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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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Equipment

Brooks Koepka with Mizuno JPX 919 irons, TaylorMade M5 driver in the bag at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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Brooks-Koepka-Mizuno-JPX919

Brooks Koepka is in action this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship equipped with a new driver and set of irons.

Golf.com’s Jonathan Wall broke the news, via Twitter, that Kopeka has TaylorMade’s new M5 Driver in his bag this week, as well as Mizuno’s JPX 919 Tour Irons.

The three-time major champ used TaylorMade’s M3 460 Driver and Mizuno’s JPX 900 Tour irons throughout 2018, and it appears as if Koepka is happy to make the transition to both manufacturers latest additions of those series of clubs right from the get-go in 2019.

Brooks-Koepka-Mizuno-JPX-919

Koepka is currently T13 after two rounds of play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and sits five shots off the lead.

 

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European Tour members have heated exchange over cheating incident…from 2013

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Social media appears to have become the new playground for golfers to air their issues with each other, and this week it was the turn of two European Tour members.

The two men involved were Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and England’s Simon Dyson, and the subject of the feud revolves around a new change in the rulebook of golf. As of 2019, players are allowed to repair spike marks on the greens, an act which Dyson was found guilty of doing when it was prohibited back in 2013, and subsequently found himself slapped with a fine and a suspension.

Fernandez Castano kicked off the fun and games following his opening round at this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. The Spaniard said how the new rule “will take some time to get used to” before adding the punchline  “Unless you are Simon Dyson and you have been doing it for years.”

The bad blood between Fernandez-Castano and Dyson appears to be fully down to Dyson’s misdemeanour in 2013, as one year later on Twitter when the Spaniard was asked for his opinion on Dyson; he bluntly replied: “Used to like him, not anymore”.

Asked why he hadn’t tagged Dyson in his tweet yesterday, the Spaniard claimed that the Englishman had blocked him, before Dyson took to the stage, with a different rationale. In a since-deleted tweet, Dyson stated that Fernandez-Castano didn’t have the cojones (or something similar) and stated that the Spaniard is a “sad little man”.

After getting that off his chest, Dyson approached the incident differently, saying that he, unlike Fernandez-Caetano supposedly, had moved on from the affair which occurred six years ago.

Nothing quite like a good old confrontation on social media with a peer to begin your professional year, eh?

 

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Morning 9: Watch out, intentional double hitters!| LPGA Tour in on betting | Heart surgery for Rose’s caddie |

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

January 17, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.

 

