If only perfecting your golf swing was as simple as playing Angry Birds. Well, while the idea of developing a PGA-quality swing will never be that easy, a growing array of mobile apps, now enhanced by cloud technology, really could help take a stroke or two off your game.
Apps for golf enthusiasts are nothing new, being among the first tools available for the iPhone. But as smart phones have evolved in performance, app developers have taken advantage of the new capabilities, doing their best to one-up each other. Now, with the growth of cloud computing and data storage for smart phones, the ability to analyze your round, your club selection, and even your swing has become much more precise. In a real way, the sort of focused coaching and analytics employed by professionals is now available to everyone for about half the cost of an average lesson.
“It has been said that Jack Nicklaus began tracking his performance on an individual basis,” said Craig Prichard, creator of Shotzoom “He converted that knowledge to give him a tremendous advantage to take to the course.”
Prichard’s offering is one of several apps that aim to create a professional caddy in your pocket. Using your smartphone’s GPS capability, Golfshot allows you to track where your shots land and – with a little help from you – creates a log of how many fairways you hit, how many strokes it takes you to reach the greens, or the number of putts it takes you to finally sink that little ball in the hole, The app calculates distance averages for each of your clubs, so it can recommend club selection for any shot on any course in its database. Finally, by analyzing your game, Golfshot can even help golf shops better understand what you need help with and what type of equipment you should look for. As if shops need much help recommending that golfers need more gear.
“Equipment manufacturers make all sorts of claims, but truth is all golfers are different,” said Prichard. “This type of data, actually allows users to present this real world information to figure out which [club] is best for your skill level.”
Some equipment manufactures have embraced that view, offering apps that help golfers find the right club. Ping, for example, offers iPing, which measures your putting stroke, tracking tempo, consistency and strike angle. Of course, it’s also meant to sell putters, so the app also matches you to the right Ping putter.
Still, the biggest difference between the pros and the rest of us is rarely just club selection or shot-by-shot data. So can apps really help fix the hitch in your swing? The newest offerings promise to do just that.
With the advent of cloud computing for smartphones, more apps are able to store and draw on huge volumes of data. That means more video capabilities and much better data analysis.
If you really want to punish yourself while getting a glimpse of what those new capabilities mean, you can choose an app that compares your swing to that of a professional. The iSwing app by Keuminotti is one such tool, letting you analyze how your swing differs from professional Adam Scott’s swing. Shotzoom lets you compare your game to Tiger Woods – what better way to motivate you while on the driving range? You can slow the video down and make marks on the screen to see how your club goes back, and whether you have the near-perfect swing plane most professionals employ.
Cloud-enabled apps can also help golfers fine-tune their game. Imagine taking a lesson and hitting 45 perfect shots as the instructor offers pointers and advice. Just capture one of those swings, and you can now use that as a guide when you’re practicing by yourself. If the ball starts heading right, just record another video and analyze it side-by-side with your perfect swing you experienced with the coach. One new app, SwingReader from Ubersense, allows you to do just that. With SwingReader, you can also overlay the two videos on top of one another to see the difference in the stroke, so you know exactly where your swing went sideways.
“Memory isn’t always a great way to measure” your swing performance says Prichard. And thanks to unlimited real memory of the cloud, your own often-faulty memory becomes a non-issue.
Still, even the best new apps can’t immediately tell you if your club is going back too shallow, which is leading to that massive hook that left you in the trees. In time, though, they will. In the “next two years,” advances in object recognition could give your phone the ability to track and alert you to an incorrect movement, says iSwing creator Charles Keum. Imagine: You ask your phone to track your hips, and it tells you in real time if you’re sliding instead of twisting.
“The technology in the mobile space of the apps is going to grow, and a slew of new technologies will be surfacing as these devices improve,” said Keum.
Looking at the newest crop of golf apps, it’s clear to understand Keum’s optimistic outlook. Still, even with the best and most detailed advice coming from every smartphone on the planet, golfers may never want to forget Arnold Palmer’s timeless advice: “I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone's golf game: it's called an eraser.”