Updated: Sep 14, 2020
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In previous articles such as Increasing the Likelihood of Reaching Your Golf Goals, you have already come across the idea that keeping statistics in your golf game is of utmost importance if you’re wanting to improve. After all, if you are the CEO of your golf game (and brand), how can you make wise decisions without data?
In fact, I would go as far as saying this: If you are a mini tour player or Korn Ferry Tour player, you cannot afford to not keep statistics.
Think of it this way: PGA TOUR and European Tour players are just one click away from accessing in-depth, strokes gained data regarding the state and trends of their golf games. These already elite players also have the advantage of zero financial restraints, access to the best training facilities in the world, perfectly tailored equipment and the best coaches. How can a lower level professional (or any college player) justify not keeping statistics?
* $179 USD for Arccos Golf's 3rd Generation Smart Caddie sensors with a yearly subscription of $99.99 USD after year 1 and $199 USD for DECADE the first 6 months and then $19.95 USD a month after that).
For the purpose of this review, I will be looking at Arccos Golf’s Smart Caddie sensors which I used for 3-4 months last fall as I prepared for PGA TOUR Latin America Q-School.
One note, because I never was very interested in using the Caddie feature of the app (besides paying attention to my Smart Distances and the GPS distances to the flag when I was playing), this review will not discuss the Caddie feature powered by Artificial Intelligence. To learn more about that feature, click here. However, if you are here to learn about the data this system can provide you, keep reading.
How Does the Arccos Smart Caddie System Work?
If you are a golf nerd like myself, you know all about ShotLink. Volunteers each week on the PGA TOUR use technology to plot every one of every players’ shots. These shots are all mapped onto a course map so that the viewer can follow shot by shot via the PGA TOUR mobile application on your phone. More importantly, this data is also used to calculate every shot’s relative value using a type of statistical approach known as “Strokes Gained,” pioneered by Mark Broadie.
Arccos Smart Caddie works in a similar way; but instead of using volunteers to track each player’s shots, this platform utilizes its technology inside the sensors, your smartphone’s microphone and GPS. It's pretty ingenious actually.
Here is what you have to do to properly use the system:
There are fourteen separate sensors that you screw into the hole at the end of each grip. The sensor is less than half an inch thick, and (once paired) informs the application on your phone when a ball was struck and with what club. What is amazing is how it can usually differentiate a real swing from a practice swing. When the application realizes a shot was struck, it plots a point via GPS on a course map and then (much like ShotLink) uses this as a way to collect data.
At the end of the round, you quickly go through the round hole by hole, change the pin locations (you can optionally do this during the round) and correct any mistakes that might have been made. I LOVE this method of data collection since it doesn’t require you to write down every single shot that you hit on a scorecard or pinsheet-- something that can weigh/slow you down when you first start keeping statistics. If you purchase Arccos, I would advise at least keeping track of your short game shots during your round, however, and here is why:
Because Arccos is using GPS to map your shots, this method is not perfect. It seems this method is accurate enough for wedges, irons and tee balls since the GPS is generally within a few yards of your actual location when you strike a shot. Over time I believe these few yard discrepancies balance out. However, with short game you usually need to adjust chips and putts since a 10ft putt might be marked as a 20ft or 30ft putt which is a big discrepancy in putting statistics. Still, I'm sure Arccos is looking to continue to improve its accuracy in this feature.
If you don't like the idea of the sensors attaching to the end of your clubs, then you are in luck since they also offer Smart Grips, available in golf pride's half cord and two Lamkin models (regular and mid-size options in all three styles).
The sensors are admittedly a bit annoying for players like myself who have a habit of gripping to the very end of the grip. Currently, Cobra offers many of their clubs with what they have branded CobraConnect on some of their golf club models. These are simply Cobra clubs that come with an Arccos Smart Grip already on it.
The Smart Grips go for $249.99 USD, whereas the basic Arccos Smart Caddie sensors alone cost 179.99 (not including the subscription renewal fee after a year). The downside of the grips is that they will wear out eventually and you’ll need to replace them. However, I read in the Q&A’s on Amazon that replacement grips can be purchased for only $10.00 through Arccos (a very reasonable price for any grip).
If I could do it over again, I would purchase the grips instead of the sensors. However, keep reading because I do not believe their current platform is necessarily the best option for the Scratch+ player.
First Impressions of my Smart Caddie Sensor
I was absolutely stoked when I got the package. Everything about its packaging was professional and of high quality. It felt like I was unwrapping a pair of new Dre Beats headphones.
After I read the instructions, I took the 14 lime-green and black sensors and began to screw them one-by-one into the end of each club’s grip. After each new sensor was placed, I paired it using the Arccos App so that it knew which sensor was on which club.
