Future vs Tradition – How Trackman has changed the role of technology in golf

Future vs Tradition – How Trackman has changed the role of technology in golf

Golfmate had the pleasure of sitting down with Trackman’s Scott Jolly for a conversation on Golf Technology. Scott shares an insight into how Trackman has become the golf standard for club delivery and ball flight measurements, as well as his thoughts on Golf Technology in general, and what we might see going forward.

For more information about Trackman and its offerings please visit their website – https://www.trackman.com/. Alternatively, you can contact both Brook Salmon (QLD/NT/VIC/TAS/NZ) or Scott Jolly (NSW/ACT/SA/WA) via sales_aus_nz@trackman.com

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Who are Trackman? Can you tell us a brief bit about Trackman’s history?

SJ: Trackman are a hardware and data company that started in Denmark back in 2003. Our founding fathers Dr. Klaus Eldrup-Jorgensen and his brother Morten owned some of the biggest driving ranges in Europe and came up with the idea about how they could make golf more fun and more accessible through practice. At the time there was a lot of technology making its way into the sport, but nothing that actually measured and allowed golfers to receive detailed feedback on their golf swing. Fortunately the two met Fredrick Tuxen, who is another founder of Trackman and currently still works as CTO. Fredrick built a career developing radar technology for the military and discovered that the Doppler radars initially used for tracking missiles, bullets and other military applications could be applied to the golf ball. At first they looked at the ball data and tracking the entire flight of the golf ball… then found that there was a lot of information that could be used to work out what the club was doing at impact, and all the way through the swing.

 

So that’s how Trackman was essentially born… Fredrick then built the first Trackman unit and conferred with a consultancy company to help with the branding and best they could market their product. And so, they came up with the idea of ‘owning’ this little orange box that we all recognize so well now.

 

At first Trackman found that their technology could provide really great data for equipment manufacturers, which then lead to club fitting and then teaching professionals. Over the last 15 years we’ve had a few different iterations of the trackman unit, and more recently we have developed into providing a simulator solution, as well as our Trackman range product. Our range product allows us to trace every ball that is being hit on their driving range. So take for example Moore Park, if they were theoretically to have a couple of radars installed… they’d have about 100 to 200 people at any one time with all their ball flights being traced. These are some of our core products that we’ve developed over time. And thanks to our most recent iteration of the Trackman 4 back in 2016, the last six years put us to the forefront of the industry. Trackman have become one of the major technology providers for a lot of not only club manufacturers, but also organizations such as the PGA Tour, European Tour and most recently the Ryder Cup, where you would’ve seen a number of Trackman’s on various tee boxes at Whistling Straits. It’s really exciting to see our product being showcased on the world stage!

 

You touched on the three ‘founding fathers’ of Trackman who brought Trackman to life over in Denmark. Are they still involved with the company now and how has the company grown in recent years?

SJ: Yes absolutely, all three are still very involved with Klaus working as our CEO. Over recent years it has really taken off. Initially we were a really small team, however now we have a worldwide sales team of about 200 people, as well as our research and development team, and technical support team back in our Copenhagen Headquarters. So all in all, roughly a bit over 400 employees worldwide. Even with this vast growth, I think the really neat part about our company is that we’re hardware and data company where every piece of technology is built entirely in house… this includes all of our microwave components, the radar and so on, which is a really great selling point. It’s been really cool seeing trackman develop over time and it’s very exciting to be a part of that team moving forward.

 

For those of us who don’t know, can you explain what exactly Trackman 4 does?

