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CES 2019: Golf, an old-fashioned sport, sees technology wave

Updated January 10, 2019 - 4:46 pm

Thursday looked like just another day on the course for LPGA Tour player Alison Lee.

An impressive birdie was met with cheers from the crowd. A near miss on a putt led to a few groans.

It all seemed so normal save for the fact that Lee was nowhere near a golf course. She was in the middle of a CES showroom displaying her skills on the GOLFZON golf simulator in front of a crowd of convention attendees.

Lee’s few swings in the game, which involves players going through a virtual round by hitting balls at a giant screen, were the highlight of an impressive display of golf innovations this week. Golf isn’t often considered progressive, but it had more products on display than most sports at CES.

“I think golf is a more traditional sport, normally,” Tim Doane, developer of the Rover robotic caddie, said. “But I think a lot of people that like to play golf are also creative. So they keep pushing up against it.”

Doane is one of the people trying to change the sport with his invention that’s available at 50 golf courses in the U.S., including annual PGA Tour event holder Torrey Pines. His robot assistant comes with a sensor that allows it to follow a few feet behind golfers as they walk the course.

It also sports a cooler, cup holders, a cell phone charging port and a screen that tells players how far away they are from the hole. It’s not available in any courses in Las Vegas yet but Doane said he’ll “have it on a course in Vegas soon.”

There was other new golf tech available at CES for people who want to improve their game, like the Phigolf simulator. The game comes with a sensor and a short stick with a golf ball on the end and pairs with TVs and mobile devices. Golfers swing the stick like they would a golf club and receive data such as how hard they hit the ball and how far the ball traveled. It costs $249, according to the company’s website.

“It tells you everything you need to know about your swing and your technique,” Phigolf spokesman Tselmeg Tseveendorj said.

The company Voice Caddie can do something similar for golfers, only in real life. Its Swing Caddie provides real-time swing data on the golf course and starts at $269.99, according to the company’s website. It also has a device for putting data that costs $69.99.

The latter could have helped Lee when her putt came up just short on the simulator. She still showed off how advanced GOLFZON is, as the simulator’s playing surface in front of the screen changes in elevation to match different spots on the 180 courses available on its software.

The simulator is available at less than 20 locations in the U.S., according to GOLFZON Global Marketing Manager Hwajin Kim, so plenty of interested onlookers stopped by to test it out at CES. That is, until Lee wrapped up and no one wanted the pressure of playing her final 16 holes.

“Whoever finishes, don’t mess up,” Lee said.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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