1. Tiger to return at Torrey
As expected, Tiger Woods will be in the field for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines next week. Woods made the announcement today via his social media channels.
  • The 43-year-old has won at the venue eight times (seven Farmers, one U.S. Open). He most recently claimed a W at the La Jolla, California, course when he won the 2013 Farmers Insurance Open. He tied for 23rd at the event last year.
  • We last saw the 14-time major champion in action at his Thanksgiving weekend showdown with Phil Mickelson. He hasn’t played an official PGA Tour event since winning the Tour Championship at the end of September.
  • Woods is also officially committed to the Genesis Open, which is run by his foundation and begins February 14 at Riviera.
2. LPGA Tour getting on the betting bandwagon?
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”If legalized gambling is going to boost interest in golf, the LPGA doesn’t want to be left behind.”
  • “Commissioner Mike Whan is positioning the tour to be ready to manage and benefit from real-time betting when it takes off.”
  • “He’s preparing to invest the tour in a shot-tracking system that would give the LPGA real-time data similar to what PGA Tour ShotLink offers. The system would be specifically designed to accommodate the intense new interest gambling could bring.”
  • “Regardless what I think of legalized gambling, it’s here, and it’s only going to get more significant,” Whan told GolfChannel.com. “You can stick your head in the sand and act like it’s not going to happen, but you’re still going to have betting issues. So, wouldn’t you rather get control of it, make sure you educate your players, make sure you understand the audience and make sure the data disseminated is real, accurate and managed by people you trust?”
3. Fooch to have heart surgery
Hoping for the best for Justin Rose’s caddie…
  • Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Mark Fulcher has been on the bag for many of Rose’s biggest achievements, including his 2013 U.S. Open win and gold medal triumph at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But while Rose is in the California desert for this week’s PGA Tour stop, Fulcher is in New York awaiting heart surgery.”
  • “According to a report from Golf Channel’s George Savaricas, Fulcher plans to undergo a heart valve replacement on Thursday. While he is on the mend, Rose will have Gareth Lord on the bag in the near future. Lord caddied for the past several years for Henrik Stenson until the pair split in November.”
  • “According to Savaricas, Fulcher hopes to return to life inside the ropes for the current world No. 1 when the PGA Tour heads to Florida in late February.”
4. Dou wins in the Bahamas
AP Report…”Zecheng Dou birdied the final three holes Wednesday for a two-stroke victory in the Web.com Tour’s season-opening Bahamas Great Exuma Classic”.
  • “Dou shot a 2-under 70, holing a 55-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th at Sandals Emerald Bay to finish at 18-under 270. Three strokes ahead entering the round, the 21-year-old Chinese player rallied after bogeying three of the first six holes on the back nine.”
  • “Dou earned $108,000 for his second Web.com Tour title.”
5. Callaway + European Tour
Our Gianni Magliocco writes…”For the European Tour, Callaway now becomes the official driver, shoe and golf bag brand of the Tour, while Odyssey is now the official putter, OGIO the official luggage brand, and Callaway Apparel along with Travis Mathew brand, is the official on-course apparel.”
  • “Speaking on the deal, which will also see Callaway supply Chrome Soft balls to each driving range at European Tour events, Neil Howie, President & Managing Director of Callaway Golf Europe stated”
  • “Securing this important leadership position with such a forward-thinking and committed organisation as the European Tour aligns perfectly with our own business goals of making the game more enjoyable and accessible through market-leading innovation and superior product performance.
  • “Callaway continues to enjoy a very strong and loyal following among players on the European Tour, Odyssey has been the number one brand for more than ten years and Rogue Drivers were the number one model in play across 2018, and we are excited about the impact of our recently launched Epic Flash family.
  • “We also look forward to the many tournament, broadcast and content opportunities that this new partnership will bring.”
6. Speaking of European Tour golf…
AP Report...”Irish golfer Shane Lowry is looking to reignite his career after losing his card on the PGA Tour last year.”
  • “Beginning 2019 with a 10-under 62 is pretty much the ideal way to start.”
  • “Lowry rolled in 10 birdies and did not drop a shot in the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship on Wednesday, giving him a three-stroke lead in the European Tour’s opening event of the year.”
  • “Down to 75th in the rankings and now 3½ years without a win, Lowry is adjusting to life back as a full-time European Tour player after failing to successfully juggle his commitments on both sides of the Atlantic in 2018.”
7. Lexi’s family to stay on the bag

Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols...”Brother Curtis Thompson was on the bag for Lexi at the CME. He’ll be on the bag again this week at Tranquilo, driving down on Wednesday evening after a qualifier. Curtis plans to caddie for his sister when he’s not competing. Otherwise their father, Scott, will take his place.”

“Lexi said she isn’t currently searching for a caddie outside the family.”

  • “I think I realized that’s who cares about me the most right now,” she said. “My dad’s been my coach my whole life. If I have him on the bag, I know he can help me out tremendously. Same thing with Curtis. He knows my golf swing very well too. He can always keep me laughing out there.”
8. A vintage rules spat
Vintage, in the sense that it has fermented since 2013…
Alex Myers at Golf Digest…”The fun started when Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, following his first round of 2019 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Wednesday, commented on the new rule that allows players to repair spike marks on the green and said, “it will take some time to get used to it.” Before adding this jab out of left field: “Unless you are Simon Dyson and you have been doing it for years.”
9. Intentional double hitters, beware!
Geoff Shackelford at Golfweek…”The double strikes were inspired by Rule 11.1. In the simpler language of golf’s refreshed rules, the kinder, gentler governing bodies are no longer penalizing player for the dreaded “double-hit” made most famous by T.C. Chen in the 1985 U.S. Open but all too-often in embarrassing fashion for everyday golfers.”
  • “While some of golf’s top trickshot artists may be magnificent with a club in their hand, they missed the part about “accidental” in the title of 11.1. With so many copycats, there is a perception that a rules loophole has been exposed.”
  • “Golfweek asked the USGA for clarification and received this from a spokesperson:”
  • “The videos showing golfers deliberately hitting the ball twice (such as getting around a tree) are not allowed under the Rules. Most of these videos demonstrate a player making two strokes at the ball, with the second being made at a moving ball, which results in two penalty strokes. In total, the player has made two strokes and gets a two-stroke penalty.”

 

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