The Dawn of Golf’s Next Tech Age

 

I used to be in the golf technology business–simulators and stuff to measure balls and clubs and weight transfer.  That was “back in the day” when the movers in the golf industry still used slide rules and rotary dial phones–in the early 2000’s.  Needless to say, golf and technology didn’t mix well.  
I remember a big pow-wow with the movers of a major golf organization, back in the abacus days–the 1990’s.  They called me in to discuss some tech matters related to a golf museum they were steering.  One of the big movers in the room got up and came over to where I was sitting at the conference table–about a three minute walk from his seat at the end.  He dropped a copy of the local rag in front of me and on the front page was an article about the museum.
“Bill”, he said, “Do you see that article on the front page?”
“Yes”.
“Do you see that part where I was quoted as saying that the museum would have unique interactive displays?”
“Yes”.
“What’s an interactive display?”
Ugh.
A call from another one of the big movers came to me less than a year later.  They were looking for some financial involvement from a big tech company and knew I had done business with them and wanted to know if I could help get to the right guy.
“Bill”, he said, “Do you think you can help me with [big tech company]?”
“I don’t know, what have you done so far?”
“We were told we had gotten hooked up with the right guy.  We flew out to meet him and waited for over a half hour.  Then this guy in a golf shirt and jeans came out and took us into a small office.  He indulged us for a while and then sent us away and nothing happened.”
“Who did you meet with?”
“I can’t remember.  I think it was something like Ballman, maybe.”
“I can’t help you”.
Things have changed.  The golf world is using Texas Instruments calculators and touch tone phones.  Some of the more progressive movers in golf even have flip phones.
I once said, to blank stares, that one day every TOUR pro would use tracking technology on the practice tee at events.  That seemed ludicrous to my audience, but that is exactly what’s happening today.  Yet the use of the technology is far from where it can be.  Most of the guys are using expensive radar units to simply tell them how far they hit it.
For whatever reason that makes me think of Jed Clampett dining on the pool table in the “fancy eatin’ room”, and using the cue sticks as “pot-passers” (a reference purposefully chosen to reach the subconscious back-channels of old white guys–the “stewards” of the game of golf).
In the old days we dealt closely with a well-known golf club OEM.  They used radar at their test range–only to measure carry distance of shots.  I asked them why they used radar–it was so expensive–to merely get carry distance.  They told me that otherwise they’d have to send a guy out onto the range to do it and radar never called in sick.
Pretty logical.
So here we are a hundred years later (in tech time) and golf has taken one or two more baby steps with technology.  Crazy Bryson DeChambeau (I’ve adopted the Presidential method of adding colorful descriptors to everyone’s name) is shaking things up with some innovative tech thinking.  Good for him.  There is so much more he can do, but compared to the average meathead he’s a stunning genius.
And for sure I’ll get in trouble for my use of the term meathead.  I remember getting an unhappy email from a big name–a very bright academic–in the world of teaching pros, because in an article, “The Dawn of the Launch Monitor”, I alluded to the average club pro’s aptitude with technology as being–let’s just say–not at a high level.
In my defense, in the same article I admitted to having no clue how to set the time on my own VCR (if you don’t remember those, ask any club pro–okay now I’m in real trouble).
Enough about the past.  As our country’s greatest inventor–Charles Kettering (the other guy was just a publicity hound)–said, “I only think about the future because that’s where I’m going to live.”
To put it in youthful terms (I’m very old), “Me and my boys are getting back into golf”.  Since our last foray we’ve not seen much innovation on the tech side.  The tech is there–but the execution is not.
We intend on changing things.