When it comes to golf data collection and shot tracking, you have two main issues to consider. The first is how easy is it to collect the data, and the second is how easy is it to view, understand and, ultimately, use the data to improve your game.
When it comes to data collection, you have wearables such as Game Golf or Sky Caddie’s LINX GT GPS watch, which require tagging, and if you forget to tag you’re basically out of luck. The phone-based Arccos doesn't require you to tag but does require you to keep your phone in your pocket to detect shots.
If all you want to do when you play golf is to simply play golf, those options may require more work than you really want to put in.
When it comes to actually using the data, you have to deal with what the Silicon Valley-types call the user interface. Every system collects a ton of info during your round, but you’re still left to interpret it all and figure out how to best use that info to guide your practice.
The Scottish company Shot Scope has already licked the tagging bugaboo with its automatic shot detection functionality, and this week is adding an upgraded Performance Package to its user interface. If you’re into analytics and interactive charts and graphs, read on, because there’s a decent chance you’ll find something that can help your game.
Stats Don’t Lie
Since its release in 2016, Shot Scope’s data collection process has been an absolute no-brainer as the easiest to use on the market: all you do is play golf, and the Shot Scope unit automatically detects your shots and collects the data. There's no tagging, and you can leave your phone in the bag. The new Shot Scope V2 combines shot detection with a GPS watch.
“We’re using a super-accurate GPS module,” says Gavin Dear, Shot Scope’s Chief Commercial Officer. “It gives you front-middle-back distances, and we’ve just added a hazard upgrade. It’s giving you carry distances and to-distances to any hazard.”
Dear says the V2 has also added penalty stroke functionality, and you can tell it if you’re hitting a provisional. Once you hit your provisional, the watch starts a 5-minute look-for-your-ball countdown.
Shot Scope’s phone app will give you a solid overview of your statistics, but the desktop dashboard gives you the meaty information. You can look not only at overall average distance, but Shot Scope gives you something called Performance Average Distance (called P. Avg.), which removes outliers – fat shots or a shot that hits a tree, for example – giving you stats for what would be considered good shots. Also, each category has an Information button for those who need a little help understanding what they're looking at or how to put that specific data to good use.
Tee Shot analysis gives you an interactive graph for your tee shots, and lets you filter your shots by score: you can include all tee shots or just the tee shots for holes you birdied or double-bogeyed. You can also filter by club used. A pretty slick feature allows you to click on a particular dot that represents a specific tee shot. A box will pop up telling you the date, course and hole you on which you hit that shot, the shot distance, and how far from center the ball wound up.
If you click on the little location icon in the lower left-hand corner of the box, the screen will automatically switch to show you the actual satellite view of the hole, with an overlay of your shots and a report of how you played the hole.
The Approaches and Short Game sections plot all your other shots relative to the pin. Both sections break the green down into four quadrants and show where your ball landed. Green dots indicate you landed on the green; blue dots indicate you didn’t. Again, you can click on any dot and get the particulars of that shot, and another click will bring you to the satellite view of the hole.
Another new feature is what Shot Scope is calling the Red Zone. For Approach Shots, it’s anything within 15 feet, and for Short Game it’s anything within 6 feet. You can even drill down to find out what percentage of your shots are landing in the Red Zone, and which clubs from what distances are getting you there.
“If you want to look at approach shots from between 150 and 175 yards, you can do that,” says Dear. “You can dial it down into 20-yard increments. If our users say they’d like to look at it in 10-yard increments, we can do that pretty quickly.”
#Datacratic Putting Stats
What differentiates Shot Scope on the green is a feature called Pin Collect, which can – pardon the pun – pinpoint the actual hole location on the green. After you hole out, simply hold the watch over the hole and press a button indicating whether you had one, two, three or four putts. It takes no more than 5 seconds, and it lets the system know exactly where the hole is; a key detail for unlocking approach, short game and putting stats.
Shot Scope gives you the basic putting stats: average putts per round, average length of holed putts, longest putt holed, and how often you 3-jack. You also get a Make Percentage chart from different distances, as well as a little circle graph called Never Up, Never In.
“It’s probably the best stat in the whole system,” says Dear. “We’ve looked at stats from our users and found 80% of the golfers don’t get the ball to the hole. It’s a simple statistic – do you get the ball to the hole or do you not get the ball to the hole?”
You’ll also get a chart for Average Proximity to the Hole. For example, this chart shows that on puts longer than 30 feet during two early season rounds, I couldn’t get closer than, on average, 12 feet. Not surprisingly, the Average Shots to Finish chart shows nearly 2.5 putts from that distance.
Shot Scope provided the following chart, and it may be the most fascinating. You’ll notice two different colored lines surrounding a dotted line.
The two lines represent putting stats with two different putters, meaning the system will allow you to keep stats for two different putters over the course of time. You can use it to let two putters battle it out and see which one performs better, or to find out if that new $400 Scotty is outperforming your old Billy Baroo, or if you only think it is because it's pretty.
“If you want to compare putters, or drivers, irons, wedges, whatever you want, the system is set up for that,” says Dear. “We spent ten months building this new performance package. It was a labor of love for half the team and a pain in the ass for the other half. It’s just finding the right level of detail and making sure you get things right.”
Is It For You?
If you don’t like wearing anything on your wrist when you play, the Shot Scope GPS watch certainly isn’t going to change your mind. It's a big watch. But if you wear a GPS watch already, you know you'll be acclimated to it by the time you finish warming up, and it becomes a non-issue. Weight-wise it’s virtually the same as the slightly smaller Sky Caddie LINX GT.
If you hate having anything on your wrist when you play but still want to collect data, Arccos is the obvious choice (provided you don’t mind keeping your phone in your pocket). If watches don’t bother you and/or you don’t want to interact with your phone during your round, data gathering doesn’t get much easier than Shot Scope. There's no tagging. You simply play golf.
“One thing we’ve encountered is people don’t think it’s real,” says Dear. “They’ve had the other watches, and they’ve had an experience that isn’t very good at all. Then they discover Shot Scope, and they say ‘I don’t believe you can do that. Surely you have to tag.’ No, no you don’t. You don’t have to do anything.”
When it comes to interacting and using the data, Many systems flirt with what could be called Information Overload. To be truly useful, the user experience has to be easy and the analytics to be both meaningful and understandable.
“It’s all about how you present that stats and the performance data,” explains Dear, a golf pro who played for Great Britain in the 2009 Walker Cup. “That’s one of our biggest strengths. I played on Tour in Europe, but we also have 15 handicaps and 23 handicaps working here. We run it all past them, too. Can they understand it? Can they get something out of it? We can all get different things out of the same graph, but if we can’t understand it, our users certainly won’t.”