SJ: Yeah, of course. So the Trackman 4 essentially, allows golfers to track the full golf ball flight in any given environment. So initially our first three iterations of the Trackman radar was just simply one radar with a built-in camera to help align the golf ball relative to the target line, so every shot that you hit on the driving range will then get measured based on the line that you hit into. Now with the Trackman 4 however we have two radars and one camera… equaling zero doubt! The two radars allow us to track not only some of the club data and the metrics there, but also the full ball flight from the second it leaves the club face, lands and stops. The two radars combined with the camera which is what we call OERT (optically enhanced radar tracking allows us to get visual confirmation of what the clubface is doing at impact and confirms that data. I think that the great thing about Trackman only helping people better understand their swing but also now helping them to perform in a competitive environment. We see a lot of elite golfers and Tour players now using things like our combine and test center function which allows you randomize yardages over say six to ten shots to help you dial in and practice those shots you might be hitting in a tournament that week. Part of our Trackman solution which owners receive access to is our indoor virtual golf feature, which is another really cool part of the Trackman. There are so many moving parts, but that’s essentially in a nutshell how we are able to successfully track the golf ball flight.

 

Carrying on from this, what does the Trackman 4 measure and what are the real benefits of knowing these numbers?

SJ: Something that I was definitely taught growing up is that there’s got to be some balance between the science and the art of playing golf. A lot of this comes down to feel and refining those technical aspects however I think the great thing about the data provided by Trackman 4 is that it takes all the guesswork out of trying to make an improvement. For example, if someone’s coming in with a very steep angle of attack, and an open clubface, the balls going left to right, no matter what… and so the Trackman provides us with that confirmation. This gives both players and coaches a lot more confidence, and they can clearly say “ok this is why you are hitting those left to right shots, now how do we fix it?”.  giving players and students a lot more confidence as to what they’re doing.

 

Trackman allows players to get a blueprint of their game and take that into a golf course, and like I said it really taking that guesswork out. I think one of the cool parts about Trackman is that you can choose what measurements that you’re looking at, so doesn’t necessarily have to be everything all at once. So for me, it’s always about looking at face angle relative to your club path and looking at carry distance. I think a lot of amateur golfers don’t necessarily know what their actual, average carry distances with each club are.  Whereas your Tour Professionals who have been using Trackman for a lot of time, know right down to the inch how far they’re going to be able to fly a 52-degree wedge hit at 70% versus a 90% or 100%. It’s definitely one of the biggest benefits of using Trackman, having the ability to dial in those numbers.

 

How has trackman managed to remain on top of the shot tracer game, with the constant advancements we’ve seen in technology?

SJ: I think it’s on the back of our continuous development. Trackman really pride ourselves on being able to provide ongoing training and support. So it’s not just a matter of, “here’s the radar, see you later!”  We offer a ton of resources through our Trackman University, which is our online learning platform, as well as our tutorials via YouTube. We also have our Trackman blog, which is updated roughly two to three times a week and offers a number of different articles relating how to better understand the data and also shows what some of the top coaches and top tour players are doing each week, and how they’re using Trackman.

 

The company are really invested in self-improvement and being able to continuously develop Trackman. As mentioned earlier, the Trackman 4 was released in 2016 but it hasn’t stayed the same! We’ve done numerous software and firmware updates similar to the way Apple updates their iPhone, and I would say that’s a big part of how we’ve been able to stay on top of the industry and remain that that industry leader when it comes to launch monitors. We recently hit a milestone as a company at the start of this year when we had over a billion golf shots tracked using our product. Every shot that’s been hit with Trackman is logged in catalog, with about half a billion of those shots being in an outdoor environment. So when it comes to how we provide a full measurement of the ball, in an indoor setting, there’s that full weight of the data behind that confirms our data is fact.

 

We see so many professionals using Trackman on the range, but do you think Trackman sessions are something that amateur golfers should look to incorporate into their game?

SJ: Yeah, of course! During the COVID pandemic we have had a large volume of homeowners and amateur golfers look at ways they could build an indoor golf simulator space, a lot of which now double as a home theater or are part of a mancave. That said, I don’t think it necessarily means that golfers need to purchase a Trackman outright.

 

Trackman is definitely not exclusively for teaching pros and club manufacturers anymore. It’s something that amateurs can make full use of… we want to make the game fun and accessible to as many people as possible. The recent growth of indoor golf has helped massively. If you look at some of the commercial simulator centers in the US, five iron golf is a great example… One of the first ever spaces in the middle of Brooklyn, now they’ve now expanded into four or five different franchises all around the country. It’s really taken off and helped attract a whole group of people that probably wouldn’t have otherwise picked up a golf club if it weren’t for that indoor space.

