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Forsgren helps revolutionize golf on TV with Protracer

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One of my favorite parts of watching golf on TV is when the Protracer is brought out. You know that special camera that tracks the ball’s flight path? Something about it is just so exciting, and beautiful.

It really gives you an idea for what these guys can do with the ball, as well as what it actually looks like. Out of curiosity, I tried to learn more about it so I gave Protracer’s founder Daniel Forsgren a call.

Forsgren came up with the idea when he started playing golf in the late 1990s. As he got progressively more and more into the sport, he decided that he was particularly disappointed with the way golf was shown on TV.

“The idea just came to me from watching golf on TV,” he said. “It didn’t tell me enough. I wanted to know how the ball is performing in the air and what the players are actually doing. The announcers seemed to know what was happening but I certainly didn’t. I started to think of ways to improve the broadcast for ways to make it easier for people see what is happening and get a feeling for the ball flight. I felt like it was just someone whacking a ball and then you see a picture of the ball against the clouds and it doesn’t tell you anything.”

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Forsgren quit his job in IT in 2003 and started building a prototype. In layman terms, his system uses a specialized camera that has a custom-built sensor. It is connected to a computer and looks for a white ball and identifies it through each frame of the shot. He says it differs from a radar system that would send out beams looking for a golf ball and get results from reflecting off it.

“A radar is an active system where you transmit something and look at what it returns,” he said. “Our system is like a passive system. It’s not transmitting anything, it’s just watching whatever it can see in the ambient light conditions.”

It took him several years to put the final product in place, and he credits his background in computer gaming to helping him put the pieces together. He started showing it around and it caught the eye of professional Swedish golfer Ove Sellberg, who made an investment and helped him introduce it to the European Tour. There was a good deal of interest, and in 2006 it was ready to be officially demoed. From there he raised more money to start his company, and he hasn’t looked back since.

Today, Forsgren, who boasts a handicap of 8, goes to about 15 to 20 tournaments per year. Usually he hires freelancers to work the system, and these people tend to be those with backgrounds in television broadcasting. He says that his product has never been in more demand, and he was proud to recently be voted by Golfweek.com as the “coolest golf technology” on TV. He does not have many competitors, apart from a few companies that offer a product that is similar, but more designed for golf shops and instructors than broadcasting.

His clients, which are channels like NBC and ESPN, typically pay him per event. Sometimes the channels will use the equipment themselves, or hire Protracer to find the staff to operate it. Rates per event vary and are on a weekly basis, although he gives discounts for extended use.

His hope is to expand the technology into other sports, and he says he sees a lot of possibilities for its use in baseball. He is also working on a product that will make the tracer more available to individual users, but it is still a way off as prices remain high. However, he says costs are gradually coming down and eventually he’d like to get something released.

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7 Comments

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  1. Adge

    Jul 25, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Protracer is a fantastic addition to TV golf coverage. Can they follow Bubba around for 18 holes?

  2. Troy

    Jul 13, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Would be great if every shot a tour player took we would see club, club speed, ball speed, smash factor, wind speed and direction along with protracer. Not trying to cover up the screen full of numbers but if we could see this data I think it would show how unique their skills are. Just like a pitcher throwing 98mph.

  3. Steve

    Jul 12, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Protracer is one of my favorite parts of watching a golf tournament broadcast! I want to invent one that you can see live and in-person while playing golf! 🙂

  4. renoaz

    Jul 12, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Any chance of a bionic eye with this feature? Might help me find my tee shots in the desert.

  5. IgnoranceIsBliss

    Jul 12, 2013 at 6:37 am

    Protracer really is a fantastic technology. It’s a shame that it isn’t a permanent fixture at all of the televised golfing events.

  6. JC

    Jul 11, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I enjoy watching golf where Protracer is in use as well. It’s near impossible to really tell what flight pattern the ball is taking without it.

    Super slo-mo Swing Vision is the other broadcasting advancement that I really dig.

  7. Scott Rose

    Jul 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks for the article…really interesting story and what a great compilation. Thanks!

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Club Junkie

Review of the new Fujikura Ventus TR Red and Black shafts!

