elementalGolf: Overcoming shifting weather conditions
As a golf scientist, what are your comments on wind generally?
Before we get to more golf science questions, here we are watching the HSBC Tournament in Shanghai, China. We’ve got Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson playing together. Looking at the wind, and it’s quite windy here today in Shanghai, maybe you could walk us through what some of the struggles are that you notice that these players are experiencing with the wind and the five different elemental conditions. And then when they tee off, if you could walk us through that and how your calculator might assist even these top pro players?
Well, these pros are pretty good at trying to what they call shape the ball into the wind. So what they’re doing is their basically hitting the ball a slightly different way. For example, by keeping it low, the theory is the wind affects the ball less. They’re doing lots of things to try and compensate, but at the end of the day golf is a game of consistency. It’s a game of probabilities and risks and what you’re trying to do is manage those. So, changing things like your swing for whatever the reason, and these guys are amazing players, is going to introduce some of that inconsistency. The tricky thing I see is this is the final day of the tournament and the temperature and wind have shifted significantly since the day before so it’s quite cool. They’re all in sweaters. That means the air is denser. It seems to me that it may be humid out there, so between the relatively dense air compared to earlier days and the very strong winds they’re experiencing, I see they’re coming up short a lot on their shots. I think that it’s evidence that they just don’t have the tools at their disposal to learn how to play in these conditions and so as a result they’re scores today are not what they’ve been in earlier days – the probability of getting the shot right is lower. You can see, for example, Dustin Johnson - he’s plus three today; he’s been minus 14 for the tournament. Clearly when weather and wind shifts, it’s much more difficult to stay on top of your game, and it’s not unique to Dustin. He’s having a rather bad day, but I see no real low scores on the board today from any of the top ten players. They’re all struggling with understanding the impact of those five different variables on their game and again, I think they too would benefit from a tool like elementalGolf. They can’t use it in a tournament. I think rule 14(3) indicates you can’t use this type of technology while you’re playing if you’re out there practicing even before the round or you’re try to learn how wind affects your ball then this is the tool to get. You can use it during practice rounds though, as it will help integrate and give you experience and insights more quickly to improve your ability to play. It basically models how the golf ball is going to play in these very difficult conditions and with that they should be able to gain some advantage and improve their score on days like this.
Ok, a question about the science then. What kind of mathematical formulas did you build into the app to make it that accurate combining all these elemental conditions to make it that accurate?
Well, wind is probably the simplest example. So when you think about wind basically you break the wind into two components; there is a linear component, which is the part that’s affecting the linear carry of the ball, and it’s lateral component, pushing the ball sideways. Basically we use trigonometry to break apart linear and lateral carry. In high school most people learn about sine, cosine, and tangent so you can figure out basically how much of the force of the ball is linear versus lateral and then you use the physical distance to determine in part the time the ball’s in the air. Everybody has slightly distinct shots, so the way the app works is you basically tell it what club you use to hit 150 yards and it can model other clubs and those conditions, like wind, based on the data you enter. Taking the linear carry then, we’ve got an equation that basically looks at the accelerating effect of the wind at higher speeds, based on some of our own data and confirmed by data publicly available elsewhere. So I’ve got basically an equation that calculates how wind affects the ball. I’m not going to say what the equation is because it’s really key to the app, but in effect we have an equation that runs and determines the linear and non-linear components of the carry and then calculates based on wind speed how much of an affect there will be on the ball along the target line, and across the target line, and we’ve done that for each of the variables. Elevated pin; we’ve done some interesting equations. We’ve developed equations based on the decent and angle of the ball. Decent angle relative to the angle that the target’s at, so you have the pin and the club you’re using. If you’re hitting a driver when the ball is dropping into the fairway or wherever your target is the angle its dropping is not the same as if you used a lob wedge; the lob wedge, the angle it’s coming in at is a lot more vertical. So, we’ve created equations that basically model decent angles based on different club use, and so we can calculate then based on the full carry of the club how much short or long it will be and then recommend for perhaps going up a club or down a club based on the slope or elevations of the target. We’ve done that with all of the variables, and some of them are simpler than others, but basically when you integrate them all you can come up with some pretty good recommendations on what club you should use and what the real distance is to your target based on all of those conditions including physical distance.
