There is a lot of cool gear in the golf equipment world that doesn’t always fit neatly into Most Wanted Tests or Buyer’s Guides. You still want to know how it performs. In our We Tried It series, we put gear to the test and let you know if it works as advertised.
What We Tried: The Whoop 4.0 Review
Dave Wolfe – MyGolfSpy writer and putter fanatic. I am always looking for ways to improve my game and fight off the impact of aging.
When I first heard the name “Whoop”, my brain naturally responded with the phrase “there it is.” My brain is a little off (duh) since that song actually says “Whoomp! There it is.” But, hey, thank you, Tag Team, for conditioning my response regardless. If you are in your 40s or 50s, I bet Whoomp! caused you to burn some calories in the ’90s. The minus-the-m Whoop 4.0 works in the other direction. Rather than driving your fitness, it measures it. From my experience, it actually does drive it a bit as well.
Maybe the Whoop 4.0 review will not inspire a Geico commercial but it could inspire you to make some serious changes—and gains—in your overall fitness.
What Makes the Whoop 4.0 Stand Out?
Some you you get a little irritated when we review things that are not solely for golf. Since golf is a physical activity, anything that helps you improve your fitness should also improve your golf game. If you don’t agree, thanks for stopping by today. I will say, though, that there are quite a few high-powered athletes who wear a Whoop.
That’s what caught my attention. These elite athletes, including numerous golfers, are on board with the Whoop 4.0 review. Who is strapping on a Whoop 4.0? Here are a few of them from the Whoop site:
- Olympic track and field medalist Gabby Thomas
- Olympic golf medalist and LPGA Tour pro Nelly Korda
- Five-time PGA TOUR winner Nick Watney
Additionally, Whoop has become the official fitness wearable for multiple organizations including the PGA, LPGA, CrossFit, The First Tee, the Women’s Tennis Association and Boston College Athletics.
Two other pretty good golfers, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, wore Whoop trackers prior to this year’s Ryder Cup. Actually, both of those guys have been Whoop users for a while. So are a bunch of other PGA, LPGA, Korn Ferry Tour and Champions Tour players. Why you ask? Here is a quote from Stewart Cink that sums it up pretty well:
“I think most everybody out on Tour is using Whoop. There’s a couple of things that I might just pay closer attention to, like the recovery is important nowadays. I’m still trying to figure out exactly the best way for me to recover I mean it’s so much more than just getting the eight hours of sleep; it’s a little different and it’s pretty accurate. It’s a neat tool and I enjoy learning a little bit about myself and the way my body sort of physiologically goes through the day and recovers and exerts itself.” (Link to source)
Overall, a huge number of golfers are using Whoop to improve their performance. We had to check it out.
What Does Whoop Do?
At its core, the Whoop 4.0 is a fitness tracker that measures your body’s performance through your skin using five LEDs and four photodiodes. What does it measure? The Whoop will measure skin temperature, oxygen saturation and heart rate characteristics such as resting heart rate, heart rate variation and current heart rate.
The Whoop app is then able to compile these data points into an overall fitness profile. Moreover, the Whoop sensor and app will help you to learn what activities affect your sleep and recovery and how these activities will influence your overall performance.
Testing the Whoop 4.0: Getting To Know You
One key feature of the Whoop tracker is that it is a very personal device. It reads your vitals and makes suggestions specifically for you. To do this, the strap needs to get to know you.
Basically, the Whoop studies you to establish your norms. The initial observation is about four days but the data improves the longer you wear the sensor. The more you wear the Whoop, the better the average values, with outliers decreasing influence over time. It will recalibrate your baselines every two weeks or so.
Strap It On and Keep It On
Using the Whoop is super simple. You wear it like a watch, allowing the sensors to connect to your skin. Once you have it on, you just leave it there. The sensor and band are waterproof so you can wear it in the shower and even in the pool for swim workouts. New for the 4.0 is a waterproof battery that can also survive watery excursions.
Speaking of battery, a fully charged Whoop will make it four or five days before needing to be recharged. When you recharge it, the battery slides on the unit and charges it while you continue to wear it. Seriously, you never need to take off your Whoop.
Charging is pretty quick, too. A quick double tap on the unit will light up a LED to let you know battery level. This is the only display feature on the Whoop. Everything else is read on the app. Whoop did this on purpose to give the sensors as much of the battery as possible for taking readings.
If you are not big on wearing something on your wrist, Whoop has just launched a clothing line, Whoop Body, that will also hold the sensor. Just take the sensor out of your strap and slide it into your shorts or leggings and it’ll continue recording data.
What data, you ask? Let’s look at Whoop’s Sleep, Recovery and Strain reporting.
Testing the Whoop 4.0: Sleep
Like the Oura ring that I tested previously, the Whoop 4.0 records data while you sleep. It is during sleep that the sensor tracks your body temperature, respiration rate, resting heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV) and oxygen saturation. Sleep length and time spent in the various stages (light, deep, REM) are also recorded.
When you wake up, the unit pairs with your phone and lets you know when the previous night’s sleep data is ready to review. Usually this takes just a few minutes.
Assessing Sleep Data
Once you see your sleep data, you are given a plan to improve your sleep. The Whoop app has a Sleep Coach that will let you know when to go to bed and when to wake up to maximize performance. The goals for this can be adjusted depending upon if you want to Peak, Perform or Get By the next day. For me, “Perform” was the setting that best met my needs.
One feature of the Whoop that I love, love, love is the haptic alarm. You set your sleep goal and the strap will buzz on your wrist to wake you up when you have achieved that goal. It can also be set to a specific time or a “latest” time. I’ve recently started wearing earplugs when sleeping and have worried about not hearing my usual alarm sound.