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Fujikura’s Ventus shafts have been one of the hottest shaft lineups in years. You can see them all over the professional tours and in tons of amatuer bags every weekend. The new line of TR models does not replace the original Ventus Red, Blue, and Black as those are still available and won’t be leaving anytime soon. These new TR models are meant to be an addition to the line and filling a few gaps that players have asked for.

The Ventus Red was a shaft that I played in drivers and fairway woods over the years and I really loved it. I hit a pretty low, flat ball so the added launch of the Ventus Red was needed and it offered accuracy that I hadn’t been able to find in many higher launching shafts. The new TR Red takes a lot of that DNA and turns it up a notch. TR Red has a smooth, yet little more stout feel through the swing. It takes just a little more effort to load it and the kick at impact is great, just maybe not as aggressive as the Ventus Red is. The TR Red launch is a little bit lower and overall apex seems to be just a bit flatter as well. For players with more aggressive tempos the TR Red might offer a tad less draw compared to its sibling. I took the TR Red out in my Stealth+ head to a course I had played frequently and never had yardages into holes that I had that day. On at least 3-4 holes I told my playing partner that I had never been that close. The TR Red is currently in the bag!

TR Black looks amazing with the Spread Tow fabric showing in the sunlight. When you set the club down and waggle it, like all of us do with a new stick, there is almost no waggle to the shaft! The Ventus TR Black is very stout, noticeably more stout than the original Ventus Black. As stiff as the shaft is, Fujikura has built in a ton of smoothness to it. It takes a lot of power to load so be ready to try the softer flex or lighter weight. The launch is very low, one of the lowest I have hit, and the ballflight very flat. I could see that the TR Black launched significantly lower than TR Red when hitting it in the same head on the course. TR Black is hard to turn over and players who fear the draw should like the stout feel as you bring the shaft to impact. For my 105 mph club head speed I think stepping down to the 6-S would give me more playable results compared to the extra stiff.

Overall the new TR Red and TR Black are great shafts that Fujikura has engineered. Even if you are currently playing a Ventus, I think it is worth your while to check out the new shafts and see how they compare to your gamer. For more on each shaft check out my Club Junkie podcast.

 

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: How To Overcome The Mid-Season Golf Blues

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Every Year around this time, golfers start getting tentative because they have missed a few too many golf shots and they immediately start to blame the faulty wires on the Pinocchio.

Of course, we are here to tell you that is not the case.

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 FedEx St. Jude Championship: Outright Betting Picks

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With the PGA TOUR regular season in the books, it’s time to begin the 2022 FedEx Cup playoffs.

Previously known as the St. Jude Classic and the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, the event will now serve as the first leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs and is named the FedEx St. Jude Championship.

While the name of the event and the spot on the PGA TOUR schedule has changed, the course remains the same. TPC Southwind is located in Memphis, Tennessee and has been a regular TOUR stop since 1989.

TPC Southwind is a Par 70 measuring 7,244 yards. The course features Bermudagrass greens and rough. With 94 bunkers and 10 water hazards, there is potential trouble on almost every hole.

The FedEx St. Jude Championship will play host to the top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings with the top 65 and ties making it through to the weekend.

FedEx St. Jude Championship Outright Bets

Matt Fitzpatrick (+2200)

Typically, the FedEx Cup playoff events are won by players who have been among the best overall players for that season. Matt Fitzpatrick is having the best season of his career and is undoubtedly one of the most impressive golfers of the year. For the 2022 season, the Englishman ranks third in Strokes Gained: Total, which trails only Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler.

Had it not been for Fitzpatrick’s incredible U.S. Open victory, TPC Southwind would have been a spot that I’ve always thought could be the perfect break through spot for the 27-year-old. Now that he’s won and gotten his first victory in the United States out of the way, it only increases his chances of being able to win a FedEx Cup Playoff event.

Talent was never the concern for Fitzpatrick. The former top ranked amateur in the world exploded onto the professional golf scene at nineteen years old and never looked back. Despite having eight European Tour victories by the time he’d hit his mid-twenties, many people questioned why he couldn’t win on American soil. Now that he’s a U.S. Open champion, there’s reason to believe the floodgates will open.

Fitzpatrick has had plenty of success at TPC Southwind in the past. In three starts at the course, “Fitz” has two top-six finishes including a fourth-place finish in 2019.

