Is a Smart Golf Ball the Path to Golf’s Next Frontier?
Golf Balls

Is a Smart Golf Ball the Path to Golf’s Next Frontier?

Is a Smart Golf Ball the Path to Golf’s Next Frontier?

The game of golf is evolving. Gamification, augmented reality, and other forms of golf entertainment are being billed as the future, but it remains to be seen if these upstart flavors of the sport can attract the next generation in a way that the traditional game has, so far, failed.

The best known of the alternative golf venues is Topgolf. The darling of the industry, Topgolf has expanded rapidly. 41 locations are open worldwide (38 in the US, 3 in the UK) and the venue is currently featured on Golf Channel’s Shot Makers. The TaylorMade-backed Topgolf competitor, Drive Shack, just opened its first venue in Orlando. 4ORE! Golf opened its first location in Lubbock, Texas lasst year, and REALiTEE is trying to raise funds to open a facility in Summerlin, Nevada.

Those guys represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

For better or worse, technology has invaded the game of golf, and while most everyone is focused on entertainment venues, the guys at OnCore Golf are planning to use this ball (Genius Golf Ball) as a vehicle to bring augmented reality to the average golfer.

genius-sitewide

From a Metal Core to Genius Technology

So how does a company make the leap from golf balls to augmented reality? That’s an interesting story.

While OnCore is gaining some traction with its tour-level ELIXR ball, the company is perhaps still best known for its original hollow metal core golf balls. While not a runaway success with golfers, the technology caught the attention of some groups interested in filling that hollow core with a microchip.

OnCore put the idea in its back pocket until this past summer when it applied for a patent for a ball with a high-strength, high-stiffness core capable of housing sensitive electronics. With the footprint of the modern chip shrinking, creating a smart golf ball has become much more reality than fantasy.

To gauge consumer interest in a smart golf ball, OnCore launched a crowdfunding campaign, and by the fourth quarter of last year, they’d raised more than $100,000.

Within 90 days, the company had a prototype.

The goal was to develop a ball that could capture the same type of information you can get from a launch monitor, and then make that information reviewable on a PC or smartphone. The information could even be made available on the course.

Forget about the USGA for a moment and instead consider a scenario where a golf instructor could give a playing lesson with a full understanding of the critical metrics for every shot. Ball speed, launch angle, spin rate, etc., all provided by the golf ball in real-time and for significantly less money than a launch monitor.

genius-1200

The Genius Plan

OnCore plans to release the Genius Ball to the market towards the end of the year. To function as designed, the ball requires an accelerometer, magnetometer, a GPS chip, and self-charging battery. As you’d expect, that’s technology that doesn’t come cheap.

And you thought Pro V1s were expensive.

To give golfers the opportunity to experience the Genius Ball without breaking the bank, the company plans to bundle them with its ELIXR tour ball. For around $60/dozen, you’ll get a box with 9 ELIXRs and 3 GENIUS balls. Use the Genius Ball on the holes where you want to collect data and maybe leave it in the bag when the risk of losing one is high.

The company is working on developing a protective shell to ensure the performance and feel characteristics are truly tour level, that includes a urethane cover.

Genius-Display

The Gateway to AR

The development of the Genius ball led to a partnership between OnCore and VGolf, a mixed reality golf simulation and training system that blends virtual reality and real-world golf.

At a recent demo event at the Legacy Golf Club in Phoenix, I had the opportunity to check out exactly how the pairing of the two technologies comes together. The team provided me with a pair of virtual reality glasses to wear while a former touring professional hits a series of 300-yard drives. After each shot, I see a 360-degree panoramic of a golf course with visuals similar to Top Tracer along with the data for carry distance, total distance, launch angle, apex, descent angle, spin rate, and ball speed, displayed in the bottom corner of my view.

Virtual-Caddy_560VGolf’s AR glasses seamlessly blend your actual environment with a virtual overlay. The plan is to integrate VGolf’s technology with OnCore’s Genius ball in the near future. That would open the door for things like playing Pebble Beach in virtual reality, or other gamification opportunities that could appeal to the next generation in much the same way that Topgolf does. Consider that 53% of Topgolf’s customers are between the ages of 18-34 and perhaps even more interesting, only 40% of its customers would classify themselves as golfers.

