Motion tracking for sports and specifically golf is not exactly new, but the best device we've used in recent times was the GolfSense, which strapped to the back of a golf glove and sent data via Bluetooth to an iPhone, iPad or Android device.
We loved it, but it had limitations. The main issue was that it was too large for regular use in play. It was okay at a driving range or in the practice nets, but was always conspicuous. It's still a great device, but we always felt it could be improved.
That clearly was in the mind of Zepp too, the manufacturer of the GolfSense, as it has returned with a smaller, lighter. more advanced replacement. And it's not just for golf either, it can be used for tennis training, baseball and softball too.
We were concentrating on its golfing talents during our initial try-out however, as we got to test it at Urban Golf in London and within five minutes of using one - and an explanation of the stats it was gathering by a PGA pro - our swing had improved dramatically.
The Zepp Golf, which costs £129.99 for the sensor, a glove clip and USB charging cradle/cable combo, is a 3D motion tracker that works with a dedicated Android, iPhone or iPad app (much like the GolfSense) but the company has learned a lot over the last year and enhanced its software significantly.
The statistics it is able to capture are plentiful and detailed. As well as create a 3D model of your swing, showing the back and front planes, that can be rewinded and played over and over again, it is able to register club speed, swing tempo, hip rotation, the angle of the club shaft at the top of the swing and much more.
The angle was the most important stat for us in our brief training session as we found out we were only getting the club back to 180-degrees, while 270-degrees is ideal. A bit of coaching and several attempts later (some failed) and we were getting closer to 245-degrees and hitting speeds of up to 15mph or so faster than before. More practice with the Zepp and we're sure we'd get that even better.
One clever statistic is based on your own set goals. Using sliders, you set the ideal points you want to match on each individual aspect of the swing and then, when swinging you are given a percentage of how close you got to those goals. The stats also show up in green when you are getting them right, red when far away and amber for somewhere in between. It is a clear indication of improvement and invaluable we feel.
Another great feature of the free Zepp Golf app is that it gives you access to a stack of training videos for every aspect of a swing. And you can film (or, more accurately, get someone else to) yourself on the phone or tablet's camera and then view it side-by-side with a video of a pro, including Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele. They can both be timed to play from the same point and together too, to show what you're are potentially doing wrong.
The videos are completely inclusive too. There are no plans for in-app purchases, we were told. You buy the tracker and the rest is on a plate for you. We like that a lot.
The app has also been recently updated - to version 2.2 - in order to even more effectively give you advice on your performance. It now gives access to Zepp Insights. Users now get weekly reports on what areas of their swing they should work on based on the data gathered by the Zepp sensor.
Every swing is analysed and the customised report arrives at the app each week which the golfer can assess. This attention to detail is paramount for those looking to improve their game and for us it's what makes the tracker an important tool for beginners and experienced golfers alike.
It also shows that, even after purchase, Zepp is looking to constantly offer more to its customers through feature updates.
Zepp Golf has really answered a lot of the questions that sprung up after using the GolfSense for a while and it genuinely improved our game in even a short time - what price would you put on that?