Are You Losing Yards?

A few years ago, we heard about a test that Andrew Rice had performed to learn if wearing a watch could have an adverse impact on the golf swing. After the test published I immediately started to get calls.

CALLER: “Hey, have you seen THIS!  If not, DO NOT go play golf with a watch tomorrow. Seriously.”
GOLFSPY X: “Huh?  Who is this?  Why are you calling me at 4:00 AM? Just…give me the link.”
CALLER: Here.
GOLFSPY X: “Is this real?”
CALLER: silence…..
GOLFSPY X: “He hung up?  Allllrighty then…”

Yeah. We were curious.

If we repeated Andrew’s test with more testers, would it reveal the kind of information that would cause golfers to peel the skin from their wrists while trying to rip away distance-losing watches? 

There’s really only one way to find out.

Test Overview

We rounded-up a group of testers and hit the lab to find out if wearing a watch…and then wearing two watches could actually cost golfers swing speed and ultimately distance.

Test Equipment

  • Driver: Each tester’s gamer
  • Balls: Range (new)
  • GPS Watch: SkyCaddie Linx (61 Grams)

watch-2

The SkyCaddie Linx was chosen as the GPS watch. It weighs 61 grams, 18 grams more than my daily wear Swiss Army watch (affectionately known as my iAnalog).

The Linx case (18.10 millimeters) was also substantially thicker than the iAnalog (9.20 millimeters). Watches were worn on the left wrist as all golfers swung from the right side.

TESTING PROCEDURES:

  • Testers: 5 Golfers
  • Age Range:  25-65
  • 8 swings each w/no watch
  • 8 swings each with 1 watch
  • 8 swings each with 2 watches

* Participants didn’t know ahead of time what they would be testing.

Weather Conditions

  • Inside: Heated Studio
  • Outside: 26 Degrees, Snow, Wind

THE TEST:

DISTANCE WAS LOST (SORTA…KINDA)

Across the board with our 5 testers, average carry distance dropped approximately 3 yards when testers wore a single watch compared to no watch. With a second watch (for those who conduct banking in Zurich), golfers, on average, lost another 1.5 yards.  

1 Watch = 2.9 yards lost
2 Watches = 4.5 yards lost

At first glance, the results appear to show that wearing a watch has a negative impact on distance.   

AS MANY A POLICE OFFICER HAS TOLD ME, NOT SO FAST

Golfer 1 actually gained 3 yards (on average) while wearing the watch!

Huh?  What?

average-carry-distance-2

Golfer #1: put on the watch and went from approximately 244 yards carry to 247 yards carry. Plus, he achieved the same club head speed: 103.5 mph. This necessitated a deeper look at the numbers. While wearing the watch Golfer1 averaged 450 rpm less spin and his launch angle increased by .7° from 14.1 to 14.8 degrees.

We kept going.

Golfer #2: the only golfer who regularly wears a watch or magnetic bracelet while playing saw his average carry distance drop approximately 2.5 yards from 197.3 yards to 194.8 yards when he wore one watch. His swing speed also dropped by 2 mph while his average carry distance fell by another 4.5 yards. His swing speed dropped another 2 mph when he wore a second watch. He lost a total of 7 yards.

Golfer #3: a non-watch fan, his first eight golf shots without a watch were a model of consistency. He averaged approximately 232 yards carry, with no shots worse than 227 and none longer than 238. His swing speed average was 108.5 mph. When Golfer Three put on a watch, his average carry distance dropped 10 yards to 221. Only one ball traveled past the 230 mark. With two watches, his swing speed actually increased to 115.3 mph, but his lack of consistent ball striking still meant his average carry distance of 220 was below the results of not wearing a watch.

average-clubhead-speed-2

Golfer #4: wears a watch all the time – except when he plays golf. Bare-wristed, he averaged approximately 222 yards carry and a club speed of 105 mph. With one watch, Golfer 4 had a more consistent club speed and averaged 107.2 mph, but still lost more than 6 yards of carry distance. When the second watch was placed on his wrist, his swing speed average dropped back to 106 mph but he still lost nearly 3 yards from his average when watch-free.

Golfer #5: previously wore a magnetic bracelet and thought it helped his swing. He gained 3 yards when he put the watch on, going from an approximate 204-yard carry average to 207 yards – despite his club speed dropping nearly 1 mph. With one watch, Golfer Five’s only drive below 200-yards carry was still 196 yards. Four drives without the watch on failed to break 200 yards. When the second watch was added, he still only hit one drive that carried less than 200 yards.

The results are clear as mud.

THE DATA

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU

Remember that guy that woke the owner of MGS up at 4 am and that test? Well, that likely scared more than a few golfers away from ever wearing a watch again, and early on in this test it scared the hell out of us too.

So why did some people lose as much as 10 yards and others carry it 3 yards farther? Consistency.

A quick look back into the numbers showed that all five golfers carry distance was less consistent while wearing one watch compared to wearing a watch. A number close to one would show the most consistency, while a larger number would represent more variability.

Sufficed to say we don’t have any definitive answers. Five people tested. Two actually gained distance while wearing a watch while the other three lost yardage, but not necessarily swing speed. How do we explain this?

  • Perhaps wearing a watch corrects certain swing flaws? Golfer #1 believed wearing the watch kept him from cupping his wrists at the top of his swing, his common swing flaw with the driver. Golfer #5 also thought the watch forced him to break his wrists properly.
  • Don’t be afraid to reconsider your position on wearing a watch. The only golfer who regularly wears a GPS watch to play had the most significant drop in yardage when wearing a watch.
  • Brace for impact. Finally, it is notable that two golfers had their carry distances drop but swing speeds increase while wearing the watch. Does wearing the watch, for some, make it will be more difficult to return the club head to its proper impact position?

The only certainty here is that wearing a watch…or two watches does appear to have some impact on the mechanics, and ultimately the speed of the golf swing.

So, what should you do?

Take heed of the popular cliché: Your actual results may vary.

The best advice is not to throw on a GPS watch and assume your game will improve because you know your distance to the middle of the green. Do what you would with any piece of equipment: get tested on a launch monitor and see what works for you.