The Golf’s Technological Revolution: How Technology and IP is Transforming the Centuries-Old Game
Golf, a sport steeped in tradition, has experienced a remarkable transformation through technology. From the launch of cutting-edge equipment to advanced data & analytics, the marriage of technology and golf has revolutionised the way the game is played, watched and analysed.
Intellectual property rights, primarily patents, trade secrets and brands (backed by trademarks), have been drivers of innovation in a highly competitive environment, as golf equipment companies invest heavily in research and development to create unique and groundbreaking designs, delivering improved performance, enhanced feel, and increased forgiveness from clubs and balls.
Ready for take-off
Let’s fly back a few years to 2016 when Callaway collaborated with Boeing to better understand the impact of aerodynamics on golf club performance. The breakthrough findings were incorporated into new golf clubs with the new products and technological advancements protected by patents. Callaway boasts an extensive patent portfolio of over 2,000 active patents with a further 350 patent applications. However, it is not only Callaway that boasts an impressive patent portfolio, with their main competitors, Titleist, TaylorMade and Ping, possessing a combined total of almost 8,000 active granted patents, and around 1,500 patent applications, highlighting the continued drive for new innovations in golf equipment to an attempt to gain a competitive edge.
The softer side of golf
Don’t be mistaken into thinking innovation in golf is focused solely on advancements in club performance. Sophisticated software, such as launch monitors and swing analysis devices, provide data about swing mechanics, ball flight, and shot statistics. These devices comprise sensors, cameras, software and algorithms to capture and analyse critical metrics such as clubhead speed, spin rate, and shot dispersion, allowing golfers to fine-tune their technique based on data. Advancements in launch monitor technology were further developed through the introduction of portable launch monitors allowing golfers to use the technology anywhere. Three of the major participants in this field; Trackman, Foresight and Flightscope, have all sought to stringently protect their innovations, racking up almost 100 granted patents and 67 patent applications, underpinning the complexity and innovative nature of this technology.
The new type of golf Caddai
Data capture and analysis is another game-improvement tool, particularly through swing analysing technology. This technology comes in the form of adaptable sensors mounted on golf clubs that are synced to GPS-compatible apps, allowing users to build their own collection of data each time they play a shot. The data accumulates, providing users with insights straight to their mobile phone, often using AI to detail strengths, weaknesses and comparative golfer performance data. One of the major providers in this space, Arccos, has accumulated information on hundreds of millions of golf shots, on more than 40,000 golf courses. In the production of recent products, Arccos collaborated with Microsoft’s AI team, bringing real-time feedback to users, comparative to that of a real-life caddie.
Despite its old-fashioned reputation, golf as we know it is constantly evolving, but this is neither the time nor place for discussion on the “tour and prize money” innovations. The pursuit for improvement from every angle and in every shot has led to continuous innovation utilising revolutionary materials, AI and GPS. Supported by some of the world’s largest corporations, this IP-rich sport continues to grow in popularity both on and off-screen across the world, paving the way for future innovation.
Written by our Analyst, David Hood, a single figure handicapper and golf enthusiast