Tech nerd and golf addict Peter Travers has been playing golf on and off for more than 30 years, but with his handicap creeping up he needs to get his golf technique back on course, pronto. Armed with the latest and greatest breed of golfi ng gadgets, clothing and accessories, our man with the clubs sets off to see if tech really can help take his game to the next level.
I’ve always maintained that golf is the hardest sport in the world. Not like a gruelling 10-hour triathlon physical test, but for a physical and mental battle, when it’s just you and your gear against the elements (such as wildly varying surfaces and wind conditions), golf is the hardest.
It can be an incredibly frustrating game when it isn’t going your way, but it’s also one of the most rewarding when you manage to fire a perfect iron shot close to the flag. That’s what makes golf so addictive. but it also gets harder the lower your handicap. There’s less margin for error, and all it takes is one shot out of bounds to ruin your scorecard.
Of course I still love the game, but my handicap has crept up to 14 over the past few years so I need to stop it from getting higher. With help from T3, I’ve rounded up some of the latest high-tech golf gear to see if it can give my game a much-needed boost.
On the range
Practice makes perfect, so I hit the range with the Ojee Talon Mk 2 (opens in new tab) golf training device. Ojee says, ‘To swing like a pro, first you need to set up like one’. I feel like you need to be a pro just to understand the Talon Mk 2 – it’s a faff to set up. One how-to video later on YouTube, though, and it all makes sense. With the device plugged into the butt of my 7 iron, the Ojee informs me (in real time) of my spine and club shaft angle at address, and the difference between the two. The Talon Mk 2 calls this the ‘Ojee angle’ and believes this angle should remain the same for each club, regardless of their different lengths.
The Talon Mk 2 ensures my setup is consistent for each club in the bag. I work through all of my clubs and hit more than 100 balls, but practice on the range is hot work. Thankfully I’m wearing an Adidas Adicross No-Show Polo Shirt (opens in new tab) that does a good job of wicking away any moisture from my body.
I’ve arranged to play a mate for 18 holes this afternoon and have the Smart Scope V2 GPS golf watch (opens in new tab) to give me very accurate yardages to the greens, making me feel confi dent that I’m using the right club each time. Unlike other golf GPS watches that show courses when you arrive on the first tee, you need to download the Smart Scope app to your smartphone or desktop and download/sync courses to the watch. The V2 GPS is quite a brick on my wrist, but I can also attach it to my golf bag so that it doesn’t impede swing.
Not any old iron
If I’m honest, I’m not good enough, on an average day, to be hitting the current clubs I have. They’re fine when I’m on form and striking it well, and my low-handicapper clubs mean I can control and ‘shape’ the ball from right to left (draw), or left to right (fade), to hit the ball around dogleg fairways or around trees to greens. Due to a general busy lifestyle I don’t play golf every week. Nowadays it’s every month and my form has become sporadic, so I need gear that’s more forgiving every time I play.
This is what makes the TaylorMade M3 irons (opens in new tab) so attractive. They’re still aimed at the serious golfer, but offer more distance, forgiveness and control. There’s lots of metal and meat in the clubhead and they’re noticeably heavier than my current clubs. The clever RibCOR, Face Slots and Speed Pocket tech combine to get the ball up in the air regardless of how pure your strike may be.
The face is incredibly reactive and the ball nearly explodes into the sky when I hit it in the sweet spot (the centre of the face). I notice the launch angle of my shots is near-perfect, and that more shots are straighter.
My driving can be my weakness, so I’m hoping TaylorMade’s new M3 Driver (opens in new tab) will get me back on track. It’s TaylorMade’s most technologically advanced driver, featuring a five-layer carbon composite crown and new Y-Track and Hammerhead Slot; the Y-Track has moveable weights, so I can customise the driver to hit the ball higher/lower, and counteract fades/ draws, while the Hammerhead increases the sweet spot to improve strike rates.
Weapon of choice
The M3’s secret weapon is something called Twist Face tech. TaylorMade’s extensive research (its boffins studied data from more than half a million shots) proved that most mishits were high-toe and and low-heel shots. Twist Face combats this classic mishit and, with clever angles and ball spin, brings the shots back on line. Does it actually work? You bet your ass it does! I’m straighter than ever off the tee and hitting fairways more than the trees in my first outing with the M3. I also drive it over 300 yards downwind on the big par five, which is a satisfying 40 yards past my partner.
Golf’s a game of inches and any movement during your swing can spell disaster. A strong base is key and this starts with solid footing. I’m trying out Under Armour’s Spieth 2 golf shoes (opens in new tab), which have a mixture of ‘spikes’ for extra grip, and don’t slip during my swing. No wonder Jordan Spieth, the number three golfer in the world, is such a solid ball striker. The surer footing gives me extra confidence.
New balls, please
Golfers use any piece of kit that gives them an advantage, and the Oakley Crossrange Prizm (opens in new tab) glasses are a prime example. The Prizm’s tech produces a high-contrast view that helps the shorter grass stand out from its surroundings. Even if I do look a bit Joe 90 when wearing them, they’re light and comfortable. The optics also reduce glare when I’m on the greens, so I’m able to see putting lines easier.
I narrowly lose this match but shoot level with my 14 handicap and, thanks to all this new tech I can already feel my game coming back.
Two weeks later and I’m in the middle of a competitive two-ball match against a strong eight-handicapper. I’m hoping the new TaylorMade TP5x balls (opens in new tab) – five layers with a tri-fast core and dual spin cover – will shift my game up a gear. My first three drives with the M3 driver and TP5x balls produce a beautiful, penetrating ball flight. Irons shots are straighter and I’m hitting more greens.
This is a great match for me, with back-to-back birdies on the 4th and 5th, and several pars, then down the stretch we duel it out. After the 17th, we’re level and I’m feeling confident that my tech will see me through. After a booming drive and crisp iron shot, I have a 12-foot putt for the win. I’ve shot 78, and a full seven shots below my handicap, and the gear here was a huge part of getting me there.
The Six Pieces of Gear We Used On The Golf Course
Shot Scope V2 - This hybrid GPS golf watch will give you incredibly accurate yardages on the course to reduce your scores, with fully automated performance tracking so that you can analyse your shots and stats post round, helping to improve your game further.
TaylorMade M3 Driver - The innovative driver has a Twist Face to reduce side spin, enabling you to hit the ball farther and straighter. A Hammerhead slot creates a larger sweet spot, and the Y-track has customisable weights.
TaylorMade M3 Irons - Aimed at the better player looking for more distance. For the stunning M3 Irons TaylorMade has crammed in key performance technologies such as RibCOR, Face Slots Speed Pocket and a low-CG (centre of gravity) package.
Oakley Cross range Prizm - Developed especially for golfers, these High Definition Optics use Prizm lens technology to improve contrast for better separation between fairways and greens. Plus, they reduce annoying glare from the sun.
Under Armour Spieth 2 - Unbeatable traction and grip even on damp or muddy fairways thanks to Rotational Resistance spikes, these Gore-Tex golf shoes were built with insight from Jordan Spieth. Clarino microfiber leather brings comfort.
Ojee Talon Mk2 - An alignment device that gives you live stats so that you can see if your spine and club shaft angles, and ‘Ojee angle’, are correct when attached to the butt of your clubs. One for the range more than on the course.