And now, the robot golf instructor
CHARLOTTE, N.C. Golfers will do almost anything to improve their swing, so the company that created the Big Bertha driver is unveiling a computer-equipped golf cart to help them lower their scores.
Callaway Golf Co is teaming up with International Business Machines Corp. to produce this cart that comes equipped with an IBM ThinkPad to instantly analyze a golfer's swing.
Callaway Golf Co. and International Business Machines Corp. jointly developed a cart equipped with an IBM ThinkPad that can instantly analyze a golfer's swing and even design a custom set of clubs.
The Callaway Custom Fitting Solution uses a radar gun and a cart-mounted notebook computer to measure things such as club speed, ball speed and projected distance.
Enlightenment comes at a price: $5,000 cash or $6,000 in payments over three years.
Callaway Golf plans initially to ship 300 carts, which can carry 50 clubs, to country clubs and stores. If they become popular, Callaway Golf is prepared to expand the program across the country.
Price aside, it might be hard selling the idea to players who make a living doing what Callaway says its cart system will do.
"I think it will be a tool we can use for club fitting, but it can never replace lessons," said Jim Combs, a golf pro at Ballantyne Resort in Charlotte. "As a pro, I play with clubs that were fitted for me. But I didn't just go pick up the clubs and go out and play great golf.
"More and more, people are trying to make the game of golf a science. It's got some science to it, but it's really an art."
Combs pointed to legend Arnold Palmer as an example of a golfer who isn't technically perfect in his strokes.
"If he were rated by his technique, he'd get thrown off the course," he said. "But he gets the job done."
Callaway Golf, which already uses computers to design custom clubs at its test center in Carlsbad, Calif., wanted to find a way to expand the service.
Golf pros can plug a video camera into the system and record a golfer's swing, then use the computer to provide analysis with features such as split-screen viewing and a Telestrator to track movement.
Brian Dalgetty, director of solutions and alliances for IBM at the company's offices in Research Triangle Park, said the system uses a split video screen to compare a golfer's swing to that of a pro golfer.
He watched himself on one screen and Tiger Woods on the other.
"Unfortunately, we don't have the same technique," he said.
Thomas Preece, director of customized products at Callaway Golf's Carlsbad, Calif., headquarters, said the system relies on the input of the golf pro.
"It's fun to watch a golf pro get excited when they see how easy it is to use and how valuable it can be to them," he said.
After recording measurements such as the golfer's height and hand size, an instructor can take a student to a driving range and record and analyze their techniques. Then the system can design a custom set of clubs for that golfer.
The clubs won't cost any more than the company's off-the-shelf models, which can run $1,500 for a set of irons and more than $600 for a single driver.
The difference is the specifications are entered into the computer and transmitted via the Internet to Callaway Golf's factory.
Within days, the golfer can be playing with a set of new custom clubs.
"The idea behind this was to use this technology to make it available on a broader scale," said Dalgetty. "Now it can be available to golfers around the world."