Until now golf GPS devices have been able to tell you where you should go on a course, but now with Game Golf they can also tell you where you have been and how you got there.
Game Golf uses GPS to track all the shots you take on the course by using sensor tags that are screwed into the butt on each of your club grips. There are 18 tags, so plenty for all your clubs and a few spares if you lose one or rotate different clubs in and out of your bag.
Fitting the tags is very easy and does not damage the grips as they screw into the hole in the end that is already there. They are light and very robust as I found out when I inadvertently banged one during a high velocity club return into the bag and it survived. Maybe controlling your temper is another benefit of Game Golf?
These communicate with the Game Golf Digital Tracking Device (DTD) that clips on to your belt. It is around 6cm square and 3 cm deep and is light at around 57grams so you hardly notice it is there. The waistline is the best place for the DTD and I found that on the outside of your leading hip was the best place as it was not on the swing path and was therefore less likely to get knocked off.
To record a shot, all you have to do is tap the tag of the club you are using against the DTD before each shot and it records your position on the course.
You get a little vibration and beep sound to tell you the shot has been recorded. It even works through a layer of clothing, so if you have a jacket or sweater on then you don't have to keep on lifting it to tap the device.
The DTD can store up to 10 rounds and uses the supplied mini-USB cable to connect to a PC to upload the scores to the internet and also for recharging. I did not try a 'fuel light bingo' test to the battery life of the Game Golf unit, but it should do a couple of rounds at least.
The value in the Game Golf system comes from the analysis of all the information you collect and this is done through an online account on the Game Golf website. This does mean plugging in the DTD to upload data after each round, so you need to have access to a proper computer rather than a tablet or a smartphone.
You will need to create the account before you first use the DTD as you need to configure your golf bag and match the various tags to the clubs in your bag. The tags are already numbered with the main club numbers and there are 4 extra tags with generic shapes on them to assign to extra hybrids or replace any you might lose.
Configuring the tags is easy to do and you can also apply the exact brand and model of the club to the tags so that it shows in your reports if you want to.
There is an app for iOS and Android devices to view the data you have already uploaded, but I was a little surprised that there was not an option for a Bluetooth data transfer using the app. This would really liberate Game Golf to roam wherever you are, such as when you are on a multi-round golf trip.
Your round data is then overlaid on satellite photographs of the course you have played and you can review this information. If you miss or add an extra shot by mistake during the round then this can be edited by selecting the club and the location. Then you 'sign' for the round which locks it so you cannot make any other changes, so be careful.
Like most GPS devices, there is a margin for error on accuracy and you will see this when the data is on the maps as sometimes it shows a fairway hit when it has been missed and vice versa. However, it is easy to correct this by dragging and dropping the shot to the correct place.
It does mean that in anything but the general sense the distances quoted are really more of a guide than gospel, especially as you can't make allowances for slope, temperature or wind, which will all affect the results and mess up your averages.
On the greens, the data assumes a flag position and with most holes I had to drag it to the place where I remembered it was, hence why if you are on a golf trip it could be a real memory test to review several rounds. Most of the golf trips I go on it is hard enough to remember the night before, never mind where 18 flags were during yesterday's round.
Therefore the putting stats beyond putts taken per hole are a bit meaningless as the distances will probably be less accurate as there is no way to mark the position of the flag using the device. The green was where the tapping became a little bit of a hassle. If you were being conceded putts, you still had to go to the edge of the hole and tap to record the conceded shot. This drew a few odd stares from my partners and nearly resulted in not being conceded anything as I was "going to the hole anyway".
Like most of the GPS and Bluetooth sensors that track your shots and swings, the key to its success is not in the data collection function, but in the ability of the software to analyse and add insights. This the Game Golf software in your online account does very well.
The navigation is clear and intuitive and whilst I think the distances information is a bit suspect, the key value was looking at tee shots to see which side of the fairway you hit and more importantly missed. When I missed the fairway Game Golf showed it was usually to the right and this type of information on trends is where I feel Game Golf delivers the best value. With this information you can check hole strategy or swing faults and then work on them, measure over time and see if you can improve.
With your approach shots you can also see your success rate for different clubs, which is valuable too. Once you have got the flags as close to wherever you remember them being, then the approach shot screen shows you how long or, more likely, short of the flag you are and that means you need to work on your club selection.
I have used a few stats tracking services over the years and it was easy to track fairways and greens hit, putts and scrambles, but not much else without using bits of paper and that was too much effort. Game Golf solves this issue by taking recording of where you missed it to the next level in a way that is very simple and easy to do. I just remembered to tap the DTD with the club before I started my pre-shot routine or when I was marking the ball on the green and then it did not interfere with my normal game.
Uploading the data to the PC to then analyse it was a bit of a chore, not because of the Game Golf transfer system which was very slick, but because I had to use a PC to do it. Then there was the signing off of each round to ensure all the data was correct and the whole process takes 10 minutes or so. I guess this is not dissimilar to the time I spent recording stats before, but like all tracking, it does require a certain level of commitment.
Like all stats analysis you do need a good number of rounds in the system, so you will need to commit to using Game Golf to get the most from it. You do need at least 5 rounds to start to see certain trends in how you play the game and where your misses finish.
The scrambling stats are useful, but if you use a 7-iron to pitch and run a chip then it will distort your seven iron stats for distance and approaches as the filters on the approach analysis are either by club or distance rather than both.
Depending on your point of view, Game Golf could be viewed as pricey or save you a lot of money in making your practice more productive. Most online stat tracking services are about a tenth of the Game Golf price per annum, but you have to keep subscribing and the level of detail on the direction of misses is usually less. Game Golf is just a one-off purchase cost for the DTD and tags and then all the online account facilities are free, so it will be up to you whether the ease of data collection and level of information is worth the extra investment.
Game Golf seems to have some good backers behind the company and if you can view this as a stage one product, then I am sure the software will be improved over time to enable better analysis of the data. The Game Golf device does collect information very well within the limitations of GPS accuracy for the size of the device and the relative accuracy of satellite course photography.
If you can bear all this in mind and use the Game Golf as an advisory tool to track general trends rather than a gospel to follow to the letter, then I think it has a lot going for it. You can compare your stats to their Tour Pro's like Graeme McDowell and share details of your great rounds with your mates on social networks.
Because let's face it, beating your mates and making sure they know about it is an integral part of the game.