In recent years golf has been brought well and truly into the 21st century, with technology and computer science affecting almost every aspect of the game, from club design, to clothing, from how people practice, to how people watch and follow the game, and even how caddies will do their job in the future.
In this article we look at just some of the ways that data collection techniques have pushed the sport forward, as well as what this could mean for future players, coaches, and fans.
Data analysis has taken the sport of golf to a whole new level, allowing players to improve faster and fans to follow the game more closely than ever before
More Data Means Less Doubt for Players and Spectators
Golf used to be a mysterious game, with players and spectators amazed and frustrated in equal measure by the peaks and troughs of form that a player could experience both during a round of golf and across the entirety of a season.
This led to some pro players driving themselves crazy, as they tried everything possible to find out what had gone wrong, so they could go about fixing it on the practice greens and driving ranges.
All that has changed substantially in recent years, with data collection and analytics taking some of the mystique out of the game, changing the way virtually everyone involved in the sport is forced to think about it. Indeed, ask most top PGA or LPGA players which parts of their game they need to work on and they will be able to tell you in exacting detail, and that is all brought about by the data collection techniques used in golf today, with pro coaches and sports bettors alike needing to have a firm grasp of the numbers in order to be successful.
Data in golf has come a long way since the days of scribbling your score on a paper scorecard
The “Are Drivers Too Powerful” Debate Driven by Data and Tech
Ever since the arrival of the likes of Tom Daly and Tiger Woods, golf aficionados have been questioning whether men and women who can drive the ball onto the green of a par four hole are good or bad for the game.
But what was it that helped such players put such distance on their shots in the first place?
Partly it is down to better physical conditioning, but there are also other factors at play, such as club and ball design.
The clever people at Titleist were ultimately the folks who managed to make a golf ball so good that it was actually too good. That ball was the Pro V1.
Data science and other lab techniques allowed Titleist to create a multi-layer core ball that the numbers showed completely outperformed all other balls by a significant margin, to the point that virtually every pro on tour was using one upon its release. The stats also show that the ball increased average drive distances by 6-yards.
Allied to this is the ever-improving data collected on clubs themselves, many of which also add a few extra yards to a drive or iron shot. Add all those accumulated extra yards together and suddenly some courses are looking far too short.
This has led to the data now being used to argue the case for reduced-distance balls, which will stop players gaming courses by dodging intended hazards with booming oversized drives.
Courses are Also Not Safe from the Revolution
While the data helps golf iron out its issues with club and ball technology, it is also pointing the way for how golf will be played and enjoyed in the future.
This is particularly pertinent in the case of the golf courses and resorts themselves, which in their current forms have long been known to be too inefficient, environmentally damaging, costly, and overly slow to play.
Data analysis as well as some welcome input from pros like Tiger Woods, mean that the future of golf courses may be going shorter rather than longer, as clubs try to cash in by attracting younger members who want to pepper a pin rather than trudge for miles round an 18-hole course.