What is Arccos?
Think of it as Fitbit for golf.
It is fourteen sensors that you attach to the end of each of club, and in conjunction with the GPS of your iPhone, tracks every shot that you hit during a round. This is also similar to the GameGolf product but the key difference is Arccos’ sensors will detect club impact on your behalf without requiring your explicit “tap” or trigger to let it know you’re about to take a shot.
The Arccos system (the fourteen sensors + the iPhone app) will automatically keep track of the location and distances of every shot; provide front, middle, and back of the green distances; and automatically keep score while you play. The promise is that it’ll do all this for you in the least disruptive way possible to your current playing routine.
Here are my early impressions after 3 rounds so far.
System Set Up
The sensors are small gumdrop shaped caps that screws into the grip end of each club. I found that putter sensor didn’t fit too well with my Superstroke grip but it is still fully functional. My suggestion is for you to test each sensor first in case you find a drained battery like I did and have to replace them. The pairing process is simple- open up the app, select your clubs and press the top of each sensor for 5 seconds as the app prompts you.
You’ll also need to create an account with Arccos and I just went ahead and searched for every course I play in my city and downloaded them at home over WIFI. I discovered one course was mapped improperly and emailed support (Wednesday) and they responded the next day (Thursday), and I found it in the search list by Friday! It was mapped perfectly well ahead of my weekend round of golf.
On Course Usage
Since I’ve been a Golfshot user, I’m comfortable with playing golf with a phone in my back pocket and to also to automatically reach for it frequently- to check distances and to enter scores . I think this is the biggest factor that will influence how obtrusive the Arccos app is to your regular playing routine.
You might be able to leave the phone in your bag or pushcart but it really should be with you at all times because:
- The phone uses bluetooth to talk to the sensors so they must be in near proximity of each other; and
- The system uses the phone’s GPS to figure out your location when hitting your shot.
In theory, you can hit “start round” and leave the phone in your back pocket and just play and ignore it. I think this might be a good way to use it if you want to just track stats automatically but still keep score the old fashion pencil and paper way. The problem though is that sometimes, the system will detect phantom hits or else, not detect a hit at all and it might be difficult to recall what happened after the round is over.
For the first hole I played with Arccos, I opened the app, found my course and hit start. Pulled out driver, made the shot and headed down the fairway. I got to my ball and pulled out my phone to see that it has “detected” a driver hit on the tee box. So far so good. No shots were mapped yet until you hit another shot- the system uses the start of the next shot as the “end” location of the previous shot. I put the phone away and just focused on golf and played out the rest of the hole- overshot the green (really made sure I clear a front bunker!), chipped on and 2 putted out for bogey.
I pulled out the phone while walking to hole #2 and this is what I see:
Hey, look at that! What is this wizardry? I was pleasantly surprised and impressed! It had detected each shot properly and also mapped them accurately to where I hit them.
In reality, not every hole will be tracked so beautifully. For the first couple of rounds, I found I’d unofficially ‘monitored’ the system in the back of my mind as I play because it can miss a shot or pick up an extra shot by accident. However, the error rate is low- I find it would maybe record one mistake every 9 holes.
As I played more rounds, I learned to only pull out the phone in between holes to look at the map and get distances. If I see a mistake, I just ignore it because I know it can be corrected after I hole out. After each hole is done, I pull out the phone and check that it recorded the right number of strokes and quickly make an adjustment before teeing off.
So far, I’ve had a couple of holes where I had to do a little too much fiddling (adding a missed shot) that made me feel a little anxious and rushed getting to the next hole. I suspect it’s because everything is new and unfamiliar and I hope that this will eventually become a non-issue as I get used to working inside the app.
Phantom shots are shots detected by Arccos that never actually happened. Arccos suggest you carrying your clubs upside down to keep the sensors from making detections. At first, I thought this might be abit unnatural to but I quickly felt comfortable grabbing my clubs upside down by the neck instead of the grips.
Regardless, phantom shots still do occur…
Carrying multiple clubs to the tee box
Sometimes it detected the wrong club used for a tee shot. I’d grab the driver and a hybrid to the tee and switched clubs on the tee box. This is not a serious issue for the stroke/score but it could mess up with your distance stats for a club later on.
Clanking a wedge
I looked down at the app once and saw an extra stroke from a gap wedge that I never used on the green. While I do carry the clubs upside down, sometimes I just “drop” my wedges green-side when it’s time to putt. I’ve been trying to drop it “upside down”, by touching the grip on the ground and the laying it down a little more gently but it can still trigger the sensor.
