Cosine of the Times: Arccos Golf Tees Up First Connected Club, New Sensors to Keep Golfers On Course

Consumer golf data pioneer Arccos Golf claims its sensors will improve duffers’ data about their games and in turn lower the most important statistic: their handicaps.

The startup takes its name from the inverse cosine function and has teamed up with Cobra Golf to introduce the first smart golf club. The first Cobra driver model embedded with an Arccos sensor in the grip hit store shelves in November, with additional drivers set for release in 2017.
Arccos has also teed up its second generation of add-on sensors that can be added to any brand of golf club.
The new Arccos 360 sensors are available at a wide variety of retailers and like the first generation, were selected to be sold at Apple Stores.
The apps for both the Cobra Connect and Arccos 360 are free downloads with data fees that kick in later to keep historical records and for continued use of the system.
The connected driver and the add-on sensors pair with the app.
Arccos co-founder/CEO Sal Syed recently discussed the company’s strategy and the cutting-edge system with Open Mobile Media’s Robert Gray.
 
OMM: It’s a pretty intuitive system, all powered by the sensors connecting with a smartphone and your app. How does it work and how might wearables change the platform eventually?
Syed:There are 14 sensors—they screw on to clubs in the hole at the end of the grip. There’s a one-time pairing process so we know which sensors are attached to each club. We have 40,000 courses mapped around the world, when you show up it’ll know which course you’re on.
You put the phone in your pocket and when you hit your tee shot, the impact triggers the sensor to send a message to your smartphone. It says, “I’m a driver and I was just hit.”
The way we figure out how far it went, we wait until your next shot and can figure out the distance. It’s literally where you take your next shot from.
It’s charting it with GPS on the app live. You can take practice swings.
We give you an auto mulligan if you take two swings from the same spot. If it was out of bounds, one tap you can fix it.
The phone has to be in your pocket, especially on the putting green, that’s how we determine how far the putt was. The reality is, people think it’s a hassle to keep phone in your pocket, but 98 percent of people play a round with phone in their pocket and it’s a non-issue.
Gen 1 and Gen 2 are integrated with Apple Watch, down the road we’ll integrate it so if you have Apple Watch 2 you won’t have to carry the phone anymore.
 
OMM: The first generation Arccos Golf System debuted in 2014, what modifications did you make for this one?
Syed: On the hardware side we wanted to make the sensors smaller and lighter; we made them 50 percent smaller.
They are smaller and lighter, Gen 1 you had to replace batteries after 40 rounds for the average user, but if they’re hitting the range hitting more often, if you’re playing and the battery died, it’s annoying. Now with the new sensors we guarantee a two-year battery life, although our internal tests show it will last longer.
With Gen 1 sensors there was a learning curve on how you should carry your clubs, you had to carry them upside down and if two clubs hit each other it registered an extra shot.
A lot of users have caddies and they generally carry several clubs and they can bang around. You’d have to go back and edit.
We’ve made the system a lot more accurate and eliminated the need to edit.
On the software side, there are more enhancements coming on how they’ll view data, strengths, and weaknesses.
 
OMM: While the battery life is guaranteed for the sensors, how can you help mobile phones from losing their battery charge?
Syed: There is the ability to play in airplane mode. People say they don’t want to be bothered with emails or calls when playing golf, we let you put it into airplane mode as long as Bluetooth is on. In airplane mode it uses minimal battery.
 
OMM: How did the embedded deal happen with Cobra?
Syed: Cobra is one of the most forward-looking companies. We had a confluence of visions on the future of golf—it’s going to be connected. That’s the direction the world’s going and we want to bring it to golf.
It’s the world’s first connected driver, I think it’s revolutionary and bold and creative for Cobra to go down this path with us in delivering connected tech to golfers. This is the tip of the iceberg.
It ranges from improvement to tracking data to gamification with the King of the Hole feature. We turned every par 4 or 5 into a long-drive contest. When you show up with an Arccos driver, it shows you how far you have to hit to be on the leaderboard or to be King of the Hole.
It makes golf more exciting for millennials and adds something new to everyone who plays golf. It’s not making golf more cumbersome, but makes it cooler.
 
OMM: How big of a data set do you have now to study?
Syed: We have 35 million shots recorded as of August. 35 million impacts and half a million rounds played on 35,000 different courses in the world.
We have a lot of avid users and excited about growth.
 
OMM: The app and web dashboard break down the stats into buckets, different areas of the game: driving, approach, chipping, sand game and putting so golfers can see their strengths and weaknesses.
Has your golf game improved since creating the platform?
Syed: I’m scratch now. My handicap is literally 0.0. Three years ago when I built the platform I was a seven. I play about the same, the number of rounds hasn’t changed very much. If you have data it’s hard to dispute it. I always thought my 8-iron went 160 yards, but it goes 152. It makes a huge difference when you know how far your club goes.
We looked at the USGA (U.S. Golf Association) database, the handicap system, their average user has improved by one shot. We did a sample study of 4,000 people. They averaged three-and-a-half shots of improvement once they played 10 rounds or more using Arccos. We see improvement happens. Every time you play golf you make decisions on data you have, but often it’s not good data. The more accurate the data is in your head, the better decision you make.
It’s a no brainer that data’s going to help golfers.