d buy 5x over. The value of easily having stats available is crazy. I’m making better decisions on the course without letting my head get out of the flow of the game.

  2. Have been using Arccos since it came out for Android. I love it and have not had the problems others have reported. The sensors don’t fall off a lot, only one in 2 months. Yes, you have to quickly review your shots each hole but adding or subtracting a putt is one click and done. Rarely you need to add a shot (Maybe once per round) and it is 1 click to enter edit mode, 1 click to add the position of a shot and 1 click to identify the club. But now after discussing these minor issues, you get a boatload of data about your game. Forget the wishful thinking, you know exactly how far you hit each club, longest, average and a smart range. Percentage missed left, right, long, and short. GIR for each club. Then there is a ton of historical data and reports. If you want to analyze your game this is the tool for it. I look forward to new enhancements.

  3. Started using arccos last week with iphone 5 (work phone), having played 5 partial rounds in last few days. The system has performed well, giving me quick accurate shot data. It has missed one full shot and few putts, but nothing that isn’t easily fixed between holes. The GPS is good but I still prefer laser rangefinder for tournament accuracy. If you’re data curious then arrcos is an easy to use system to supplement your habit. I liked it enough that I picked up another set to use with my personal OP3 android phone. I don’t expect the android experience to be as trouble free as IOS.

  4. 1. I have an Apple Watch and this system integrated really well. As soon as I get to the green, it shows in my wrist how many shots it has recorded, so I know if I will need to edit.
    2. The biggest miss for me is failing to detect soft pitches and chips. I can expect to manually enter any shot within 10 yards of the green.
    3. My biggest complaint is the sensors falling off. The work their way out while I walk. Not only is it frustrating to have to dump my bag 3-4 times/round, but if I don’t realize it has happened, the battery on the sensor sitting in the bottom of the bag is often dead when I find it next round. I’ve tried different grips, thread tape, runner cement. No matter what, I will pull my 5 iron on the 13th and no sensor.
    4. I put up with the frustration because the data is excellent, the Apple Watch integration seamless and the gps for identifying hazards and carry distance is the best I’ve used.

  5. Bought game Golf – used it of a while & then stopped because the whole “tap the club” thing was a huge distraction from routine (for me).

    Looks like Arccos doesn’t require any ‘in round” adjustments to how you go about playing – If I can play & then deal with edits etc after the fact, that’d be great.

  6. I really like this product and find that it’s overall handicap for me is very close to my actual index. I do find in-game editing distracting so I still keep a scorecard and go back to edit after my round. It’s nice to know what yardages I’m getting which tend to be less that what I think I’m getting so I find myself grabbing a longer club more often.

    Overall, I’m very impressed and look forward to updates.

  7. For those of us that use gadgets to help picking up the ball (example, a nickel putter), this won’t work for the putter at all. Plus reviewing and editing during the round is technically against USGA rules so the round shouldn’t be posted to GHIN.

    • What on earth does your first sentence even mean? Wont work with the putter? Huh? Also, they have a USGA legal app if you want to use the rounds towards GHIN.

  8. Spot on look at the pros and cons of Arccos and the performance/shot tracking device category as a whole. Start of this season, I switched from Game Golf. Arccos is night and day better when it comes to performance. Have shared almost 2 stokes from the HCP by digging into the data and working with my pro. I totally geek out on the dashboard. Wish it was available in app and not just through the website. Haven’t had any issues with sensors breaking or falling off. They don’t, however, work with counterbalanced grips. That was an issue for my buddy, but the same applies to any screw-in tracking sensor. Battery drain is similar to running pretty much any bluetooth app running 4 hours+. My iPhone 6+ at 100% charge will be down to about 40% at the end of a round. Love the in-app GPS. It’s very precise. Have ditched my rangefinder via eBay. Recording putts is good, but not 100% accurate. There’s a simple toggle for any missed putts or adding gimmes. Takes less than a second each time. For tee to green, very little shot editing is required. Just can’t toss your clubs next to the green or do something else to fool the system into thinking you’ve taken a shot. Only aspect I miss from Game Golf is the social platform, which is certainly better built.

  9. I’ve been using Arccos since it came out. There are 4 big issues

    1. Too much editing. You literally need to check it every hole to make sure it picked up every shot
    2. Missed putts. The awkward how long do I need to stand still before putting is annoying.
    3. Battery drain. The GPS will drain an iPhone in one round
    4. Sensors are not very secure. They easily fall off when taking clubs in and out of your bag.

    • 1. Strange, the first few times I used it I did have to do a few edits. Now, I don’t even know the last time I really had to edit something other than a provisional with a different club. Are you on the newest software and firmware for the sensors?

      2. I dont have to wait there very long, havent had a missed putt either.

      3. Make sure you are on the newest software and firmware for sensors. The latest firmware update made battery life much better. I can easily go a round and not lose more then 40/50% of my battery on an iPhone 6S.

      4. You can try adding a small piece of electrical or sports tape around the sensor. I only started to have this issue after switching to PURE grips which are tapeless. Support said because there is no tape with these grips, the thread has very little to catch onto under the grip and the sensors can come loose. After using a little tape I have ZERO movement. Its nice.

  10. My experience wasn’t terrific. The amount of editing that had to be done to fix missed shots was very distracting when I was using an IPhone, and when the Android software finally released I tried it on my phone running the latest version (Marshmallow), and it had the same consistency issue and also randomly ran the battery down. Arccos is blaming the phone. I think the automatic recording idea is great, and I really wanted it to work, but I’ve switched to one of the systems that requires you to tag the club before swinging as that routine seems a reasonable trade off for having very few missed shots and no hardware or sensor battery concerns. Just my experience, YMMV of course.

  11. I’ve been using Arccos since the start of 2015 and it has changed my game in a way that nothing else could have. Having the data available post round to analyze has given me a real way to focus my practice time and make meaningful improvements.
    I have a good enough memory that I can edit a round afterwards in about 5 minutes and remember and plot any missed shots (usually 1-2 full shots and a handful of tap in putts or penalties needed to be logged).
    I wouldn’t want to give up this tool under any circumstances.

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