‘Every golfer will be using shot tracking technology in four years’
The founder of Arccos, Sal Syed, is on a mission to improve your scores via tech
There are lots of shot trackers out there, designed to tell you how far you hit the ball, how many fairways and greens you hit, putts you take, bunkers you find. The idea is that you can build up an accurate picture of your game, so you can identify strengths and weaknesses. If you discover you’re missing lots of greens from 100 yards, work on your wedge game. If you miss most fairways right, it’s time to try a slice-busting driver... Many of these systems are a bit niche (see our favourites, right). But Arccos has broken into the mainstream this year thanks to a deal with Cobra, which sees its sensors fitted in the grips of the new King F7 drivers. We spoke to its inventor, Sal Syed, to find out where shot-tracking tech is going...
When did you come up with the idea of using shot tracking for golf clubs? I love golf and I love data, so I could never understand why no-one had introduced a product that brought data analytics to regular golfers. My initial idea was to track performance data by putting sensors in golf balls, but that didn’t go anywhere. Why was that? Changing the characteristics of a golf ball is very hard, and breaking Titleist’s stranglehold of the golf ball market is even harder. After ruling out that idea, I thought ‘How about sensors in golf clubs?’ and Arccos was born.
How long did the development process take? It took us a year-and-a-half to get to market. This is very quick, but we managed to licence some patents from Callaway and I wanted to get live feedback from users as quickly as possible. Otherwise I felt all we would be doing was wasting our time and money
developing in our own little bubble.
What was the hardest bit of the product to get right? From being jostled in the back of your car to clashing with other clubs in your bag, your golf clubs go through thousands of different impacts each year. Only about 150 of these impacts
are golf shots and each of these takes around a microsecond. To build a sensor that ignores all the other impacts and just records these 150 microseconds of club on ball impact is not easy to solve and almost undoubtedly the reason why no other company is doing what we’re doing.
So how exactly does Arccos help golfers?
Using the sensors on your club and the GPS on your phone, our App records your performance data and then uses it to help you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your game. We were using traditional golf statistics when we started out, but quickly found them to be misleading. For example, my putts per round statistic was very high. This made me think my putting was the issue. I kept practising my putting, but my scores didn’t improve. Then we began using advanced statistics based on strokes gained in five categories (driving, approach, chipping, sand game and putting). It turned out that my putting was actually pretty good and my issue lay in leaving my approach shots too far away from the hole. The moment I started working on my approach play my game improved.
What other surprising statistics has Arccos uncovered?
The one that shocked me the most was the fact that 40% of the time people who have clear approach shots and hit the ball well come up short of the green due to a poor club choice.
So golfers don’t hit it as far as they think?
Correct. Our data proves golfers have a cognitive bias that leads them to overestimate their ability. Arccos pierces this cognitive bias in a good way by saying, ‘OK, you hit that one amazing 7-iron 165 yards, but you also hit 10 OK ones that went between 150 and 155 yards, so maybe you should plan for a 154-yard 7-iron.’ This may not sound that important, but the data shows that after playing more than 10 rounds with our system our average user makes better club selections and improves their score by 2.77 shots.
What is the future for this kind of tech?
In terms of partnerships, we have just teamed up with Cobra to launch the Cobra Connect, golf’s first driver with integrated shot tracking. And in terms of our own products, we recently launched Arccos Caddie. It currently gives people advice on their club selection from the tee, but I’d like to develop this into a realtime caddie for every shot.
Is that legal?
At present it is and hopefully the governing bodies keep it that way, as it’s a great example of technology providing a solution that brings back a traditional element of the game that has been lost.
What do you mean?
A century ago, just about every round was played with a caddie who offered their player mentorship and advice on club selection based on their playing ability. Nowadays, the expansion of golf and economics involved in paying someone to carry your clubs mean that very few rounds are played with a caddie. Our technology could change this by giving golfers a caddie in the palm of their hand.
‘Our average user makes better club selections’
Interesting. So will everyone be using tracking technology in 20 years?
I believe every golfer will be using it in three or four years.
Yes. Our goal is to have every club embedded with an Arccos sensor by 2020, and I will be shocked if in four years everyone who is buying new clubs isn’t tracking everything.
Phone a friend The Caddie feature now available from Arccos recommends a strategy based on your actual game.