Bridgestone is rightfully proud of its ball fitting program. After all, they invented the idea.
Over the past ten years, Bridgestone has conducted over 350,000 fittings and captured data from over two million unique swings. You can argue whether ball fitting using the driver only is the best method for selecting the right ball for your game, but you certainly can’t argue with the numbers. It’s safe to say that as of March 1st, 2017, Bridgestone has more golf swing and golf ball impact data than anyone else in the business.
Bridgestone’s R&D department makes practical use of all that data when it Rs and Ds new golf balls, but lately, it’s been working on a concurrent project: The Bridgestone B-Fit Ball Fitting App.
Bridgestone and Bryson DeChambeau first showcased the App at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas in early January. As of today, it's available to the masses (click here to download).
Do golfers need a ball fitting app? Who can't be sure of that, but we have one now and the tech, while the first edition tech is not the most intuitive to use, it's still pretty darned impressive.
Tech Meets Tech
The smart people at Bridgestone have been working on the algorithms and visuals for this app for the past five years.
“We have the cameras over in R&D that can capture golf swing at impact," says Bridgestone Golf Ball Marketing Manager Adam Rehberg. "But we had to wait for phone technology to catch up. We got the new iPhone 6 a couple of years ago, that’s when our eyes started lighting up, and we said okay, we’re ready to bring this to the market.”
The app requires a camera capable of capturing at least 240 frames per second, so that’s iPhone 6 or better. The iPhone app is available on the App Store today. An Android version is coming soon.
How Does It Work?
Rehberg says the idea is to bring the Bridgestone ball fitting experience to your pocket, and provide you with swing speed, ball speed, and launch angle. Then, Bridgestone’s proprietary algorithms, gleaned from 10 years of data, do their magic and calculate spin, carry and total distance. Seconds later, the app prescribes the right Bridgestone ball for you.
“We feel it gives a 100% accurate representation of what we believe ball fitting is. We would put it up against any other launch monitor out there on the market as far as accuracy is concerned, as long as the end user is using it in the correct manner. It has proven to be very accurate from an algorithm standpoint.” – Adam Rehberg
Using the app is a two-man operation – one to run the camera and one to swing the club. As we suggested earlier, using the app requires a little bit of effort. First, you’ll need to lay something of a known length (a yardstick or 5-iron work perfectly) on the ground parallel to your swing path. You’ll need this when you calibrate the video.
Next, you take a video of the swing, and then the real fun starts.
To calibrate you have to tell the app the length of the known object and then when you pull up the video, you use your finger to tell the app where each end of the known object is. Next, using a frame by frame scroll function, you move the club head to the point of impact. Then you need to mark the club’s hosel and the ball.
Then you do it again.
“The calibration process sets the scale,” says Rehberg. “Basically the phone is a series of different pixels, so what it’s doing is it’s actually tracking the golf ball much like a camera-based launch monitor would do. So when you set the scale, it’s setting the calibration to where we know launch angle, ball speed, club speed and all those parameters that we can track on the screen of the device.”
The B-Fit App has two options, a two swing Quick Fitting, and the three swing In-Depth Fitting. In both options, the app requires your name, email address, and age, along with all the basic golf stuff you'd expect: handicap, average score, how often you play, your current ball and what you want in a ball.
Calibration can be tricky if the point-of-view isn’t perfectly straight. We were more than a little off with calibration as my 78-year old test subject clocked in with a 549 MPH swing speed.
He was pleased.
With a little practice, calibration gets easier, and we were able to get a more realistic swing speed of 85 MPH.
With calibration out of the way, you tell the app about ball flight (hook, draw, straight, fade, slice) and trajectory (high, mid or low). You also tell it what kind of flight and trajectory you're looking for, and the app recommends a ball for you.
For our test subject, the app recommended the e6 Speed.
The In-Depth Fitting captures an additional swing. It also captures more information in each swing; giving you club head speed, ball speed, launch angle, and distance. “It’s more robust,” says Rehberg. “And it tracks both the golf club and the golf ball, and it gives you a recommendation based on three swings.”
The $64,000 Question
So if all this sounds like a potential Launch Monitor app, well, it should. Bridgestone says the app’s capabilities are in line with most any commercial launch monitor, and it’s free.
“Obviously it’ll be used as a fitting tool from our perspective, but we do see this being used as a kind of launch monitor and as a tool for golf instructors. You can look at the conditions of your students and you can really dial in a lot of different things. Of course it’s being recorded at high speed video, so you can look at what the club’s actually doing at impact. So it is, by nature, very versatile outside of what we designed it to be.” – Adam Rehberg
Right now the app is set up for driver only, but Rehberg says future iterations will include all the clubs in your bag. “You’ll be able to get all the parameters for all your clubs. Dial in distance, dial in trajectories, and really see what’s going on with your entire bag. You’ll be able to optimize not only the way you play, but also the equipment you’re using.”
Bridgestone is working on future versions that can be used solo and that feature a gaming component.
The B-Fit App is free and is available in the iPhone App Store starting today. Bridgestone says the Android version should be out soon.