Golf’s growing data technology filters down to junior ranks

A partnership between FlightScope and the AJGA ensures that junior golfers have access to the latest data-tracking technology that helps raise their games

We have constantly seen it with sports across the board for decades now, where new strategies, techniques, fitness regiments — even behavior — by professional athletes are mimicked by the youth of America.

So it was just a matter of time before the metrics surrounding techno-geek and 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau would take the junior ranks — and in particular the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) — by storm.

DeChambeau, the longest hitter on the PGA Tour with an average of 323 yards, is a user of FlightScope, which tracks and analyzes sports performance data. The Orlando-based firm recently entered into a partnership with the AJGA to become the official launch monitor of the massive junior golf organization.

The deal means more than 7,000 AJGA members will be able to perform on-site testing and compete in skills challenges at more than 100 events annually with FlightScope’s Mevo+ and X3 products, which are used by DeChambeau, Bubba Watson and others on the PGA Tour.

The portable Mevo+ uses 3D Doppler tracking radar technology to measure 16 data parameters, while the X3 launch monitor features technology that combines 3D tracking and image processing to create performance data.

“The world of golf has certainly evolved, and the number of players who are interested in learning more about the metrics of individual swings has seen tremendous growth,” said Mark Oskarson, chief operating officer of the AJGA. “We’ve had a lot of college coaches who have asked us to be able to provide this type of information to help them as a recruiting piece. We see our new relationship with FlightScope as being invaluable to the AJGA in terms of helping us fulfill our mission of bringing these (junior) players and college coaches together.”

FlightScope founder Henri Johnson wasn’t sure who to contact in the junior golf ranks when he brought his company from South Africa to the United States in 2008. He began doing extensive homework on what the best fit would be, and eventually landed on the AJGA.

AJGA FlightScope Tent
One piece of the long-range partnership plan between FllightScope and AJGA is for launch monitors to be placed on each hole in tournament play.

The agreement is still in its early stages, considering COVID concerns limited some AJGA events this spring and summer, but the plans between the AJGA and FlightScope are bold — and could provide endless data.

“The short-term, feet-on-the-ground plan is wherever the AJGA plays a tournament they are going to use FlightScope on the range and on certain holes,” Johnson said. “The long term goal is we would love to have FlightScope on all of the holes to get more data on everyone at every tournament. That is a long way to get there, but getting that data set up is valuable for them, for equipment manufacturers, for players, everybody will benefit. We dream of getting more data about the entire game on every hole for every player.”

The AJGA schedule normally consists of 125-130 events per year, with as many as 1,000 foreign members now in the fold.

“Until last year (because of COVID) we were on a 13-year streak year-over-year of membership growth,” Oskarson said. “Having FlightScope on every hole would be a game changer. It is a goal with several hurdles to overcome in doing that, with manpower and other things, but I feel confident we’ve got some events on our schedule that certainly have the capability of handling something like that and we’ll be able to get there sooner than later.”

Johnson believes there is no better target audience when it comes to technology than today’s youth.

“FlightScope has always had its sights on improving athletes,” Johnson said. “Young people are normally more open to learning and experimenting and using any feedback, so with FlightScope we can provide accurate data, and for somebody who is keen on improving as an athlete it provides an ideal opportunity.

“My take on it is technology definitely has a big role in building the confidence in these junior golfers because we all know if you’re confident then you can execute better,” added Johnson. “If you don’t doubt then you are allowing yourself to perform at your best, so confidence breeds confidence and you have a better chance for success.”

FlightScope is just part of the game’s overall technology explosion.

“Look at cameras and the cell phone, and other things that have helped athletes get feedback instantaneously,” Johnson said. “There is no way to get better as a golfer than to get immediate feedback when you are working on something specific because you can do something about it, you can tune yourself in and start to understand it and find your own way to control it.”

However, Johnson and Oskarson both agree that young golfers are not robots, and that technology is available now to enhance a player’s ability and skill level, but can’t measure other aspects of one’s golf game.

“Technology is where we’re headed without a doubt in terms of people wanting to be plugged into that kind of data and how that can affect your golf game,” Oskarson said. “But it’s just one piece to the puzzle. One of the things we’ve wanted to try to track is ‘what is your scoring average after you make a bogey? What do you do on the next hole? Are you making a birdie or are you making a double?”’

“Most athletes, most golfers, wouldn’t use 5 percent of the data we have available,” added Johnson. “But the art of this is to find out what is actually useful for you, and that has to be done by taking a step back and having a deep look at the data, and having a bit of a session with your coach or your parents, whoever can help you, to understand what is it that you really need to do with the information.”