I’m not actually bad at golf. In no way do I pretend to own the kind of discipline and cunning it takes to win consistently, but I can hold my own. What I do know from interviewing the likes of Rory McIlroy and Jon Daly is that consistency on the tour is very difficult. Two things I’ve learned that even a fool will figure out. Using the right iron for the right shot is “bloody essential.” The theoretical hitting of an 8-iron 130 yards is a fantastic idea, if you hit it perfectly. More likely, though, you’ll do creditably and hit it 120 yards. On the next hole, you feel like you hit it even better, but you ended up using the same club but thirty feet past the hole. “Oh, I wish I could be consistent!” you say to yourself. Unfortunately, even using good ‘guesstimates,’ you can’t really keep accurate track of the exact distance you strike each shot every time you play.
This ‘need to know’ factor is one of the problems that a new piece of golf gear which retails at US$249.99 called Game Golf aims to solve for you. Designed by Yves Béhar, a Swiss transplant to San Francisco who founded the San Francisco and New York-based industrial design and brand management firm, Fuseproject, “the game is sustainability-grounded,” according to the Huffington Post. The notion of being ‘sustainability grounded’ is a vaguely scary one, the way the Pentagon’s spin-doctors refer to ‘Collateral Damage’ as if it might mean something nice.
This is the way Game Golf works: You attach a small plastic disc to the end of each club in your bag, it screws in easily to the top of the grips on your clubs. Next, clip a small lightweight plastic box to your belt and turn it on. This box contains a GPS device, and a chip reader that tells which club you’re using when you tap the plastic marker to the box.
Having tagged your club, the device now owns two pieces of data: what club you’re hitting, and thanks to the GPS, where you’re hitting it from. Once you’ve made your shot, you reach where the ball has landed and keep doing the same thing, shot after shot. Voila! Once the system learns where your ball landed, it can calculate how far you hit each previous shot. Do this for every shot in your round, every shot for every round you play, and—touché—you’ve already put together a database of your golf game.
I was impressed by its ease of use. The belt clip for the GPS unit is sturdy and grips solidly, and doesn’t move around when you tag the clubs to it. The unit also messages a wee bit of feedback when you successfully tag a club, vibrating to let you know that it worked. Once you get home after your round, connect the device to your computer via USB and then upload the data to the Game Golf website. You then get a view of satellite photos of the course you just played, allowing you to see each shot you hit. And for those on a creative visualization kick, it allows you to edit them.
Any other reasons to edit? Well, first and foremost, if you forgot to tag the club before a shot you’ll see data saying you hit a 430-yard drive. As nice as that would be, it was actually the combined distance of both my drive and the next shot. By going in and estimating where my drive had actually landed, I could split those into two shots, although not as accurately as it would have been had I tagged it correctly. Player error is, of course, bound to be the biggest shortcoming in the system. Should you tag a club and then change your mind on what club to hit, you have to go in and edit the shot. Or you can tag a shot twice, and later remove one of them. Better learn to be an avid organized note-taker, I guess. It’s not easy to imagine a way around these issues, because it does limit the effectiveness of the system.
The more rounds you play, the better the site calculates average distance for every club. Over time, you eventually start to get a clear, realistic picture of how far you actually hit the ball. Averages over freak shots, so to speak. At best, I’d describe Game Golf as a rather cool reality check. It offers you some added potential to improve your handicap. The problem is as simple as the concept of organization, which is why we’re all so reliant on our computers, anyway. This toy can only work to keep your game organized if you organize the manner in which you organize yourself. Know what I mean?