Partnerships like the one between OnCore and VGolf have the potential to drive innovation and grow the sport in a way that those who rely on a strict definition of the game have failed to do. Given the stagnation of the traditional game, anything that puts a golf club into the hands of a non-golfer is a win in my book.

Keep your eye on advancements in golf ball technology and the AR space as they could prove to be the next frontier in golf technology.

 

Editors Note: The original version of this story stated that 4ORE! Golf was slated to open this year. We have corrected the story to reflect that the first location is already open.

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Ryan Kelly

Ryan Kelly

Ryan Kelly

Ryan is a marketing and communications professional in the financial services industry with a true passion for the game of golf. An MBA candidate and self-proclaimed lifelong learner both on and off the golf course. He's just killing time until his next tee time. Ryan is based out of sunny Phoenix, AZ and is blessed to be able to tee it up year-round.

Ryan Kelly

Ryan Kelly

Ryan Kelly

Ryan Kelly

Ryan Kelly

Ryan Kelly





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      labillyboy

      6 years ago

      Did Topgolf in Portland last week… these balls go about… 70% (being generous) the distance of a normal ball… Also the upper stories are precariously close to the edge… felt like I was going to fall off the edge… Still, a really fun time, they just need to dial it in…

      Reply

      Woolly Rhino

      6 years ago

      I write for some magazines in Spain and also broadcast on English language radio. Is this new tech ball distributed in Spain and if so where.

      Reply

      scott

      6 years ago

      I got a idea for a golf ball , how about a ball that spins like a Pro V on chip shots , carry’s like a Callaway soft feel , rolls like a Titlist DT and cost $15 dozen not on sale. Now that’s a ball everyone would buy.

      Reply

      Alex

      6 years ago

      They should just bring out a 6 pack of chipped ball
      I’d like to play the whole round with if the ball plays as good as the tour model why would change ball through the round
      I’d like all the stats on my round. look forward to them coming out.

      Reply

      Steve

      6 years ago

      Would like to know if they are developing one specifically to use on the practice green. Instant feedback would surely be beneficial in obtaining a fluid putting stroke.

      Reply

      James T

      6 years ago

      When a driver crashes into that golf ball at 150mph +, where are the air bags for the electronics?

      And will there ever be self-driving golf ball?

      Reply

      Keith Blakely

      6 years ago

      James – the 15,000 g-force that a driver imparts is the reason that you haven’t seen electronics like this in a ball before. The acceleration and deformation forces are extreme! In August, 2017, OnCore received a patent for the “protective shell” that will surround the electronics and battery and allows us to place the “engine” inside in a cushioning polymer matrix without fear of destroying the board, connections, etc. Great question!

      Reply

      Jim C

      6 years ago

      Reminds me of the guy playing a “can’t loose GPS ball”, asked where he bought it, he said “I found it”.

      Reply

      Jerry

      6 years ago

      this is where hitting some Iron Byron shots with these chipped balls vs ProV’s, TP 5’s etc would be cool to see. With those benchmarks you could then practice and see more accurately how you are hitting. I don’t know if their software accounts for comparative spin rates etc now? ie if you typically play with say a ProV1x and know your ball flight data then practicing with this chipped ball with extrapolated data would be more meaningful. We all know going to the range is somewhat misleading since range balls do not come close to performing like the ball we play with. Do you suppose Tiger was hitting his Bridgestone balls on the range at the Masters or Spaulding Top Flights?

      Reply

      One Day At A Time

      6 years ago

      Just a friendly heads up- We order 2,000+ dozen balls every year from Titleist. I noticed they had stamped “Pinnacle Practice” on the latest shipment and I called and asked if it was physically the same ball as we had been receiving for years. Long story short, the range balls outperformed the Pro V1x by a very slim margin in all metrics our LM captures. This was consistent across swing speeds, clubs, and random samples of three new balls from 2017, 2018, and the three 2018 V1x’s.

