By Alex Narey published
Picture the scene: you are out with your regular fourball when one of your partners ‘flushes’ a 9-iron that takes off and hooks viscously into trees. They fling their arms in the air and throw you one of those looks before screaming – for the benefit of anyone who cares – “I don’t believe it... I haven’t been hitting it left for ages.”
The truth is, they probably have been hitting it left, but their brain is mostly registering their recent good shots and so the bad shots, and the bad habits, are ignored.
This is where GPS shot-tracking is helping golfers maximise their potential, and one of the key exponents in this field is Arccos – a pioneer of big data and artificial intelligence. From plotting every shot in your round to recording the distances that you hit each of your clubs, the Arccos Caddie System has grown into a huge global community and in 2020, the average new Arccos member improved their handicap by 5.02 strokes.
Now Arccos is looking to the future with the appointment of self-proclaimed ‘golf nut and data nerd’ Lou Stagner as the company’s data insights lead.
Stagner has become an influential figure in the golf data space by combining a lifelong passion for the game with his background as a business intelligence and analytics executive. Through his popular Twitter feed, @LouStagner, and co-hosting the Hack It Out Golf podcast, he remains a highly respected voice. Here he reveals how GPS shot-tracking could help you become a better golfer, and why data intelligence will play such a huge part.
How did you fall in love with golf?
I have been a golf nut for about 30 years and like all kids would love to play. But I wasn’t good at the start. Then I really got into playing in the early Nineties and managed to get down to scratch. I was decent enough to occasionally play well, but I was never good enough to compete with the elite amateurs.
Tell us about your love for stats
I was very much into golf data even in my early days. I would record every shot I hit on a spreadsheet to see what the numbers were to try and get better. But I suppose my real golf stats journey began about three years ago as I started doing a golf blog. It was just a hobby but now I need to pinch myself that I am working with Arccos on a platform that has such a great level of data for the game.
Why have golf stats and GPS data become so important?
I have yet to meet a golfer who does not want to improve, and for us amateurs, a big part of that is understanding the areas of our game that need work. Arccos helps you understand that at a very detailed level. There will be some players who think they are great putters and every time they make an 8-footer that confirms what they think, but of course they forget about all the 4-footers they miss. So there is a lot of bias that gets introduced in golf and Arccos takes that away.
What’s the most interesting aspect of working for Arccos?
Everything! It’s the perfect fit. What really excites me is how much we are looking to expand the Arccos platform. We are constantly trying to make everything better with what we can offer.
Is Arccos really targeted at the better players?
No. Arccos is a tool for every level of player; not just a tool for better players. It is a tool that can help you understand the details of your game and what needs attention.
Having such on-point data must reveal quite a lot to players...
With professional golf, mostly what we see are the top players in the world playing their best. Our TV viewing experiences primarily show players who are in the zone and playing extremely well. But when you look at players as a whole, even pro players, the performances can be pretty shocking at times. People can have a false sense of their games; they might be much better, or worse, at a skill than they believe themselves to be. They will hit a shot, get frustrated, and that can make them play worse. By having improper expectations you can actually make yourself a worse player. Your on-course Arccos data dispels the myths; it just gives you hard facts.
What does the future hold and can you see a time where all players will be using GPS data?
There will be a significant amount of progress over the coming year. Arccos’ partnerships with TaylorMade, Ping and Cobra will drive a lot of awareness. I think about being on the golf course 15 years ago; we had almost nothing back then. A few GPS devices were coming on to help you get yardage, but we had nothing like we do now and things continue to advance. Technology will progress across the board and Arccos will continue to improve in many different ways.
Alex began his journalism career in regional newspapers in 2001 and moved to the Press Association four years later. He spent three years working at Dennis Publishing before first joining Golf Monthly, where he was on the staff from 2008 to 2015 as the brand's managing editor, overseeing the day-to-day running of our award-winning magazine while also contributing across various digital platforms. A specialist in news and feature content, he has interviewed many of the world's top golfers and returns to Golf Monthly after a three-year stint working on the Daily Telegraph's sports desk. His current role is diverse as he undertakes a number of duties, from managing creative solutions campaigns in both digital and print to writing long-form features for the magazine. Alex has enjoyed a life-long passion for golf and currently plays to a handicap of 13 at Tylney Park Golf Club in Hampshire.