Arccos brings the caddie back to golf

Golfer and caddy walking towards a ball on a par 4 fairway. (RTimages)

“Without the cloud, none of this is possible. The cloud is enabling us to bring the tradition of a caddie back to the game of golf,” says Sal Syed, CEO and co-founder of Arccos Golf, whose performance tracking system, Arccos 360, won the 2017 Golf Digest Editor’s Choice Award for “Best Game Analyzer”.

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Arccos 360 is golf’s first and only fully-automatic performance tracking system, bringing advanced analytics to the average golfer. While the PGA tracks the shots of their golfers manually to provide such analysis, Arccos does it automatically using nearly weightless sensors that get inserted into the grip of each club.

After a one-time pairing process between the sensors and their free iOS and Android app, the system drops GPS pins and records the location of every shot taken—while programmed to ignore practice swings—and provides hard data of how far a golfer hits each shot.

"To do proper analysis of golf you really need to know the starting and ending location of each shot and that’s what we are able to do. It’s a really hard problem to solve and that’s why no one else has been able to do it automatically. Microsoft partnered with us because we are the only ones [who can]."

- Sal Syed, CEO and co-founder of Arccos Golf

“To do proper analysis of golf you really need to know the starting and ending location of each shot and that’s what we are able to do,” says Syed. “It’s a really hard problem to solve and that’s why no one else has been able to do it automatically. Microsoft partnered with us because we are the only ones [who can].”

A cognitive bias we have as humans causes us to overestimate our ability, making golfers think they hit the ball farther than they actually do, which results in misinformed decisions.  Syed warns that the hard data can be jarring at first and hurt the ego, but will eventually result in better decision-making, better scores, and more fun on the course.

In addition to providing shot distances, Arccos breaks down each player’s handicap into five key components—driving, approach shots, chipping, sand game, and putting—by assigning a handicap to each part of the game, informing a golfer which areas need the most work.

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Unlike other sports that involve an immediate or reactive decision, a golfer must make a calculated and conscious decision before each shot. It’s that line of thinking that makes Arccos Caddie, a feature that becomes unlocked after playing five rounds with the Arccos 360 system, a game-changer. This app helps golfers decide what club to use on any hole at over 40,000 courses in the world by tapping into the 60+ million shots taken by Arccos users and factoring in current weather conditions.

Syed said the goal was to create the world’s smartest caddie; helping golfers make data-driven decisions instead of emotional ones. Caddies have traditionally played the role of providing an objective opinion and possessing knowledge of the course, but in today’s game, 97% of golfers don’t use, or have access to, a caddie.

Arccos Caddie uses the cloud in conjunction with artificial intelligence—integrated by Microsoft Cloud and the Microsoft Azure platform—to access machine learning algorithms and over a billion data points to make all of this possible. Oh, and the app does it in 3 seconds, 15 times faster than the 45 seconds the USGA recommends a golfer take before each shot.  

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Without the cloud, Arccos wouldn’t be able to record, let alone store, data or run the algorithms needed to provide recommendations. Syed explains, “[The cloud] helps us take all the data literally from the grass on the golf course when you make impact, throw it straight into the cloud, do all the analysis that’s needed, and bring back a recommendation.”

Every feature now and in the future will be created with the cloud in mind.  

“Honestly, I never thought [about] the question ‘What would we do without the cloud?’ because we’ve taken that for granted,” says Syed. “Arccos wouldn’t exist.”

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