Golf analytics: Meet clients at a virtual course while improving your swing

Pebble Beach, eat your heart out.  If Pennsylvania-based VisViva Golf Inc.


Pebble Beach, eat your heart out.  If Pennsylvania-based VisViva Golf Inc. president and CEO Bogie Boscha has his way golfers may never have to leave their homes or offices to pull together their foursomes for a round of golf.  Even better, the company's hardware and software -- on display here at MIT's Emerging Technologies Conference -- provides golfers with the sophisticated swing analytics to improve their game.  Bogie

Under the hood is nanotechnology that's connected to a Bluetooth radio and installed into the heads of customized golf clubs (drivers, wedges, and putters).  Once installed (for $499, you can have the technology installed in your current club or your local professional golf instructor can order a club from VisViva for you), the combination of the wireless hardware in your clubs and software that you run on a Windows-based PC or Windows Mobile-based PDA (the latter of which will work while out on an actual course) provides golfers with the textual and graphical data they need to improve their games. 

For example, with putters that include the technology, Bogie (believe it or not, that's the Kenyan-born man's real name) described how, after a golfer putts the ball, the software instantly analyzes both the back and forward strokes, displays them on the screen of a PDA or PC (see screenshot, above right), shows along both strokes where the golfer was either accelerating the swing, decelerating the swing, or holding the stroke-speed constant.  Boscha claims that swing tempo measurements are accurate to within a tenth of a second.  It also measures and displays the face angle of the club at the point the golfer addresses the ball as well as when the putter makes contact with the ball. 

For drivers, the hardware/software combination provides similar information but the display -- with the shape and tick marks of a clock face -- looks more like the swing of driver.  Golfers can tap or click on the tick marks to get detailed data about the swing speed and acceleration at that point in the swing.  For drivers, face angle is not provided, but can be interpolated.  "If swing speed peeks before you hit the ball, then your face angle will be open (which often results in shanking the shot)" said Boscha.  "If the swing speed peeks after you hit the ball, then face angle will be closed (frequently causing the golf ball to hook)."

Not only can VisViva's software provide the analytics that are necessary for golfers to improve their swing, but the software can also be used in a way that allows golfers to substitute their clubs for joysticks when trying to play computer or Internet-based golf games.  The implication is that a foursome of golfers can get together for a round of golf regardless of where each player is, in the world.  So, if you need to close that business deal with your client whose an avid golfer, neither you nor your client has to leave your respective offices (you may need a larger office to swing the club though).  Boscha says the Internet game facilitation isn't shipping yet but is coming soon and will offer golfers the ability to join virtual golf clubs as well.

Not only will the technology facilitate virtual golf play, but the data can also be uploaded to golf club designers in a way that, instead of buying golf clubs off the shelf as many golfers do today, they send their data to the golf club manufacturer who turns the data into a set of golf clubs that's perfectly matched to the golfer's swing and sends them out to the buyer via overnight carrier.  For business people that conduct a lot of business on the golf course, I can imagine how you can let a client use a club enabled with the technology, upload the data to a manufacturer, and have a new, customized club waiting for the client when he or she gets home.