Secretariat bolts out of the starting gate!
OK, maybe not the ideal analogy.
But in the race for golf data capture and analytics supremacy, Arccos Caddie Team Program is putting more distance between it and the competition.
Targeted at high school, junior, collegiate and national team programs, it’s figuratively bursting out of the gate.
Golf programs at the University of Southern California, University of Alabama, Oklahoma State, Florida A&M and, most recently, Howard University are working with the technology.
The adoption rate at those NCAA schools has been swift. The key is the Arccos Caddie App. With sensors providing automatic shot tracking and artificial intelligence (AI) supplying strokes-gained analytics, integrating it into a team program environment is beneficial in two areas:
1) Players and coaches assess strengths and weaknesses, identify strategic trends and optimize equipment.
2) Coaching staffs rely more on data and analytics and less on intuition or hunches to fill out line-ups.
Removing conjecture-based judgments on a player’s form or history is proving especially meaningful for coaches.
“Arccos has always been a product for golf’s masses,” says Andrew Turner, Vice-President of Sales for Arccos and one of the program’s key facilitators. “To have this available for coaches and players at the elite level and with a team element applied allows both sides to be on board. With the data and AI working together, it’s not a difficult proposition to position the Caddie Team activation as a means for improvement in multiple areas.”
High-Profile Praise for Arccos Caddie App
Veteran swing instructor Andrew Rice was so impressed by the Arccos technology during testing that he joined the company as a spokesperson. Data is an integral part of his engagement with students and he sees benefits from it every day.
“This thing is powerful,” says Rice. “It’s a lot more than I ever imagined it would be. I know that, as both a player and a coach, there is much that I can learn from this data.”
Legendary PGA of America professional Bob Ford saw the potential of Arccos technology for teaching professionals, coaches and students early on. During a 2018 event in New York where Arccos announced its partnership with Microsoft, the Seminole Golf Club general manager and retired director of golf at Oakmont Country Club referred to Arccos technology as “the future.” He believed the value Arccos could bring to his teaching business was something he couldn’t do without.
“Coaches can get access to fact-based, data-driven insights for every player,” he said. “Play on the course should dictate what happens on the lesson tee. For coaching, that will be a total paradigm shift.”
As an example, Ford cited a player’s work on the practice range compared to how he or she reacts to the elevated pressure of competing and strategizing during tournament rounds. The vastly different kinds of golf produce two distinct data sets.
“It’s easy to get them (students) to do things on the range but, out on the golf course, you can look at the hole-by-hole and see how they are playing every shot,” says Ford. “From there, we can develop a plan of attack for lowering scores within a live environment. That’s where this becomes such a valuable tool.”
(Golf) Paradise by the Dashboard
Eliminating manual inputting of data and uploading it after a round is one of the big pluses of Arccos technology.
With the Arccos Caddie App synced to the sensors for automatic shot-tracking, club analytics, AI rangefinder and caddie advice, the Caddie Team Dashboard takes over. Analyzing the on-course data capture helps eliminate sketchy recall or erroneous information about a shot, hole or situation.
“It isn’t practical to try and have players write down or remember specific clubs or locations or circumstances about the shots they hit in a round and have them enter the data after,” says Turner. “This program dramatically simplifies the data-capture process. From it, each player gets a personalized improvement roadmap through the strokes-gained platform which coaches can oversee.”
Two significant upgrades to the Caddie App have enhanced the functional aspects of the system for players and coaches:
Smart Distance Club Averages – Leverages new algorithms that take golf’s most intelligent and accurate club averages to another level by accounting for recovery shots and terrain while also supporting “what if” views for weather and elevation impacts across individual clubs.
Enhanced Putting Data Insights – Combines with in-app and wearable hole-location setting for deep insights into a player’s short-game performance by supporting the ability to mark second- and third-putt locations.
Sal Syed, Arccos co-founder and chief executive, believes the updates complete the performance picture. Doing so helps clear the way for targeted improvement in specific areas.
“I think putting is where a lot of misconceptions lie. On television, you see all these putts made on Tour. The bigger sample size of an entire field at a PGA TOUR event is the pros don’t make everything. From seven feet, their rate is only about 50 percent. My belief is there are a lot of golfers out there, competitive and recreational, who aren’t as bad at putting as they think. Having that enhanced putting data is a big step for us.”
Untethering from an in-pocket cell phone to the pocket-clipped Arccos Caddie Link is a major upgrade for the Arccos Caddie Team program.
Link is about the size of a matchbook. It weighs a shade less than 25 grams, fits easily on a belt, waistband or on a pocket seam, and requires only the push of a button to engage. Connecting with Arccos sensors in each club via Bluetooth, it automatically transfers shot and club data to a smartphone in real time. Depending on preference, that can be done during a round or post-round.
Granted, some consider a smartphone another appendage but carrying one in-pocket is a non-starter for many college players and touring pros. Across North America, a number of junior tours don’t allow participants to carry a device on the golf course.
Link has made that a non-issue.
“For the first time, we’re going to have access to on-course data obtained under pressure-packed tournament conditions,” said Ryan Crysler, a senior instructor at Butch Harmon Floridian in Florida who has a posse of top players in his student stable. “Students will be able to clip Link to their waists, leave their phones in their bags and go play golf. From that we’ll get a full, accurate picture of their performance.”
Distance between coach and player is also a non-factor. With Link providing the data to the dashboard, a shot, a hole or round can be discussed over Zoom, Facetime or text without assumptions or guesswork. It can also set up strategies for a next round or event.
“Data collected under pressure is fundamentally different than statistics obtained under normal playing circumstances,” says Crysler. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s the only data that matter for golfers who want to excel at a high level.”
Also integrated into the platform is the Arccos Caddie app for Apple Watch. It offers another option for those who can’t or won’t play with a smartphone in-pocket.
Pushing the Performance Envelope
With “team golf” the foundation of NCAA competition and an increasingly utilized aspect of junior tours and high-school events, coaches have a game-changer at their fingertips. The ability to prioritize a line-up for a particular style of course or to more easily identify players who struggle in specific adverse conditions can be meaningful for a desired outcome. Coaches and players can also formalize practice sessions to work on targeted areas that require attention.
That said, Turner suggested additional benefits.
For high-school players and juniors seeking college scholarships, having a detailed picture of past performance is meaningful.
For NCAA coaches, that same kind of information lends credence to the recruitment process. Choosing which freshmen to accept for a new school year becomes a more calculated process.
For teaching professionals, it can also be the ideal baseline to start a program with a new student.
“You can have a kid with a couple of high points but the system offers proof of things over an extended period,” says Turner. “If you get strokes-gained information and tournament breakdown and some of the data overlays, it can be a big part of a portfolio to show a college coach. That coach can then make more informed decisions. It’s another considerable benefit of the Arccos data set.”
Six-time Open champion Harry Vardon said: “There are only two types of player—those who keep their nerves under control and win championships and those who do not.”
Now, it seems, with this technology there is room for a third type of player—those who improve and win championships.