So you’ve got a mathematical equation for each of the five elements and then an integrated combined equation as well to predict what the distance will be and choose the club that a player should use?
Yeah, that’s it. The lateral carry is actually somewhat dependent on the linear carry. So, let’s say it’s 150 yards; you calculate that there’s a cross wind. The cross wind’s not full crosswind, it’s at 33 degrees. You’re playing into that wind a little bit, so there’s a negative linear effect on the ball. Well that shortens the stroke, but it also means that it’s going to be pushed to one side – the lateral carry of the ball will be a little less than if the ball was in the air a little longer than if you were playing with the wind for example. So, these things are interrelated and the app kind of looks at all the rich little bits of information and comes up with a very, sort of, step wise and effective approach for figuring out what the impact of those conditions are on your ball.
Talk to us a little bit about a direct experience you would have trying to predict using yourself choosing a club and then taking that same shot with your calculator and describe the difference, if any.
Well, I like to test the app. I try to push the conditions that I’m working in to see how well it works.
We’re going to take a break now. Dustin Johnson is coming up and I want Doug, elementalGolf's Chief Scientist to describe Dustin’s taking a shot and going into the wind. He’s at the 15th hole.
We don’t really have a lot of information here about the wind, but it looks to me like the wind is blowing with the ball. Yeah, it was blowing with the ball. Here is his shot - again, he’s hit the sand trap and I think really that shot, it was less about the wind and probably more about temperature and humidity. He could have mishit the ball a bit, but it looks to me like he’s just playing short a lot on almost every hole - he’s struggling with it. He’s trying to figure out the wind. He’s getting a little frustrated. He’s got a lead; it’s down to one shot and he’s trying to hold his lead. Anyway, it would be great if a guy like Dustin had a chance to practice with our app because I think it would give him a little more confidence in those conditions. A big part of golf is feeling like you’ve got the right club in your hand and you know the distance. If you know those things, it helps you feel better about your shot and when you’re playing in these tough conditions it’s difficult to feel that confidence and if you have three or four shots in a row or you play three of four holes and you bogey a couple or maybe you have a double, maybe you’re just not playing up to your expectations it really starts shaking your confidence a little bit and that actually can affect your swing and affects your whole game. So from my perspective, the whole golfer is who we’re trying to help here and I think our app will really help build people’s confidence in varied conditions, confidence that they can’t gain because they just don’t get exposed to them very often in controlled conditions where they can learn, meaning the time to learn is long. They need to have somebody helping them and who can help you when you’re playing on a course; your buddies aren’t going to help you. You need something that’s going to tell you how to play that shot, so elementalGolf is your tool.
I was golfing with you one day and you had chosen a club and then used your calculation to redo the shot. What was your experience with the intuitiveness of the club that you had chosen originally versus what the calculator told you?
Well, this is an example, right? We think we have a good sense of the club we need to pick but sometimes we just don’t. This was a par three. It was a short par three. It was 134 yards to the pin. It’s an elevated pin. It was one of those days where it was very cold – just above freezing. I live in Canada and I think the temperature that day was about 4 degrees Celsius which would be maybe 40 Fahrenheit. I’ve played this hole before in the summer when it was lovely and warm. This day it was about a 23 mile per hour wind. The wind was at about a 30 degree angle to the pin, from the left. It was into the wind, so the pin would have been almost due west and the wind was blowing west/south-west. So, elevated green, very cold, humidity a little lower than normal, but it was really temperature, wind, and the elevation that were affecting the slope of the shot. Normally I would hit a pitching wedge 135 yards. So, like most golfers I thought maybe I would club up and so that in my mind was the club to pick. So I pulled my app out, loaded it up, set the app on the phone to the pin, and set the yardage at 135 because that was the distance to the pin, and my app said I should be playing a six iron and that I would be about two yards long and I just couldn’t believe that – I mean I hit a 6 iron 170 yards plus. I was quite sure I’d be well over that pin and perhaps even off the green at the back. So I tried my app again and it told me this time, because I set the elevation a little differently, that I should use a 7 iron, but it told me I’d be nine yards short with a seven iron. But I was a little more comfortable playing a seven iron so I dropped two balls and I played one with my nine iron according to my own judgment, then I played one with my seven iron. The nine iron I didn’t reach the green, as was pushed further left than I anticipated. In fact, I was just at the front edge of a sand trap in front of the green. I was at least 25 yards short. I hit the 7 iron and I was exactly nine yards short of the pin, so the app told me to do the right thing and intuitively, I would have said it is wrong. We think we have experience with these shots, but that shot is an example of how my mind is not capable of really calculating the effect of these three distinct variables in this case; it was wind, the slope or elevation to the pin, and the temperature. I know now if I’m out there and it’s cold I should at least go up maybe two clubs. If it’s windy and I’m into the wind, which is common there because it’s commonly a west or south-west wind, then I should go up to even three clubs than from what I would normally use. So that was very interesting for me – I learned something.
