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How does the iPING putter app work?

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Golf is becoming more and more technological. Well, strictly speaking, the game is the same but the clubs you use and the innovations available to help analyze your swing and your ball flight are advancing fast. Here in the engineering department at Ping, we use simulation and measurement tools today that Karsten Solheim would have dreamed about. It is a great time to be a sports scientist.

iPING’s Beginnings

I remember the day in 2006 when we decided to create our own fitting software using launch-monitor data from new devices on the market such as Vector and TrackMan. I’d spent much of the previous year testing and validating a predictive ball-flight model that could take speeds, angles and spin rates and paint any golf shot into a 3D environment.

Our aim with our nFlight fitting software was to bring fitting into the 21st Century by applying real analysis to launch-monitor data and give meaningful fitting recommendations. We pioneered a few things like optimal shot bands, dispersion ellipses and gapping analysis. A couple of years later we started to talk about applying MEMS technology to measuring a club during a fitting. MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) are small, lightweight sensors that measure movement. The devices contain two main types of sensors – three-axis gyroscopes that measure rotational movement (yaw, pitch and roll), and three-axis accelerometers that measure straight-line movement (x, y and z). These sensors are used in many different industries and can track any kind of movement, but they aren’t infallible – they drift over time and there is noise in the data. It’s not realistic to expect the sensors to keep an accurate track of the position of an object for long periods of time, but they are perfect for measuring short-duration movements.

One of our engineers had the idea to take an iPhone 4 and strap it to a putter, using the sensors in the phone itself to measure a putting stroke. I was pretty skeptical about both the sensor quality in the phone and the extra weight affecting the putting stroke, but I was happy to be proven wrong on both counts. The phone is placed close to the grip and doesn’t affect the swing weight of the putter much at all. The extra weight is easily detectible by a golfer but not distracting, even to our tour players. We also verified that the device doesn’t change the putting stroke and gives us accurate enough readings, all for the cost of a plastic cradle.

iPING reliably captures the closing angle (stroke type), impact angle, tempo, shaft lean and lie angle. It is important to note that iPING has no way to know where the hole is, which is typical for any MEMS device. As a result, you will see that many of the attributes we track are internal to the stroke, say from address to impact. We can’t tell you whether the putter face was open or closed to the target because we can’t know where the target is, however, the sensor does know which way is down by measuring gravity and this is how we measure a real shaft lean and lie angle.

Consistency is Key

So, what benefit do we get from tracking a putting stroke? Well, primarily we want to measure consistency. All our research with elite players and tour players shows that even though the motion of their putting strokes varied, the single thing they all have in common is a high degree of consistency when compared to higher-handicap players. Based on our experiments, it doesn’t seem to matter how much arc is in your stroke, if you align at the hole or consistently left or right, or if your tempo is quick or slow, so long as there is consistency in the stroke. The key was that we established a relationship between the consistency (standard deviation, the statistical term for it) of any given attribute when repeated over five putts and a player’s handicap.

Figure 1 (below) shows this relationship for closing angle. We put this together to create a score for a five-putt session in iPING that rates your consistency over five attributes against players of a certain handicap. So if your score for a session is 9.0, you putted like a typical 9-handicap player. Using this score gives players an instant understanding of what is good and bad, and allows someone to quantify whether one session is significantly better than another. For example, you can use this in practice to measure technique changes. Just try using iPING outside in the wind and then inside on a flat green to see what impact that has on your consistency.

Consistency_of_Stroke_Type_vs_ Player_Handicap

iPING Data

When we use iPING in fitting we can take stroke type, impact angle, tempo, shaft lean, and lie angle readings to dial in the best putter for your stroke. Figure 2 shows how we would take each of the five main attributes and recommend a putter that will improve a player’s consistency. This is based on a lot of experiments in the putter lab.

There are a few things that stand out from the nearly 10 million putts registered on iPING.

  • There is no such thing as Tour tempo. Tour players have an average tempo of close to 2.0 on iPING, but there are some as low as 1.4 and some over 2.5, all with good putting numbers on the tour.
  • Beginner golfers often have a very flat lie angle and upwards of 10 degrees of arc in the stroke. We really don’t ever see this among elite golfers, which would suggest it is detrimental to producing good results. The average tour player has about 5 degrees of arc in his or her putting stroke (on a putt from 10 feet).
  • The general public tends to add a little loft with the hands on average; elite and tour players tend to de-loft the putter a little.
  • Even among the very best players, very few have the putter face totally square to the hole at address. Some good tour players consistently line up 4 or 5 degrees to one side of the hole. Since we have no evidence that it’s important to consistency, it’s not something we try to “fix.” If putts are consistently missed left or right, then a choice of alignment features and/or hang angle can help that.

The ability to acquire and analyze large sets of information from tools like iPING has certainly helped us answer some big questions about putter design and fitting, and hopefully help a few people make some more putts.

IPing_How_to

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Paul is the Vice President of Engineering at Ping, coordinating a department responsible for club design, development, innovation and testing. He moved there in 2005 after completing a PhD studying Solar Flares in the Mathematics Department at St Andrews University, Scotland. He has spent most of his time with Ping in the research department working on the physics of ball flight, the club-ball impact and many other aspects of golf science. Some of his projects at Ping include the nFlight fitting software, iPing, Turbulators and TR face technology. The idea behind these articles is to explain a bit about popular scientific topics in golf in a way that is accessible to most. Hopefully that will be easier than it sounds. www.ping.com

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Anna Simon

    Nov 4, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I am currently working with a company that is building a new product that helps golfers improve and analyze their golf swing, taking a multi-sensor approach to the swing analyzers products on the market. The product’s Kickstarter will be launching later this month. Would you like us to get in touch with you to test the product? If so, please send me your email to anna@duotrac.com.