The Whoop’s haptic alarm gets rid of this anxiety and wakes me at the ideal time.
Testing the Whoop 4.0: Recovery
The Whoop takes your sleep data and combines it with your physiological measurements to come up with a Recovery score for the day. This Recovery score lets you know if today is a day that you should reach for personal records or take it easy and recover.
Sleep plays a role in recovery but it is not the whole story. You may have slept eight hours but an elevated resting heart rate or a lowered heart rate variability will drop that recovery score. If you are curious, the Whoop site has a ton of info about what it measures and how it relates to recovery. Here is a link explaining the relationship of HRV to recovery.
The Whoop Journal
Understanding how all of the data influences your Recover score is daunting. You know if you don’t follow the Sleep Coach plan that your sleep score will be poor but how can you influence the other values? The key here is the journal feature in the app.
With the journal, you can self-select things that occurred during your day. Did you hydrate? How about drink alcohol? Are you injured? Did you commute? All of these are options, as are lots of others.
The journal pops up when you check your Sleep and Recovery in the morning, just a few yes or no questions with some qualifiers. How many alcoholic beverages or milligrams of ibuprofen? When was the last drink? Things like that.
The payoff for the journal comes on the first of the month when you get a report in the app or online. This report lets you know how your choices influenced your Recovery. For me, ibuprofen was a big help and alcohol didn’t do anything. You hear that, liver?
Regardless, the more you use the journal, the more comprehensive the report will be at the end of the month. If you want to make changes, you have the data to do so effectively.
During the six weeks that I have worn the Whoop, the largest disruptor to sleep and recovery was the time change. Falling back an hour trashed my scores far more than any other factor. Seriously, can we just get rid of changing the clocks already? I now have data showing that it is harmful.
Testing the Whoop 4.0: Strain
Strain is a unique value for Whoop and one that I ultimately found a touch frustrating. The Whoop app will take your Recover score and assign a Strain goal for the day. It’s a logical correlation. The higher the Recovery score, the higher the Strain goal.
What I found frustrating is that pushing up the Strain score is, well, strenuous. Like seriously strenuous. Trying to push the Strain score gave me a bit of a maybe-I’m-not-good-enough-to-play-blades feeling. I would do my usual workout on the Peloton or go walk a round of golf and the Strain score wouldn’t jump like I expected. Whoop wants more.
It turns out that the strain scoring is somewhat logarithmic. This means it is much easier to go from 0-4 than it is from 4-8. Today, the Strain Coach says I should hit an optimal Strain score of 12.3. In practice, double-digit Strain scores are tough for me to achieve. For reference, two days ago I walked a couple of miles, then did 30 minutes on the Peloton that left me walking on noodles, and my overall strain was 8.6.
It’s OK, I’m Not Training For Anything
Though the Strain score is tough for me to get to, I’m also not really needing to hit it. My son is a college rugby player and I’m sure that his intensive training would produce huge Strain scores without issue. For me, I’m exercising to get fitter but not to be fit at a competitive level.
Ultimately, this part of the Whoop may be better suited to professional and college athletes or intense exercise folk like CrossFit competitors and triathletes. I still try and get my Strain number up but I base my daily success more on how kicked my ass feels than the Strain number.
Testing the Whoop 4.0: Golf
The Whoop is very golf friendly. It’s lightweight and sits above the sleeve and below the glove on the wrist. Remember, if you can’t play golf with something on your wrist, then you can get some Whoop Body underwear and stick the sensor in there.
Whoop is not going to give you swing help but it can help you be ready to play your best if you follow the Sleep and Recover plan. Tomorrow’s performance depends upon what you do today. Whoop can help you with that.
Though not a golf gadget, the Whoop app will track your heart rate and calorie output during your round. I could almost see 18 little heart-rate spikes corresponding to teeing up the ball. Maybe it’s time for a new driver or some pre-shot meditation …
Be cautioned, the Whoop’s calorie counting may come as a shock. Whoop gives you a calorie number based upon your heart rate during the activity. Odds are this number will be lower than what you get from other devices. Take a look at the values for a 30-minute Peloton class. Whoop scores are on the top.
The Peloton numbers are based upon my height, weight and age. Nothing is measured directly from my body. Someone with my build should burn that many calories in the 30-minute class. The Whoop pairs with the Peloton and then measures my heart rate during the class, reporting calories burned. Though depressing, I think that the 107-calorie lower measurement from the Whoop is the more accurate value.
Overall Impressions of the Whoop 4.0 Fitness Tracker
I’m impressed with all that I have learned from the Whoop 4.0 since I put it on the week before Halloween. Since that time, I have learned how my body responds to my daily choices and how those choices will affect tomorrow. I’ve experienced Whoop Guilt when I have ignored my Sleep Coach’s bedtime. On a day when my Whoop says my resting heart rate was elevated overnight, I now take it easy and give my body the chance to recover. With new data comes new plans.
Do you need a Whoop? I think that a better question is, “Are you ready for a change?” Are you an elite athlete looking for that edge? Were you an elite athlete now hoping to return to glory? Are you looking to improve your general fitness and quality of life? Do you just need some guidance on the fitness path? Will you pay attention to the data and change behaviors accordingly?
At the end of the day, the Whoop 4.0 just measures what is going on with your body. It is still up to you to do the work to change something you wish to change. The sensor is actually free but the Whoop membership will run you $18 to $30 monthly depending upon how long you sign up for. That means that adding a Whoop 4.0 likely will double the cost of your gym allocation but it will also likely make the trips to that gym more effective.
For about $30, you can see if the Whoop 4.0 will be your new tag team partner.
Find out more at https://www.whoop.com