Golf analytics is white-hot this summer. In addition to rounds played surging in the summer of 2020 in most U.S. markets, more and more golfers are choosing to game track for deeper, pro-grade insights into their own games.
Consider Arccos Golf: Earlier this year their platform recorded 2 million shots over a weekend when they expected 1 million. Cobra Connect, which uses Arccos, reports sales up 312% year-over-year.
Call it a combination of more general golf enthusiasm, plus perhaps some Bryson DeChambeau influence making us all more aware of advanced stats from Ball Speed to Strokes Gained (and maybe even protein intake).
Arccos, a leader in the game tracking space for amateurs, is revealing new enhancements to its platform in 2020 as the space grows more competitive with other shot trackers and advanced golf statistic products ranging from Shot Scope to Garmin and V1. In July, Arccos launched Caddie Link ($99 MSRP), a sensor that clips to your belt and eliminates the need to keep the smartphone in your front pocket.
For data junkies, the best is yet to come. Arccos is updating their Strokes Gained metrics (scheduled for August). Currently, Arccos' Strokes Gained is based on outside data gathered from scratch golfers. Their new Strokes Gained metric will feed their data from more than 200 million shots recorded on their own platform into a machine-learning algorithm to provide insights on Strokes Gained from 20-handicaps to tour pros. You'll be able to benchmark the elements of your game to the skill level you aspire to be.
I've been using various game-tracking apps in 2020 and recently made the jump to Arccos. I was initially interested in their smart sensors that screw into the top of each club's grip and eliminate the need to assign clubs to shots (such as with a Garmin watch or other mobile golf apps with shot tracking). I grew mesmerized by their dashboard insights. Golf is simply more fun when you're able to measure various aspects of your game. It's even more fun when you realize improvement. Within the dashboard I found myself identifying Michael Jordan-type bulletin board material to hype me up for my next round. So, Arccos, you think I'm an 15-handicap chipper, huh? Not after I hit this stiff.
Or as Sal Syed, CEO of Arccos who is now a +.5 index, put it to me: the analytics serve as a triage for the golfer and examines the entire golfer and identifies where shots are being lost while also pinpointing problem areas in your game that are beginning to bubble up.
"Golf improvement," said Syed. "Is like Whack-a-mole."
Using Arccos on the golf course
For all the great word of mouth I've heard about Arccos over the years, the biggest reservation I had about it compared to Garmin and Shot Scope is Arccos relies on a third-party to function: namely a smartphone. Not everyone wants to keep a phone in their pocket when playing golf. But there are other issues when you need a phone to game track. If the phone's battery isn't charged before you play, your phone may die and your shot tracking stops (You can improve your battery life by downloading the course fully before starting the round). Or consider a recent 100-degree day when I had my iPhone out for a few minutes on a Facetime and it overheated and shut off. No more shot tracking that round.
Arccos' Caddie Link, the long-awaited belt clip solution, doesn't eliminate the need for a phone but reduces the dependence on it for every shot. It's great on the course in two ways. Once you start the round you can keep your phone in the bag. Caddie Link tracked all my shots accurately in my first round save for two 30-yard pitch shots, which I had to add manually in the dashboard. My favorite thing about Caddie Link is you can now tag pin locations much easier by just tapping the button instead of taking out your phone to tag the pin location. (You can also set exact pin locations in the dashboard following play.) Battery life for Caddie Link is about 10 hours and is charged by USB.
Arccos doesn't have its own wearable but is compatible with Apple Watch (the watch display provides actual and "plays like" yardage plus AI caddie club recommendations) but you still need to start the round on the phone and sync to the watch app. Even still, I struggled with the watch app as it seemed to miss more shots than the phone (which is very reliable and really only misses occasional shortest chips and tap-in putts). In speaking with app developers, Apple Watch is a difficult platform to build on, and Apple is constantly releasing changes to the OS that can impact a third-party app's performance. (Read my full column on Apple Watch here)
The Arccos performance dashboard
Checking out your stats in the Arccos' dashboard is practically as fun as the round itself. It's available on a mobile app or a more robust version on desktop, is beautiful and illuminating, and it should be, because they charge $99 per year after the first year for the service. Arccos is betting by that first year you'll be hooked on the insights and playing better. They're probably right.
The Dashboard is as good as it gets in the business. It has the basics like average and "smart" distances for each club. It tells you what your true handicap is for each facet of your game: driving, approach, sand, chipping and putting. My favorite Arccos stats to analyze include:
Using Arccos golf: Additional notes
- Unlike say, a PGA Tour player's Shotlink data, there is no such thing as a totally hands-off retail shot-tracking platform. Any solution you choose will require post-round review and editing. You can edit all your shots and locations. With Arccos, the only time I've had to edit shots is for short putts or some short-game shots, or sometimes my opening tee shot comes from the wrong location.
- While Shotlink measures PGA Tour putts down to the inch, if you want the most accurate putting data, you'll want to review and fine tune your specific locations after the round. Early on using the app I was cavalier about pin locations and as a result my putting stats were out of whack. A review and edit of your round in Arccos takes about 3 minutes and is critical for the best insights.
- Arccos has an AI caddie that provides shot recommendations based on machine learning. It can also provide wind speed and direction using a third-party provider. I've previously explained my skepticism and experience in playing with other virtual caddies. Ultimately, they can help but they can't account for many human and real-life variables on the course like wind gusts, creative shot-making, the lie or how you're feeling that day.
- When Arccos' new benchmarking Strokes Gained feature is launched this summer, Arccos recommends setting your Strokes Gained benchmark to about three shots better than your current index and from there you'll see what parts of your game are preventing you from scoring at that level.
- Shot-tracking apps are not ideal primary scorecards. You'll have to add penalty shots and check for missing putts or short game shots after. My ideal setup lately has been to use my Garmin Approach s62 on my wrist for shot measuring and instant scoring while using Arccos' smart sensors and Caddie Link to track the shots.
- The current generation of Arccos smart sensors retail for $179.99 and it comes with one year of the caddie app ($99/year after that). The Caddie Link belt sensor is $99. Available at ArccosGolf.com.
If you have any questions about the user experience with Arccos or any other shot trackers let me know in the comments below or find me on Twitter @brandontucker.