PING has released iPING, a putting training and fitting app for the iPhone 4 and iPod Touch (4th gen) that measures the rotation of the putter face during the forward stroke (ranging from straight to slight arc to strong arc), the alignment of the putter face at impact (square, open or closed), and the tempo of the swing. Developing consistency in these areas will lead to better putting. iPING records your results and based upon this data, generates a “Putting Handicap” to measure your consistency. iPING lets you compare your results to those of PING touring pros. You can even share and compare your results with friends by posting to Facebook or Twitter.
The catch is that to make use of iPING, you have to find some way to attach your iPhone or iPod Touch to your putter. Never fear, Ping has anticipated your every need, and has developed a plastic cradle that holds the iPhone or iPod Touch (there are two different cradles, so make sure you buy the right one) and snaps on to the shaft of the putter.
The good news is that the iPING app is absolutely free from the iTunes App Store! The bad news is that the cradle is priced at $29.99. You could probably try to jerry-rig some method of securing an iPhone/iPod Touch to a putter, but given the low price of the cradle (at least within the ridiculously expensive golf products universe), we’d recommend just shelling out the 30 bucks.
- Provides great data on what you actually do during your putting stroke
- Easy set-up
- Great price point
- Doesn’t actually teach you how to fix what you’re doing wrong
- Data can be skewed by whether you properly square up the cradle so that it’s perpendicular to your putter face
Retail price: $29.99
The first step is to go to the iTunes App Store and download the iPING app. Once it’s on your iPhone or iPod Touch, you simply launch the app. The app immediately presents a slideshow of five introductory options, including a video that shows how to set up the iPING. Unfortunately, the first option shown is “Tap to get fit for your Ping Putter.” Aw c’mon PING, can’t you wait until you’ve shown us how bad our putting actually is before you start shilling your products? The setup video is option #4.
In any event, even if you don’t find the setup video, installing the cradle is pretty intuitive – just snap the plastic cradle on to the shaft of the putter, slide in the iPhone/iPod Touch, and rotate the cradle so that it’s perpendicular to the putter face. Easy peasy.
Our one caveat is that your results will be off if you don’t properly position the cradle. The mitigating factor is that, as discussed below in “Teaching Value,” the main focus of the app is with consistency, and not with the exact recorded stroke type, impact angle or tempo. So even if the data isn’t precise, it should at least be consistently skewed in the same direction in a given session (unless you adjust the cradle between putts, in which case you will not be comparing apple to apples), which won’t affect your consistency rating.
iPING uses the accelerometer and gyroscope built in to the iPhone 4/iPod Touch to measure linear acceleration and rotational speed, respectively. The app will record the rotation of the putter face during the forward stroke (ranging from straight to slight arc to strong arc), the alignment of the putter face at impact (square, open or closed), and the tempo of the swing.
- Stroke Type. The app determines the closing angle of your stroke, which is defined as the amount of face rotation from the start of the forward swing to impact. In layman’s terms, this is the arc of your putting stroke. iPING defines face rotation of less than 3.5 degrees as a “straight” stroke, between 3.5 degrees and 7.5 degrees as a “slight arc,” and more than 7.5 degrees as a “strong arc.”
- Impact Angle. iPING measures the angle of the putter face at impact, relative to what it was when initially addressing the ball. For a right handed player, if the angle of the putter face is left of what it is at address, then iPING defines this as “closed” and if it is right of what it is at address it is “open.” For a lefty, these values are flipped. More importantly, iPING shows the magnitude of how many degrees open or closed the face actually is.
- Tempo. The final measurement provided by the iPING app is tempo, which is the ratio of back swing time to forward swing time (up to impact). Most golfers have somewhere near a 2:1 ratio (the back swing is twice as long as the forward swing).
iPING takes the data in a session of five putts to generate a “consistency” score. The app will also average consistency scores across recent sessions to produce a “putter handicap” for the user. The app focuses on consistency as an end goal, under the premise that there are no particular values that are optimal in the three areas it measures, so long as you achieve the same putting stroke every time.
We tested iPING using both a Z Factor Perfect Putting Machine and a Putting Arc MSIII, two devices that guide the putter through a defined stroke. With the Z Factor, we varied our sessions among set-ups that created “straight back / straight through,” slight arc and strong arc strokes. The Putting Arc MSIII only guides the putter through one type of stroke, a slight arc. Our findings were that the iPING consistently detected the appropriate stroke type and also was spot on in recognizing that the devices were squaring up the club face.
We also tested the app on golfers of different putting abilities, from a single digit handicapper to a complete beginner, and found that the app made accurate distinctions with respect to the consistency of the golfer being tested.
Our review staff found the iPING to be a great tool as one part of an overall putting improvement regime. The cold hard results are a great reality check on whether you’re on track for a repeatable stroke. We note, however, that those looking for some kind of instant fix to their putting woes are in for some disappointment, because while the iPING is great at telling you what you’re doing and how consistent you are, it doesn’t really tell you how to fix things or become more consistent. Our sense is that iPING is best used in conjunction with other instructional books, videos, drills, or putting aids to mark progress in developing a better stroke.
Suggestion Box: How about incorporating some instructional videos of drills, and pointing users to the appropriate ones based on the results of the measurements?
There is an added bonus within iPING, which is the putter fitting feature. Based on the measurements within a five putt session, the app will recommend a putter. For example, it will suggest a face-balanced putter for a straight stroke type, a mid-hang for a slight arc, and a toe-down for a strong arc.
Our review staff found the iPING app to be surprisingly entertaining. Because it just clips on to the shaft of the putter, it’s portable enough to be used either in your home, office, or on an actual putting green. The iPING app makes practicing an interesting exercise, as it fires up the competitive juices in seeing how you grade out with the flat stick. Comparing your statistics with those of touring pros helps keep things in perspective as well.
Of course, whether the ball actually goes in the hole is what ultimately makes putting fun or not, but you won’t get better without practicing, and by adding some spice to the practice routine, the iPING app actually makes it more likely that you WILL practice.
CONSTRUCTION / DURABILITY
The iPING cradle is made of sturdy plastic and is thick enough that it can be dropped or mishandled without any fear of breaking it. The piece that grips the shaft of the putter is solid enough that we didn’t worry about the cradle (and of course the expensive iPhone it was holding) falling off.
COST / VALUE
The download of the iPING app itself is free, and the cradle retails for only $29.99. What you get in return is a fun way to measure the consistency of your stroke, either on an actual putting green or on a practice mat. We found that the app recorded variations in strokes as well as much more expensive devices like the TOMI (albeit measuring fewer aspects of the stroke). For the low price at which the iPING is offered, we highly recommend the iPING app and cradle as a helpful tool for analyzing putting strokes for golfers of all skill levels.