Ok, so we’re back to Dustin Johnson at the Shanghai HSBC tournament. He’s just taken his second shot out of the sand bunker in front of the pin, come up long about 10 feet from the pin. So right now he’s on track for par at this 15th hole. He’s one or two over Koepka. Actually, he’s one over Koepka.
This is a perfect example for me. He hit his second shot into the sand trap and now it’s about probability. Its like moneyball...in golf, if it’s a par four then what you want to do is each shot should be the best shot to give you the best next shot that has the greatest probability of getting you close to or into the hole, and so by being in the sand trap on his second shot, now he’s out of the sand trap but it’s difficult to always be close. These guys are amazing players. They’re often very close to the pin on their sand shots, but there’s an increased risk that he won’t be and in this case being 10 – 12 feet from the hole means that for his par putt he’s got a risk of bogeying this hole, which will push him out of the lead. He’ll be co-leading with some of his colleagues here. So again, these are subtle things but if he had picked the right club coming into this approach, and aimed a bit left at the right target to accommodate lateral wind impact, he may not have played it short; he would have been on the green. Or maybe he would have been on the fringe, but a little chip or maybe a putt off the fringe is going to get you three feet or four feet from the hole maybe rather than 12 feet, which is where he’s at now. It’s very subtle but with elementalGolf, we are now tipping the scales on these things and I think having an app that allows you to integrate all these different environmental variables makes all of those things quite simple. That’s why we call it elementalGolf. It makes the game a little, simplier more elemental; it helps you think about it. It’s the Sherlock Holmes model of playing golf. It’s using science and data to help you figure out what the best club is and make sure you’re aiming at the right target. Our app gives you left or right yardages if there’s a strong lateral wind, for example, so you can aim your club on the right target. See, he missed the putt and he’s been missing his putts a little all day and especially to the right. If you’re at 12 feet that’s a lower percentage putting distance than six or five. Most guys at five feet at 90 percent putters. At 12 feet you’re a 50 percent putter.
So, two things that you said, this elemental aspect of it, do you think that this is the final frontier of golf? Think of golf equipment; we’re down to a science and precision in golf equipment and golf balls. We’re down to a science and precision in the way these players condition their bodies and have work outs and what they put into their bodies in terms of their food and nourishment. Are the elements, then, the last frontier to be conquered and is it possible with conquering this last frontier combining all these elements that we could see players shoot par 52, par 50, par 48, is this possible?
Well, anything’s possible. Whether it’s likely is another question, but think about having tools and capabilities like we talked earlier for shaping shots in the wind. The reason people shape shots into the wind is because they don’t really know what the impact of wind will be on their shot. So, if you know what the impact of the wind is on your shot then you don’t need to shape your shots. Let the wind shape the shot for you, for example, or if you know how temperature is going to affect the ball then just play the temperature. The trick is the amount of time it takes for a golfer to learn how all of those variables affect their game. It requires a tremendous amount of time for a golfer to actually figure those things out and it requires them to actually be exposed to those conditions - really there are so many variables, no one has is right every shot. Now, in tournaments like this they’re all kind of on a level playing field because none of them really have that much exposure to these elements and some guys will inherently play it better than others. Henrik is from Scandinavia, so he’s likely grown up with more challenging conditions than some of these other players, although he isn’t playing them often now. Look at Justin Rose - he is a links player, used to the wind. But I think that we’re going to have to move beyond basic experience, especially as we practice. In tournaments an app like elementalGolf currently is not allowed, but for learning how to play in these conditions there is no tool out there that lets people do it.I think you’re right, the players have got good swing coaches. Their swings look very similar. They’re all hitting the ball well. Some of them have hit a little further than the others, but at the end of the day, the real factors affecting scoring has nothing to do with the putters or the drivers or the irons or the skills of the players. It’s come down to how well they play the weather, and there’s a lot on the line here for some of these players and I think an app like elementalGolf will help them play better in these situations. They’ve got to use it and they’ve got to find situations where they get exposed to varied weather conditions and they’ve got to have a tool that helps them learn exactly how to play in it.
