Technology in Golf: Bunkers

Bunkers have a long history in the game of golf. Also known casually as a “trap” (but don’t say that to a Rules official!), bunkers are one of two types of hazard on the green (the other being water hazards). The origin of both the sand bunker and the water hazard come from the Scottish roots of the game, as the early courses were set on links land in coastal areas. The location of these historical courses meant that wind would blow sand into the course, where it would collect in depressions and mound against ridges naturally.

 

The water hazards on these links lands were formed by rain runoff and rivers flowing towards the sea. While only 17 percent of golf courses in Scotland are true “links” courses, they are some of the oldest courses with the most history.

 

As more people developed courses for play, these naturally-occurring hazards began to be built into the game in the places where they would not happen on their own, as they change the way that golfers play the game entirely. Today, the Rules of Golf govern the specific rules for how to play balls that fall into a hazard.  

 

The types of bunkers: Fairway bunkers are traditionally located along the sides of -or in the middle of- the fairway, and are developed with the idea of catching tee shots that go awry. Greenside bunkers are located around the green, and are used to gather the long shots that miss. Waste bunkers are the larger sandy areas that naturally occur on courses that are in the coastal links grounds as described above, and as these are usually not architect-designed to influence play, have a few more allowances for golfers than other types of bunkers. Grass bunkers are not technically bunkers, as they are not a “hazard” in the rules. Grass bunkers are really more akin to a rough.

 

With the advances in technology and design for balls and clubs that players use, not all fairway bunkers come into play like they used to, and older courses may see hazards failing to present a challenge to lower-handicapped players, and penalizing those players that have a higher handicap. Course management may want to consider updating bunkers to keep games challenging.

 

Courses with poorly-constructed bunkers can cause many problems for the superintendent as well as the players. Flat bunkers may lack drainage, causing costly maintenance as well as undesirable playing conditions. No one wants to wade into a sand-puddle for their ball.

 

Flashed bunker faces are steep sand faces that almost look like cliffs, which provide an architectural and aesthetic appeal, but can erode and expose the soil underneath, contaminating the bunker.

 

Bunker condition is one of the top concerns of club members and players worldwide.

 

Golf Course Industry online speaks to the number of bunker-reconstruction that has been occurring in the last few years. Often, reconstructing bunkers can be cheaper over time than maintenance and upkeep on courses that have struggling bunkers.

 

For years bunkers were lined with cloth before being filled with sand, but these textile liners can become exposed with erosion, tear when caught by mechanical rakes, or even be pulled up by animals.

 

A new technology in bunkers that many are employing, including GreatLife KC, is system of using a layer of pea gravel, which is then sprayed with a polymer and left to cure. Once set, this polymer bonds the gravel/grit together so that it is rigid, but remains permeable to water. Then white sand is installed and compacted over the gravel. With the right sand, this method minimizes or even eliminates sand movement, and erosion leading to sand contamination is minimal, as the gravel stays firmly in place. While this system is more costly than some other alternatives, the longevity and ease of upkeep should pay for itself over time.

 

For those in charge of maintaining courses, consider if your bunkers meet player requirements for a good game as well as quality requirements to keep your costs at a minimum. Is it time to reconstruct your bunkers?

 

For those in charge of playing on courses, check out Golf Digest’s article on how the pros make bunkers look so easy, for tips to try out the next time you end up in a hazard yourself!

 

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Technology in Golf: Golf Shoes

Golf is a very old sport. In fact, while the modern sport refined by the Scottish is more than 500 years old, there are references in Dutch literature that seem to be talking about golf as early as the year 1261. More known for tradition than for cutting-edge technological advancements, the picture in your mind’s eye of a “typical golfer” most likely isn’t a young technophile. However, the sport of golf has seen a lot of science and technology infiltrate the game infiltrate the game in the last several decades, making gear, play style, and even courses obsolete. This series, Technology in Golf, looks to the advancements made or still to come in individual areas of the sport, from gear to courses to wearable tech. Stay tuned to DougAlbers.net for more installments! (See the previous installment, Golf Balls)

Everything about the game of golf has evolved over the years, and golf shoes are no exception. While early golf shoes were not much more than loafers lined with sharp nails, modern shoes are meticulously designed for maximum performance and comfort. Let’s take a look at the path that golf shoes took to get where they are today.

