How PGA Pro Keith Mitchell Integrates Technology and Data into His Game Plan
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The role of technology has never been more relevant to performance — both in sports and business.
Leveraging modernized IT systems and adopting a more data-driven mindset helps executives and athletes alike optimize performance, drive efficiencies and enhance decision making.
Every single aspect of the game today, from a player's swing and round strategy to the equipment they use, is being transformed through scientific advances, data analysis, machine learning and cloud technologies.
We caught up with WWT ambassador and PGA Tour professional Keith Mitchell to learn more about how he integrates technology into his game plan.
How has technology changed the game of golf since you turned pro in 2014?
"Golf has benefitted tremendously over the last 20 years because of technology — most sports have. It used to be very feel based in terms of yardage or where to aim or understanding the spin of the ball off the club. Now, we can track literally every single shot we hit down to the tenth of the degree angle it took off the club or thousandth of a spin. All our equipment is optimized to the point that all we have to do is execute. It's all about execution.
There's such a fine line on the PGA Tour between winning a tournament or making the cut — just one or two shots often make the difference. The more we can use technology to take advantage and gain an edge the better."
How do you use technology in your tournament preparation?
"In practice, I use a system called Trackman, which is literally a doppler radar that you put behind the golf ball and it detects things like spin and launch angle. I use it for structure, to make sure I'm hitting the numbers I need to hit with my irons, finding my optimal launch angles and spin rates.
And then on the course, I use a probability system that can provide me with a target that gives me the best odds for success. In a tournament, you still need to make decisions in real time, but by making your strategy the day before or in practice rounds, it decreases the chance of me making an emotional decision on a tournament day."
Do you just implement new technology (e.g., balls, clubs, etc.) into your game plan immediately? Or is there a testing period?
"I recently changed the golf ball I used. The model ball I was using was 10 years old and way behind in terms of today's technology, but I used it because it had the lowest spin, which was good for me because I'm a high spin player. This new ball I'm using has more spin than I'm used to, but it's more aerodynamic so it doesn't' get affected by the wind as much, which is beneficial for me.
But I probably did 10 days of work with it — on and off the course — before I started using it in tournaments. I was comparing the numbers in terms of spin rate, launch angle and distance. Seeing what it did around the greens as opposed to in fairways. The ball is the only piece of equipment we use that you use on every shot, so it's usually the hardest change for a player to make. A ball might work better in one area of my game, but not so much in another.
I definitely spent a good amount of time integrating it into my game so I could understand the nuances and differences it would bring when I started using it in a tournament."
How do you utilize data in analyzing and improving your game?
"There is just so much data out there, and there will continue to be more and more. It's definitely complex and, thankfully, I have a team that specializes in just that. Their job is to look through all the stats so that I can focus on the yardages and focus on hitting those yardages. There's no way I could understand all the numbers and data and be a professional golfer at the same time.
But it's certainly benefited my game. Golf is really the only sport where the venue really changes. Most sports have the same field or rough dimensions. I used to think I could just go out there and figure it out. But after I joined the tour, I began to feel like I was losing ground against guys by making emotional decisions and not having a set strategy. I was too in the moment. I started working with a statistics guy and incorporating more data. Learning more about when or where to attack and understanding where my best odds are. It's about taking the guess work out of it and spending less mental energy on the decision and more on execution."