Scots firm's pushing boundaries with wearable tech golf wristband

The days of Scotland leading the world in terms of making golf clubs may be long gone, but an Edinburgh-based company is putting the country on the map in the technology stakes.

Picture: Shotscope
Picture: Shotscope

Shot Scope, a wristband that automatically collects performance data for golfers, is a product you would probably expect to come out of Silicon Valley in California, the birthplace of many of the gadgets that are now part of everyday life. Instead, it is the brainchild of a West Lothian man who combined his design engineering skills and a passion for golf to develop a product that is being manufactured in the shadow of Arthur's Seat.

David Hunter, who studied engineering at Heriot Watt University and for six years designed electronics for an engineering company in Livingston, is the founder of Shot Scope, which is set to be unveiled to the golfing world at the PGA Merchandise Show in Florida at the end of this month.

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He has assembled a team that combines an equal measure of technological, golfing and business expertise, including Gavin Dear, a member of Scotland's historic Eisenhower Trophy-winning team in Australia in 2008. Ken Lewandowski, the former Hibernian chairman, who has a keen eye for new innovations in a variety of fields, has also thrown his weight behind the product.

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'I started to play golf and was instantly addicted to the sport,' said Hunter, sitting in the company headquarters. 'I'd play every weekend and also rush home from work to play in midweek medals. As an engineer, I was always looking at ways to improve through spreadsheets, bits of paper, the lot. I was looking for any insight about my game, I would record what I did on the practice range and the ratio of putts holed during practice putting drills. I was trying my best to apply my engineering knowledge to improve my golf game.

'Through September 2013 to May 2014, I designed and hand-assembled six Shot Scope prototypes that progressed the technology significantly. I built the first one for £50 after buying components off the internet. I knew the product had to advance quickly and remember sitting on Christmas morning writing software. My wife Claire, a midwife, was working that day.'

Shot Scope has progressed a long way since those early days. Tried and tested at the UK Sports Technology Institute at Loughborough University, the product's revolutionary technology allows a golfer to play uninterrupted as the wristband automatically detects the presence of lightweight club tags that recognise which club is being used and records the exact location of every shot. Identifying more than 100 performance statistics, it provides a comprehensive solution to performance analysis, delivering 'easy to consume' graphics and tools for golfers to evaluate their game.

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'It is really quite simple,' added Hunter, who had just two other people working for him when he started out, but now has 18 staff members, having tapped into the technological skills being developed at many of the Scottish universities. 'You wear it as a wristband, you screw the small tag into the golf grip and you just go and play. The fun starts when you finish the round, review your statistics, see overhead maps detailing every hole or relive every shot from that amazing round played last year.'

Hunter believes Shot Scope has the potential to be a tremendous worldwide success. The team now have the challenge of delivering a product to the market in the right way, with the message starting at the PGA Merchandise Show, the largest golf trade show in the world held in Orlando, Florida every January.

'We have a great opportunity,' insisted Hunter. 'We are in a position where we can build something that is unique in golf as it can be used at all levels of the game.'

Shot Scope has been approved by the R&A and is being used on Tours worldwide. On the European Tour, for instance, it was used in the Dunhill Links last year by Jamie McLeary.

Amateur golfers see the benefit of Shot Scope, too. In four months, the company has sold products to amateur golfers in 26 different countries.

'In the space of 24 months we've raised over £2 million investment, and £400,000 in support from Scottish Enterprise,' said Hunter. 'This helped set up the team and put a great board in place. We couldn't have done that without investment and we couldn't have done that without the support of Scottish Enterprise.'

Dear, who will be a member of the team heading out to the PGA Merchandise Show, believes Shot Scope can be the product to put Scotland on the golfing technology map. 'One of the simplistic things about it is that it visualises the data,' said the 2009 Irish Open Stroke-Play champion.

'You can instantly see course management and there's not anything like that out there other than ShotLink (the system used by the PGA Tour), so that is an instant benefit for all players. We provide a better way to capture the data and overlaying it on to a map is so valuable. It is instant.'