Early Golf Shoes

Golf shoes have been around for at least 150 years. Although we can’t point to a specific invention date, one of the earliest mentions of spiked golf shoes can be seen in an issue of The Golfer’s Manual from 1857. In that issue, golfers were advised to wear shoes lined with sharp nails for proper traction on the golf course. Sadly, these early golf shoes were more dangerous than helpful, with the nails poking through the soles of the shoes and injuring golfers.

Golf shoes with screw-in spikes were made available in 1891. It did solve the problem with foot injuries, but the spikes would tear up golf greens. This didn’t sit well with golf course owners, and the shoes were eventually banned.

Saddle Oxfords

In 1901, Spalding introduced the Saddle Oxford shoe, so named because of the saddle-shaped piece of leather around the laces. These shoes were an instant hit with golfers, and their basic design remains popular today.

A Focus on Comfort

Athletic shoes continued to evolve over the years, with a renewed focus on comfort in the 1980s. Golf shoes became less stiff and more flexible during this time, and they even began to replace the metal spikes that lined the bottom with plastic spikes. Not only were these safer and more comfortable, but they were less likely to tear apart greens.

Spikeless Golf Shoes

In 2010, Fred Couples started a trend in golf shoes when he showed up for the first round of the 2010 Master’s with spikeless golf shoes. These shoes had dimpled rubber outsoles that provided all the traction necessary for a round of golf without the problems that spikes can cause. Spikeless golf shoes are standard today.

The Evolution Continues

Golf shoes continue to evolve today, with brands such as Nike and Adidas developing lightweight shoes that borrow technology from other performance footwear. Today’s golf shoes more closely resemble athletic shoes used in sports such as running or soccer, and they will no doubt continue to evolve as new technologies and techniques are discovered.

 

 

How Wearable Technology is Affecting the Game of Golf

Golf is a very old sport. In fact, while the modern sport refined by the Scottish is more than 500 years old, there are references in Dutch literature that seem to be talking about golf as early as the year 1261. More known for tradition than for cutting-edge technological advancements, the picture in your mind’s eye of a “typical golfer” most likely isn’t a young technophile. However, the sport of golf has seen a lot of science and technology infiltrate the game infiltrate the game in the last several decades, making gear, play style, and even courses obsolete. This series, Technology in Golf, looks to the advancements made or still to come in individual areas of the sport, from gear to courses to wearable tech. Stay tuned to DougAlbers.net for more installments! (See the previous installments, golf clubs or the history of technology in golf balls)

Golf is one of the sports that’s enjoyed by celebrities, executives, and people who just like to have their workout in beautiful surroundings while associating with friends and clients. Players like to keep a competitive edge, and wearable technology allows golfers to do that. Using wearable (and smart) technology to improve your game is growing in popularity, and the market is filling up with more gadgets and tricks to monitor your game, help improve your shot, and track performance on the course in real time (like tracking how far the distance your golf ball just traveled).

Wearable tech can help amateurs as well as pros with features like shot-tracking technology that automatically records shot information, such as club performance, shot dispersion, greens in regulation, sand saves and the number of putts per hole. 3D cameras can record your swings and provide feedback. Fitness and activity trackers can record your heart rate and distance walked on the course. Smart golf balls can track distance, or even use GPS or bluetooth to locate themselves if you shoot into the rough! Apps can record data for courses, track your par, record the time for each hole, and more. As we see technology advance and players adopting it to improve their game, I expect we can see even more products come on the scene.

A Garmin Product

Game Golf Live – GPS Shot Tracking is a system that gives players their stats in real time, The Bluetooth-enabled setup has a mobile app that is Android- and iOS-compatible. It becomes operational when golfers attach one sensor to their belt and another to the butt end of the club.

Before making a shot, player touch the sensor with the club. With the aid of their phone’s GPS, the position of each shot, the club selected, and where the ball lands are all recorded. Using their smartphone, golfers can view their stats as they play a round. (The layouts of 40,000 courses world wide are included in the software.) When golfers get back to their PC or Mac, they can upload the information and get astonishingly detailed stats and an analysis.

