With the U.S. Open starting on Thursday, it’s an ideal time for the “Switches in Sports” series to focus on the switches that fix your golf swing and can solve a bad case of the shanks. As the 1996 movie Tin Cup indicates, the sport of golf was one of the first to market in the sports wearables industry. “Lost and desperate” souls searched for anything that was promised to improve their golf swings, whether there was evidence of that promise being fulfilled or not. Now these lost and desperate souls need only look as foolish as their fashion sense allows.
Like most of the sports we’ve covered in this series, video has gotten the golf ball rolling in providing actual evidence of improvement resulting from sports technologies and wearables. But golf has gone far beyond video to help golfers rid themselves of the shanks. Radar combined with video now helps golfers track every shot, from drives off the tee to short putts, mapping the shot’s 3D trajectory in real-time, logging an overwhelming amount of data.
TrackMan is one of the most popular radar and video golf monitor brands, with thousands of tour pros turning to it for improving their swings. The E-switch marketing team had an opportunity to take a few swings with one of these devices at Dick’s House of Sport in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and it seems we really needed it.
A lot of the radar and video golf trackers resemble a tablet with a single switch serving as a power button, but there are a lot of switches that make golf trackers work. Some can operate independent of a computer via a touchscreen. The TrackMan we used was connected to a PC, which allowed for easy connection to a projector, with the remote control featuring a ton of tactile switches. The TL1015 Series micro-miniature tactile switch from E-switch is ideal for remote controls. It’s 4.5mm x 2.9mm x 1.52mm low-profile size and 200,000 cycle life expectancy make it ideal for such an application.
The data collected is, frankly, overwhelming. We had to have a lot of it explained to us, but much of it was useful, especially the angles at which the ball comes off the club face. I was pleased to be close to zero because in the past I would take my eyes off the ball early and attempt to track it. In the tracking bay, however, you don’t have to worry about losing your ball, so I kept my head down for the first time in my life. As a result, it was the best I’ve ever hit golf balls (with irons, at least) outside of a time as a kid when I got short game instruction from a pro with my family. I felt so good with the irons I told my dad to bring the set he’s not using so I can play this summer. I impressed myself to the point I’m taking up golf.
Both my colleague and I progressed rather than regressed in the short time we had, and some of that was due to the data we received. We altered our stances and grips until we got the best statistical results, but since we had the data, we had an idea of what needed adjusting. The TrackMan and other golf tracking systems are just the tip of the tippy top of the golf technology industry, though.
GPS is the base upon which the golf technology industry was built. Golf watches were really the precursor for smartwatches and fitness trackers. Whoop, an official partner of the PGA and LPGA, produces a fitness and recovery tracker used by Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Justin Thomas. It monitors your heart rate and measures strain, recovery, and sleep to help improve recovery and indicates when stress took the most out of a golfer on the course.
But PGA and LPGA pros already have caddies, making a golf watch redundant. For those of us without an expert in our ear, the T1 Hybrid Golf Watch by Voice Caddie and others like it can provide that expertise. The Voice Caddie database offers access to 40,000 courses, and the watch will track your score, distance to the green, distance travelled, speed, calories burned, and swing tempo.
Most golf watches feature a few tactile switches along the sides of the watch face, likely requiring a right-angle mounting design. The TL3330 Series right angle tactile switch is perfect for consumer electronic applications like golf watches and fitness trackers thanks to its low profile actuator sized 1.5mm x 3mm with 0.25mm of actuator travel, give or take 0.15mm. For fitness trackers featuring a touchpad interface, the TL3780 Series ultraminiature, low profile tactile switch is ideal. Its life expectancy of between 300,000 and 500,000 cycles makes it perfect for applications featuring touchpad interfaces.
But what if you want to collect data about your golf swing while you’re on the links? Now you can with wearable sensors like the Zepp Smart Coach, which is inserted into a golf glove and allows for instant evaluation via a smartphone app. The Zepp sensor provides 3D swing analysis and monitors club speed, club plane, tempo, backswing length, hip rotation, consistency, and more. It also provides users with access to personalized video training programs from PGA and LPGA pros via their app.
Sensors like the Zepp Smart Coach typically have one power switch in the center of the device that resides inside an enclosure of either rubber or plastic to protect from dust and moisture. But with as much sweat as these switches and their enclosures encounter, the switch might as well be sealed, like the RP8400 Series pushbutton switch from E-switch.
The RP8400 Series switch is sealed at an IP67 rating and comes with optional illumination to let the user know when the device is on and off or connected to a Bluetooth device. The long life of these switches also make them ideal for fitness and body sensor applications. With an electrical and mechanical life expectancy of 500,000 cycles, the sensor will probably fail before the switch does.
Don’t let a bad case of the shanks make you give up the game of golf. Do as the tour pros at the U.S. Open: invest in some golf technology to fix your golf swing with switches.