Few things in sports are as elusive as an accurate golf shot. Improving the percentage of proper strikes per round is a challenge to all golfers, regardless of how much they practice or how proficient they may be. And since the demographics of the golfing public skew towards those with generous incomes, it's no surprise that the gadgets to help golfers fine-tune their game are rather pricey. To us, this just means golfers should be especially careful in planning purchases. To aid in your quest for the best gadgets to improve your game, we've rounded up some trendy golf gear and reviews, to help you decide whether the benefits outweigh the cost.
At one time, golfers would hire a caddy with detailed knowledge of the nuances to a particular course. These days, many courses don't offer caddies-for-hire, but golfers can get the same kind of advice from the Bushnell Neo Plus Golf GPS Watch ($179.99 with free shipping, a low by $10). This handy device boasts data for about 25,000 different courses, and by using its GPS technology, it can determine driving distance from the front and back of the green, letting golfers select the proper club for any occasion. GolfWRX, a sister publication to Golf Digest, swooned in its review of the Neo Plus: "You will not believe it until you see it. A very useful and functional rangefinder that is small enough to fit on your wrist during play." While its price is admittedly not cheap, consider the fact that a caddy would otherwise cost about $50 per day to hire — before tips. This GPS watch would thus pay for itself after four golf outings.
The 3Bays Golf Swing Analyzer Pro ($199.99 with $6.99 s&h, a low by $23) is a tiny 9-gram device that attaches to the top of the club head, above the grip, and tracks a user's swing via its motion sensor. It then transmits all of this data to a linked smartphone. (Both iPhone and Android models are available.) Golfers can then view a recreation of their swings — including arc, wrist break point, and follow through — which in turn can help determine whether a swing was over the top or decelerated through the strike zone. This device also offers additional metrics too, like club head speed, face angle when the ball was struck, tempo, swing path, and impact force.
But is the 3Bays GSA PRO worth the $200+ price tag? It depends. A writer for TheSandTrap.com was leery of the plastic with which it's built, and feels that in its current state, the most he'd be willing to pay for the device is $100. For the experienced golfer, though, this gadget might be money well spent. Knowing nuanced shortcomings can help correct any flaws mid-round, rather than simply returning to the driving range to pound bucket after bucket of balls.
Putting accounts for a good third of all strokes in the average player's round, and until recently the only way to practice these shots was on a practice green. And no, putting on the office carpet into a coffee cup won't improve your game. The PuttingShark Portable Putting Training Aid ($379 with free shipping, a low by $10), however, might. It's a nifty putting pad with 65 embedded infrared sensors that can help golfers reshape their stroke. The sensors in the device track entry and exit speeds to within .1 mph and direction to within 1/10 of a degree. The data collected is then outputted to a computer, allowing golfers to take note of how far a putt would have traveled, in what direction, and with what spin. While Golf Digest didn't perform an extensive review of the product, the publication did suggest that the PuttingShark is invaluable to insatiable golfers.
Let's assume for a moment that money is no object; the Foresight Sports Launch Monitor GC2 Smart Camera System ($6,499.99 with free shipping) certainly is an enticing toy, no? This pricey gadget has a camera and computer that you place next to the side of a golf ball; when you swing, the system records ball performance data such as launch angle, velocity, backspin, sidespin, and total spin. It also outputs this data to a screen that allows golfers to view the length and trajectory of each ball strike. The dynamics of the ball determine how far it will fly and in what direction, so from this data, golfers can decipher problems with their swings. Pro Rickie Fowler said (via Twitter), that it was "crazy how accurate it is," but truthfully the data from the Foresight is probably too subtle for the average duffer. A cost-effective alternative? See if a local pro shop offers it as a rental, or test it out in-store to help choose a new set of sticks.
Sure, golf can be a reasonably priced game, if you stick to a basic set of clubs and play public courses. But if you're looking to refine your form, the proper tools will cost more than just a small chunk of change. So before you buy, carefully consider the value of any new gadget and determine what it's worth. And as always, shop around to make sure you're getting it at the best price possible.
Front page photo credit: The Luz
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