Golfers will soon be able to use Microsoft Band as a virtual caddy and shot tracker, thanks to a new partnership with TaylorMade. But competitors will need to be careful, as incorrect use of their smartphone could get them disqualified.
An update due in the coming weeks will allow Microsoft Band to both detect when users hit a golf shot and automatically keep score, as well as offering the GPS tracking that traditional golf trackers provide. The wrist device may help golfers comply with rules by keeping their smartphones switched off.
Golf's governing bodies in the US (USGA) and worldwide (R&A) have very specific rules about how golf aids can be used in competition. Both the Royal & Ancient and the US Golf Association updated their laws in 2014 to allow distance-measuring devices in all amateur competitions — which makes devices like the Microsoft Band legal.
However, only distance measuring is permitted. If you use a smartphone that can measure temperature and wind speed, or use a camera to analyze your swing, you'll be in breach of the rules. Weather forecasting apps are allowed, as long as they don't actually measure the weather elements themselves.
All such devices are banned in the pro game. This infographic gives more detail on exactly what technology is permitted.
Microsoft says improvements made to the Band's sensors since its October release now make it accurate enough to differentiate between a practice shot and an actual swing. This shot detection – combined with GPS tracking – means the Band can automatically update your golf score. When you step on the next tee box, your score from the previous hole is automatically displayed on the screen.
The wearable also acts as a virtual caddy by providing accurate distance to the front, middle and back of the green with one press of the action button — the standard functionality provided by most electronic golf aids.
All the data from your round is then uploaded to the Microsoft Health app on your Android, iOS or Windows phone. If you have TaylorMade's myRoundPro installed, your shots will be plotted on a map of the course. TaylorMade sellls golf clubs and assorted gear accessories.
As well as providing useful details for clubhouse bragging – like your longest drive – a coming update to the app will track next-level stats similar to those used on the PGA Tour (greens in regulation, proximity to the hole, etc.), providing a deeper analysis of individual players' games. The TaylorMade course finder will also direct you to any courses nearby and provide details such as which tee boxes are open that day.
Microsoft Health also tracks the golfer's physical exertion. It provides heart rate and calories burned stats for each hole and even provides some golf-specific workouts, including a five minute warm-up routine to get you ready for your round.
Golf tracking is available for users in the U.S. and the U.K., where the Microsoft Band retails for $199 and £169, respectively. That's expensive for a wearable — but quite reasonable compared with golf trackers on the market from the likes of Garmin and TomTom.
Golfers might just want to check which apps are installed on their phones before they step on the tee box!