The quote above came from an unnamed PGA Tour Caddie and was relayed by Mike Downey, Director, Principal Evangelist for Sports at Microsoft. It speaks to the mindset we should have on the golf course, but the reality is that most of us are unable or unwilling to get out of our own way.
Arccos CEO Sal Syed describes it as an inability to overcome cognitive bias.
Think about this; nearly all of us think we hit the ball farther than we do. Most of us, despite not fully understanding our miss tendencies, have an absolute belief in our ability to pull off the improbable. In the moment we seemingly forget that past performance and ability (or lack thereof) are what created that improbability in the first place. Poor decision making is how most double bogeys (or worse) are made.
We think we know our strengths and weaknesses, but at any given moment on the golf course, the likelihood is we don’t.
Arccos wants to change that.
The guys at Arccos believe that if you allow Arccos Caddie to be your on-course companion – if you trust the data – you can eliminate bad shots born from bad decisions and you absolutely will shoot lower scores.
Back to the Drawing Board
I don’t want to say that version 2.0 represents a complete overhaul of the Arccos Caddie system but the new version addresses the glaring weakness as well as the key point of frustration of the original.
Version 1 was great…so long as everything went according to plan. Hit a 3-wood 240, 6-iron into the green, and 2-putt. The perfect par.
Of course, if your 3-wood spun-off 210 into the right-side rough; sorry, you’re on your own. Sufficed to say, the original Arccos Caddie fell well short of replicating the human caddie experience.
In version 2.0, Arccos Caddie is with you every step of the way – every hole, every shot. Spin that 3-wood off again, and the Arccos Caddie will adjust and make a new recommendation using a variety of factors that include (but aren’t limited to):
- Your shot history
- The historical performance of other Arccos users
- Wind Speed/direction and other weather condition
- Hole geometry
- Hazard locations
Caddie 2.0 will even allow you to adjust the flag location to ensure recommendations are based on the actual course setup.
“What we’re going to do is help you make smarter decisions,” says Arccos CEO, Sal Syed. He concedes that Caddie will never be the definitive answer but believes “it will be better than a decision you make on your own.”
Syed’s concession is built into the app. The custom strategy feature allows you to make adjustments for how you want to play. For example, if you want to lay up to a specific spot (on a Par 5, for example), Caddie can recommend the ideal strategy to get you there.
What we’re talking about is an AI-powered caddie that knows you better than you know yourself. Trust it…take the emotion out of the game, and the rest of the story is that you will shoot lower scores.
Free…as It Should Be
Another important change from version 1 is that Arccos Caddie 2.0 is entirely free (Arccos 360 or Cobra Connect still required). Frankly, I never found the value in an add-on whose usefulness ends with the first swing on every tee. With 2.0 you get a significantly more robust platform, and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.
It struck me while streaming the Caddie 2.0 launch on Facebook Live that even before it was a thing, Arccos Caddie was always the thing. In the past, we’ve described Arccos a number of ways…shot tracker, round tracker, and golf analytics platform among others. All of the above apply, and each description speaks to the purposefulness of the Arccos platform. By analyzing your data, you’re able to identify areas of weakness. Target those areas in your practice sessions, and you should shoot lower scores.
All good stuff, but fundamentally, while Arccos gathered the data, the intelligence piece was largely left to the user.
2.0 is Better
Developed in conjunction with Microsoft (more than 20 Microsoft Engineers have worked on the Arccos project) and powered by Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning/AI platform, Caddie 2.0 turns your data into real-time, actionable intelligence. The new feature elevates Arccos beyond labels like round/stat tracker to what I describe as a comprehensive course management tool. Shot tracking, analytics, etc., that’s the input. Caddie 2.0 is the output. It’s the thing that matters, the thing that will make the biggest difference in your scores.
At the Arccos launch event, Bubba Watson’s caddie, Ted Scott, was asked how many shots he thought he could save a guy who might otherwise shoot 90 walking onto Bethpage Black for the first time. His answer, “5-6 shots.” Think about that, 5-6 shots on course management and decision making alone.
Now I don’t expect you’ll make up half a dozen shots on a course you’ve played a hundred times, but there’s undeniable value in having, at your fingertips, a caddie that knows you better than yourself - for every hole and every shot.
Speaking as a guy who not so long ago scribbled the reminder “don’t do dumb shit” on the top of his pushcart, Caddie 2.0 could prove to be invaluable.
But What About…
Slow Play – those resistant to technology on the golf course often site slow play as a reason why platforms like Arccos are bad for the game. Data collected through Arccos suggests that after using the system for ten rounds, golfers play an average of 6 minutes faster. The company believes that by streamlining the club selection and decision-making process on the course, Caddie users will play incrementally faster still.
The USGA – Arccos has not applied for a ruling on its Live Caddie feature, but it hopes the game’s governing bodies will take the mindset that systems like Arccos are beneficial to the game.
Fundamentally, Arccos Caddie doesn’t offer anything that a skilled human caddie doesn’t. As the guys at Arccos point out, while only 3% of rounds are currently played with a caddie, 100% of rounds of any real consequence (professional level) are played with one.
“We’re trying to do [for golfers] what Ted does for Bubba,” said Sal Syed, adding “we’re not taking skill out, we’re just helping you make smarter decisions.”
One would hope the USGA and R&A wouldn’t have a problem with that, but it’s possible, even probable, that they will.
The Impact of Arccos Knowledge
It’s important to point out that while Arccos is still in its infancy, insights gleaned from the data it has collected have the potential to reshape multiple facets of the game.
Consider this interesting fact shared during the Caddie 2.0 launch presentation.
Fairways missed to the left are .2 strokes more-costly than fairways missed to the right.
Given that most golfers fight a slice, it’s a somewhat counter-intuitive discovery - though I’d argue that the snap-hook is an unforgiving bastard that will get you every time. One theory is that there could be an unintentional bias shared among golf architects. Regardless of the reason, it’s just one example of Arccos digging up previously undiscovered information.
According to Cobra’s Mike Yagley, insights such as that one could have an immense influence on club design. While golf companies have a fundamental understanding of their products, they have next to no insight into how golfers are really playing with their clubs.
Designers could use information from Arccos to rethink designs based on how the game is being played in the real world. Knowledge gained from Arccos could also have implications for fitters, instructors, architects, and retailers as well.
It’s largely theoretical right now, but I believe it will happen.
To date, Arccos sensors directly embedded in grips have only available in Cobra clubs. Cobra will continue to include Arccos with its products, but sensor-equipped grips will soon be available later this year directly from Arccos.
It’s also worth mentioning that exclusivity period between Arccos and Cobra has expired. I know of at least one other major OEM that’s had conversations with Arccos, so it’s likely we’ll see other manufacturers offer some sort of Arccos 360 package in their 2019 lineup.
Arccos recently released its Coaches Dashboard, and we’re told other improvements/enhancements are under development and will hopefully be ready later this year – and yes, that includes an option for getting the phone out of the pocket (not that most Arccos users actually care).
Pricing and Availability
Arccos Caddie 2.0 is now included with Arccos 360, and the functionality is available in the latest iPhone version of the Arccos 360 app – available today.
An Android version of Caddie 2.0 is currently in development.
For more information, visit ArccosGolf.com.