Golf is hard (a registered trademark of this site's owner…). Even the pros do not go about improving without some help from modern technology. For some, it may be with high-end launch monitors like TrackMan or FlightScope. For most of us, the price tag of one of those units puts them out of reach. Fortunately, it seems nowadays that more electronic products are coming out for the everyday golfer that are designed to be both helpful and affordable.
One of those products in the market is the Blast Golf, created by Blast Motion. The company is a leader in motion capture and analysis technology. They create products for a variety of sports and continue to develop new ways to use motion sensor technology to help athletes improve. For golfers, their sensor is designed to detect the movements of the golf swing and analyze it, giving an indication of how well they perform in various functions of the swing and where they can improve, all while taking high-speed video.
Having a good swing trainer at home would be a boon to any golfer who works to improve their game, but is it the real deal? Let's find out.
Technology and Design
The Blast Golf is a 3D motion sensor that you attach to the butt end of your golf club with a rubber grip attachment. It uses Bluetooth technology to connect with your smart phone or tablet and captures your swing metric data in real time. It is designed for use with any club in the bag, although Android users are limited to only the driver and putter currently being supported by the app. Once connected, the sensor is designed to automatically record your metrics without needing to be activated by the user. It also detects impact and will only record swings that have struck a ball.
It comes with the sensor itself, two grip attachments (one for standard grips and one for oversized putter grips), and the charging station, as well as a quick start guide and a Blast Man logo sticker that kind of reminds me of one of those band stickers you see plastered on people's guitar cases. I'm not really sure what to do with the sticker, so it just sits in the box for now.
Speaking of the box, it is pretty high quality packaging. Even without the outer display cover, the interior white box is made from a strong cardboard material. The front opens with a bit of an overlap on the side with two embedded magnets to hold it closed. It is clear that the box is meant to be reused because the Blast Golf is not a device that sits in your golf bag until you decide you want to work with it. I'll go further into this later.
The Blast Golf is really easy to set up out of box. You start by charging it up on the charging station and downloading the app. While your sensor is charging, which takes about an hour, you can sign up and register an account as well as input your club information. There are two quick start clubs pre-loaded into the app, a driver and a putter, but if you want to get the most accurate data, you should create your own custom clubs with the proper measurements.
There was a little bit of confusion for me with regards to club length. If you are used to the standard method of measuring golf clubs, the Blast Golf works a little differently. Instead of measuring the club from the butt end of the shaft to where it crosses the plane of the sole, you measure the length of the club to the perpendicular plane of the lowest point of the sole. All that really means is you stand your club so the shaft is vertical against a wall and measure from the butt to the floor. This will give you a longer measurement for your club than your club's actual playing length (if your driver is 46", it might be 47 3/4" or something like that for Blast).
This isn't really that confusing, but what messed me up was that they had conflicting information on two different sources. When I was looking it up to make sure I was taking the correct measurements, the app help page and the website help page gave me two different answers. One of them added additional information about a sweetspot measurement and I was not sure which method to follow. I did contact customer support which was fast and courteous; they told me to disregard the information about the sweetspot measurement.
I like the design of the product overall. The look is clean and simple and it isn't obtrusive when you use it. The grip attachment is easy to put on and you just go about your business of hitting the golf ball without having to worry about anything else. I found that it does indeed require no input to use. Simply put it together and hit a ball and you will get a recorded swing. I feel this is an important feature that allows the Blast Golf to capture data from swings that are close to your true swings as opposed to something that feels more like deliberate practice.
The downside of this is, there is no on/off button, either. The sensor is activated by shaking or moving it slightly to wake it, then it will return to sleep mode if it is not in motion for 30 seconds. Going back to what I mentioned earlier, you can't keep the sensor in your golf bag because it will constantly be in awake mode, slowly draining the battery. The app does tell you how much battery life is left if you are paired with your sensor.
The wireless charger plugs into a standard USB port, but I am not sure if it is meant to go into a USB wall adapter or just into a computer. It seems to me that the cord is too short to be designed for wall charging, plus they didn't provide an adapter for using in a standard 110V receptacle, which makes me think it is meant to be used with the computer only. It is a bit of a pain for someone like me who doesn't use their computer often. There were a few times when I wanted to use the Blast Golf for an impromptu practice session and I couldn't get the sensor to wake, which I assume was due to the battery being low. This was surprising given that one of the times, I finished a session with 40% battery left before I put it away. I'm not sure if it just slowly loses charge over time, but having to plan my practice sessions by charging the sensor ahead of time severely limits when and how often I can use it.
I thought the app itself was fairly straightforward to use. You can customize how the metrics are presented to you and it allows you to see exactly what you want while you practice. This is great if you are focusing only on one key aspect during a session. There is a function that allows you to record video with your device and it creates a slow motion video you can play back. I tried to use it the first time and it didn't record properly. It seems to only record in landscape mode, so if you like to record golf swings vertically as I do, the app does not support it. One of the main reasons I record vertically is because that is how my tripod holds my cell phone, but since my phone records in slow motion and has editing and playback functionality already, I didn't feel the need to use this app function. To be honest, as a long-time member at The Sand Trap, I am very particular about how I set up my camera for recording golf swings, so once I learned I can't record the way I want to I just abandoned it.
The Blast Golf retails for $149.95. As mentioned, it can be used for full swing and putting, so I will be highlighting them separately.
Using the Blast Golf on the putter was easy for me. I have a standard pistol grip so I used the regular grip attachment. Once I input my putter's information, I was putting balls in my living room and the Blast Golf was recording all my data.
