By Kelvin Bras & Himanshu Jana
February 24, 2022. Tiger Woods lines up behind the ball. Swings back, swings forth and the sound of a perfectly hit ball echoes across the fairway. His ball sails high with a slight curve and drops three feet from the hole. It’s the 2019 Masters final and it marks the return of the golfing legend. Without Trackman’s technology, Woods’ return to the top might not have been possible.
Trackman is a technology developed by two former Danish golf-pros and a Danish radar engineer. The concept behind Trackman is simple. It’s an indoor golf course that uses a powerful computer to analyze swing data. With its indoor setting instructors create an ideal scenario to help golfers improve their swing. After all, the most important thing in golf is the swing.
‘’With all the data that is analyzed you get a lot more feedback and because of that the learning process goes better.’’ Ian Goor, owner of Indoorgolfacademy in Barendrecht, tells 9to5.
Trackman systems use military-grade computing designed in the shape of a little orange square. Its high-end camera uses missile tracking technology to analyze the trajectory and impact of golf balls.
The technology has existed since 2003, but its integration into the world of casual golf has been slow. Although the top 800 ranked professional golfers are already relying on it, the high cost of investments makes business owners hesitant to fully commit to it.
Accompanying this came an older generation reluctant to use the technology. But with a new generation of golfers embracing the tech, plenty of golf instructors are slowly transitioning to Trackman studios.
At the time of writing this article, a hundred and twenty-two Trackman studios are spread out across Europe. Most of these studios are located in Germany and the UK, with smaller numbers in neighbouring nations.
The Trackman lets you play on almost all of the golf courses in the world, as well as using a driving range with a numbered interface. The system lets you practice in set conditions that mimic the real-life location.
Golf entrepreneur Goor thinks the technology is slowly starting to change the sport’s landscape in the Netherlands. ‘’As a Dutch person, you’re stuck in the office from 9 to 5 all day. And during winter you can’t play for five months. With Trackman you can come after work. And that’s why it is such a good thing.’’ Goor says to 9to5.
Apart from offering golfers more comfortable settings regardless of the climate, another advantage of the system is the low user cost. 9 holes of golf on a Trackman cost around 15 euros; while a green fee on a regulated golf course can cost anywhere between 30 euros to several hundred euros.
In an 84.1 billion dollar industry, there seems to be plenty of money going around. But most of that amount is used for wages, ground maintenance, and prize money. An averagely-paid golf instructor would not have the resources to invest in a Trackman studio, which explains the small amount of devices around the world.
To understand a Trackman you either need to be a professional or a golf teacher. Understanding the data is practically impossible otherwise. ‘’It could be detrimental if you interpret the data wrong. That’s why a specialist looking over your shoulder is needed.’’ Goor says.
One of the main reasons why Trackman isn’t available for the everyday golfer is its relatively high cost of investment. A good teaching setup costs around 50.000 USD and lower-end private systems range from 17.000 USD upwards. Investing in a Trackman is simply too expensive and too much of a risk for the average entrepreneur.
Still, the benefits to golfers seem to be undeniable. ‘’If you look at Lars (van der Vight) and Charlotte (Heeres) they both were champions. And because of this, they are now going to the USA.’’ Goor says. Van der Vight and Heeres both make use of Trackman systems to better their game.
Through using Trackman the player gains a better understanding of what is happening when he approaches the ball. With the use of Trackman, the players can visualize their trajectory.
The recent increase in the number of studios around the world is partially thanks to professional players promoting the technology, making the investors less hesitant. Investors see society’s longing to ‘be like a pro’ and are slowly adjusting. For example. when watching Tiger Woods “coming back to golf late last year (2018), Woods has for the first time eschewed a coach, but he still has Trackman.’’ Robert Lustich writes in the Chicago Tribune. Situations like Woods’ make the investors reconsider.
Both Dutch and global investors are opening up to the idea of indoor golf as a sustainable business. Investors believe that, even if the investment might not be profitable in the short run, it might turn a profit as Trackman studios become more widespread. And even if it doesn’t, at least there’s a dry place for them to play gold during the winter months.