Video: Sports tech at the Boston Golf Expo

Crunchgear-GolfTEC891-101-665 I spent an afternoon at the Boston Golf Expo this weekend and found a few interesting technology-enhanced products and services for your perusal. Please enjoy with my compliments.


The P3ProSwing (starts at $599) is a cool in-home golf simulator in that it bridges the gap between less expensive and less realistic experiences like the $249 Nintendo Wii and ball-on-a-stick offerings like the $199 Golf Launchpad (which is still pretty cool – I have one) and expensive virtual screens that can cost thousands.

Instead, the P3ProSwing uses a tee pad with 65 built-in optical sensors that capture your club’s position before, during, and after it impacts the ball. So you can use your own clubs and hit real golf balls just as you would in real life. You can even use the product on a driving range if you like. While the demo had people hitting into a screen, you can simply hit into a practice net and check out your ball flight on your computer screen.

Best of all, it’s also compatible with Tiger Woods on the PC so you can play the game with your real clubs. Granted, you can do that with the Launchpad and the Wii but, again, this way has you hitting real golf balls with your real clubs.


Callaway uPro GPS:

Callaway was demoing a small cell phone-sized GPS unit called the uPro. At $399, it seemed a bit expensive but there are no subscription fees and basic versions consisting of overhead imagery, hazards, and greens of just about any golf course are available for free.

Pro versions are available for $10 each and feature video flyovers of each hole (see video above), point-to-point distances, and something called SmartView which consists of “three different views [that] allow the user to plan out the perfect shot.” The very-impressive video flyovers are generated using GPS photo imagery.

Alas, I have a feeling the uPro may soon face stiff competition from software-based solutions on devices like the iPhone/iPod Touch and the G1. For now, though, the uPro is a pretty handy device if you play a lot of golf and have $399 burning a hole in your pocket.


GolfTEC Motion Sensor Swing Analysis:

GolfTEC makes up a nationwide system of tech-infused instructional centers. I strapped some motion sensors around my waist, shoulders, and back to gauge my swing speed, rotation, and impact patterns and was filmed from various angles in order to analyze my posture and swing plane. I’m about 6’ 4” so the instructor compared my swing to Ernie Els, who’s also tall.

It turns out that with middle irons (I did this exercise with a six iron), I’ve been slouched over too much. I took a half-step backward, straightened out my spine, and bent my knees a bit more and immediately felt a huge difference. I picked up a bit of extra rotation in my swing and felt myself hitting the ball much, much cleaner. Now to flatten out my swing plane a bit more.

GolfTEC offers lessons, club fitting, conditioning, and private coaching sessions all over the country. You can find GolfTEC centers inside Golfsmith stores if you have one nearby.


Orange Whip Trainer:

As with technology products, sometimes simpler is better when it comes to swing training aids. I happened upon something called the Orange Whip, which is a straightforward club made of a flexible shaft and weighted ball where the clubhead would normally be. You start by slowly swinging the Orange Whip back and forth in small swipes and then gradually increase the back and forth motion until you’re engaged in full swings.

I found it hard to not swing on a level plane and the club provided for some quick muscle memory. You can apparently use the Orange Whip as a core muscle workout as well. The way the club is weighted makes it hard to swing too fast, too slow, or off plane.

I have a Medicus driver, which is sort of the same idea as the Orange Whip, although the Orange Whip is a lot more simple, especially if you’ve already got an okay golf swing.

There are three versions of the club, the standard $109 Trainer, the $99 Golden for beginning golfers or golfers under 5’ 6” tall, and the $99 Hickory for junior golfers or for wedge practice. The rep said to use promo code bobc to get $10 off any of the clubs if you’re interested.


The Anchor Training Aid and The PostureTek Shirt:

The last stop I made at the Golf Expo was by the Perseus Athletics booth. I’d passed it a couple times and thought at first that they were just showing a standard knee brace. The Orange Whip rep suggested I swing by, though, saying I might find some good tech there.

The knee brace actually turned out to be something called the Anchor. Developed by Dr. Brian McKeon, orthopedic surgeon and team doctor for the Boston Celtics, the Anchor fits over your back-most knee and locks it in place using a special hinge. This, in turn, stabilizes the back knee “flexion angle” throughout your swing, promising proper backswing plane and more clubhead velocity. It’s suitable for use as an on-course training aid, but it’s not legal for tournament use. The hinged design allows it to lock in place for any type of shot – driving, long irons, short irons, chipping, or putting. See the above video for more information.

Dr. McKeon also developed the PostureTek shirt, a normal-looking athletic shirt that has filaments running along the shoulder blades and something called the Perseus Puck that sits in a hidden pocket underneath the armpit. When your shoulders slouch, the puck vibrates until you straighten back up. One of the reps said that the first two weeks with the shirt are a little rough, but after a while your body trains itself to keep the spine straight and the shoulders back all the time. There’s more information about the shirt in the above video as well.

The Anchor costs $149 and the PostureTek shirt costs $129. They gave me one of each to review, so I’ll try out the shirt for a while and see if it helps with the near-debilitating “Blogger Back” that’s sweeping the nation. I’ll take a look at the Anchor once I get out to a golf course.