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Toptracer Range may be more exciting than hitting at the range picker

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Anyone who watches golf on television knows Toptracer. Founded by Daniel Forsgren in 2006 as Protracer, the company developed a unique software capable of tracking the flight of a golf ball in a camera feed and adding graphics to make ball flight visible on screen.

You know, this thing.What you might not know, however, is that Topgolf bought Protracer in May 2016, rebranding the technology as Toptracer. You also may not be familiar with Toptracer Range, which brings the technology you’ve seen during PGA Tour telecasts to in-bay monitors to track and analyze your shots at the driving range.

Toptracer Range allows guest to compete in a variety of games, including:

  • Launch Monitor – Works with a range’s existing targets. Offers carry and total distance, ball speed, launch angle, height, side deviation, landing angle, hang time and distance to target.
  • What’s in My Bag – Allows guests to dig deeper into to the performance of each club in their bag.
  • Virtual Golf – Players can choose to play 9,12, 18 or more holes on courses around the world.

We spoke with Ani Mehta, Topgolf’s VP of Corporate Development about the technology and its application both for Topgolf facilities and driving ranges in general.

GolfWRX: Tell us about the Toptracer rollout…

Ani Mehta: A little bit of background [the Protracer acquisition] has been great for us on a couple of fronts. One is on the broadcast side…it’s been a great thing for Topgolf from a brand reach and recognition perspective…it’s been great for us because now we’re starting to roll out this technology in our venues. Orlando, which opened a couple of months ago…was the first venue that opened with Toptracer.

On the Toptracer Range side, the goal there is to roll it out across hundreds, if not thousands, of golf ranges across the country and across the world. For your average driving range, this is a gamechanger, because…the technology enables you to track every golf ball that’s hit at the driving range, and then all that data is displayed on monitors that are installed in each bay. Eventually it turns every driving range into somewhat of a Topgolf; You can play games, you can track your golf shots, you can track your progress over time, because all the data is in your profile. It essentially creates a much more engaging experience on the driving range.

GolfWRX: Those are the two avenues for you…the integration into your facilities, and then offering Toptracer to ranges outside of Topgolf?

AM: That’s right. We will be rolling out Toptracer in our venues over the next many months and years. And the Toptracer Range, we have a very aggressive timeline for rolling this out across, like I said, hundreds, if not thousands, of facilities…And then the broadcast business, that remains as exciting as ever.
You’re kind of seeing this transition. When it first came out, a lot of people loved it, but some people viewed it skeptically. But now, a few years on, you’re at a stage where people love it, and even demand it.

GolfWRX: Is the hope that this will be integrated into all facilities then?

AM: We’re figuring that out. We first tested this at the…venue in Dallas, just to understand how people receive it. Then we opened Orlando, which is fully set up with Toptracer Range. But we’re still in the testing phase.

GolfWRX: When did you launch in Orlando, and what has the response been?

AM: It was earlier this fall. The guests love it. You can still play the same games…we still have the RFID technology and all that, so you can still play the same games you play at other Topgolf venues. But just having this other view on your golf shot, but being able to see the trace and everything that goes with it, that’s really exciting for the guests. There’s something about being able to see the trajectory and where it lands that’s exciting, and it’s even more exciting when you go to a regular driving range that’s been converted.

GolfWRX: So when Toptracer is integrated into a driving range, all that data is captured and is available to the golfer?

AM: Yes. So, the way it works is we come in and we set up these camera systems along the tee line of the driving range, and then those camera systems can track every golf ball hit from the driving range. Then that data is processed through servers that we provide, and then that processed data is installed on screens that we install in each bay…anywhere from a 20-inch screen to a 40-inch screen in each bay.

On that screen, you can see several different modes. There are the modes that are designed for the more serious golfer; there’s a mode called “launch monitor,” where you’re just kind of practicing and you can see every statistic associated with your ball flight. Then, there are game modes designed for having a bit more fun. You can play virtual golf courses. You can play points games that are similar to what you might see at a Topgolf. So, it’s a good portfolio of games, and those are constantly being updated.

So that’s the app that runs on each screen, but there’s another app that runs on peoples phones, called the Community app. All the…launch monitor data is then stored on your phone. You can then see…through the bag, your statistics which each club.

And we have a development team that is focused on developing new games and modes and always improving the ones that we have. So it’s a live product, and all those changes…get deployed remotely. If you put a system in your range, it doesn’t go obsolete six months after installing.

GolfWRX: So you want to appeal to the enthusiast who wants to see all the numbers, as well as the more casual golfer, and even the extremely casual one who might find the traditional range experience boring?