      Reply

      mackdaddy

      6 years ago

      The potential for this ball is great. I would love to be able to pick up my cell phone and get instant data on my shots when I am working on something new on the course. It would also be really helpful on a windy day.

      Reply

      Scott

      6 years ago

      This is a very exciting new product and it will be interesting to follow the progress OnCore makes developing it!!! One question that hasn’t been answered yet that several of you have have asked is how it will work while hitting into a net and if the data will be viewable on a Smart Tv screen. What can you at OnCore report at this time?

      Reply

      Keith Blakely

      6 years ago

      Scott – The current design integrates a lot of information from the GPS data alongside accelerometers, magnetometers, etc. and there is a minimum data set required to ensure maximum accuracy and correctness in the calculations for distance, spin, apex, velocity, etc. Hitting into a net ends the ball flight too early for enough of that data to be gathered to do the requisite calcs. We are looking into some alternatives for use in home set-ups and simulator bays but the first iteration of the GENiUS ball won’t be useful for that.

      Reply

      Sliceasaurus Rex

      6 years ago

      It’s nice to see a company trying to innovate instead of just slapping more layers into a ball and covering it in urethane and calling it a “Tour” ball. I’m sure these balls will have an audience with golf instructors and those looking for as much data as possible in their golf shots.

      Reply

      Benno

      6 years ago

      Agree with your summation to a degree – there’s a lot of dead average Urethane balls around now – but OnCore’s Elixr is a genuinely high performing ball – for me anyway. I’ve made the switch from ProV1 and as long as OnCore keep making them, I won’t switch again.

      Reply

      Keith Blakely

      6 years ago

      Benno – Thanks for your compliments regarding the ELIXR. We’ve had hundreds of folks BEG us to not change anything because they love the ball exactly as it is. So the answer is “YES” – we’ll keep making them for as long as you keep buying them!

      Ernest Poirier

      6 years ago

      I’ve been a fan of OnCore balls since the metal core (ver 1.0). I live 40 minutes from their head office in Buffalo, NY, and I have been using their AVANT model for the past 2 years. I even won a Golf Channel Tour Event last year with the AVANT.

      I have not tried the microchip version, but I would not hesitate recommending any LEGITIMATE golfer (lots on this site), to visit OnCore and buy a dozen of their balls (ELIXR, AVANT). You will not be disappointed.

      Reply

      MikeyBGolfMe

      6 years ago

      I’m in… for everything I’m reading, I’d like to give it a go on the course. Not too worried about pricing, new technology is damn cool :)

      Reply

      JOEL GOODMAN

      6 years ago

      why not stay home and play golf games on your computer. no one seems to know how to judge yardages or read putts anymore. The true spirit of the game and the most fun does NOT include electronics. If that’s what you like stay home and play with your “thing”

      Reply

      Will Dutton

      6 years ago

      Another important part of the game is politeness and respect toward fellow players, something I might suggest is a bit lacking in your comment.

      Doug Seel

      6 years ago

      Make the core with holes so you can wirelessly charge the battery. Chargeable golf balls!!

      Reply

      Brad Armstrong

      6 years ago

      Anyone else notice the 128 yrds of roll out on that test shot? Haha.

      Reply

      Keith Blakely

      6 years ago

      That’s what happens when you let software guys who never held a club in their life attempt to mock up a screen shot for a golf course! Sorry about that and great catch Brad!

      Reply

      Darrell

      6 years ago

      It was a 220 drive, on a 348 yd hole, with 128 to the pin.

      Reply

      Andrew Han

      6 years ago

      Nice! I really see a huge business opportunity for the low to mid range skill set market. If they just sell a ball with GPS only, tracking the ball and yardage is all that matters at that point (my opinion). It will save money from actually finding the ball and on strokes. I almost bought one from a no namer back in 2015, but cost was way high to justify at the time.

      Reply

      HDTVMAN

      6 years ago

      I’d love to see a chipped ball which could never be lost…but the ball manufacturers would never let that happen!