Ok, and that brings up another point. The reason you are able to develop this app is because (a) you’re a golfer, and (b) you’ve got a science background plus you’re also an IT Specialist and iOS Developer. So, it would require somebody who had that kind of knowledge. I mean, the pros wouldn’t have these knowledge. Even the caddies wouldn’t have this particular knowledge. Or is there something else you’ve been able to combine that has allowed you to create and conquer the weather conditions and element conditions?
Well, first of all elementalGolf is really a model and it’s a model like any good golf shot. All good golf shots are guesses and some guesses are really good and some aren’t. So, it’s a model and we’re continuing to try and learn and refine that model. Right now, for example, we don’t give you lateral recommendations beyond two yards. So if the lateral carry that we calculate is less than two yards we don’t actually tell you whether it’s left or right two yards, and what our thinking is you probably can’t hit the ball consistently left or right two yards, but on top of that we’re not sure if there’s enough variation in wind itself. Wind doesn’t just blow steadily at one speed; it’s constantly fluctuating in little ways. So, two yards is about the limit of our ability to calculate exactly how it’s going to affect your shot. That said, I think this app is going to revolutionize how people play golf and I think there are more things we can do like we can help with putting, for example. Maybe we can help with difficult lies on fairways. There are other components of the game that we haven’t managed or tried to help golfers with. We’re dealing mainly with the longer distance shots coming down the fairway, getting on approach to the green. That’s where the app is focused now and weather’s a big part of that. And I do think that technology is going to revolutionize how these guys are playing these holes very shortly.
Right. So, that’s the last kind of bastion is this kind of technological component that the players have not just gone into just yet which could revolutionize just as nobody ever thought the one minute mile could be run and it was; now it’s a matter of course. The same could be true of golf scores; we could see lowered golf scores.
I think somebody’s going to have to take an interest in it and what we’re trying to do with elementalGolf is accelerate their capacity to learn, and so other golfers play and practice and if they have tools like elementalGolf they’ll have a much more thorough understanding of how the five core variables affect the travel of a golf ball and when they bring those skills to tournaments, they’re going to play better. They’re going to be more accurate in these conditions. They’re going to increase the chance or the probability that they put the ball close to the pin on approach, for example, and the other factors of golf like putting on the slope and break of a putt and are you with or against the grain on the green, that sort of stuff, all of that will still come to play, but we’re going to get you closer to the pin more reliably and more often especially in these types on conditions. And there are guys that will pick it up and they’re going to have a gift for it. It’s like race car driving. Ayrton Senna, for some reason that guy could drive in wet conditions like no other driver on planet earth and he generally won almost every race he was in where it was wet, and there’s going to be guys like that in golf too. There are guys that have a natural aptitude for playing in adverse conditions. Their mind will pick up the variables that we talked about earlier. By using tools like elementalGolf they’ll more quickly understand and be able to integrate the influence of those conditions on their shots, develop an intuitive sense, and they’re going to be the ones that score well in these types on tournaments.
Ok, here we have Henrik Stenson and he’s at minus 12 just hit off number 17.
Let’s watch where his ball goes.
That was a nice shot.
Pretty good shot, but he’s short. You can see the pin here; there’s not much wind down where his ball is.
Yeah, he’s at the fringe.
Yeah, he’s at the fringe. He’s a little bit to the left, but pretty good shot. And that’s probably a risk-based shot. These guys have a lot of control, so he decided he wouldn’t play it to the pin because it’s too high risk. The risk return isn’t good there.
Ok, and here we have Dustin Johnson. He’s at minus 13, so these guys are pretty much neck and neck
Yeah. We’ll see if he’s going to try and get to the pin. Now, you see that ball? So that ball carried well to the left, but did you see where the wind was blowing? It’s blowing to the left. So, I’m quite sure he hit that ball perfectly. If there hadn’t been wind there it would have carried about the same place as Mr. Stenson, but because of the way the wind was blowing there it carried his ball well to the left. It’s tricky; he naturally draws the ball. So, a draw in a wind where that wind was blowing right there will really, especially if he’s tried to shape the shot at all, will really push the ball to the left. So he’s probably 30 yards, 40 yards to the left on that shot. Now that’s a par four so he’s in pretty good shape off the tee.