Deleting a shot
Deleting a shot is fairly fast and simple but it does take five inputs to work:
- Swipe up to see all your shots for the hole
- Tap on the shot you want to delete
- Hit the delete button
- Hit back
- Confirm the delete
Here it is in action.
I find the first couple of times, it’s abit cumbersome and confusing. But once you get used to it, and start doing it unconsciously instead of reading and looking for the right thing to press, it should only take 1 – 2 seconds instead of the 5 or 6 required to think about what to press the first couple of times.
The bigger issue is with missed shots. I’ve looked at the app to try to get distance to the green and noticed that it missed a shot and frankly, it’s super distracting. The “missed a shot” thought is now stuck in the back of my head as I try to finish out the hole. For now, I’m still uncomfortable with the add a shot interface, knowing that I will have to make an edit before the hole is over pulls my focus away from the shot at hand.
You’ll see the process takes some actual effort and would not be a 5 second action the first few time you try it:
- Tap on “+” to add a shot
- Pick the right spot to insert the missed shot
- Mess around with the map to pick a starting point
- Mess around with the map again to pick the end point
- Remember to pick the club used
- Confirm again
Arccos suggests you steady your putter on every putt so the sensor can acknowledge the difference between an accidental clank versus a real putt. Since plenty of my first putts are not going straight-in, there will be many 2nd putts and tap-ins. Sometimes, my buddies will also kick the ball away to me on a true no-look tap-in gimme. This is one area where Arccos interface works quite well, especially if you make it routine to check the phone after holing out. If you see a missed give-me, it only takes 2 extra inputs- a swipe up to see the shots, and a big blue button that says “Add a gimme putt”. Hit it and you’re done- no need to confirm or anything else. This edit truly only takes a second to perform.
How big are the sensors, do they get in the way?
They are light enough that I don’t feel it affecting any of my clubs or shot. My driver feels the same and I feel my putter has the same ‘head weight’. However, they are quite tall and visible on the clubs- it adds about an inch to the grip handle and might be distracting for some. I noticed them for the first few holes and then quickly ignored them. Interestingly, I find that I naturally gripped my clubs on the same spot and didn’t move my hands higher due to visuals of a longer grip.
What about Mulligans/Practice Swings?
The system is programmed that if it detects multiple ‘hits’ with the same club at the same location, it won’t count it. This is useful if you take practice strokes and hit the ground. I don’t take any practice swings on full shots but I do when chipping (2-3x) and the system has been very good about recording just the right number of chip shots. A side effect with this detection method is that it just works naturally if you take mulligans since your last shot is with the same club at the same location again.. Generally, I don’t take mulligans so this actually presents a the opposite problem- adding/counting OB and penalty strokes…
Tracking OB and Penalties
Fortunately, from the shots menu, you can pick the shot and there’s a quick “+1” (hazards) or “+2” (OB- the 1st OB shot is not recorded, only the 3rd shot off the tee has been recorded as the first shot) button for adding penalty strokes. I played around to see if I can add a duck hook into water as my first shot and +1 for the OB penalty but I could not get it to work because the system would try to begin the 3rd stroke from where my first shot ended up (water) instead of off the tee again. I’ll post an update if I ever figure this out but at this point, a quick +2 and rehit is good enough for now.
I suspected battery life might be a big issue because the manual scorecard Golfshot app could chew down my iPhone 6+ battery if I’m not careful. Because of my habits with the GPS and scorecard apps, I have a charging cable in my car and I try to keep the phone near or at 100% charge until I get to the golf course. So starting the round at 100%, on my one year one iPhone 6+, I actually finished with 68% battery left in a 3h50min round. Not too bad! I also started at 100% for a weekend round where we had to wait on every tee box and took 4:50mins and I still had 58% left.
One nice touch of the Arccos app is that it uses the phone’s ambient light sensors to detect the phone has been put away and shuts off the screens. This will prevent accidental screen input as well as save some battery life.
Another consideration is that each of the 14 sensors are self powered with a CR-2032 (watch) battery. Arccos also smartly designed the app to display the battery life under each club’s stats. Arccos promises up to 40-50 rounds of usage on a new battery but I have had to replace one battery already and have seen other users online with the same problem. I assume it might be some drainage while the product is sitting in the warehouse or on store shelves. I’ve bought 15 backup batteries from eBay and might leave one or two in my bag just in case.
Web vs App
Arccos provides a beautiful web dashboard that breaks down handicap details into nice little graphics and charts that’s not in the web app. It also provides a very convenient way to look at a more detailed scorecard that might have not fit on an iPhone screen.
One reason I started using my phone to keep scores is to have the ability to pull up a previous round from anytime/anywhere to see how I played a course the last time that could’ve been a year ago. With the scoring apps, I can deduct what happened but with Arccos, I know I’ll be able to see all my shots as well.
