Due to evolving technology, the game of golf has undergone massive change in the last few decades, which leaves the sport almost unrecognizable from the way it was played for most of its centuries-long history. New technology in golf has had a significant impact on the sport, from golf club technology advances to changes in the golf ball, to the way the game is taught and played, to how the game’s greatest players train and prepare themselves to be best in the world. In this article, we will discuss some of the evolutions of technology in golf and how they have changed the game.
New Technology in Golf: Clubs and Balls
The first area of golf that technology has significantly impacted is the equipment used in the game. Golf clubs have come a long way since the early days of the sport. The introduction of new materials, such as graphite and titanium, has made clubs lighter and more powerful. This has allowed golfers to hit the ball farther and with more accuracy. The dawn of each golf season brings a wave of new products hitting the shelves featuring the latest in golf club technology advances (stronger titanium, bigger sweet spots, faster shafts) and promising players of all skill levels an opportunity to improve their game.
In addition to golf club technology advances, golf balls have also seen significant technological advances. Golf balls are now designed to have less spin, which results in more distance and better accuracy. The construction of the ball has also changed, with multi-layer designs that provide more control and feel.
In fact, as of early 2023, the major governing bodies of golf, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A), were taking steps to revise the testing standards of golf ball technology with the intention to roll back golf ball performance by roughly 20 yards. In other words, The USGA and R&A have grown so concerned by the course of technology golf balls have taken in recent years that they intend to limit ball technology that can be used in elite and professional events. This is a development that, if passed, has major implications for the world of golf.
Another new technology in golf is the use of golf club fitting aided by cameras and sensors that can detect golfer’s movements and swing plane to determine what type of club will be best for their swing. Walk into any Golf Galaxy or PGA Superstore, and you’ll see golfers in hitting bays having their swings videotaped and analyzed to help them find their best fit. This helps golfers improve their game by using clubs that are perfectly suited to their swing.
Off-season training is another area where we have seen a significant influx of technology in golf. Companies like GOLFTEC cater to golfers looking to work on and improve their game year-round by offering in-person and virtual coaching that provides real-time feedback through swing analysis and golf ball launch measurement. Golfers can use this software to analyze their swing and identify areas for improvement. GOLFTEC and its competitors are helping golfers improve their game by identifying swing flaws and providing specific drills to correct them.
Golf Course Technology
Golf course technology has also made significant advances in the way courses are designed and maintained. Golf course architects now use computer-aided design software to create courses that maximize a given piece of land in order to create a visually appealing final product that welcomes golfers of all skill levels. This golf course technology allows architects to simulate the play of the course before it is built, which helps them create a course that is both challenging and enjoyable for golfers.
In addition to course design, technology has also made significant advances in golf course maintenance. Golf course superintendents now use GPS mapping and soil sensors to monitor the health of the course. This type of golf course technology allows designers and superintendents to make decisions on the types of grass they use on the course and build a plan to maintain it. This helps them make informed decisions about when and where to water and fertilize, which leads to healthier turf and better playing conditions for golfers.
Digital Golf Technology
Digital technology has also made significant advances in the world of golf. Golfers can now use GPS devices to track their shots and get accurate yardage information on the course. This technology in golf helps players make better decisions about club selection and shot placement. Golfers today can get the accurate course and yardage information through handheld yardage devices (often called rangefinders), through apps on their phone or watch, and many golf courses now offer built-in GPS screens in their golf carts that provide players with important hole-by-hole information throughout their round.
Golf-Centric Fitness Training Technology
Like golf, the science of fitness has undergone its own revolution in recent decades, and over the last several years, that has been to the benefit of golf. Golfers like Tiger Woods were the first professionals to usher in the era of fitness and technology in golf. No longer could professionals on the PGA Tour hope to compete and win big prizes if they weren’t caring for their bodies in a manner similar to their professional athlete contemporaries in other sports. Weight training, recovery practices, diet and nutrition, and health tracking have become a non-negotiable staple to the routines of elite golfers.
This emphasis on fitness and health has started to trickle down to the consumer level, where regular folks that love the game can hire professional trainers to assist them in building a fitness routine most beneficial for their golf game. The Titleist Performance Institute is at the leading edge of fitness as a new technology in golf and helps players of all skill levels develop greater strength, power, flexibility, and mobility that should, in turn, lower their scores on the course.
Golf Simulator Technology
Depending on where you live or travel, you’ll sometimes spot the giant nets emerging up over the trees, hundreds of feet into the sky. Often alongside busy interstates, companies like Top Golf and Drive Shack have capitalized on golf’s emergence as a leisure activity for all ages. Part driving range, part restaurant and bar, and all fun, Top Golf and Drive Shack are golf’s answer to the bowling alley. Powered by some of the newest technology in golf, Top Golf and Drive Shack use real-time simulated data to provide players feedback on their shots like distance, trajectory, and points scored. They are great places to take friends, family, and colleagues for an hour or two of gameplay and friendly competition.
And for the true golf obsessed among us, golf simulators have made it into our homes. Whether it be the crown jewel of your neighbor’s “man cave” or your at-home practice facility in your garage, simulator devices and screens allow us to practice 24-7 at home. Ranging in cost from just a few hundred dollars to well into the tens of thousands, golf simulators provide players with real-time feedback about their shots while often allowing them to simulate playing some of America’s most famous golf courses.
Impact of Technology on the Game of Golf
The impact of technology in golf is undeniable. The incorporation and embrace of technology into the game have made the sport more accessible, enjoyable, and challenging for golfers of all skill levels.
One downside of technology in golf is the cost. The cost of high-end equipment and technology can be prohibitive for some golfers, which can create a barrier to entry for the sport, but overall the advances in technology in the world of golf have been overwhelmingly positive.
Technology has helped golfers find the right equipment for them and the opportunity to improve their game on a year-round basis, regardless of the climate where they live. Golf course technology continues to evolve, enabling designers and architects to create new world-class golf destinations seemingly every year. And for existing golf courses, technology has helped superintendents create better care and maintenance programs that keep courses in far better shape throughout the year regardless of weather, climate, or heavy use.
The role of technology in golf is certainly here to stay as the game has been reshaped for the better over the last several years. Golf course technology has given us more beautiful, well-kept pieces of land, which means more opportunities for anyone to play. Golf club technology advances have allowed anyone of any age to pick the game and experience the joy of hitting that first great drive or sinking that first birdie putt.
As golf technology continues to evolve it will pose a challenge for the professional ranks and the game’s governing bodies. The very best golfers in the world are now able to overpower a golf course because of the advances in the game’s technology, something never intended by the PGA and other professional tours. However, for the 99.99% who don’t get to roll out of bed every morning as professional golfers, the new role of technology in golf has made the game more enjoyable in almost every facet.