      Reply

      Dave

      6 years ago

      Great idea and it’s all about technology where will it go next . Hope they don’t make a ball with a homing device so the wife can tell where my golf bag is.

      Reply

      Large chris

      6 years ago

      But will it give me face to path measurements?

      Reply

      CO

      6 years ago

      So does this work while hitting in to a net? Or does the technology use the final resting place of the ball to measure distance, etc?

      Reply

      Dave

      6 years ago

      The price of the Genius ball isn’t outrageous at less than $20 each (with 9 Elixr balls thrown in) … only downside is playing courses with water or other hazards that would make retrieval difficult/impossible but I’ll probably give it a shot when they are released.

      Reply

      Gord

      6 years ago

      I’m in Calgary, Canada and I’ve got a mini-driving range set up in my basement for the 8 months when we have snow. This would be perfect – as long as the price is right and the balls don’t die after a few hits. I’m constantly looking at different, reasonably affordable gadgets for swing data and haven’t found anything that works for me. Really hoping this ball is the real deal.

      Reply

      robin

      6 years ago

      Can you practice with it in a net ?

      Reply

      Duffy McHackster

      6 years ago

      Interesting idea with a lot of potential, but some possible issues as well. Cost (will deter some)
      Durability (both of chip and cover)
      Playing characteristics (similar enough to gamers for accurate data?)
      Definitely a product worthy of interest, and likely at least a try.
      Looking forward to MGS getting their hands on some.

      Reply

      Keith Blakely

      6 years ago

      Great questions and all things we’ve been focused on. Our approach to the pricing challenge is to find other ways to create value for customers of the GENiUS ball – tie-in’s with other golf product companies that offer discount codes, coupons for discounts on golf instruction (a big application area for the data this ball generates), and our own “bundles” that deliver balls, bags, towels, or other OnCore gear at a savings that justifies the investment in the GENiUS ball. As to durability and performance, our experience with the hollow metal core taught us a lot about what factors influence feel, durability, and performance and we are very confident that this ball will be right up there with other high end balls as far as initial velocity, distance, spin rates, etc. so the data WILL be relevant. We are planning to provide a credit and method for returning the balls after the cover is no longer playable or the battery has died so that will also make this a more user-friendly product.

      Reply

      bobbyk

      6 years ago

      Great thing about OnCore, is they’re always thinking ahead. Been playing the Elixr since they came out and couldn’t be happier. Best all around ball I’ve ever played. Very interesting company with unique vision. Keep up the good work. Just don’t change the Elixr.

      Benno

      6 years ago

      I’m with BobbyK, please please please don’t change the Elixr. My eternal gratitude in advance, cheers

      D.A.

      6 years ago

      I did not mean to sound so negative about what the fellas at Oncore are doing with this new technology. This is amazing stuff and I applaud their efforts.

      Reply

      Golfinnut

      6 years ago

      I don’t think I need to see my stats that bad to spend $60/dozen just to get 3 chipped balls. I don’t see how the construction of the ball would be the same as an unchipped ball. Performance has to drop some.
      Not for me … but maybe for TopGolf or somewhere like that.

      Reply

      KM

      6 years ago

      Im inventing a ball that smells like dog food! Then you train dogs to go find your ball! Can l get funding here?

      Reply

      Rick

      6 years ago

      Not much use for me on the course (I’d be too scared of losing it), but if I can get launch monitor like data from hitting into a net, I’m in.

      Reply

      Walter

      6 years ago

      Me too, if I can get launch monitor data which I can view on my laptop after hitting into a practice net in my back yard, perfect. count me in too.
      Well it do this?

      Reply

      D.A.

      6 years ago

      I don’t need technology to record or send info when I hit a good or bad golf shot. That would be old news. I am certain there are golf nuts that will have to give this a shot. (no pun) Will these techies tee these balls up on a 185 par three surrounded by H20? I’ll take a Rodney Dangerfield putter that beeps when you are lining up a 25 footer. When will they be available?