Well, was he though? I think we saw he shot into the crowd.
Yes, but I think he’s at just the front edge. But nonetheless, it’s all about the probability that you’re going to put the ball where you want to put it. So, every golfers dream is to align the intention of their shot with the outcome of the shot and when you don’t understand the variables that affect the shot as the ball’s traveling through the air then your success in aligning those two things is going to be lower, especially when there’s conditions like this. Let’s see how Brooks does. So another nice tee shot. See how he carried it long?
Into the crowd.
Into the crowd and he’s got a tail wind. So these guys are not playing the wind well. They don’t know the impact of the wind at these cold temperatures.
No, we can see that. Of those four players that just hit off there, three players, we can see that great variability. Two of them, top pros in the world, hit into the crowds.On a fairly simple par four.
And they’re hitting it longer than they anticipated and it’s because of the wind. There’s no wind meter there, but it looks to me like it’s probably at about a 30 degree angle working with the ball but it’s pushing the ball so it’s pushing it left after their shot and that’s where they’re ending up. They’re ending up long and left off the tee and yeah, there you go. They’re picking the wrong club or maybe they have the right club in their hands, but they’re swinging harder than they need to by shaping low - these guys are pretty well calibrated. They know how far they’re going to hit that club and they’re hitting it further than they anticipate.
So, what’s the future of Elemental Golf? Will you continue to revise it, refine it, add in other elemental conditions, what do you see?
Well, this is like a money ball. What I mean by that is it’s all about statistics and data. So we’re continuing to explore places that provide us with experience about different conditions, so cooler temperatures with high humidity, cool temperatures with low humidity, low elevation, pins that are below your feet off the tee, pins that are above your feet, trying all these different things with those five variables like how do we play the five variables and collect data around them and it’s a fairly substantial effort to get that information. So the more data we collect, the more we’ll integrate that into the model that represents Elemental Golf. I think we have it 90 to 95 percent right but there’s always room for improvement and we will continue to improve that part of the app as we gather more information. Beyond that there’s other part of the golf game where we think we can help with technology and we’ll be working on those over the coming months as well.
One key question; you mentioned about the app itself and how would I as a golfer customize it to myself? We all have different drives; your drive obviously is different than my drive. How does the app know what club I should use?
When you use the app the main screen is basically a caddie and you set the yardage to your target and then you align your phone with that target and elevation is key, but elevation and direction are key. You press "Suggest a club" on the phone and it basically gives you three potential pieces of information that are critical to your shot. One is the effective distance to the pin, so it calculates the distance based on the actual distance and then all those weather and other variables. Second, gives you the lateral carry in yards, left or right. And finally it suggests the club you should use. Ultimately it’s up to you to pick your golf club as you’ll be in a situation where you need to make a tight shot. We don’t know what that is, but when you now know the effective yardage that you have to carry, you can make your choice. So, to customize the app to you, you basically have to open, tap on the golf bag icon, and select what clubs are in your bag. It lets you basically toggle on and off a set of clubs in your bag so it knows for example, no three iron in your bag, or no seven wood. So there’s a set of clubs that we give you, it’s a default set of clubs, and then you just add or remove the clubs that align with your bag. You then must click on settings, where the app asks you to tell us which club you use to reach a target 150 yards away. It could be meters, so the app works in both metric or – so you can use meters or yards. But, whatever your target, whether you’re working in meters or yards, what club do you use to reach 150. So, for me for example it’s an eight iron and that’s all the app really needs to know. We need to know what club you need to reach 150 yards that’s in your bag and then we can calculate basically the carry of all the other clubs and that’s how we make club suggestions. We’re calculating the yardage; we’re then comparing that yardage against the clubs you have in your bag and we’re trying to pick the one that best aligns with the calculated distance that you need to carry on that particular shot, and that’s how it works.
Ok, and if I’ve got a difficult lie for example coming up to a hill do I use it as a pointing tool or do I actually lay it on the ground and let that calculate the elevation based on the lie?
