Golf is very similar to Formula 1 motor racing in terms of technological advancements. You buy a gizmo one day and a month later it’s outdated. But Tim Southwell has discovered five pieces of golf technology that will still be delivering enjoyment and improvements to your game for years to come
1. GPS RANGEFINDERS
While a caddie might take care of your clubs, their more important role is telling you how far you’ve got for your next shot. If you can’t afford a caddie, a rangefinder is the closest you can get. Take the Voice Caddie VC300, the first voice-guarded range finder. This small unit clips on to your belt or cap, then a quick swing of your club tells you the distance to the middle of the green, another swish tells you the yardage to the front and a swipe the other way gives you the yardage to the back. It automatically knows the course you’re on. It’s that simple. Meanwhile, the team at SkyCaddie are taking a more holistic approach to your golf, with data capture being a key part of the process. Whereas most rangefinders get their information from Google Maps, the latest SkyCaddie Touch features more than 34,000 courses in high definition, all individually mapped on foot by a dedicated team for increased accuracy. Each place you hit your shot from is recorded and all this information can be downloaded to start producing your own personal Opta stats for golf. Future developments are set to make detailed in-depth improvements.
Voice Caddie VC300: £109
SkyCaddie Touch: £329.99
2. GOLF DNA
Lewis Hamilton wouldn’t be winning races if it wasn’t for the engineers at Mercedes fine-tuning his car and it’s the same for Rory McIlroy whose Nike technicians fine-tuned his driver and ball combination. After all, you can only play your best golf with clubs perfectly fitted for your needs. For that you need a true custom fitter and club builder. Golf DNA, based in south-west London, is one of a handful of club fitters in the UK leading this charge. Laurence Pawley, master club maker at Golf DNA, says: “It’s one thing being fitted for a set of clubs, but you don’t know who is putting the clubs together or how accurate those specs might be.” Golf DNA work with a small selection of manufacturers who they believe produce the best equipment at different price points, and will build your set from scratch. Using the latest GC2 HMT launch monitor, Mr Pawley can track not only what your ball is doing, but also exactly how the club is reacting at impact. We’re not talking old-fashioned lie boards and impact tape, but modern technology taking your game to the next level.
2½-hour full-bag fitting: £100
3. ABOUTGOLF SIMULATORS
Golf simulators have been around for 25 years in one form or another, but frankly they’ve not been that good. “People used to be happy with seeing a ball flying 300 yards on a screen in front of them,” says James Bowker, from AboutGolf Europe, “but it bore no resemblance to a real round of golf.” Smashing the ball down the 18th at St Andrews, one of more than 50 world-famous courses available, is no longer the key to a good shot on a simulator. It’s all about good technique and timing. The patented 3Trak system takes 2,300 photos a second, tracking the ball from the moment of impact, then quantifying the velocity, launch angles and spin rates. The latest AGCurve model projects on to a curved screen giving a 160-degree, totally immersive view of the course. Pioneering golf simulator Urban Golf, which has three London sites, are at the vanguard of this revolution. “These simulators are so accurate and reflective of an actual round of golf on the course that the team here now bring their own clubs and shoes with them,” says James Day, managing director of Urban Golf. “This never happened on the old systems.”
Simulators: from £32,000
4. VPAR APP
Wouldn’t it be great to know what your opponents elsewhere on the course are scoring and where you stand in the leaderboard. The VPAR golf app now brings live scoring to all golfers. Simply download the app, key in the course, handicap and competition format, and log every player’s score after each hole so everyone can see in an instant where they stand. High-tech company VPAR developed the app which has been used for corporate and charity golf days, club championships, and pro and amateur events for the past six years. The application is now used in more than 650 events in ten different countries. Whether it’s your club championship or a Texas scramble with your pals, VPAR provides an extra dimension to your golf event. The VPAR app comes loaded with maps of 30,000 courses, and provides the usual GPS information about distances and hazard positions. Players can store information to have a permanent record of their round and can also check up on the playing history of potential future opponents. Offers real-time leaderboards, GPS and course planner, plus performance tracking.
VPAR app: £5.99
5. STEWART GOLF X9 FOLLOW TROLLEY
Unless you’re a tour professional, you probably can’t afford a caddie. The next best thing is the Stewart Golf X9 Follow. This trolley literally follows you around the golf course. When you walk off the tee, the X9 Follow follows you at a pre-defined distance. When you stop at your ball, the X9 Follow stops a polite distance behind you. Simply clip the small Bluetooth handset to your belt and you’re in business. In addition to the Bluetooth electronics system, there are two antennas that power and control the remote trolley. Mounted on each of the rear motors, the antennas work together to create a neutral zone and an active zone. When the handset – and therefore the player – is inside the neutral zone, the X9 Follow will remain stationary. As the handset enters the active zone, the X9 Follow’s electronics system will automatically and independently alter the speed of each rear motor to keep pace. When the golfer and therefore the handset come to a stop, the X9 Follow will continue until the handset is back inside the neutral zone when it will also stop. Research conducted by Stewart suggests that users of the X9 Follow average a three-shot reduction on their rounds using the trolley.
X9 Follow: £1,499