The true pay off from all this extra work and effort of tracking are the stats that it collects and generates on your behalf.
Every Shot Mapped
Ever have one of those rounds where you’re struggling and end up with a decent score? Or the opposite where you felt like you’re playing really well but somehow end up with an average score? I tend to replay my rounds in my heads to try to pick out what went right and what went wrong and while we shouldn’t delve in to the negatives, it’s important to figure out what you should work on. In my last round, I’ve had a tough time with 1/2 wedge shots and now I have graphical evidence verified by looking at a couple holes that played out something like this.
Every Shot Measured
Using a GPS app like Golfshot, I tend to only turn on the GPS/measuring functions only on great shots- and only if I remember to use it to track. Many times, I started to track but then played out the entire whole without notifying the app to finish the measurement. With Arccos, every shot is measured and it gives you your true yardage averages, standard deviations, longest, GIR hit, and even number of shots taken with that club. It’ll also let you quickly discount shots used for averages and there are some built in intelligence- it seems a shot marked with a penalty is not counted- this makes sense because it is likely in an unreachable hazard or lost in an OB situation. Also, shots within 50yards are generally discounted from averages since these are usually half wedge finesse shots.
Some ‘jumpy’ numbers from 3 rounds so far…
I guess my topped 3H at 51 yards was anything but finesse’.
I began this season with very weak fade/slice shots and played pretty well early in the season going pin hunting from 120y in. But I struggled on any shots outside 150y (my 6i went only 145y early this season) and began working on strengthening my grip throughout the summer. As a result, I’m starting to get some distance back (along with an occasional hook or two) and am still adjusting to the new distances.
I’m also quite surprised to see how far good golf balls go on the course as compared to taking my measurements based on what I see on the practice range with range balls. I think the numbers also reflects my comfort with my shorter irons compared to the mis-hits I’m obviously getting on the longer clubs. In the end, it is useful data to have when looking out for layups and hazards.
Arccos provides super detailed breakdown of the player in 5 categories and compares it to what a player with your similar handicap should be expecting:
This breakdown is given per round as well as an overall average for the player and provides an addition tool to further reveal strengths or weaknesses in your game.
I believe my pitching and approach has been hurting me so let’s take a peek at the last three rounds in that area…
I’m pretty sure the 8.2 for sand is because I hit the green from the fairway bunker from 160 out because I don’t recall being in any greenside bunkers the last 3 rounds.
However, we can see that my irons/approach game is closer to that of a 30 handicap! Yikes.
Let’s go to the web dashboard and look at a map of my approaches…
The above chart shows all my approaches from 4h to SW. Those green dots are selectable so I could, for example, select only 9, PW, AW, and SW to zoom in on my short irons only.
I’ve missed many short and left- I actually know this instinctively but have rarely worked on my wedges in practice. With the short misses, I’m WAY short- outside the 100 ft circle so that can only be attributed to all these scoring opportunities that go wasted when I have a wedge in my hand from 115 yards and in.
With my grip change, I also sometimes go too long and get into massive trouble over the green or else come in too steep and chunk wedges by really dig the leading edge into the turf. With this information, I’m going to devote a few practice sessions on weakening my grip on wedge shots and try to use the bounce a little more on pitch and see how it translate to my score and eventually to this “approach handicap” item.
Is it worth it?
Overall, I highly recommend it.
The one big question mark about Arccos really is the price. It costs twice as much as the GameGolf system that on paper provides similar functionality. If you read the reviews for GameGolf- golfers tend to forget about the tagging requirement in between shots and there are some challenges with revisiting and fixing mistakes post-round. Arccos generally works exactly as advertised. Turn it on and go play. The big exception is that you have the option to fix mistakes as you go and really, it should become less intrusive as you become more familiar.
The other factor to consider is whether you want to carry a phone on you while you play? Also, would you even want to tinker with an app at all while on course. If the answer is a definite No, then I’d say you might get too frustrated and find it getting in the way of your focus of golf. For example, my wife plays mostly by rhythm and feel, and still prefers to keep score by pen/paper so she has absolute zero interest in any stat tracking system, never mind the extra due diligence required to be using an app in between holes.
However, if you’re a golf-and-gadget-geek like me, the payout is an unbelievable wealth of data and stats that you can knock yourself out with. I feel that the stats can be analysed turned into action-able practice after just three rounds. As well, it is just plain fun to replay a round on the Arccos dashboard to re-live the glory of a great hole or the pains of “what could’ve been…”
If the cost is not an issue, and you’re already comfortable with keeping scores on your phone, then I think Arccos is a must have for your game!