No. I would say what you should do is wherever you’re standing you should hold your phone at basically just above waist height, look at it just like you’d normally would hold it in front of you, and line the phone up both directionally and from a slope perspective with the target you’re hitting. So, for example, if you put the phone on the ground and the hill is steep but the target is on the other side of the hill and it’s not steep you could actually point the phone through the hill at the target because you’re trying to reach a target on the other side of the hill. So that’s the best way for you to hold your phone to get the distance you need for the app to calculate and effect the distance of your target based on both the physical distance and all these variables like wind and temperature, humidity, and elevation. So, for example, you could be facing a hill that’s uphill but the hill ends 20 yards in front of you and then drops on the other side and runs for maybe 200 yards and there’s a creek at the end of that 200 yards and then there’s another 100 yard carry to the green. So, you don’t want to aim your phone up the hill because you may pick a club that takes you into that creek. Really what you want to do is point the phone at the target you set - maybe it’s 15 yards in front of the creek because you can carry the next shot onto the pin, so you point the phone exactly at where you want the ball to land and then hit suggested club and let’s say that’s 160 yards away and it’s actually downhill in this case, it may suggest the calculated carry may only be 143 yard. So, in my case I’d need a 9 iron to get there. That’s the best way to use the app is basically take the phone and point it at the target you want to hit even if it’s through bush, trees, doesn’t matter. You play over those things, you let the ball flight take care of that, and you point it your phone with elementalGolf open at the point where you want the ball to land.
Ok, great. So we’re back to Dustin Johnson again. He was leading; still leading by one. Second shot was from the crowd into the bunker, third shot from the bunker wide on the pin. He’s got probably looking about eight feet from the pin right now, so he’s lining up for a par for this course. And of course, he could blow his lead at this point.Give us a sense of his thoughts. We can see the disappointment in his face. We can see the frustration. How could an app like yours have maybe saved him right off the tee?
Well, it’s about practice. I’m sure he practices a fair bit, but to play well in these conditions you have to practice in these conditions and practice can’t be all that effective unless you have a way of aligning what you do with some feedback about what you should have and where elementalGolf helps is it gives you the information you need to learn more quickly about how to play well in these conditions. So fundamentally this is all about risk and probability again when you hit your ball into the crowd off the tee and then it makes it tougher to make your next shot. The risks are then a little higher that you’re going to mishit the ball or hit it somewhere you don’t want, which is what he did on his second shot, he’s into the sand trap. So, every golfer knows you can get yourself into trouble pretty quickly. It doesn’t take long to rack up a double, triple bogey if you’re not hitting it where you want to hit it. There’s something else going on I’d say in this case given the wind and the temperature, challenges of this particular hole, that’s what it’s all about. And so I think he would really benefit from an app that helps teach him or some kind of model basically that teaches him about how to play in these conditions. They would reduce the risk of him making mistakes or closely align his shots with what he needs to do and keep him at the top of the scoreboard.
Yes. He’s just missed the par so he’s up for bogey right now.
So that puts him one off the lead.
It does. And we can see the stress, both he and Henrik. It was a fun game the last couple of holes. We can see the anxiety on the player’s faces.
Well that’s a key, right? For me, there’s the psychological dimension of golf is really critical. Every golfer knows you just tense up a little and you’re just a little bit frustrated.
Yeah, we can see him shaking his head right now.
You don’t feel the sort of zen of the game. You’re not feeling that you’re going to put it in. So anyway, these are subtle things and it’s tough to say but you need to invest in some time and tools, and he’s got lots of tools, so for $1.99 you can get a really neat app that makes it super easy and could save you this tournament, which is probably hundreds of thousands of dollars it’s going to cost him if he loses.
So interesting, as we’ve watched these players clench up this hole and the anxiety and the frustration on their faces and shaking their heads. The three of them are not having a good time out there. So, basically what we’re saying is that your app could give them some peace of mind to conquer, kind of, that mental aspect.
Yeah, he didn’t mishit any shot here. Maybe his second shot; he didn’t quite hit it the way he should have. But he’s struggling a little bit with yardage I think. So the first shot was long and in your head. You’re trying to play the mental game, so second shot was short and I don’t think he mishit either shot. It’s partly his confidence, partly it’s the whole of who he is as a golfer, but what’s causing disruption here is his inability in my view to understand and anticipate the effect of these variables, mainly wind today, but it’s wind and temperature. I bet you it’s wind, temperature, and humidity. Other than that, he’s hitting the ball fine. He’s just not able to calculate how those three other things are affecting his game.