      Reply

      chrisk

      6 years ago

      That’s the thing about launch monitors — guys are hitting it so far now because they’ve got data from monitors to show what works and what doesn’t. Adjusting your swing to get optimum launch with optimum spin rates is made easier (and with less practice required) when you’ve got a launch monitor to help you tinker with your swing.

      Reply

      Wayne McAllister

      6 years ago

      I participated in the Crowdfunding page for OnCore and will have the opportunity to be one of the participants to purchase the Genius Ball at its introduction. I plan to use the Genius Ball to establish each of my clubs distances during practice rounds,

      Along with that offer, I received 2 dozen of their Elixir ball and a dozen of their Avanti ball. I’ve been playing the Elixir through much of the winter and early spring. In fact, due to heavy winds during our Member/Member I put the Elixir in play and managed 78s for both days of the event. It’s a very solid performer and I have since ordered 3 dozen more Elixirs. OnCore is doing cutting edge stuff for our sport and we should encourage that type of innovation to help sustain the game.

      Reply

      Bob

      6 years ago

      The hell with launch monitor-type data in the ball…how about a homing device so we can find them in the woods or rough!! lol!!

      Reply

      Keith Blakely

      6 years ago

      Bob – the GPS chip and bluetooth electronics will give you final location information so you’ll be able to find your ball without any difficulty. Now if it’s at the bottom of a lake, we can’t help you but at least you’ll know where it is!

      Reply

      KM

      6 years ago

      Been done and theres a patent on a transmiter inside the ball.

      Reply

      Mike

      6 years ago

      YES!!! this is what I need. Case in point, last night I hammered a ball through the fairway and into the rough, never found the ball.

      Reply

      CamRids

      6 years ago

      A simple homing chip, Bluetooth or otherwise shouldn’t cost so much and maybe could be embedded in a more normal core. If they didn’t cost more than current premium balls, high handicappers would likely gobble them up.
      I am waiting!

      Reply

      Robert

      6 years ago

      Just like any new technoogy the initial cost is higher than what it may be in future generations. Whether that is the case with this ball or not, time will tell.

      But I can tell you after playing the ElIXR ball, it is every bit as good as ANY of the Top Tour balls. So to get a dozen for basically $10 to $12 more and have three of them include the Smart Chip. I think is a phenomenal deal.

      Robert

      6 years ago

      Much like any new technology, future versions often come down a bit in price. Whether this happens with the Genius ball remains to be seen.

      I have been playing the ELIXR for over a month and it’s every bit as good as ANY Tour ball out there. So a price of $60 for 9 of the ELIXR and 3 Genius balls, seems very reasonable to me.

      GregB135

      6 years ago

      Seems like far too much data for use on the course where you don’t want to over-analyze the last shot, because your focus needs to be on the next one.
      Teachers will love them for on-course lessons, as long as the performance is similar to their student’s gamer ball.
      To use them for practice or other analysis needs some more logistics. They are too pricey to hit out onto the range (or to equip the entire range with). And, if you hit them into a net you lose the advantage flight data collection offers over a launch monitor.
      OnCore has tried innovating the golf ball. I tried the original metal core balls and immediately switched back to my regular gamer. Their newer products are going to have to match the performance of the other ball makers before they make it into too many bags.
      The chipped ball seems more suited to the AR venues like TopGolf. They will just have to make it affordable to the venue operators to reduce the cost to the consumer.

      Reply

      Todd Buckendorf

      6 years ago

      Wow! This is so exciting! As an avid golfer already, I try to share the game with all of my friends and they do enjoy it. That said, I think this is incredibly attractive and a few of them got more interested in the idea of playing more regularly with something like this. The ability to use this (potentially) on an at-home setting provides greater possibilities for this to be a “thing” people come over to do on a weekend, even.

      Reply

      Jared

      6 years ago

      This is pretty awesome for golf and I can’t wait to see where this goes. I could see this eventually replace Arccos and Game Golf all while providing ball flight data in addition to all of the data provided by the current GPS shot trackers.

      Reply

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