American golf legend Arnold Palmer once observed the sport is ‘deceptively simple and endlessly complicated’. Now a new gadget developed by an Edinburgh-based tech start-up is capitalising on golfers’ never-ending desire to improve their game.
Shot Scope, created by a former technology teacher from Bathgate, helps players keep track of every swing they take and every club used during each round.
The smartwatch-style device is worn on a golfer’s wrist and is the only one of its kind to be approved for use in all competitions, including professional events such as the Open.
The product is fully designed and manufactured in Scotland and will be launched UK-wide next month after winning a series of funding awards over the past year.
“It allows people to improve their game in an easy, straightforward way,” said inventor David Hunter.
The 34-year-old, who used to play off a five handicap, was inspired to create Shot Scope after years of methodically recording his scores on spreadsheets.
He believed there would be a market for a gadget that could gather individual performance stats in a far less time-consuming manner.
But it was while sitting in a lecture at the University of Edinburgh as a mature student he first decided to bring his idea to life.
“In my previous job at an electronics design consultancy I would regularly meet people who had won grant funding from universities and Scottish Enterprise,” he said.
“I wondered how they accessed such funding, so I started my own research and attended one or two networking events.”
While visiting the Edinburgh Startup Summit in 2014 he met staff from LAUNCH.ed -the university’s in-house business development service - and learned some valuable insights into how he could get his plan off the ground.
In July 2015 the inventor secured a £415,000 cash injection to start production of Shot Scope.
Business angel syndicate Equity Gap led the funding deal, which also brought in backing from the Scottish Investment Bank and Old College Capital - the university’s own venture capital fund.
At that point, Shot Scope had two full-time members of staff. Now the business employs 12, and is looking to recruit two more.
Gavin Dear, a former professional player, is the firm’s chief commercial officer.
Hunter admits attracting more pros to endorse his product is a priority.
“We’ve been approached by several well-known players, but I’m not in a position to name names.”
The finished Shot Scope product was unveiled in January at the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida.
Although marketed to serious players, Hunter insists Shot Scope is aimed at golfers of all abilities.
“Golf is supposed to be fun,” he said. “That’s why people go out and play every Saturday.
“The device can be used as a social tool. You can compare your scores to your friends, set up your own competitions and so on.”
Fronting an expanding tech start-up appears at first glance something of a radical departure from teaching design and technology at Falkirk High School, where Hunter worked for six months following his studies in Edinburgh.
But he had already acquired extensive industry experience by that stage, having worked at the A2E electronic design consultancy in Livingston for six years, following his completion of a Masters in electrical engineering at Heriot-Watt University.
“It was working at A2E that I learned all my skills – from design to protyping products,” he added. “It also gave me a network of suppliers and manufacturers. It was critical to what I do at Shot Scope today. It massively helped me to grow the business and base it in Scotland.”
So why the career change?
“I wanted a new challenge – so I decided to become a teacher,” Hunter said.
“There are definitely transferable skills from working in a classroom to founding a start-up. I was speaking to classes on a daily basis, explaining ideas. That helps your presentation skills when pitching the business.
“I’ve always had ideas. But it was only when I returned to university I was introduced into a network where I could get support for them.”