AM: Right. We’ve talked to hundreds of facilities at this point. The common theme we hear from them is 1. This is great and 2. In the current state, driving ranges are in trouble. The hardcore folks are drifting away from golf, and there’s not enough of an influx of…Millennials. For them, going to a driving range as it is today is just not a fun experience. It’s kind of one-dimensional. It’s not fun to go with friends or family, because there’s nothing to do.

But putting something like this in; not only can you compete in games and other contests, but what you see is at a lot of driving ranges where we put this technology in…have also added a little F&B (food and beverage) operation. They’re doing events that are anchored by the Toptracer Range technology…so it starts with creating a fun experience for everyone, not just serious golfers.

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5 Comments

  1. Brad

    Jan 6, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    Virtual golf for the gearheads so they don’t have to dirty and scuff their beloved WITB bunch of unplayable clubs.

  2. emil

    Jan 6, 2018 at 12:51 am

    Virtual golf played by deluded gearheads fantasizing ….. and their lovely clubs don’t get scuffed up in the dirt. The best of all worlds…. and no walking other than to your magnificent WITB weapons.

  3. nyguy

    Jan 5, 2018 at 10:48 am

    i’d be happy if ranges had an acceptable grass tee area, and all these driving ranges all about making it an amusement park…
    The range near me has a grass area, but it’s an after thought on the side and it’s knotty grass, patchy dry dirt, not tee box standard….

  4. DB

    Jan 4, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    But how accurate will the data be?

    You’re still hitting crappy limited-flight range balls, right? How are you supposed to take that data and apply it to the actual golf course?

  5. C

    Jan 4, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    So instead of $40/hr, it will now be $60/hr?

    TopGolf used to be affordable to the average person.

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USGA, R&A finalize limits on green-reading materials

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The review period is over the USGA and R&A’s new interpretation of Rule 4.3 as it pertains to green-reading materials is finalized.

Starting Jan. 1, 2019, the governing bodies have agreed to limit the size and scale of putting green maps. However, one of the most contentious elements of the original proposal, which would have allowed only depictions of slope greater than four percent, isn’t included in the final decision.

“These latest modifications provide very practical changes that make the interpretation easier to understand and apply in the field,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior managing director of governance. “We’re thankful for everyone’s willingness to provide feedback as we worked through the process of identifying a clear interpretation that protects the essential skill of reading a green, while still allowing for information that helps golfers enjoy the game.”

Per the official USGA release, yardage books may not include

  • Any image of a putting green must be limited to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480) or smaller (the “scale limit”).
  • Any book or other paper containing a map or image of a putting green must not be larger than 4 ¼ inches x 7 inches (the “size limit”), although a “hole location sheet” that displays nine or more holes on a single sheet of paper may be larger, provided that any image of a single putting green meets the scale limit.
  • No magnification of putting-green information is allowed other than a player’s normal wearing of prescription glasses or lenses.
  • Hand-drawn or written information about a putting green is only allowed if contained in a book or paper meeting the size limit and written by the player and/or his or her caddie.
  • The final interpretation also clearly defines that any use of electronic or digital putting-green maps must comply with the same limits.

The release also indicates the USGA and R&A will continue evaluating the use of green-reading materials.

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Tour Rundown: Pepperell wins the British masters, Leishman wins in Malaysia, Langer wins again

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October, and the trees are stripped bare, of all they wear. U2

Perhaps it’s due to its status as my birth month, or something larger and deeper. October is a raw month, as April was cruel for Eliot. It is raw in its golf, too. Of the four events played this week, only one took place in the USA. Touring professionals left the summer of majors behind, to journey globally, in search of answers and questions. They went to Malaysia, England and Korea (and let’s not forget, North Carolina.) Names both familiar and emerging claimed trophies, and the game marched on. Here’s a Sunday rundown of all things tour, mid-October.

CIMB in Malaysia in Leishman’s hands

Marc Leishman’s brilliance with golf cudgels is know well to his touring brethren. To the golfing public, which measures fame in little more than major victories, he is an enigma. And here was Leishman, on Sunday at Kuala Lumpur, schooling playing partner Gary Woodland and the rest of the field with a brilliant 65. There were lower scores, but just barely (a pair of 64s.) Leishman had 62 earlier in the week, but was a wee bit overlooked, as Woodland had 61 the same day. On Sunday, there was no mistaking the two. Leishman rushed from the gate with birdies on hole 2 through 5, scarcely glancing rearward at the trailers. He summited 26 strokes beneath par, equalling the tournament record and placing him five clear of the runners-up. Woodland tried to keep pace, but fell off the rails midway through the inward half. 3 bogeys in 5 holes did him in, dropping him back to a tie for 5th at -20. 2nd spot on the podium belonged to the american trio of Emiliano Grillo (Argentina), Chesson Hadley and Bronson Burgoon (both USA). The victory compelled Leishman to 2nd spot on the young FedEx Cup list for 2018-19.

