By Dona Sturmanis with Deanna Merrick
One golf swing can cause a major mood swing. On a single hole, your drive might plummet you into the depths of misery, yet five minutes later, after a great putt, you’re invincible and on top of your world. This happens whether you’re just learning the game or have a single digit handicap.
Helping to keep golf skills (and associated moods) on the upswing, technology advancements have a profound impact on the industry. Gadgets have been developed that run the gamut from improving your swing to pinpointing the exact location of the pin on a course you’ve never played before. Both brand new golfers and single digit handicappers are using the latest GPS watches, hand-held GPS units and rangefinders in the hope of shaving a stroke or two off their game.
There are accessories to analyze your swing, help you warm up, work on putting and locate the pin placement on the green—almost anything you could possibly want (or need). Many of these hi-tech accessories are found at your favourite pro shop, and the online selection is mind-boggling.
Online apps offering in-depth swing analysis are also available. Although teaching pros say they’re far more valuable when you’re working with a golf professional who can both analyze the information and help you make the necessary adjustments to improve your swing.
Top high-tech gadgets
According to several pros in the Okanagan, the top spot on the high-tech golf heap is reserved for the latest GPS watches. While there are a number of companies that make them, Golf Town Kelowna’s Kyle Clegg says the Garmin Approach S6 is the latest and hottest available.
The Garmin S6, priced around $519, is an advanced piece of equipment that provides the wearer with an exact image of the hole, on its screen via satellite feeds. This watch is a touch screen model and even offers a green side view to assist in the all-important approach shots. It enables golfers to move the pin on their screen to reflect where the exact spot is located on the real green at any given time.
The S6 is pre-loaded with 30,000 international courses in Canada, the US and Europe, and Garmin provides regular free updates for the information about these courses. S6 swing diagnostics allow you to analyze your swing tempo—the rate of speed at which you bring the club head back to how quickly it comes through to the ball—ideal for the practice range.
This high-tech golf accessory has the ability to store handicap information and keep track of each shot on every hole: how often you hit the fairway, whether you reach the green in regulation and how many putts you took; it’s all there. Weighing only 1.6 ounces, the Garmin S6 can be recharged directly from your home computer or laptop, and the charge has a full 10 hour lifespan—enough for two games. If you’re just wearing it as a watch, the S6 lasts up to 14 weeks before needing a charge.
Pick up the Garmin S6 at your local pro shop, Golf Town in Kelowna or Strictly Golf in Vernon. Or, check online at www.garmin.com.
Some players prefer to use the more traditional handheld range finders, which have been on the market for years. There is a wide variety of styles and prices, but many golfers are buying the Leupold GX4i2, despite its price tag of about $600.
The Leupold features vivid display laser with red laser retina technology, enabling it to pick up colours more easily. Its claim to fame is “military grade precision optics,” and its range finders more than fulfill that promise.
Leupold delivers “optics for extreme conditions, like the next sand trap.” The graphics are crisp, clear and easy to read. As professional golf coach Tara Roden says, “It’s like having a caddy in your pocket!”
This Leupold model offers a two-in-one feature, giving you the flexibility to use it during regular play or in tournament competitions. The compact and rugged rangefinder enables you to change lens caps… the yellow, which has the slope built in, is for everyday use, and the silver cap, which meets the requirements for tournament play when permitted by local rules.
The Leupold even offers something called “fog mode.” Using the GX4i2 model, you can cut through the fog on a course and receive fast and accurate information. The PinHunter 2 laser technology filters out background images and zeros in on your actual target faster and easier.
Clegg says the Leupold’s laser pinpoints any target you choose. If you’re setting up your lay up or best shot, it will pick out a rock that might cause some trouble or identify a tree that might be in the way for that perfect approach shot.
Check out all of Leupold rangefinder models at www.leupold.com. Both Golf Town and Strictly Golf in Vernon offer a wide array of other range finders as well, as do many local courses such as Penticton Golf and Country Club, The Harvest, Predator Ridge, and Shannon Lake in West Kelowna.
Both Garmin and Leupold devices create useful individual information for your game. Once you’ve input your personal data and the distance you hit with your clubs, it will indicate exactly which club to use in a given situation.
Third in the trifecta of top golf accessories is the handheld laser GPS. Once again, Garmin seems to offer the most popular model. Their Garmin G8, at around $519, has the slopes built right into the information you’ll access. It automatically takes into account the elevation changes on each hole, enabling you to determine your exact distance from the hole. The Pin Pointer technology is great if you’re playing a blind shot, as the screen arrow points to the exact location of the pin.
The handheld device puts full colour course maps within your reach, and once again Garmin offers free updates on thousands of courses. Unlike some companies that manufacture these units, Garmin doesn’t charge annual fees.
Handheld laser GPS units are available from a number of companies with price ranges reflecting their capabilities.
Top high-tech training
Training tools for golfers are advancing at a mind-boggling pace, and the market is flooded with the very latest accessories, which may not necessarily be electronic, but have been developed with the aid of technology.
There are accessories and gadgets to help virtually every aspect of your game, available at golf shops around the Okanagan and online. A few worth looking into include the SkyPro Golf Swing Analyzer, which provides instant feedback on the key features of your swing (www.golfskypro.com); the compact Optishot Golf Simulator, the ultimate in golf must-haves (www.optishotgolf.com); the SkyTrak practice-and-play system (www.skytrakgolf.com), which you can experience first-hand at the Penticton Golf and Country Club; and Mobicoach, which offers live, remote coaching (www.mobicoach.com).
Without exception, golf professionals and coaches are in agreement that
regardless of the tools you possess, using them in conjunction with a well-timed lesson or two will create the best possible outcome.“There is a smart consumer base out there,” Roden says. “Golf in the Okanagan is spectacular. Golfers are researching their options and they know what they want. It’s knowing how to apply the information to the game of golf that is key. When it comes down to it, through smarter training, a player of any level can improve their game.”The Harvest Golf Club’s head pro agrees. “Today’s training aids provide you with a tremendous amount of data,” says Chad Scott. “Working with your PGA Pro in analyzing and applying that information will optimize the outcome of your golf game.”
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