Data is being used to analyse sport more than ever. From artificial intelligence in football to advanced analytics in rugby and baseball, the flow of tech into sporting environments is increasing rapidly.
As data analytics technology becomes more widely accepted across sectors, it makes sense that there is increasing adoption in golf, with data now being used to gain vital insights into performance and help deliver a key competitive edge.
The datafication of golf has been a steady, gradual process which, given its culture of tradition, is a remarkable fact. Vast areas of the sport are now monitored and tracked, from a player’s swing and drive to their hip rotation and consistency of performance.
And one firm is capitalising on golf’s insatiable appetite for tech. Scot Scope, founded in 2013 by Heriot-Watt University graduate David Hunter, provides wearable technology in the form of a GPS watch.
The firm has been up and running for six years and was thought up by Hunter around a rise in tech start-ups in Edinburgh. Shot Scope has now gained just over £7 million in investment to drive its technology forward.
Off the back of the firm’s milestone of 100 million tracked golf shots last month, Hunter discusses his passion for the game and his interest in technology and data, as well as delving a little deeper into how Shot Scope can improve a golfer’s game.
What is Shot Scope?
“Golf is a game of data, decision making and information,” Hunter says when discussing how he first came up with the idea of tracking how he played the game of golf.
“I could hit the ball relatively well, but I wasn’t scoring well, and I started to get frustrated after a few years.”
Drawing upon his background in engineering, Hunter created a template for measuring how he played. After years of collecting stats manually, Hunter noticed a marked improvement in his game.
“I was effectively trying to engineer a game of golf, and it worked out really well,” Hunter says.
This time on the course gave him the idea to use tech to automate the process of data analytics while a golfer plays, collecting the information through a wearable device.
“The remit for the technology was that it had to be worn on the wrist, and could deliver GPS information as you play, which is basically data in relation to how far you hit the golf ball,” Hunter says.
Additionally, sensors are embedded into the end of a golf club grip. Over the course of a game, players are able to gain detailed insights into performance using AI.
Shot Scope is not just a breakthrough for golfing, it is a breakthrough for data analytics (DA) in general. DA has many applications, and according to Forbes, 59% of enterprises are now using it in some capacity.
Analysing the Data
The wearable device and sensors in the club’s grip are working together, as well as tech in the wearable strap, to analyse every aspect of a golf swing.
“When you start to swing, we look for a hit then generate a package of data, and we actually generate 25 to 30 points [of data] for every shot you take.”
In a single round of golf, Shot Scope collects around 800 hundred points of data in relation to a golfer’s game, which is then sent to the cloud and processed against the firm’s database of 40,000 golf courses.
This database contains information from every single golf course in the world, as Hunter’s team have mapped every one of them metre by metre: “We need that level of information, and there’s no database in the world that had that, so we developed a technology platform to map courses ourselves,” he says.
From a user’s point of view, you simply wear Shot Scope and play, but on the back-end years of work have been put into creating algorithms that process millions of data points every day and deliver detailed sets of data insights that help golfers play better.
“To the user, it’s really simple. Put little tags into the end of the golf grip, wear the watch, go and play, come back, click one button on the watch one button on the app, and all of a sudden you get maps of your round, overhead views of all your shots, analytics to do to with your tee shots, your club distances, your approach shots and where you are putting your shots.”
Hunter continues: “There are actually over 100 tour-level statistics for every round, they just go ‘pop’, and they are there. Usually, it is only professionals that get to see data this way, but Shot Scope provides an opportunity for amateurs from scratch to high handicap to improve, and improve quickly.”
In terms of the use of data analytics such as this in other areas of the game, Hunter says that, so far, his focus has been primarily on the golfers and improving their game.
However, he does indicate that as the data has already been collected, they currently “don’t do a lot with it within the industry,” and the wider golfing community have “started thinking about how this can apply”.
Where do we go from here?
In the future, the use of data analytics has the potential to revolutionise sports. Shot Scope is just one example of the technology being used to its full potential.
“Anywhere you swing a bat or hit a ball you could definitely apply this technology,” Hunter says. “The actual underlying patented technology could be applied to other industries as well.”
Shot Scope is currently focusing on golf by design, but the possibilities are endless. The sensors and wearables could be applied to most sports, including football, swimming, or running.
“At the moment between the wearable market and the laser market, there is about a £7bn opportunity for golf alone and therefore, as the market leader in the UK we can be the market leader in other areas.
“Around £450 million is spent annually on laser and wearable tech in golf, so we are going to try and win that area first and try not to spread ourselves too thin.”
- DIGIT Deal Roundup Column | May 2021 edition
- Criminals caught after using FBI-run messaging service ANOM
- Scotland FDI grows in 2020, bucking UK and European trend
Fundamentally, Hunter says, the game of golf is unlikely to change significantly. It has been the same since its first inception hundreds of years ago, but technology can be used to improve the experience for the player.
“We want to revolutionise the golfer’s experience and bring that amazing technology onto the golf course,” Hunter comments.
“[Shot Scope] provides an experience, whilst giving you the tools to get better and progressing in the game.”
And Shot Scope is clearly catching on. According to Hunter, the firm went from a 0% market share two years ago to around 14%. Shot Scope now has a plan in place to take it through to 35% over the next 12 months.
“Within the next 18 months, we want to take Shot Scope from being a UK company with interesting opportunities globally, to a completely global company, with the team still based primarily in Scotland,” Hunter explains.
“I’m going to go out and start trying to raise money in the next three, four weeks, but that is an interesting problem for a Scottish company, that expansion, but we’re definitely primed and in a great spot for it.”