Hana Bank belongs to Dumbo

If In Gee Chun had her way, the golfer nicknamed Dumbo would scamper off by gobs of strokes with each tournament. Owner of an unfortunate 0-3 record in LPGA Tour playoffs, the Korean golfer wants no part of extra holes. While 3rd-round leader Charley Hull of England struggled with birdie-bogey runs, Chun birdied 4 of her first 6 holes and separated herself by 3 strokes from the field. Out in 31, she resisted the lure of a 10th-hole bogey and added 2 more birdies to reach 16-under par. Hull and company could not close the gap, and the Englishwoman settled for 2nd at -13. Chun began the week with matching 70s, to place herself inside the top 20, but not yet a threat. Her weekend was nearly flawless, as she matched 66s on Saturday and Sunday, to emerge from the multitude. The win was her first, non-major victory on the LPGA Tour, coming after triumphs at the 2015 US Open and the 2016 Evian Championship.

Ace, Ace, Baby propels Pepperell to British Masters title

It was a rugged, mucky affair on Sunday at Walton Heath, born of the talented hand of architect Herbert Fowler. Eddie Pepperell, who spends a fair amount of time mucking around on Twitter, was the man for the job. He began the day at -9, and ended the day at that figure. Most times, even par gets you nowhere on tour; on this particular Sunday, it got you to the top of the podium. Pepperell had four eagles on the week, including an ace on Thursday and the hole-out below for a deuce on Sunday. The winner made a massive putt for par on 14, which probably saved his round. He bogeyed 15 and 16 to let Alexander Bjork into the tournament. The Swede was unable to capitalize, bogeying 18 to offer Pepperell a 2-stroke advantage at the home hole. The Englishman finished in proper form, getting up and down for par from a greenside bunker to win by a pair.

By the way, if you want a crack at Fowler in North America, visit Eastward Ho! on Cape Cod (which he built) or Pebble Beach, whose 18th hole he extended to its current glory.

SAS Championship almost never in doubt for Bernhard Langer

Bernhard Langer made a single bogey in 54 holes this week. The inconceivable occurrence happened precisely at the midway point of the tournament, on the 27th hole of SAS Championship. Astronomers at the Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico acknowledged a slight orbital shift at that very moment, while CERN scientists reported … oh, never mind. Langer had made 8 birdies in 9, back-nine holes on Friday for 29 on the par-37 side. It was ultimately his week, although Gene Sauers kept pace for a while. The duo matched 62-67 through 36 holes, but Sunday was all Germany. Langer had 7 birdies on the day for 65, leaving him 6 strokes clear of 2nd-place Scott Parel. Sauers struggled in round three, tumbling all the way to a tie for 5th spot, after a +3 75.

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How a broken 6-iron changed Eddie Pepperell’s 2018

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When Eddie Pepperell was scrambling around local golf shop Auchterlonies in Scotland on the week of The Open Championship looking for an emergency replacement shaft for his 6-iron, he probably didn’t believe that moment would change the trajectory of his 2018. That incident, however, played a considerable role in Pepperell’s wire-to-wire victory at last week’s British Masters.

In Scotland, Pepperell had his 6-iron fitted with the KBS C-Taper shaft, and according to Mizuno’s Matt McIsaac, at The Open that week, he hit his 6-iron better than any other club over the four days on his way to a T6 finish.

Fast-forward to last week’s British Masters, and on the Monday of the event, the Englishman was to have a filming session with Mizuno where the company would demonstrate to him its shaft optimizer.  Pepperell was then taken through Mizuno’s 3-swing diagnostic process, where lo and behold they recommended the KBS C-Taper shaft to him.

Described as “very much a feel player” by McIsaac, Pepperell equipped himself that day with a new set of JPX 919 Tour irons, with KBS C Taper shafts, and then went on to win the British Masters just a few days later.

What should we glean from this story? Well according to Matt McIsaac, it’s that there is a best fit shaft out there for everyone.

“There’s a ‘best fit’ shaft for everyone – for Eddie; it was the KBS C Taper – for someone else it will be the S Taper.  Wait for the moment when you’re open to improvement, throw away your preconceptions and try the Optimizer.  It doesn’t know if you’re male, female a tour winner or a 24 hcp – just measures your move and finds the best shaft for it.”

With last week’s victory, Pepperell, who sat 133rd in the Official World Golf Rankings at the beginning of the year, is now ranked 33rd in the world and looks assured of a place at Augusta National next year for the Masters.

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