Evolution in sports has been ever-present; more so in terms of golf. The changes in playing equiment, ranging from clubs, balls and even the texture of shoes continue to bring dynamic edge to a rather traditional sport. However, since the turn of the century, golf has also seen a rise in technological advancements, which have brought a revolution of sorts to the sport's infrastructure.
While the United States is leading the technological revolution in golf, India is slowly -- but steadily, catching up.
Saaniya Sharma, a pro-golfer who has also turned to coaching in recent times, explains the technological scene in India in the sport.
"It's all about the numbers. If not good, there is a decent amount of technology in India. People's awareness has changed. Individually, people are now buying equipment which help them improve their game. But otherwise, there is a massive scope for improvement when it comes to technology. Golf is an elite sport, top-end technology is very expensive. We can go a long way when it comes to using such advanced technologies. In the US, it's huge. Here, there are a handful of courses that have good technology and backup to help golfers. But there is a big difference," Sharma says.
She further reveals that she went to the United States to train in the initial stages of her playing career and that the difference in technological accessibility is a "total game-changer." However, Sharma also remains positive of the ongoing developments in the golfing infrastructure in India.
"We can invest in whatever we can (as coaches). There is a massive usage of technology outside, I myself trained under a coach in the US. The things that they use versus the things we have access to are totally different, it's a total game-changer. We have some good academies in the country, these courses have access to such equipment," she said.
"Golf has not been accessible to people due to the dearth of golf courses (in India). Now what's happening is that people are starting their own ranges with simulators, which is exciting. Even when you can't see the ball flying in the air, you can see your numbers, and how far your ball would fly and roll. In a small room, you have a similar experience."
She further talks about the increasing use of high-end technology among India's women pro-golfers. "Last week, we were playing a tournament and were warming-up at this place called a 'net' where you go and hit balls. But there were one or two girls who had access to Trackman (golf simulator). So they could look at their numbers and see how they felt about them. The feedback is fantastic when it comes to training with such devices.
"I also saw one girl taking coaching lessons online, and that's where technology helps. The numbers on the Trackman could show what the ball was doing, so he could advise her on how she could swing so the ball could get straighter. It can also provide numbers on how the ball behaves in the air. So that is where technology is really helpful."
Like Sharma, another pro-golfer Priya Puri, who is actively involved in the coaching scene in India, also believes that the it is the "need of the hour" for rapid technological blending with the sport.
"I took some time to go off to the US to learn more about the sport, and it was a different experience altogether. I believe that in all walks of life, we constantly need to keep at it, keep ahead of the times to be able to perform. I think that is the need of the hour right now for sports in India altogether, and golf in particular. Technology helps us in so many ways. It makes golf more accessible. Once we have more and more people playing the sport, it will help get more popularity and more sponsorships. It will make people more aware of the sport, so it is all inter-linked," Puri said.
But is technology the 'be-all and end-all'? No, says Saaniya.
"As much as I think technology will help, training with golfers -- the human aspect to your game, is certainly more important. (With technological feedback) you can cut down one or two shots which is fantastic, but when it comes to response, human interaction is completely different," said Sharma.
Earlier this month, Thriwe, a consumer benefits marketplace, won the first government contract to digitize the renowned Qutab Golf Course in Delhi. A popular place among golfers across all levels, the Qutab Golf Course is the first public golf course in the country.
Puri spoke in length about the development, emphasizing on the overall improvements it will bring to the playing experience.
"Anything that provides us with technology and solutions provides us with real-time information and data points and that is something which is very helpful. The whole revolution in sport in the last 10 years is that technology has helped us grow. It makes the human body and mind ready, and it helps us understand the game better," Puri says.
"India is behind as far as the global share is concerned, so such technological advancements will be beneficial. We do really use technology much to our advantage. Considering that golf is an Olympic sport, we don't have any dearth of talent. It would be a little unfair to ask our athletes to perform at the aspired level when we don't provide that kind of technological support to begin with. So, it (any technological advancement) will be very confident in helping us get one step closer to achieving the goals for our country."
Thriwe will provide a dedicated mobile app for the Qutab Golf course which will have the ability to manage bookings, capture scorecard, Tee-time Inventory Management (TIM) etc. "During these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, it is essential to ensure the health and safety of Golf patrons. The drive to digitize the Qutab Golf course will further establish the safety and security of the patrons through initiatives like real time booking and pre-booking the available tee time slots," said Dhruv Verma, the founder and CEO of Thriwe.
Sharma also welcomed the development, saying that it will increase productivity for players.
"Digitization has made it a lot more convenient. There are times when you go to the golf course wondering if you will get a round or not. So, with digitization, we know the time at which we can fix slots, so we warm-up and practice accordingly. It's good value for time and increases productivity," Sharma said.
"It's predominantly taking care of the infrastructural activities when we come in. Once we get in, we know what all facilities we have and what all we can avail. I think the way it helps the game is that it can help productivity in terms of time management. It's easier that way."