Wearable technology is the latest buzzword in tech land and there are many devices around that will monitor your health and tell you that you are still alive and what you should or should not be doing to maintain that state of affairs. It's like having your mum on your wrist.
There are also several golf specific devices that try and monitor your golfing life, tracking your every shot and enable you to analyse your game to find the secret that will unlock the key to the promised land of even lower scores. I find holing more putts usually works.
Latest to join the fray is Microsoft who know a thing or two about devices and software. The Microsoft Band has been around for a while and monitors healthy things like heart rate, steps taken, sleep patterns and calories burned. All good stuff, but unlikely to reduce your scores.
Rather than let their tech guys make up a golf application Microsoft sensibly partnered up with TaylorMade to create the Golf Tile, which is essentially the golf app for the Microsoft Band.
The Golf Tile is just one of the free features on the Band which you have to buy and comes with a mini USB charging cable that uses a special adaptor at the device end,
The strap comes in three different sizes and there is a ratchet type clasp to ensure you get snug fit, which will be important during your swing.
Once you have your Band you need to register it with your online Microsoft account and download the Microsoft Health app to your Windows, Android or iOS smartphone to activate it.
If you also want to analyse your stats after the round you will also need to create an account at myRoundPro.com, which is TaylorMade’s stand-alone statistical analytics platform.
Then you pair your Band with the smartphone using Bluetooth, cross your fingers and hope it all works. This can take some time, so do it the day before you plan to use it for the first time and not in the morning as you may not arrive at the 1st tee in time or in the right frame of mind.
Once you are logged in and set up, you search for the golf course you are playing on your Smartphone and download it to the Band. This is a very slick process and can be done anytime in advance. The Band can only store one course at a time, but downloading a new course is quick and takes just a few minutes provided you have an internet connection on your phone.
You can choose from over 20,000 courses worldwide and 2,900 or 90% of UK courses from the National Golf Foundation database. So far the coverage in the UK and USA has been good, although when I played at Archerfield, which has two courses, the course name and the yardages got swapped, so some of the course information may still be work in progress.
What the Microsoft Band does is record your activity during the 4 hours of your life you are wasting on the golf course and records when you take a shot through GPS positioning.
With other such game recording tech, you have to proactively tell the device when you are taking a shot, but the Microsoft band can sense when you strike the ball without you having to do anything. All you do is wear the band on the wrist of your leading arm when playing (the one with the glove on) and it picks up the thrash of your swing via a sensor on the inside of the strap.
This is very impressive and it can differentiate between a practice swing and the real thing and even one handed tap-ins were successfully recorded.
If it misses a stroke you can swipe the touch screen to the left to add one and if you need to remove a stroke then swipe to the right. It's a bit like Tinder for golf swings and if you are not sure what that is, ask your local, friendly young person.
The Band sits easily on your wrist, but it can be a little awkward to view and reach the buttons if you wear it on top like a watch. The smart move is to turn it 180° and wear it so the display is on the inside of your wrist.
On the course the Band also acts as a GPS device giving you yardages to the front, middle and back of each green when you push the Action button on the right. As golf GPS go, this is not very slick as you have to effectively ask for the yardage on demand from the point you are at when you push the button and this takes a few seconds to communicate with the satellite before showing the numbers.
It may not sound like very long, but when you are used to real time yardages from dedicated GPS devices then it seems an age. However it is there to save battery life, so you can't have everything.
Once you finish your round the data is uploaded to your phone automatically and you can analyse it there or on the Microsoft band website.
However, for some real number crunching you need to get in front of a computer and login into your myRoundPro account.
It is worth pointing out at this stage that you don't have to own a Microsoft Band to use myRoundPro. You can use TaylorMade's free online service direct, but then you have to record and enter the data manually. What the Band does is automate the collection of shot and distance information .
For each round in myRoundPro you get graphics of each hole with all the shots the Band picked up overlaid on the image. If they are not in the right place then you can drag and drop them or add and remove shots. Click on the green to get a close up and drag the flag to where you remember it being and adjust the position of putts if required.
Like other systems the green information is where things get vague unless you have a pin sheet, so just getting the rough area for the flag and the right number of putts is the best you can hope for as the Band cannot record where the hole was. The only way around this is to have, or fake, a tap in for every last putt and use that last shot as the hole location when you get online and drag the flag to that point.
You can also use drop downs to add the club you used for each shot to the data as this is not recorded by the Band, just the position and number of shots. This tidying up of the data takes 5 to 10 minutes per round and if you have a short memory or are on a multi-round golf trip and want to record the clubs used, then taking some notes on the course would be a good idea.
You then sign off the round and once that is done you can't change anything, so be careful. Now you can analyse the rounds you have played and to get real value from this you need to enter at least 5 rounds as it is the trends that myRoundPro can show you that is important.
As well as the usual general stats, myRoundPro uses the Strokes Gained system devised by Professor Mark Broadie and used on the PGA Tour to evaluate your performance relative to other golfers of similar ability. It is based on the average number of shots taken to get down from a certain position and distance.
This is better than basing stats on a given club as it is all distance related. So in my two round test you can see that I was 0.49 shots worse off than the average from 150-200 yards, but that was still better than my 100-150 yard performance even though I hit 3 shots very close from this range.
As well as driving distance and fairways hit you can also get dispersion stats so you can see which side of the fairway you tend to hit or miss over time and this is one of the most beneficial analytical features.
There is plenty more to play around with, but it all relies on having the best possible data for distances and clubs to get the most from it.
TaylorMade say that this is the first generation offering and that content will be added to areas like coaching and potentially advice on which clubs to have in your bag for distance gapping in the future.
However in the here and now is this worthy of being a part of your golfing arsenal?
As a standalone front/middle/back golf GPS then it is a little pricey, but as part of a golf stats and wider fitness measurement regime combined with a watch and partner to your smart phone for messaging, then it all seems good value.
Like other GPS stats systems, having to go online after each round and tidy up the data requires a computer and a certain level of commitment, especially remembering the clubs. Game Golf is the other well known system for this and that can record the clubs you use as you play, but doing that does intrude on your game and then you have to physically plug the device it in to a computer.
This is the Microsoft Band's strength as once you set it up you don't have to look or touch it again until you are finished if you don't want to. The device syncs wirelessly to your phone, is light and stylish as these things go, and the way it detects a shot being played automatically is really clever.
In addition it can be used as a GPS and provides details on your activity levels and how many calories you have burned so you can make an informed decision on how many pints you can have in the clubhouse before measuring the effectiveness of your post round snooze.
The TaylorMade myRoundPro site is well laid out and provide a wealth of statistics using leading edge analysis of Strokes Gained that will certainly give you an insight into your game, some of which will probably surprise you.
Over time I am sure the software will improve further, so if you like this method of shot data collection then it could be time to join your golf together with the Band.