Obviously, we, we love seeing tour pros using our product, but it is definitely something a lot of amateurs can get huge use out of. Whether they purchase one themselves or they go to a commercial facility, or even go to a teaching pro who has a Trackman, I think they can really see the benefit of getting some key data and understanding their games a little bit better.

 

You touched on making the game more fun, did you want to tell us a little bit more about some of these features and the various things you can now do on Trackman?

SJ: Yeah, so we’ve got our virtual golf, you might have seen some of the graphics that we released through social media or maybe on our website. We’ve got over now 130 golf courses worldwide. I think the great part about it is that it’s sped up the time it takes to play a round, it’s especially beneficial for the golfer that can’t get out and spend four and a half hours on a golf course. Now, you could theoretically play a round of golf at St Andrews or wherever you like and have that complete within an hour. We have also incorporated a ton of games such as, long drive and nearest the pin competitions that you can play with friends.

 

You are also able to multitask with our simulator solution. So if you were to have your own sim setup, you could be watching the NFL, cricket or any other sport whilst running the virtual golf software across your projector screen. It means it’s not necessarily continuously looking at shot analysis all the time, but it means you can use it simply play golf and have a lot of fun with that space.

 

We have recently brought in an auto-putt function too. So once you hit the green, the algorithm in the system (based on whether you set it to a to pro setting versus a scratch handicap marker or right up to a 36 handicapper) will automatically hit your putts for you. So that’s another way we’ve been able streamline the time it takes to play a round on our virtual golf software. Being able to play a round and golf in less than an hour is definitely a huge selling point for us!

 

You mentioned putting there Scott, which leads us nicely into my next question… Obviously a lot of us associate Trackman with being a flight scope, however the Trackman 4 offers a putting analysis feature; can you tell me a little more about this and how it might help to rid golfers of those dreaded three putts?

SJ: So we are tracking the full roll of the golf ball as well as the movement of the putter through the stroke. It offers ability to measure stroke distance, (i.e. how big your backswing is versus the follow through angle attack) club path and face… similar to what you’d see in full swing setting. Another great thing is we can measure the full roll of the golf ball and get what we call an effective stimp, which is giving you an idea of how fast the green is actually rolling! Essentially, we’re able to not only just understand a players movement pattern with a putter, but also how the ball is reacting based on that movement. I think its balance of where science meets art when it comes to putting… but I think Trackman does a really good job with improving people’s putting by giving the real-time feedback on the roll of the golf ball and how far offline you may be hitting it. It’s a really cool feature and something we are continuously rolling out and improving over time. I think lot more people should be aware of the putting feature as part of the Trackman solution.

 

Is it true that Trackman are now developing solutions for various sports now, not just golf… would you like to tell us a little more about this transition?

SJ: So obviously the core part of our business has predominately been golf however, we have been able to create some applications incorporating a radar for NFL punting as well as baseball. The baseball product in particular has taken off a fair bit in in the college system in the US, as well as in Japan and Korea where we’ve had a few solutions for indoor batting cages. Recently with soccer we had the Danish national team use our product at Euro 2020, where their coach gave a lot of praise to our technology and how that they’re able to use it to improve their free kicks and penalty kicks. Most recently we signed a three-year deal with English Premier League side Aston Villa who are also going to use our technology. It’s a really cool part of our business that we’re slowly growing over time and I’m hopeful it will really take off in the next few years!

 

Away from the Trackman products specifically Scott.. Of course, we still have to swing the club ourselves, but technology has had a huge impact on golf in the last 15-20 years. Changes in clubs, balls, shoes and equipment have all helped make the game easier and altered the game dramatically… With this in mind, where would you say the most significant changes in golfing technology have been?

