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Belfry. In essence, it is a joint venture between SkyCaddie’s parent company, SkyGolf, and US digital technology specialists SportTrak. Quite simply, SkyTrak combines the


accuracy of a professional-grade launch monitor, suitable for custom-fitting as well as teaching, with the high-definition visuals of top- end simulator software. Depending on your view about value for


money, the SkyTrak team have made this technology – touted at £20,000 and rising not so long ago – affordable to golf clubs and other commercial outlets, teaching/fitting professionals, even ordinary golfers. Naturally, there are different price points


depending how many bells and whistles you add to the basic component, but pre-orders are now being taken in the UK, starting from £1,695 (RRP) per unit, and deliveries will be made from mid- November. “SkyTrak delivers commercial-quality, ball-


flight simulations which reflect a golfer’s actual performance for game improvement and entertainment at a price far below comparable alternatives,” says Jacqui Surman, senior vice- president international sales & marketing at SkyCaddie. “This enables golf professionals to use it in custom-fitting situations, and it also provides an accurate and realistic in-home golf experience that both entertains and makes you a better golfer.” From what I could see, SkyTrak is best


described as a practice, play and entertainment system all rolled into one. Due to its economy of size, it can be used at home (assuming you have a practice net), during a lesson or custom-fitting session, and while hitting balls on the range. Thanks to a laser dot that positions itself


immediately under the ball, SkyTrak uses photometric technology to measure actual ball speed, launch angle, back spin, side spin and side angle immediately aſter impact. It also displays carry distance, offline distance and total distance to simulate normal practice and play. During indoor sessions, wind speed and


weather conditions can be factored into the overall mix in order to mimic the challenges a golfer might encounter outdoors on any given day.


A variety of set-up options mean that


SkyTrak can be configured to display every piece of post-shot information required and several alternative views are available in driving-range mode. At this point, I should point out the technology


still has some way to go before it can fully replicate every on-course situation. The team are still working on sloping lies, be they downhill, sidehill or uphill, and different grass (or sand) conditions, so at present the best use is still from a flat mat or tightly mown practice tee. The laser also has a slight problem delivering totally accurate measurements from teed-up shots, simply because it needs to be focused on the point where the tee enters the ground and is therefore separated by a short distance from the base of the ball. But that aside, SkyTrak is a serious tool which


accurately reflects a golfer’s actual skill levels and shot results.


With SkyTrak, golfers can use their own


preferred brand of ball safe in the knowledge that the data delivered can be applied reliably in competitive conditions when out on the course. The aforementioned laser beam, actually a Wi-


Fi hotspot, displays shot results within seconds – on a screen, projector or iPad. Ball flight and shot shape are accurately projected over a vivid 3D practice range and virtual golf courses, subject to the soſtware the user has chosen. The game-improvement challenges include


nearest the pin, longest drive and target golf, while shot-history tables, performance by club and other helpful data can be stored and displayed at will. It ships with the basic version of the SkyTrak


App, which displays your data on an iPad while a list of compatible iOS products is displayed on the SkyTrak website. Based on evidence already accumulated in the US market, it seems most customers choose to upgrade to the SkyTrak Premium (game improvement) subscription, which in the UK carries a £79 annual fee. This unlocks all SkyTrak’s launch-monitor capabilities and produces extensive swing-analysis data for custom-fittings. The SkyTrak Premium option also gives full


access to the fun side of SkyTrak – its inbuilt challenges and mini-games. SkyTrak Premium also contains a high-


definition, nine-shot ‘Closest to the Hole’ challenge, played over the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina, venue for the 1991 Ryder Cup and 2012 US PGA Championship. This sets the golfer a variety of challenges – par-3 tee shots, fairway approaches and greenside bunker shots – and is the result of a partnership with World Golf Tour (WGT), the No.1 online golf game worldwide. In addition, golfers can also pay a further


annual subscription for similar nine-hole challenges on up to 20 courses, including the Old Course at St Andrews, Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes, Celtic Manor, Pinehurst No.2, Royal St George’s and Chambers Bay. Cranking the subscription revenue up even


further, full-course play will soon be available, tee to green, on all 18 holes on each of these courses. A PC version of the SkyTrak App is in the


pipeline and integration is under way with several soſtware suppliers to enable SkyTrak users to play a huge variety of virtual golf courses on their desktop computer or laptop. These include suppliers like TruGolf, who make the popular E6 Golf simulator soſtware, and Dutch company Golf Club Game, which reportedly offers approaching 30,000 of the world’s courses in a virtual format. A menu in the SkyTrak App enables golfers to


choose which course soſtware they want to play, though the annual subscriptions differ according to the supplier. “Soon – within six to eight months – you’ll be able to play your home course indoors,” promises Andy Allen, managing director of SportTrak. Fittingly, Jacqui Surman has the final word.


“With SkyTrak, golf clubs can now install a reference-quality golf simulator in their clubhouse and invite golfers to play on rainy days


or aſter dark,” she says. “The potential to build social events around it is a significant factor in its growing success.


“But most of all, SkyTrak is for the golfer.


SkyTrak opens up, at a new affordable low price point, the spectacle of playing on a high-end, high-definition golf simulator in your own home. And it is portable enough to carry around to a


friend’s house when a group of people want to play virtual golf together.” Just one word of advice – don’t carry it around with you on a bus in LA!


SkyTrak will exhibit on the SkyCaddie stand, M14, at the Golf Trade Show 2015 in Harrogate from October 6-8. For more information, visit www.skytrakgolf.com. To place orders in the UK, email sales@skycaddiegps.co.uk or call 01844-296350.


SGBGOLF 23


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