An Arccos Entry

The Arccos Golf Driver Automatic Stat Tracking system uses the GPS that’s built into the iPhone to keep on top of driver distances. There’s no need to tap the driver. This inexpensive device screws into the butt end of the grip of the driver. By looking at their phone after a shot, players see stats about their longest drives, fairways hit and missed, and averages of driving distances. The driver-only system easily distinguishes between actual and practice shots. Another feature is that players can engage in virtual driving games with other players around the world.

Apple and Garmin Watches

Not all wearable technology attaches to equipment. Watches are helpful to golfers too. The Garmin Approach S6 GPS watch has a color touchscreen. It’s loaded with maps of 40,000 courses around the world. Its features include SwingStrength, which tells players how hard they swing. SwingTempo delivers the ratio between a player’s upswing and downswing. PinPointers aids golfers in making shots when the pin can’t be seen.

The Apple Watch, Apple Watch 2 (GPS), and iPhone have a large number of apps available for players of this sport. They range from information about 33,00 courses worldwide, including distances to each hole, detailed views of courses, and more. Some apps are free. The watch has a color display. It also delivers weather forecasts and can guide golfers as they drive to the course.

Sports are full of competitive people who don’t shrink from using whatever product or technique they think may improve their performance. This list barely even touches the tip of the iceberg. While you’ll never see a pro actively using it in competitive play, wearing technology to record your game is, for a pro, just like doing a play-by-play for a football team after a game. The amount of data you can collect is invaluable to a professional sportsman.

Technology in Golf: Golf Balls

Golf is a very old sport. In fact, while the modern sport refined by the Scottish is more than 500 years old, there are references in Dutch literature that seem to be talking about golf as early as the year 1261. More known for tradition than for cutting-edge technological advancements, the picture in your mind’s eye of a “typical golfer” most likely isn’t a young technophile. However, the sport of golf has seen a lot of science and technology infiltrate the game infiltrate the game in the last several decades, making gear, play style, and even courses obsolete. This series, Technology in Golf, looks to the advancements made or still to come in individual areas of the sport, from gear to courses to wearable tech. Stay tuned to DougAlbers.net for more installments! (See the previous installment, Golf Clubs)

The manufacturing of golf ball dates back to as early as the start of the 19th century. The initial balls were designed from animal skin and stuffed and compressed with the help of feathers. With the passage of time, the requirements of every sport keep changing because the people who play them become more pro at it. Their fitness, strength and the command of the game is enhanced and more advanced equipment are designed to meet them.

The golf ball has also undergone a number of changes and we have seen wooden, gutta percha, hand hammered gutta, bramble, and rubber balls. All these renditions finally led to the final ball which is being used during these times and have been tweaked a lot with the help of technology.

The best symbol to define the game of golf is a “circle”. The golfer starts from a point and comes back closer to it after completing a circle. The ball and the hole are also perfectly round. The modern ball has made the game of gold much more interesting and enjoyable for average players who want to play the game just to enjoy the fun element. Keeping in mind that none of the rules are violated while these amateurs play, the modern golf makes it fair and square for all kinds of players.

It is important that the golf ball must match the golf club as much as it matches the player. Although the golf balls are a bit expensive but this doesn’t make them unaffordable. The players must give a try to a couple of them before choosing the right one for themselves. The same should be done with the golf clubs as well. It is very important to keep in mind the swing and the effort which is utilized by the person while playing because they are essential determinant factors in choosing the right golf equipment.

In the mid-1990’s, the Top-Flite Strata golf ball was introduced which did the unimaginable in the industry. This three-piece ball played the role of two balls by being both high-spinning, soft-fleeting and well as a high-spinning ball of the irons. With rubber in its core which was encased in a thin middle or mantle layer, the only addition was a soft polyurethane cover.

Gradually, the three-piece ball met its counterpart which had a fast, soft, low-spinning core and a fast-spinning soft cover. This two-piece ball was designed with the latest technology and proved to be less expensive. Later, both the covers and the cores of the balls were softened by the companies.

The companies even approached the four-piece balls which had an extra mantel which acted as a conduit when the impact was applied and transferred extra energy to the core. All the kinds of balls are hard and you cannot cut or scrape them. They won’t even blemish so the only way to get rid of them is to lose them.

Today, it is easy to come up with a ball which has a large rubber core and carries the soft feel of the low-compression ball of the past years but will be able to fly far with a speed similar to that of a high-compression ball.