    Many Thanks,

    Anna Simon

  2. Ian Jones

    Feb 10, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    Yes – bought it for the galaxy S3 (even got the S3 because Ping did this alleged great app)….. AND….of course it didnt work. very disappointed. Surprisingly Ping customer service didnt seem to want to know when I called. Was there a recall since it didnt work ? Now have a $30 piece of plastic sat in a box, keeping company with old yardage books.

  3. killerbgolfer

    Feb 8, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Love what you do PING. Consistently the most progressive company with outstanding products and service.

  4. Mike

    Feb 7, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Do Ping have plans to release an iPhone 6 cradle? I’m lost without one.

  5. Rene Realme

    Feb 6, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    Galaxy S4 cradle please!

  6. Mark

    Feb 6, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    So any thoughts on providing this app for Android users who are 50% of the smartphone market??????

    • Paul Wood

      Feb 6, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      Unfortunately, the android platform makes this really tough. There’s so much variation in phones and sensors. We looked at it seriously and even briefly released a version for the Galaxy S3 but even just that 1 model had something like 10 different hardware versions, so it made it almost impossible to ensure functionality and accuracy. Maybe we’ll have to look at something where we use a MEMS device instead of the phone to link up to iPing as a solution for Android users. We’ll keep looking!

  7. Mike Olsen

    Feb 6, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Paul,

    Just curious as to how the iPing data stands up to the SAM Puttlab output…both in terms of accuracy and consistency of the data? Thanks

    • Paul Wood

      Feb 6, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      We have a SAM Puttlab in our lab and we used both the SAM and high speed video data to check the accuracy and consistency of our data. I myself was surprised how good the phone’s sensors did in our testing. Clearly there are quite a few aspects of the putt that the SAM measures that we don’t but the SAM is quite a big investment for someone.

  8. John Grossi

    Feb 6, 2015 at 5:42 am

    Paul, Thanks for this explanation on Ping’s putter app. However, I am interested in Ping’s NFlight(sp) device. Would you consider an article on it? These MEMS devices are very interesting on how they relate to the golf swing.

    • Paul Wood

      Feb 6, 2015 at 11:00 am

      I’d certainly be very happy to do an article on nFlight. I might try to cover a couple of other topics relating to club technology or golf physics first but I’ll try to come back to fitting tools again. I’m really interested in MEMS technology personally – it would be a pleasure to write more on the subject.

  9. mike

    Feb 5, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Great product. It is very consistent and helped me to slow down my putts.

  10. Golfraven

    Feb 5, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    The cradle still fits the iphone 5 but I am not sure I tested it never iphone 6 model. reminds me to take it out of my golf bag locker and use it again. Saddly the app is lacking better stats analysis and is not showing dates when you did the putting therefor difficult to compare unless you write dates in your notepad. i agree that putting with the phone does not affect the stroke itself but I feel the weight of it and also the impact sound is slighly different. however it is great tool which provides important data on stroke type, tempo, shaft lean, lie angle etc.. I would say biggest feedback is weather your stroke is consistent, independent of how you roll the ball. I am close to +PHcp and it helps me to focus when practicing. All pros are around +4 and comparing against those is good indication what your putting is lacking. So as with anything in golf, consistency is key

    • MS

      Feb 5, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      Golfraven – On the “Measure” screen, you can change the name of each session. Look at the picture above where it says “Session 17” – if you tape on the name (not the drop down arrow), it will bring up the keyboard and you can change the session to a date or whatever you would to call it.

      The best way to utilize this is on a day when you are putting well. Take a quick session and save it by date, “good putting day”, etc so you know where to find it. Then you will have it stored what your stats are when you are rolling it well. Helps you go back and compare when you have an off day and can help figure out why.

      • Golfraven

        Feb 5, 2015 at 5:48 pm

        Thanks for the hint, much appreciated. been using this now for last 2-3 years and never figured it out.

  11. bph

    Feb 5, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    How does it work? The answer is it doesn’t. Be careful before buying this. The app has been broken for at least a year (on iPhone at least), leaving me with a useless $30 piece of plastic.

    • MS

      Feb 5, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      Have you tried deleting the app and reinstalling?

    • Paul Wood

      Feb 5, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      I’m really sorry to hear your app is not working correctly. Our application support would be happy to help you get that figured out. Their number is 855-687-5700 or appsupport@ping.com We do our best to make sure it works for as many people as possible, but I’m not going to lie, making apps is hard when hardware and software are progressing at such a fast pace.

  12. Ed

    Feb 5, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    I have one for my iphone4, which i don’t have anymore..
    Will ping discount if i get one for iphone 5 or 6?

  13. Double Mocha Man

    Feb 5, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    The app works great. But finding a cradle that fits my phone is problematic. So I’ve used duct tape in the past. One more use for duct tape…

  14. Tom Stickney

    Feb 5, 2015 at 10:29 am

    It’s a great tool for sure.

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