Gather around, gearheads, for Golf Magazine's second-annual Technology Awards, aka "The Techies." Golf innovation is moving at the speed of Rory McIlroy's downswing. Turn the page for a watch that tells time and tempo, a polo shirt that cools you on hot days, a major winner who wants to improve your range time–and much more. Here are just some of the golfers and gadgets leading the charge to modernize our tradition-steeped game.
2 of 11Courtesy of Garmin
TECHIEST GOLF WATCH
Squinting into a range finder feels almost as dated as playing balata balls. The latest GPS watch from Garmin means that every needed yardage is just a wrist turn away. The Approach S6 has a database of 38,000 courses and offers highly detailed views of holes and greens. Our favorite feature? It uses a built-in accelerometer to measure your swing tempo, so you can hone the 3:1 backswing-to-downswing ratio that many teachers say is optimal for consistent ballstriking. $399, garmin.com
3 of 11Courtesy of Adidas
Moisture wicking was a breakthrough in its day. Now comes a shirt that cools you off in the heat. Adidas has embedded a constellation of aluminum-silver studs into the fabric of the Climachill Polo. The material conducts heat away from your body, so even if you don't putt as though there's ice water in your veins, you can still enjoy the sensation of tiny ice crystals dancing on your back. $50-$90, adidas.com
4 of 11Courtesy of The Grind Golf
TECHIEST GOLF APP
Plenty of golf apps offer fun and games. This one's prime directive is to make you a better player. Created by Kiel Alderink, senior instructor at Todd Sones Impact, a golf school in suburban Chicago, the Grind stores and crunches up to six months of your on-course performance data. Then the app recommends personalized practice plans based on your strengths and weaknesses. There's also a mental-game section developed with Zen Golf author Dr. Joseph Parent. $5.99 per year. Available on iTunes and Google Play.
5 of 11Courtesy of Richard Franklin
TECHIEST NEW-SCHOOL TEACHER
The more wires that dangle from Richard Franklin's students, the better. "I use technology to give students important swing information that the naked eye can't always detect," says Franklin, a former mini-tour player and onetime Mac O'Grady pupil. Teaching out of Deerpath Golf Course in Lake Forest, Ill., Franklin, 34, relies heavily on sensors, radar and numbers–but never for the sake of appearing to be high-tech. "Technology is just the bedrock that makes learning–and improving–easier." richardfranklingolf.com
6 of 11Getty Images
TECHIEST TOUR PRO
He once wore a heart monitor all day, every day...for three years. He used to travel with his own launch monitor. He has a cryotherapy chamber in his Ireland home that reaches minus-175°F; he stands in it up to his neck for five minutes, convinced that the icy air helps heal his body. Calling Padraig Harrington techy is an understatement. The 43-year-old concedes that information overload is a "dangerous thing" adding, "you never want to end up the mad scientist." As Harrington's play has suffered in recent years, critics have cited his tech obsession as a reason. We remind them that the Dublin native favored the same approach when he was winning three majors over 13 months in 2008 and '09. Harrington feels he has more big wins in him, and we're not arguing with a man of science, mad or otherwise.
7 of 11Marc Serota
TECHIEST OLD-SCHOOL TEACHER
Golf innovation doesn't have to involve apps or 3-D mapping. Technology can simply advance a branch of knowledge–in this case, swing theory. High-tech and old-school converge in the work of Gary Battersby, partner of iconic golf instructor Bob Toski at the Toski/Battersby Golf Driving Range and Learning Center, in Coconut Creek, Fla. Battersby, 57, uses the latest findings in neuroscience (he's big on "plasticity" and "proprioception") to support age-old approaches to the swing–the same principles that made Jones, Snead and Hogan great golfers. His conclusion? By focusing on overly technical teachings, legions of golfers have lost freedom of movement, confidence and peace of mind, and this has led to inconsistent contact. To play good golf, you need to incorporate appropriate technique, he says, not simply more technique. Above all, Battersby adds, it's the fine muscles of the hands–not the big muscles of the torso–that the brain is best able to control. "The great golfers played with their hands, because if you can't control your hands, you can't control your swing," he says. "If you have learned fundamentally sound hand action, the rest of your body responds beautifully, and suddenly the swing becomes wonderfully elegant and simple." learn-golf.com
8 of 11Courtesy of FlightScope
TECHIEST LAUNCH MONITOR
Launch monitors have transformed the art of teaching and clubfitting, but with top models running more than $20,000, they're far too pricey for most golfers. The FlightScope Xi will change that. Equipped with 3-D Doppler radar technology, it measures every vital stat you'd want to know, including clubhead speed, carry distance and roll. It's lighter than the competition (it weighs in at just four pounds) and costs about one-tenth of what higher-end offerings go for. $2,500, flightscope.com
9 of 11Courtesy of David Toms 265 Academy
TECHIEST PRACTICE CENTER
This state-of-the-art training center in Shreveport, La., spreads across 60 acres and provides practice grounds for every shot in golf. There's a multidirectional driving range, a par-3 course, three full-length holes and multiple putting and chipping greens. On-site PGA instructors use 3-D motion-capture technology from GEARS Golf. A cornerstone of the David Toms Foundation, the academy–which just completed its first full year–caters to all kinds of players, from elite juniors and aspiring pros to returning war veterans and underprivileged youths. "It's very satisfying to me that we've been able to achieve what we have," says Toms, 47. The academy's name? It refers to his winning total in the 2001 PGA Championship, the lowest aggregate score ever shot in a major. Toms and fellow Louisianan Hal Sutton have made the academy their home base for practice. Good enough for them, good enough for you. davidtoms265.com
10 of 11Courtesy of Game Golf
TECHIEST SHOT TRACKER
Time was, the only way to track how many greens you hit or putts you had in a round was by jotting notes on your scorecard. Game Golf frees you from all that. Simply install the tag into the grip of each club and, before every shot, touch the tag to the small sensor that clips to your belt. The system charts every shot you hit and all the stats you could want. View them on a smartphone, tablet or computer–you can even share them on social media. $199, gamegolf.com
11 of 11Courtesy of GoPro
Anyone can whip out a smartphone and shoot midround video, but chances are the footage will be choppier than an episode of Cops. And who wants to fiddle with an iPhone when you're already fiddling with your backswing? Enter GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition. Popular with surfers and skiers, this wearable camcorder–4.8 ounces fully equipped–rolls while clipped to your hat. And the quality of the video is so professional that it earned GoPro a 2013 Emmy Award. $399.99, gopro.com
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