SJ: I think definitely how the golf ball is improved. You know, like the there’s so many different patterns on the golf ball and they are so souped up that you can now change between brands and see which one you’re going to make be able to maximize the most distance you might spin. Titleist keep a catalog of every golf ball they’ve ever made so that they can provide that exclusively to their tour players. I know most famously; Luke Donald’s still uses the 2013 version of the Titleist ProV1x. I think the improvement in the ball is perhaps why you’ve seen such a huge increase in in driving distance over the last few years for a lot of tour players. I think not only that, but they’re now married up with all the technology that is going into building the golf clubs.

 

I remember when I grew up playing Junior golf, you needed to have a certain swing type and clubhead speed in order to be able to hit forged irons or bladed irons… so for the most part of my junior career I was I was playing with a really heavy Ping golf golf clubs that had that that thicker offset to help with getting the ball whereas now like you look at club manufacturers like Mizuno and Titleist who have both built irons that are just so forgiving. Whether they be forged or blades and you know that there’s such a just a litany of options out there for you know whether it be the amateur or pro golfer! It’s just taken off and then when you add the launch monitor and how you’re now able to get a full club fitting, understand the optimal data for each shaft and club head combination. It’s enough to make your head spin! When it comes to playing the game, that there’s just been a huge improvement in in how club manufacturers and ball manufacturers have been able to get the most out of their patents and start to build equipment that’s for all levels of the game.

 

Continuing on from your point about this recent explosion in distance. Do you see this as a problem, and do you think tighter restrictions need to be put in place to perhaps stop professionals making a mockery of many golf courses?

SJ: Yeah, I’m sort of split on this decision. I think one side of me is very much the traditionalist in that I want to be able to play the golf course in the way that the architect intended but unfortunately it’s just the natural evolution of the sport I guess. In the last 20 years, everyone has gained more knowledge on nutrition, flexibility and strength and how those things can marry up to it make you hit the ball a lot further.

 

But on the other hand, I think golf is very hard game… I think Gary Player has been a staunch advocate for the idea of tapering the golf ball back for the professionals, and then just let the amateurs run riot with whatever equipment they can get their hands on. The data that’s come out in the last 20 years shows that the average handicaps both male and females, has very rarely improved even with the huge advancements with technology and all these different training aids. There definitely has to be some separate rules there for the amateurs versus the professionals.

 

 In terms of lengthening golf courses… I was at the President’s Cup at Royal Melbourne a couple years ago and I think it is a really unique golf course. You look at the way they have placed bunkers, and sort of build the golf course into a landscape to make it tough. I think it’s a good example of how driving distance doesn’t need to be the be all and end all. I think it would be great if you can have a combination of several different tee’s based on skill level and not just the gendered approach of females tee off here, men off here and pro’s off the back.

 

You still want it to be exciting though… seeing golfers bomb it so far so far down the fairway and then chip on and one putt, I think there’s still a lot of artistry and skill involved. Tapering the golf ball back will help mitigate that. But again, I think there’s got to be some slack given where you say it is just natural evolution of the game, every sport has some form of problem with that. There’s definitely got to be some check and balance there with how fast technology is advancing…  It is important they can still make the game fair and equitable for everyone.

 

Where do you think that some of the biggest benefits are from the surge in new golfing technology?

SJ: I think the great one for me is that there’s obviously the data from the likes of Trackman is a huge benefit to all levels of golfers, but we are now seeing it paired with a lot of the golf physio and golf specific exercises. One of my former coaches, Michael Jones on the Gold Coast, is very heavily involved in not only just understanding how you can swing the golf club better, but also how your training and your conditioning can really influence your performance on the golf course. Now, it’s not only just a matter of maximizing driving distance but it’s also about increasing longevity in the game, we want people to be able to play this game for life… And the more you understand about your movement, your physiology it can really benefit you and allow you to play long into your 60’s 70’s and 80’s! So that’s where I’ve seen a huge benefit from technology, being able to help people improve their game, quality of life and help people play the game for a long period of time.

 

Definitely! I think your point about playing for longer, and perhaps even at a higher level for as long as possible is proven by Phil Mickelson winning a major at 50 years old last year whilst averaging 300+ Driving Distance. I think it’s great for the game.  Although some may disagree… Many former tour professionals have been publicly critical about the advancements in golf technology in recent years, with Gary Player quite literally saying ‘technology is destroying golf’. Where do you stand on this?

