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The PGA and the Golf Channel form a threesome with stat-tracking startup Game Golf

Above: Game Golf lets you track your golf swing and other data.

Image Credit: Active Mind Technology

The PGA of America, the association for pro golfers, and the Golf Channel have teamed up with Active Mind Technology to access real-time golfing data via the startup’s Game Golf platform.

It's easy to sync the NFC-based game golf device with a club.

Above: It’s easy to sync the NFC-based game golf device with a club.

Image Credit: Active Mind Technology

Under the partnership, the startup will get help promoting its system that enables golfers to track their strokes, analyze their stats, and provide real-time data to the PGA and the television channel.

The technology will help bring an aging sport into the 21st century and make it more exciting and analytical to both players and spectators. The hope is that technology will help improve the scores of pros and duffers alike and help grow the number of golfers.

The good news is that everyone will be able to see how good a golfer you are. And the bad news is that everyone will see how bad a golfer you are. And with this kind of technology, it may get harder and harder to cheat at the sport.

The Game Golf platform includes wearable devices that a golfer puts on a belt or pocket and at the end of a club. The wearable products track the location of your shots, the distance the ball traveled, and which club you used. Then it syncs that data to the cloud, and you can look at the results on your smartphone and then share them with your friends. Perhaps the most important thing it tells you is the distance that you hit the ball with each club — a piece of data that most golfers never know with any precision.

The device is another example of the craze for the “quantified self,” a movement that advocates self-knowledge through numbers and technology. Game Golf uses a lot of the latter, including accelerometers, gyroscopes, global navigation system (GPS), and near-field communications to track everything in a seamless fashion. It does not, however, measure the velocity of your swing and how good it is. There are plenty of other products that do that.

Once the data is in the cloud or the mobile device, a player can view a dynamic interface displaying each shot and round data such as club selection, fairways hit, greens in regulation and distance, in addition to other stats and trends. The data allow you to start learning from the patterns in your round of golf.

Players can share their rounds with friends and then compete against those friends in a virtual way. You can create challenges that distant friends can try to beat. The company designed the product so that it doesn’t get in the way of golfing.

The golf association is formally launching Game Golf at the 61st PGA Merchandise Show.The Golf Channel will begin showing off Game Golf to its viewers. It will show the product on the network’s instructional programs and leverage Game Golf’s social media features to connect better with TV viewers.

“Game Golf will revolutionize the game by changing the way we socialize about golf and reveal how we are actually playing the game,” said John McGuire, CEO of Game Golf and its development firm Active Mind Technology. “Much like the introduction of plastic cleats changed the culture of the game, we are doing the same by making golf more social and bringing a golfer’s data to life.”

The system will sell for $250. The product was designed by Yves Béhar, the creator of cool tech gear like the Jambox wireless speaker and the Ouya game console. It’s also being promoted and backed by pro golfers Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood.

Game Golf measures how far your shot went and how far to the hole.

Above: Game Golf measures how far your shot went and how far to the hole.

Image Credit: Active Mind Technology

The device can track two full rounds of golf on one battery charge. Over time, Active Mind Technology plans to use the technology to measure and “gamify” other sports. Other sports that could benefit from the technology include soccer, cycling, swimming, and biking.

Béhar’s company, Fuseproject, designed the device and its different parts to be wearable. You can attach the main device to your belt, and then you screw the small red plugs into the top of your club grips. Those red plugs are NFC-enabled, so when you put them near the main device, it records which club you are using. Then it figures out how far you hit the ball as you pull out the next club to line up your next shot.

The device can upload the data via a universal serial bus (USB) to your computer, or it can load the data via a wireless Bluetooth connection. It syncs the data to the cloud. On the iPhone, the app tracks, analyzes, and shares the data. Beyond shot distance, the app tells you your percentage of balls hit in the fairway, the greens you hit in regulation, and your putting performance.

The social part of the app is interesting. McDowell said that he can use the technology to share his best strokes with followers on Twitter and Facebook. A player can also participate in contests such as the “longest drive” on a hole. If you follow a friend, you’ll find out as soon as the player finished a round and what they scored. Friends can compete against each other long distance.

McGuire founded the company in 2010 when he moved from Ireland to San Francisco. The company has 20 employees, including some at a development center in Galway, Ireland. In addition to Béhar and McDowell, investors include Chamath Paliphaitya, Jerry Yang, Ed Colligan, Hosain Rahman, Seagate Technology, ACT Ventures, Enterprise Equity, Cross-link Partners, Moroda Ventures, and 11-time world surf champion Kelly Slater.

McGuire has a background in software and behavioral technology as it applies to professional athletes. His aim is to help everyone improve their results by changing behavior. McGuire said his company has raised a seed round already and is in the midst of raising more money.

McDowell and Westwood have worn the devices in tournaments and are offering feedback to Active Mind Technology for some time. Jim Furyk, another former U.S. Open Champion, recently joined in testing the device prior to launch.

“The PGA of America is utilizing technology to grow the sport, make it more accessible and, ultimately, bring people closer to the game,” said Pete Bevacqua, CEO of the PGA of America. “The technology Game Golf has developed will not only make the game more enjoyable, but can be a tremendous asset to our PGA of America members as it relates to training and instruction. As the playing of sports and the use of data to measure oneself continue to converge, Game Golf provides a unique opportunity to harness that data in a fun and manageable way for the benefit of players of all skill levels.”

Golf Channel President Mike McCarley said, “Golf Channel is committed to growing the game with progressive partners like Game Golf and the PGA of America, who share our belief that making the game more engaging and more enjoyable will encourage more people to play more often. Game Golf provides an innovative approach that not only brings players closer to the game, but also encourages social engagement, both of which have been tenets of Golf Channel’s growth in recent years.”

 

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