Technology in Golf: Clubs

Golf is a very old sport. In fact, while the modern sport refined by the Scottish is more than 500 years old, there are references in Dutch literature that seem to be talking about golf as early as the year 1261. More known for tradition than for cutting-edge technological advancements, the picture in your mind’s eye of a “typical golfer” most likely isn’t a young technophile. However, the sport of golf has seen a lot of science and technology infiltrate the game infiltrate the game in the last several decades, making gear, play style, and even courses obsolete. This series, Technology in Golf, looks to the advancements made or still to come in individual areas of the sport, from gear to courses to wearable tech. Stay tuned to DougAlbers.net for more installments!

The earliest days of golf club technology primarily consisted of players carving their own clubs out of whatever wood was handy. In 1502, King James IV of Scotland commissioned a bow-maker to fashion a “set” of clubs, which is the first reference to specially made clubs by a craftsman, and also to having multiple clubs in a set. Early recorded club sets usually consist of several play clubs (longnoses) for driving, fairway clubs (or grassed drivers) for medium-range shots, spoons for short-range, niblicks, which are similar in design and use to today’s wedges, and a putting cleek.

The club heads were wooden, and usually made from the denser, stronger woods for longevity. (Think beechwood or holly.) Heads were splinted onto shafts (which seem to have been mostly made from ash or hazel woods) with leather straps. Clubs were prone to breakage, and the effort it took to make clubs paired with the fact that you could expect to go through them fairly quickly meant that equipment was too expensive for the average person to afford.

With the exception of experimentation of bone and metal on the club face to make them last longer, not much changed in golf clubs until the mid-1800’s when several things happened: a club maker in Scotland began using hickory for the wood shafts, which caught on quickly and became something of an industry standard. Longnose heads were rendered obsolete with new ball technology, and replaced by “bulgers” which are pretty similar in shape to modern woods. Persimmon was found to be a sturdier wood than beech, and became the wood of choice for club heads, making both the preferred woods for heads and shafts wood imported from America, which kept the costs associated with the sport and it’s equipment high.

In 1900, we started to see aluminum heads, and there is some experimentation with steel shafts, although they aren’t allowed in the game until the Prince of Wales used them in 1929. Billy Burke becomes the first golfer to win the U.S. Open with steel-shafted clubs (painted to look like wood) in 1931. As technology grew and old traditional clubs remained popular, the R&A introduced a 14 club rule in 1939 to limit golfers, who could ostensibly have used an inordinate amount of clubs in competitive play. The standard recipe for clubs would be “wooden head, steel shaft, rubber grip” for several more decades, and handmade clubs were preferred over machined clubs for equally as long.

In 1973 the graphite shaft came into being, which made clubs just as rigid, but much lighter and less likely to bend or break than steel. In 1979 TaylorMade came out with a stainless steel club head, which allowed for the use of bigger heads. Bigger head = bigger sweet spot. “It was a big stir, like ‘Oh man, this guy’s using a metal wood,’ “ said Chandler Carr, a product manager in TaylorMade’s Product Creations Department. “They didn’t even know what to call it at the time. Was it a wood? Was it not a wood? They called it the Pittsburgh Persimmon, kind of blending steel and wood together and using that name was something that people could kind of relate to.” It took a while to catch on, and it wasn’t until Callaway’s giant steel-headed Big Bertha, released in 1991, that persimmon went more or less by the wayside.

It seems like the timeline of progress has sped along pretty quickly from there, with pros using clubs like the “44.75-inch TaylorMade Burner SuperFast 2.0 TP driver that features a 10.5-degree angle and Matrix Ozik TP7HD graphite shaft”. The best news about the advancements lately, is that in the vein of performance and cost, this is the most level playing field between pro equipment and Average Joe off-the-rack equipment since the invention of the sport.

“There’s no limit as to what we can use on a golf club,” Carr said, citing combinations of titanium, steel, aluminum, tungsten and graphite used in clubs. “When we came out with the first metal wood in ’79 with Gary Adams being the CEO at the time, basically he said, ‘Hey, we’re here to try something new, try something different, and here’s the performance gains because of that,'” Carr said. “So at the end of the day, if it’s not measurably better we’re not going to bring something to market. That’s kind of our mantra.”