SJ: I do disagree there a little bit.. I think technology can be used correctly in helping people improve. I remember watching that interview a long time ago and I think he was also talking about that whole idea of this imbalance between the professional game and what’s happening there and that dictating down and then sort of having this flow on effect to the amateur game. We want encourage people to have an interest in the game and make sure they’re enjoying it, having fun and being able to play it freely… and if there’s all these restrictions and rules then I think that’s going to be a massive problem for people that are just starting out and getting into the sport. If someone’s joining a Golf Club for example and they say “oh you know you can only have a 45 inch driver and you’ve got to have a certain limited distance golf ball”, I think that’s going to deter a lot of people. There’s already a preconception that golf is quite a rule heavy sport and you know it’s not totally unwarranted. I think we can definitely use technology to help bring more people to the game and make it a fun and exciting environment for to be a part of.

 

This maybe goes back to our earlier conversation about some of the ‘fun’ games that are at our disposal thanks to Trackman and the ability to play quicker rounds of golf… but do you believe that technology such as Trackman can help attract the next generation of golfers? And if so, why?

SJ: Definitely! I think everyone’s so heavily involved in the digital space now… I’m sure yourself you’ve got Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, etc. The idea that we can take the traditional golfing model (i.e. – you join a golf club, you play Wednesdays, Saturdays, socialize after) and now apply it to an indoor commercial space is great. There are a few new indoor facilities up in Queensland now that are open 24/7… allowing people to come in at any time of day, 365 days a year. In Queensland especially, where the climate is so oppressively hot, having a conditioned environment where anyone, at any time can come in and play I think will go a long way and really help in attracting that new generation of golfers. I think that, added with all of the games and what we’re able to offer in the virtual golf space, we’ll definitely get a lot of people interested in what the game!

 

Where do you see technology going in the future? What advancements are we likely to see in the coming years?

SJ: I think you’ll see a lot of golf clubs starting to incorporate the indoor golf space you know as an added revenue stream to the business model. I think you’ll start to see a more well-rounded golfer through the use of technology over time, from tour professionals right down to your amateur golfers that play at club level… there’s just so much information coming out now about the conditioning, strength and nutrition.

 

I definitely think we will see a lot more well-rounded golfers as we’ve started to see in this last 20 years. Lately there has been a huge criticism on Rory McIlroy for not being as dominant as he perhaps should be. When in reality, compared to Tiger for example, there was probably about four or five guys who could hold a candle to him whereas now there’s at least 20 of the top 100 players in the world who are frighteningly good! Even right up until the 500th position in the World Golf Rankings, you sit there, and you go ‘wow’, some of the best players of all time are there.  At present we have a high volume of really good golfers and I think you’ll see that take off quite a fair bit in the next 20 years. I mean, you just look at Colin Morikawa who gets a win on his first year on Tour and then in first major start, wins again… and he’s already won a second one this year, and did it with barely breaking sweat by the looks of it!

 

 What the technology may evolve into I’m not entirely too sure. I think you’ll see a huge uptake in that indoor golf space, and it will become a huge part of where the sport will eventually move towards. Trackman have been able to build a lot of tournaments recently. We have one that we ran over the last couple of years called the BMW Indoor Invitational, which is essentially a virtual combine which includes tour pros and elite amateurs on one global leaderboard. So that’s been really cool, like I said we run a couple of virtual golf tournament ourselves as and then a number of commercial facilities powered by Trackman are also running tournaments too. It’s a really cool thing to see and something I think that’ll get a lot bigger over the next five to ten years.

 

Interested in experiencing a lesson with the use of a Trackman? Check out our array of coaches on the Golfmate app, and book in now!

Or for further information about Trackman and its offerings please visit their website – https://www.trackman.com/. Alternatively, you can contact both Brook Salmon (QLD/NT/VIC/TAS/NZ) or Scott Jolly (NSW/ACT/SA/WA) via sales_aus_nz@trackman.com