For a theoretically minimalist game — no running, no body contact, no pads — golf is one of the more extensive sports when it comes to equipment. It also boasts some of the coolest gadgets and gizmos on the leisure market and, better still, is one of the rarest games, in that well-engineered equipment can have tremendous impact on the performance of both everyday and professional players. The breakneck pace of technological innovation in the 21st century has led to constant tweaking and improving of the old, as well as constant, brand-new innovations. With golf season just around the corner, here are five of the latest and greatest tools to improve your swing.
PRICEPOINT: PAR 1
Golfshot: Golf GPS app ($30 one-time fee)
A less-expensive but still powerful option for GPS course management, the Golfshot GPS app, available for iPhone and Android, carries information on more than 37,000 courses. (And, unlike many less-thorough GPS golf apps, it includes a few thousand Canadian courses.) Prime functions: aerial view of each hole via your phone’s GPS; keep score with handicap info input; analyze stats after each round (the app will track your progress and display it with graphs and charts).
PRICEPOINT: PAR 2
Ballfinder Scout ($100)
Those of us who can’t hit it straight down the line every time spend a fair bit of each round digging in the brush for shanked treasure. If one percent of the ball is visible — specifically, about three dimples — the Ballfinder Scout will highlight it in its like-magic viewfinder (condition: you must be within 35 feet of the ball). Defray the value of the price of balls saved, and this unit could pay for itself after just a few rounds — and that’s without counting the search time the Scout cuts off each round.
Laser GPS Rangefinder ($450)
Over 90 percent of PGA pros use Bushnell’s laser rangefinders with patented PinSeeker Technology — the high-end binocular optics system guarantees readings within +/- one yard. Now, for added assurance, Bushnell has created the world’s first GPS laser range finder hybrid (note: this device is not yet approved for regulation play). When you’re facing a blind shot and the laser isn’t going to cut it, flip the GPS unit out and the rangefinder will tell you how far it is to get over that dogleg right, using data from 16,000 pre-loaded North American courses.
PRICEPOINT: PAR 3
Launch Monitor: GC2 Smart Camera System ($6,500)
Unleash the power of statistics with Foresight Sports’ portable GC2 Smart Camera System. The compact launch monitor provides the detailed math on how you’re contacting the ball — and will even read the results in Stephen Hawking-ish voice (Still? In 2012?) — after each and every swing. The stereoscopic camera system sets up in less than one minute. It requires no special balls, clubs, or other equipment to tell you each shot’s speed, launch angle, draw/fade, spin, and distance within a second after contacting the ball. Bonus: Being able to set up and use the system indoors makes smashing balls into a net a purposeful activity.
Synthetic Putting Green (four figures+)
If you’ve got the square yardage, installing a customized putting green is the best way to work on your stroke; as golfers (usually, better golfers than yourself) have likely told you, improving the short game is the best way to lower your score. If pros like Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia and Hale Irwin are indeed better than you, consider that they all endorse Southwest Greens, arguably the best-known international brand/installer, which features Jack Nicklaus designs (and has franchises throughout Canada). They will send a qualified technician to assess your yard, draw up a plan, and install a beautiful synthetic putting green you can practice on morning, noon and under flood light. If you live in hostile climates or don’t have the green space, smaller-scale indoor options are also available.
Image courtesy of Micah Taylor.