Golf Technology – Helping or Hurting

Golfplan International Golf Insurance asks a very interesting question: “What has been the best technology advancement, and what has been the worst in the game in the last 10 years?” They want to know what drives the golf industry and what slows it down. After some considerable thought, discussion, and research, here is what I believe are the best and worst advancements in golf over the past 10 years.

Best Technology Advancement: Distance Finding Devices


The introduction of GPS distance finding devices to golf are shaping its future!

Not really new to golf, distance finding devices have grown in popularity in the past 10 years. The use of a distance finding device was adopted by the USGA in 2006. Since that time, popularity has grown exponentially. The most popular are the laser range finders because they provide exact line-of-sight measurement. In the past 5 years, the GPS devices such as the GARMIN Approach 6 have started to be “must have” equipment. As technology continues to grow in this area, smart phones, watches, and devices that voice the distance are becoming even more common place. As long as the device does not provide course conditions such as wind and elevation changes, it is legal for use in a tournament.

Distance finding devices are good for golf. They help all golfers, regardless of skill level, with course management, speed of play, and club selection. Of the two categories of devices, the GPS gets my vote as the better of the two. It provides accurate distances on blind shots, significantly helps when playing a course for the first time, and can measure the distance from one point to another. Overall, GPS devices are the way of the future.

Worst Technology Advancement: Innovation

Innovation is an overly used word. It is defined as the act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods. There is no question that golf paradigm shifts have occurred due to innovation. The innovation of steel (then graphite) shafts, metal heads, golf ball design, etc. are innovative changes that have actually shaped the golfing industry. Today, innovation is the most overused word in golf.

When a major manufacturer makes a minor change (which they try to pass off as a technological change) to their club – it is called innovative. New innovative ways to swing a club, lower your score, or fix your golfing woes pop up everyday and disappear just as quick. Even if someone wanted to keep up with all the “so called innovative changes” they could not….unless they were extremely rich and had unlimited time.

It is perfectly understandable that manufacturers continue to try and develop the best equipment for the average golfer, however it is unlikely that new innovative equipment can be developed every six months that will dramatically change the face of golf. The cost of buying new innovative equipment, in my opinion, is hurting the golf industry! There is a point where feeling the need to purchase new equipment will scare off new players, due to the costs involved; the difficulty is determining what that cost is!

What is considered the best and worst advancements in golf in the past 10 years, varies from person to person. It is challenging to pinpoint which are the best and the worst. For me, the best is distance finding devices; the worst is innovation.

What do you think are best and worst golf advancements in the past 10 years?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

10 thoughts on “Golf Technology – Helping or Hurting

  1. I agree that the distance devices are great. I am always at a loss when I find my battery is dead at the course for my laser finder. I also believe the new push carts are innovative. I have a Clicgear 3.5 that I love. Short game not distance is the key to be a better golfer!


  2. Pingback: Picking a Golf Club to Improve Your Game | The Grateful Golfer

  3. Jim,

    A bit behind on my reading so just got to this post, but love the topic as well. I really agree with you regarding the equipment. Although there have obviously been huge advancements in technology, the advancements year to year are very, very small. Yet people still feel pressured to “keep up” or they’ll be left behind. Non-sense.

    Brian brought up the interesting point that the average golfer isn’t really getting that much better. I don’t find that very hard to believe. Most marketing out there is for “insane distance” and “speed slots” in irons, etc. The average golfer (and I stress “average”…better players usually distinguish the difference) is being told that distance is the key to getting better. For most of them more distance just puts them deeper in the bush. If companies started to market equipment that will help them hit “insanely” buttery chips and splashing out “ridiculous” sand shots, if they practice, I bet the average handicap might start to come down.

    Huge can of worms you opened here….. haha



  4. Jim, agree on the distance finding devices; huge benefit.

    Considering the average handicap has stayed the same over time and more importantly through all the game improvement technological change provided by innovation, you could make a case that “innovation” would be more aptly named snake oil. Although I wouldn’t go quite that far. It is amazing that we can swing faster, hit it farther, spin the ball more, but our average score stays the same. Does that make a statement about the state of instruction? Love the topic; thanks!



    • Brian,

      Great point! Maybe we are not teaching the game properly. With the equipment of today, results happen quicker with less practice….to a point. I did not know the average scores are the same….must keep that in mind. Thanks for the comment!



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