Right, and your tool and the science behind it that you’ve embedded into the tool allows them to do that. Bring out the elements, those kind of latitude and longitude, wind, elevation, velocity, and the humidity factors, and the geographic, I suppose, the location as well.
Well, that’s the lat and long. So the lat and long are where you are so the phone knows where you are. So from that, it can figure out what the weather conditions are. It basically goes and gathers data on the temperature, humidity, and the wind speed and direction. It also has spatial awareness so it knows what altitude you’re at. So if you’re at the top of a hill versus at the bottom of a ravine when you’re playing it knows the difference. Those differences in yardages may not affect your shot much. It depends where you’re playing. Some courses have some pretty extreme elevation on them; in that case it will actually affect altitude calculations. If may actually affect the distance of your shot. So, it gathers all that data and it makes some pretty good recommendations on what club to play based on where you want to hit your ball.
Ok, so here we have Justin Rose is in top place now and we’re back at the 17th hole and Henrik Stenson’s about to tee off. Maybe you can comment on that again?
I think it’s fun knowing a little bit about these guys. So, Justin Rose is from the UK; he’s probably sort of a links golfer where they’re playing frequently in open windy conditions. So, he’s just has to have subtly, in my opinion, a better grasp of the impact of this type of weather on the ball and how it flies. Henrik just hit the ball; you can see the flag was blowing to the right, the wind is blowing to the right, and he hit the ball and he almost hit it out of bounds on the right because his ball got pushed significantly to the right. He was hitting into a very strong cross and headwind probably at 45 degrees to his ball flight and so these are the things these guys aren’t calculating in their shots, even if they are trying to shape them. Anyway, I think it’s interesting that Justin Rose is actually on top of the leaderboard now I think maybe just because of where he’s grown up golfing, his experience, he’s played in these types of conditions before - it’s subtle and that’s giving him the slight advantage over the other players. Henrik would be another one; he’s probably played similar conditions. These guys are all on the right and the wind is blowing to the right, so they are miscalculating the shot by 30-40 yards.
You mentioned earlier about money ball; so baseball 20-30 years ago there’s recognition that stats and lining up a team of players based on previous experience and stats could predict the overall outcome of a game. Is that the case with this app?
Well, I think what the app does is it gives you more information to make decisions and it calculates things for you that you just can’t calculate otherwise, like, you just cannot calculate the effect of all of these variables on the ball when you have to make that shot. So, no caddy on earth can do it. They’re all pretty amazing because they’ve got their own experiences. So, right now every golf pro on the tour and every caddy, they’re basically guessing at the impact of those things and some of them are very well educated guys they’ve studied, they’ve thought about this, they’ve maybe even got their own equations they run, I have no idea. But, on the fly it’s very difficult to be able to do that stuff. So, as far as I’m aware no one has a tool that they can put in their hands that calculates all this stuff for them and that gives you instant feedback. So the best way to learn is have a tool that you can take with you not in tournament play but in practice, play a few rounds and learn how strong winds for example or really low humidity or high elevation how they affect how you play.
Again, it’s moneyball.
Well, his approach here, I don't know what he was thinking. Like, the wind affected that shot because it blew it. The wind was strong left to right, you can see it from the flags above the stadium here and the ball, he hit it but it blew to the right. It blew off and rolled off to the right and you can see the plants there are blowing in the wind. So that ball was carried to the right by the wind I think. So I don't know where he was aiming, and maybe he put a slight fade on it which wasn’t good, but that wind was a big factor on that last approach shot.
The point is Justin Rose has won this tournament.
So, Justin Rose, our winner in typical UK conditions, not surprising.
Well, maybe not too typical, but I don’t know. It’s interesting there are lots of trees around this course but trees can shape how the wind flows down the fairways but at the end of the day the prevailing winds are really what dominates which direction the wind blows and how the ball gets affected. So, our app is based on prevailing winds and yeah, it’s – there’s subtle things you can play with a little bit as you play with the app, but it gives you a foundation of information that you just don’t have otherwise when you’re playing in these conditions.
Thank you, Doug Hyde, Chief Golf Scientist Elemental Golf.
And I want to thank you.