ORLANDO – If golf has a reputation for being old fashioned, that’s because the industry has done a lousy job of promoting its tech-geek side. Perhaps if more golfers of all ages knew about the algorithms, R&D technology and social mobility that underpin today’s game they’d be more like to show up at the golf course.
A cursory stroll through the aisles of the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show at the sprawling Orange County (Fla.) Convention Center makes the case that the game, far from being tradition bound, is on the cutting edge of high technology. For about $500 for example, golfers can buy their own personal, portable launch monitor from Flight Scope. The device looks like one of those little boxes you put on the inside of your car windshield to get through bridge and highway tolls without stopping. The radar device, called “mevo” (for “measure my velocity’) provides a record of ball speed, club speed, carry distance, launch angle and spin rate and trajectory apex,
A tour of the Danish-based shoe company ECCO’s booth reveals the latest outcome of biomechanical foot research and injection molding that yields a shoe with no seams. How do they manage global distribution of 80 different styles of sport, leisure and casual wear in all of those sizes? It’s all about the algorithms that enable projections of what to order and what to distribute where.
At a sound stage session that serves an official PGA of America marketing platform, World Golf Hall of famer Greg Norman extolls the virtue of a mobile, multi-media platform that would accompany golfers around the course. The Shark Experience Presented by Verizon entails a cart-borne technology that involves exposure to the Internet, music, news, and sports results — even live games. Why lose Saturday afternoon play when college football season starts.
“Golf has been stuck for a long time,” Norman says.
It’s time for some technological connectivity to link golfers back to the modern world.
Steve Mona, chief executive officer of the World Golf Foundation, is one of those industry insiders who welcome such innovations. Though he admits to being a traditionalist in his own game (“I shut off technology during golf,” he says) he sees no problem embracing innovation when it’s more conducive to the lifestyle of others.
He’s especially concerned to make the game more appealing to younger generations that are more conversant and more comfortable with social media and technology.
“We live in an experience economy, one of entertainment,” he says. “Golf needs to be open to that.”
The U.S. Golf Association has a new Resource Management tool, still in development but on the verge of being made available to golf courses, as a comprehensive means of planning, monitoring and efficiency. The program relies upon a combination of GPS measurements, ongoing data input, industry standards and local conditions of everything from the price of material and labor to weather conditions and topography. The result is the ability to measure every input of what it takes to keep a golf course going — water, fertilizer and manpower. It’s also a tool that enables course managers to edit their turf management practices and anticipate exactly what the savings will be.
One thing you learn pretty quickly at the PGA Show. This is not a game stuck in its past.