GAME Golf offers ShotLink shot data for everyday hackers

Demo Day 2014
David Walberg/Sports Illustrated
The scene at the 2014 PGA Show Demo Day.

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. -- How far do you really hit any given club in your bag?

Most golfers don't know, and those who think they do are probably wrong.

That could change with GAME Golf. It's technology that allows us amateur golfers to do what ShotLink does for the PGA Tour, and that's chart and track our rounds, shot by shot, stroke by stroke.

GAME Golf let three of us try out its digital tracking technology for one hole during the PGA Merchandise Show's Demo Day at Orange County National here Tuesday. George of Golf Channel, John of the PGA of America, GAME Golf's head John McGuire and I teed it up on the seventh hole of "The Tooth," a fun little par-3 course off to the side of Orange County National's massive 360-degree circular practice range.

GAME Golf is fairly simple. It requires a small plastic plug (with an embedded computer chip) that is stuck onto the end of the grip of each club in your bag. You then attach a small unit, just smaller than a garage-door opener, to your belt. Before you play each shot, you touch the grip end (and the chip) to the gearbox on your belt. It vibrates briefly to let you know it has been activated or "tagged" as the GAME Golf guys say.

You play the shot. Then you repeat as you play each shot. GAME Golf figures out where you hit your second shot from, so it can tell you how far your drive went. From your first putt, it tells you how far you hit the second shot and because of the chip technology, it knows what club you hit.

You don't have to play many rounds with GAME Golf before you build a history of club performance. Pretty soon, you'll have a clearer idea of how far you hit the ball with each club in the bag.

GAME Golf will also compile your complete golf stats -- you may be disappointed to know your average actual driving distance, for instance -- and post your rounds online. You can go back and review a round of golf, shot by shot, and look at it on a map.

Back to our little demonstration, which Golf Channel filmed. PGA John thinned a sand wedge 15 feet beyond the pin on our 98-yard test hole. Golf Channel George pushed one right, leaving himself 50 feet down a tier to the pin. Our host, John, chunked one short of the water. I urged him to take a replay in the name of Bill Clinton. He did, that one found the water. He reloaded again and hit a nice shot above the hole. I pulled a wedge left but pin-high, 12 feet.

George three-putted, the two Johns two-putted and I rolled my birdie putt in. Then we went to the computers and saw the shot-tracking in action. Above a full-hole graphic with a line drawn from the tee to where I hit the shot, the stats said my shot went 99 yards.

It's a little more complicated than that, but not much. If you forget to "tag" a shot before you swing, you can edit it in later.

GAME Golf looks like a painless way to keep your own stats, share them with others, and get a better grip on how far you hit the clubs in your bag. I thought it was pretty cool. Was it $249 worth of cool? That's the suggested price for the chips and the belt unit. I'll let you know after I test-drive one for a couple of months.
 

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