His success at the track isn’t all that surprising considering how well his skill set aligns with what’s required to compete at the course. It’s important to hit fairways, which is something he does at a high clip. He also is one of the best in the sport at limiting mistakes and ranks third in the field in Bogey Avoidance.

A FedEx Cup Playoff victory would add to what is already the best season of Fitzpatrick’s career and give him a chance to make a run at a being the FedEx Cup champion.

Will Zalatoris (+2500)

For the past few weeks, we’ve seen Will Zalatoris near the top of the odds board. Despite being one of the most talented players in the field, there was nothing about Detroit Golf Club or Sedgefield Country Club that made me interested in betting him at those spots. The opposite is true about TPC Southwind.

When targeting Will Zalatoris for an outright bet, it’s most prudent to look for spots on the schedule where his immaculate ball striking can set him apart from the rest of them field.  The Rocket Mortgage Classic rewarded driving distance and wedge play. The Wyndham Championship rewarded the best putters and most accurate drivers.

This week, the FedEx St. Jude Championship will favor the best iron players who can ball strike their way to the top of the leaderboard. In the past, Strokes Gained: Putting hasn’t been a strong indicator of who will play well at TPC Southwind; which is great news for Zalatoris, who often struggles with the putter.

As evidenced by his three top-six finishes including two runners-up at major championships in 2022, Zalatoris can absolutely compete in the strongest of fields. In fact, I believe his chances to win in a star-studded event are higher than they are to win a lesser event on TOUR. The 25-year-old is a big game hunter who does his best work when the stakes are high.

The first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs is an excellent time for “Willy Z” to finally break through for his inevitable maiden PGA TOUR victory.

Sungjae Im (+3500)

As frustrating as it was being a Sungjae Im backer on Sunday at the Wyndham Championship, his overall performance and current hot streak can’t be overlooked.

The South Korean has now finished in a share for second place in back-to-back starts. In those two events, Im has gained an average of 8.5 strokes Ball Striking on the field, which includes both Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and Strokes Gained: Approach. At a course where ball striking is the most important factor, he should be in store for another strong showing.

Im had his best Strokes Gained: Approach day on Sunday at the Wyndham, gaining 2.0 strokes on the field in the fourth round alone. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the putter going and lost 2.2 strokes putting while Tom Kim gained 4.5 on the day. If it weren’t for Kim’s unconscious effort with the putter, there’s a good chance that Sungjae would have notched another PGA TOUR victory.

If the 24-year-old can get the flat stick going this week, we may have back-to-back South Korean winners on the PGA TOUR.

Tyrrell Hatton (+6000)

It appears as if Tyrrell Hatton is trending toward a victory, as he’s playing arguably the best golf of his 2022 season. He finished 11th at the Open Championship and followed it up with an impressive performance at Wyndham, finishing eighth. In addition to his top-10 finish, the Englishman was impressive with his approach playing and gained 5.3 strokes on approach, which was good for sixth in the field.

Hatton got hot in his final round last week, shooting a 64. Oftentimes we see golfers who go low on the previous Sunday carry the momentum into the following tournament. Hatton is a much better player than he’s shown thus far in 2022, and it seems as if he’s found something ahead of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

If he has, TPC Southwind should be a good course for him as he finished in 17th last year and was in contention prior to a fourth round 72 that took him out of the running.

Russell Henley (+6000)

It’s fair to wonder whether Russell Henley can close out a victory on the PGA TOUR after witnessing him blow leads at last season’s Wyndham Championship and this season’s Sony Open. Considering that the FedEx Cup St. Jude Championship will be comprised of a much stronger field than either of those events makes it perfectly reasonable to question it even further. However, at his number, I’m willing to give it one more shot.

Henley is in the best form we’ve seen him in this season. In his past two starts, the 33-year-old has finishes of 10th and fifth and has gained 11 and 9.7 strokes from tee to green in those events. At the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Henley ranked seventh in the field in approach, and at the Wydham Championship, he ranked first.

TPC Southwind is a course that should fit Henley’s game to a tee. With a premium on iron play and hitting greens in regulation, the former Georgia Bulldog is a perfect fit. Perhaps more importantly, it’s a course where he doesn’t have to gain a bunch of strokes with the putter to win.

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