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.
Top-3 men’s golf polos at the 2018 PGA Fashion Show in Vegas
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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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