Information is great. Actionable information is vastly better. That’s the premise behind Rapsodo’s Insights analysis.

Simply, Insights is an investigative addition to Rapsodo’s MLM (Mobile Launch Monitor) platform. Every personal launch monitor produces, with varying degrees of accuracy, shot data such as ball speed, launch angle and carry distance. Assuming the information is relatively consistent, that’s great. But, what should a golfer do with it?

That’s the million-dollar question.

As with a good bit of personal technology, the device is really a gateway into something much more robust. Consider your smartphone. And now make a list of everything you do with that phone beyond dialing up a restaurant for some take-out. The point is that a product is important. However, perhaps its greatest asset is how it allows for expansion and integration, primarily through software-based applications.

In that vein, Insights is both a short-term value-add for Rapsodo users and perhaps a harbinger of what consumers should expect to see in this space moving forward.

INSIGHTS BASICS

It likely goes without saying but Insights is only available on Rapsodo’s MLM platform. So, yes, you need to own a Rapsodo MLM with a premium membership ($99/year) to leverage the entire Insights portal. And to address the 800-pound gorilla in the corner, from what I’m told, Android compatibility is coming, likely sooner than later. The decision-makers at Rapsodo hear the critical feedback from all you Samsung and Google smartphone owners. So hang tight a bit longer. Or don’t. Whatever. Your call.

Anyway, Insights is designed primarily as a practice tool. You can certainly use it on the course. However, it requires a minimum of six shots with the same club within a single practice session to create a usable report. And for right now, all analysis is based on a single session. With that, I expect Rapsodo will begin to roll out several updates over the next 12 to 18 months, allowing for additional trend analysis and session-over-session comparisons.

However, for now, the initial report includes a single session analysis of distance, accuracy and consistency.

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DISTANCE INSIGHTS

Rapsodo offers golfers three lenses through which users can analyze distance. In assessing the entire bag, golfers can get a composite visual on club gapping. My hunch is that most golfers couldn’t produce an accurate carry distance for all 13 clubs. And to be clear, awareness has nothing to do with ability. A scratch golfer might hit his or her 9-iron 150 yards. An 18-handicap probably requires a 6- or 7-iron on the same shot. The point is that knowing how far you hit each club is essential for any golfer who is looking to improve.

Beyond club gapping, Insights offers a distance summary. In this chart, golfers can assess and compare the total shot trajectory for each club. Initial launch angle, peak height, ball speed and carry distance can help users decode any potential distance gaps.

The Launch Angle Optimization feature is a tool that quickly illustrates the impact on distance with modified launch angles. All things being equal, what happens if I launch my 7-iron at 20 degrees instead of 24 degrees? Or am I losing distance with my driver because I don’t launch it high enough? Those sorts of questions.

 

And while I’m not wild about Rapsodo’s term “Smash Factor Optimization,” the thinking behind it is solid. Smash factor is an attempt to quantify efficiency (ball speed divided by swing speed). It’s not my favorite metric for assessing club performance, which we can get into at another time. However, in this context, I think it can help golfers gauge whether the relationship between swing speed and ball speed is reasonable. For example, if I swing my driver at 100 mph but only produce 140 mph of ball speed, something is off. It should probably be closer to 145 to 147 mph. From there, the Insights analysis can suggest several troubleshooting topics that might be helpful.

ACCURACY INSIGHTS

Ultimately, accuracy is a functional measurement of dispersion. That is, take “x” number of swings with a single club and draw a circle (technically, it’s an ellipse) around the group of shots.

From there, Insights shows the golfer lateral (left-right) and distance (front-back) dispersion numbers. It can also overlay this ellipse on top of a green to show the percentage of shots that end up left/right of target.

If you happen to use a system such as DECADE for target optimization or course strategy, you already know how important it is to select targets based on your unique dispersion patterns.

Beyond that, most recreational golfers know if they tend to hit the ball right-to-left or left-to-right. This is primarily because you watch every shot (except the really awful ones) from behind as the ball travels downrange. However, the front-back dispersion is another matter. Most golfers are “about” players. Meaning, they hit every club “about” a certain distance. That’s likely because they really don’t know the minimum and maximum carry distance for every club in the bag.

CONSISTENCY INSIGHTS

Consistency deals with a target outcome and acceptable deviation from that target. Rapsodo defines these categories as Ball Striking Consistency and Shot Shape Consistency. The latter is self-explanatory. It’s a measure of how often the golfer can produce the desired shot shape. For my money (and PING has some thoughts on this as well), but less curve yields lower scores.

Ball striking is a composite measure that takes several factors into account. But, ultimately, it quantifies how well you hit the ball on target relative to different handicap ranges. In looking at some preliminary data, it’s clear that better golfers are also more consistent ball strikers. That said, even very accomplished players aren’t sticking every wedge shot inside 10 feet. So temper your expectations.

Because Insights is likely to evolve, I could see the Consistency tab expanding with a number of custom, player-defined assessments.

It could be a scenario as simple as tracking how often your driver ball speed is within a target percentage of the max ball speed. Or, if you’d like to get a bit wilder, set a goal to hit 50 percent of your 7-irons 160 to 170 yards with less than 25 percent of those shots missing to the left. That sort of thing. In fact, Rapsodo stated that a scripted combine is in the works and should be released to Insights in the not-so-distant future.

MY $.05

Data is ubiquitous. And even for the Luddite sympathizers, Big Data informs and influences our daily lives in more ways than many of us are aware. But information that exists in a vacuum isn’t of much use. The real power of information is its ability to impact change. That is, how can data make my life better? Or, in this case, how can it improve the efficiency and effectiveness of practice?

Most golfers are terrible at self-analysis. Our selective memories tend to overestimate how far we can hit the ball. And misguided expectations often mean we believe that we’re more capable of hitting certain shots than we are. The point is that golfers don’t know what they don’t know. And Rapsodo isn’t the only manufacturer charged with helping golfers develop a more realistic picture of performance. Some companies started with a rangefinder while others utilized stat-tracking systems as a point of entry. For Rapsodo, it’s a personal launch monitor born out of technology leveraged from experience with MLB teams.

Whatever the origin stories, it seems golf performance and personal technology are becoming more intertwined. And the emphasis here is likely on the individualized nature of progress.

Professional golfers have a team of analysts to plug and chug all the data and turn it into concrete, actionable information. Professional sports organizations employ an entire department of data geeks. You and me? Not so much.

So this is a starting point for Rapsodo and one that moves the conversation forward for all golfers.

Tell us what you think.

PRICING AND AVAILABILITY

If you already own a Rapsodo MLM with a premium subscription ($99 a year), there is no additional cost for Insights.

If you do not have the premium membership, a basic version of Insights is free for all users. Though, as you’d expect, the output is comparatively minimal.

Insights is currently available. To access, update to the latest version of the Rapsodo MLM application on your iOS device.