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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.