The metrics for putting are pretty self explanatory. They are: Backstroke Rotation, Backstroke Time, Forward Stroke Rotation, Forward Stroke Time, Lie, Loft, Rotation Change, Tempo, and Total Stroke Time. You can access the help page on each of these metrics to watch a brief video explaining what they are, why they are important, and how you can improve upon it. I found the tips to be fairly generic.
Once I had these metrics in front of me, I was able to quickly identify where my stroke was having the most problems and make adjustments to correct it. One caveat: the main reason I was able to do this is because I have a pretty good understanding of my putting stroke, having been measured on a SAM PuttLab as well as past experience working with an instructor on my putting.
Knowing my tendency was to over-rotate the putter going back and then return it to impact inconsistently, I was able to adjust my setup and stroke to reduce the amount of rotation in both my backstroke and forward stroke with the Blast Golf. I went from a range of 0-7° closed to a range of 1° open – 1° closed, a significant improvement in start line. I took that stroke to the course the following day and made a higher percentage of 4-8 foot putts than ever before; I have since dropped my putting average by 3 putts/round.
Using the Blast Golf for the full swing was still easy. I have an Android device, so I was limited to only being able to use the driver. This was disappointing at first since I like to practice in my yard with my irons, but I found out later when I installed the app on an iPad that a number of metrics aren't supported with use of the irons anyway, so I wasn't missing much being an Android user.
The full swing metrics are: backswing time, downswing time, total swing time, swing tempo, swing speed, blast factor, power index, efficiency index, velocity direction, and energy transfer. The first few are pretty self-explanatory. Once you get to blast factor, it gets to be a bit confusing. I am used to seeing full swing data like angle of attack, swing path, launch angle, dynamic loft, smash factor, etc. All of that information is useful because a knowledgeable person can look at it and tell you exactly what is going on with your swing and what needs to be improved upon.
The Blast Golf metrics are more ambiguous. Take the efficiency index, for example. It is defined as “a score between 0 and 100 measuring a swing's efficiency. Efficiency index uses Energy Transfer and Velocity Direction to provide the golfer with a single number that summarizes the swing's efficiency." Okay, so I scored an average of 70. According to the website, tour pros average 80-95 and the ideal goal is 100/100, so clearly I am inefficient somehow. But how?
Well efficiency index consists of velocity direction and energy transfer, so I looked at each component separately. Velocity direction is basically angle of attack, with one caveat: it doesn't actually tell you what your angle of attack is. It is just a scale from 0-10 where a lower score indicates a steeper angle of attack and a higher score indicates a shallower angle of attack. Pro average is 5-10 and I averaged 6, so I'm good there, right?
Let's look at energy transfer, then. It indicates how efficiently energy is transferred from the golfer's body to the club via the kinetic sequence. On a scale from 0-90 (why isn't it 100?), pros average 70-90 with the ideal goal being 90, and I averaged a meager 45. Clearly that is where my driving problems stem from. Going by the provided tips, I need to use my lower body more to start the downswing and drive the upper body into impact. My problem with that is, I work with an instructor and know what my priority piece is, and it certainly wasn't that. If I wasn't working with someone knowledgeable already, I could very well have followed a path that may not actually help my swing.
All of those issues aside, there still remains one big question: is it accurate? How accurate can a small motion sensor attached at the butt end of your golf club be, compared to a high end radar or photo launch monitor? While I can't tell you for certain because I don't own any equipment like that, I can say that I am skeptical. Having recently gone through a club fitting, I know what my numbers are with my driver. My swing speed, for example, is about 8-10 mph slower on the Blast Golf than it actually is. I do think it is capable of accurately measuring swing times and tempo, which for me isn't something I'd prioritize, but I will want to fix one day. Now I have a tool that can help me do that.
I am conflicted about my feelings towards the Blast Golf. On the one hand, I think it is a good tool for the putting stroke. I'm more confident on the greens than I have ever been and I managed to shave three strokes per round. I have to give some credit to this device for that improvement. While I did have some issues with the sensor battery, they can be worked around with better planning. It's not as if I need to use it every practice session anyway, only periodically as I continue to work on things to monitor my progress.
My biggest problem with the Blast Golf is with it's full swing functionality. I feel like the metrics are too ambiguous and the advice is too generic to be of real help to any one particular golfer. It should really be used in conjunction with a good instructor, which makes me wonder how necessary it is. A good instructor can help a golfer without the use of this device, and while having more information from a tool never hurt anyway, it is only good if the information is accurate and useful. Nowadays most people have a good swing instruction tool right in their pockets: a smart phone capable of recording high speed video.
My other major concern is that most people will use this device in lieu of good instruction, as opposed to with it. Going by it's recommendations, I did not pinpoint my priority piece and I expect it will be the same for most other golfers as well. Ultimately, that is where I feel the Blast Golf falls short. I wanted it to be a swing training device that I can use on my own, but it is not. While I appreciate there are limits to what can be achieved at certain price points, I can't help feeling that because they market it as a device that can help you from tee to green, they fail a little in what they are trying to achieve. It's probably just not sexy enough to try to sell a 3D motion sensing putting trainer, though.
As for my final position on the Blast Golf? Ultimately, I like it. It may not be the swing trainer I was hoping for, but I definitely like it as a putting trainer. Between that and the fact that I actually did want something that measures my swing tempo in real time so I don't have to count frames anymore, I feel I'm getting enough out of it, especially at that price point. I definitely recommend people give it a look; just don't expect it to replace your instructor.