Golf is deeply rooted in its fundamental traditions and the legacy of its beginning. But throughout the generations, golf has had some pretty awesome innovations to make the experience more fun and exciting. In the changing tides of technology, there will inevitably be more evolution to the game but I wanted to pull together a list of how the game has changed over the years. Here’s my list of 10 incredible innovations in golf – what are your favorite innovations and how do you see technology changing the way we play? Write your comments below or better yet, tweet us @18BirdiesApp to join in the conversation of how to #ReimagineGolf
A necessary question if you’re a golfer. By far the biggest impact technology has had on golf is with the development of the golf ball. The advancements in technology – combined with the evolution of golf clubs – has led to an explosion in distance. The first golf balls, used between the 14th and 17th century, were believed to be made from wood. Soon, they evolved into sewn pouches of leather filled with goose feathers and were painted white. Today, they are molded and mass produced with different synthetic materials such as urethanes, rubbers and ionomers. These days physics dictates design: spin, velocity, and compression are all taken into consideration. It’s no secret that today’s golf balls simply fly further than any other point in history.
As balls improved so did clubs. Up until the 19th century clubs were made from wood. Hickory was primarily used for shafts and Persimmon for the club head because of its strength and hardness. Around the 1850s, along with the transformation of wooden balls to leather, technology began to develop around iron headed clubs. Nearly four decades after that the steel shaft started to appear. It wasn’t until the 70’s that technology like graphite was introduced for its strength and lightweight. Now, there are all sorts of materials like carbon fiber, titanium and other metal alloys.
At some point, someone figured a tool to help gauge distance to pin between strokes would allow for smarter game management. Before GPS, there were rangefinders. First invented in the 1890s, rangefinders were primarily used for surveying in engineering. With the invention of laser rangefinders in the 1960s, new applications became possible within recreational activities such as golf, hunting and shooting at gun ranges. GPS’s had been used since the 1970s for military purposes but it wasn’t until 2004 that Qualcomm, a global telecommunications company, announced successful tests of GPS use for mobile. With the development of mobile technology and the advancement of personal devices, such as the iPhone, coupled with software advancements and applications, like 18Birdies, precision GPS is more accessible than ever to golfers who want help navigating.
Players used to walk for miles to complete a round of golf. But innovation has its own way of making the sport less strenuous for the not-so-energetic. Better yet, more fun for the adventurous. Starting from the 1930s and leading up until the 1950s, motorized vehicles on the course were primarily reserved for the disabled. It wasn’t until the 1950s that golf carts were widely accepted forms of transport on the course. Nowadays, rolling around on the course is commonplace.
Inspired by the surf/skate nation – The Golf Board made its way to market with an extremely successful launch at the PGA Merchandise Show in 2014 when they won Best New Product. Similarly, the Golf Skate Caddy (seen above) was introduced to the US in about 2012 and both of these innovations bring a cool factor to the game. Not only are they amazingly fun, they allow for golfers to express themselves in a way that is entirely new to the golf experience. There’s no saying when they will be a main staple on courses but for now the are on the bleeding edge of golf fashion and technology. Some of golf’s top figures like Rory Mcilroy, Rickie Folwer and Jordan Spieth were caught riding at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championships.
The weary golfer doesn’t have to go too far these days since indoor driving ranges and simulators have made the sport more accessible than ever. With the invention golf simulator mats, systems for radars, optical sensors, and cameras, players are able to forego the course experience and practice their swing all year round. With simulators today, courses are uploaded into the system and projected on screens. Factors like wind and velocity are taken into consideration to give the most real life, off course experience.
As if driving ranges and simulators weren’t enough, Topgolf helped make golf more desirable and accessible but facilitating a more social atmosphere. The thought to change the off course driving range into a full-on game experience came along in 2000 when Topgolf developed a social sphere around the bay style golfing range. Topgolf has innovated the experience by bringing food, drinks, music and even light sensors, to the golfing experience and basically creating a dance party at the driving range. If you’ve never been to a Topgolf, they’re rapidly opening up all over the US and could be coming you a place near you.
The selfie isn’t the only thing a camera is good for! Camera and video technology has made it possible for coaches and players to get extremely technical when analyzing form- they are still a great way for athletes to improve. Now, with high def cameras, slow motion capabilities and features like high frames per second, it’s so easy to slow down a swing, critique every angle, and opt for adjustments to technique. Aside from that, video technology has long allowed golf professionals the capabilities to create tutorial videos and technique guides to help other golfers improve their game. With the help of the internet those videos have been powerful ways to share tips for horrible golfers (like myself).
This may be obvious because the internet has changed
online dating EVERY aspect of life in the recent decades. But the internet has innovated the golf experience mostly by facilitating ways for golfers to come together. Players can easily find hubs to talk about golf as well as buy and sell equipment online. Because of that, players also had/have access to online lessons, they can research courses around the world, book tee times, travel more easily to destination courses and and can view courses before playing them. The internet has also helped world organizations such as the PGA of America help grow the game of golf and has facilitated an exhaustive list of platforms to support campaigns. Which leads me to the next…
Social media has made interactions and personal relationships ostensibly closer. The modern day apparatus of social media has allowed people to connect more easily and amplify thoughts, themes, memes, and ideas on an exponential level. Social media has become a new organizing principle that allows all communities, including golf communities, to develop deeper, more personalized relationships. This is one aspect of technology that we (over at 18Birdies) believe in and have truly embraced. We hope to utilize these networking systems to bring golfers closer together based on a shared passion and love for the game of golf.