Next week the world’s best golfers will descend on Royal Birkdale, near Liverpool, for The Open - one of the four majors in the sport’s calendar and the only one held outside the US. As it’s a sport dominated by statistics and numbers, golf is ideally placed to take advantage of recent developments in technology and data management such as the abundance of cheap, low energy sensors; the ubiquity of powerful mobile devices; and huge cloud storage capacity coupled with machine learning.
Connecticut-based start-up Arccos Golf uses a small club-embedded sensor to turn a player’s smartphone into a GPS range-finder that measures shot distances on more than 40,000 courses, visualising each shot as a bird's eye view. Once captured – along with other external information – the data is transmitted to the cloud.
Winner of the 2017 Golf Digest Editor’s Choice Award for ‘Best Game Analyzer’, Arccos 360 is an automatic performance tracking system that features 14 sensors – one for every club in your bag – and combines Live Shot Tracking, GPS 2.0 and Tour Analytics to help any player make smarter decisions to shoot lower scores.
The company also offers Arccos Caddie which helps players make data driven decisions on the course to shoot lower scores. It displays your optimal path on any hole in the world by analysing every shot you’ve taken with Arccos, as well as 61 million plus shots hit by the Arccos community and 368 million geotagged data points on more than 40,000 courses. Powered by the Microsoft Azure cloud, Arccos Caddie accounts for precise elevation data and weather conditions, including forecasted wind speed, wind direction, precipitation and temperature.
Rate of handicap improvement
Arccos Caddie also shows your best strategy, likely shot distance (as impacted by wind, elevation and other factors), expected score, and likelihood of hitting the fairway or missing left or right. It also displays percentages of GIR and your misses by quadrant (especially useful on Par 3s).
Recently published analysis of the USGA GHIN handicap system shows that the average golfer improved their handicap by only 1.9 strokes over the past 25 years. That’s despite major advances in club and ball technology, instruction and training methods. However, performing an extensive audit of the more than 725,000 rounds and 60 million shots that have been played by Arccos users, it was discovered that on average, an Arccos user that has played ten rounds or more with the Arccos system lowered their handicap by 2.77 strokes in 2016 alone. The research also showed that 86% of Arccos golfers who let data be their guide improved their handicaps, and the comparative rate of handicap improvement was consistent across all skill levels.