All in all it took 15 minutes, and I couldn’t wait to play my next round of golf to try them out.
One of my sensors did not work. It was not a big deal, however. I simply left my least used club in my bag unpaired and called Customer Service. They sent me a free replacement sensor without any questions at all. Great customer service.
What Data Does This Platform Provide its Users?
Categorical Handicaps (aka, the “Handicap” of each part of your game).
This is the core of Arccos's data delivery system. Here is how they describe this feature on their website:
“Your Overall Handicap reflects your performance across your Tour Analytics handicaps (Approach Handicap, Chipping, Sand, Putting). Tour Analytics is rooted in the strokes gained methodology now in use on the PGA tour. In a nutshell, it analyzes every shot you take and determines whether you got more or less out of that shot than you should have. At the end of the round Arccos aggregates all of the data and then benchmarks your overall performance against how players of various skill levels typically perform and generates a relative handicap level for each skill facet.”
Did I like this feature?
Well... Yes and No.
While I love how it gave me the big picture of my golf game, I wished Arccos would let me more easily access the raw Strokes Gained data from certain distance buckets and categories of the game. I feel Arccos strives for a user-friendly way of displaying Macro-Trends in your game; however, I found this actually frustrating.
Give me my strokes gained or scoring average from 100-125 yards, not a generic Approach Handicap.
Or give me both.
Fairways Hit, Greens in Regulation and Dispersion Patterns.
When you log into your Arccos Dashboard, you have the option of selecting the Overall Performance tab. When you do, you will be taken to a screen like this:
As you can see, it gives me a lot of good data. Driving Accuracy & Dispersion (Left, Right and Center), Smart Distance for your Driving (I'll explain Smart Distance next), Greens in Regulation & Dispersion (Left, Right, Long and Short for your missed greens). Additionally, it breaks down your scoring average for Par 3's, Par 4's and Par 5's and gives a percentage for certain scoring characteristics such as Double Bogeys and worse (a very important statistic).
Did I like this feature?
Yes, Yes, Yes. This to me was very valuable. And guess what? I hit a lot of approach shots short and missed a lot of drives left. Good data for finding easy ways to improve fast.
Smart Distances for Each Club
Arccos is able to remove anomalies from your shot data and find the true averages for a decently struck shot. You have to do absolutely nothing to get this statistic other than play golf. I believe it uses AI (Artificial Intelligence) to help calculate this. Here is what you will see when you look at this in your Dashboard.
Did I like this feature?
YES. What was really cool to see is how close these numbers were to my TrackMan data.
Yardage Bucket Dispersion Data on Approaches
Wanting to find data that you can compare to the PGA TOUR for specific yardage buckets (e.g. 150-199 yards)? You are out of luck here, unfortunately.
Here is what you see when you go to Arccos' Approach Range selection tool:
All this tool gives you is your dispersion pattern. There are no proximity averages, strokes gained, or stroke average in these buckets!
In other words, it is missing all the good stuff! For instance, take a look at this grab from the PGA TOUR's website.
This is the type of data Scratch+ players need to be seeing since they are wanting to compare themselves to the best in the game to see where they fall short.
Did I like this feature?
While it was better than nothing, I was frustrated by their lack of summarization of the data. To find your dispersion patterns, you have to manually change the yardage so that only your desired bucket is on display.
They certainly have the capability to summarize strokes gained and dispersion data like the PGA TOUR does; however, I believe they are so focused on having a user-friendly platform for every golfer that is misses a lot of valuable data for a large part of their user-base.
The Putting Data that Arccos features is one of its better features. Besides giving you a Putting Handicap, it also gives you your make-percentage from the following ranges.
a. Inside 2ft
b. 2ft to 10ft
c. 10ft to 20ft
d. 20ft to 30ft
e. Outside 30ft.
Here is a screen grab of how this data is displayed on the Arccos Dashboard:
Other statistics available include:
a. 1-putt, 2-putt, 3-putt percentages
b. Putts per Hole
c. Putts per GIR
d. Total putts
e. Strokes Gained (presented in a line graph method to be discussed later)
Chipping and Bunker Play (Sand) Data
In Arccos, these are two separate categories (which is a very nice touch). In addition to the Bunkers Handicap and Chipping Handicap stat, there are a couple other statistics in both categories that give the user valuable information about the state of their short game. These include:
a. Up&Down Percentage
b. Average chipping leave (proximity)
c. Sand Save Percentage
d. Average sand leave (proximity)
e. Strokes Gained Bunkers (presented in a line graph method to be discussed later)
f. Strokes Gained Chips