It was nearly 2 years ago at the PGA Merchandise show that I sat at a table with Joe Hallett, one of the nation’s most recognized and respected golf instructors, brainstorming about what new features could be added to the SkyTrak software. He immediately grabbed a napkin and scribbled out a rudimentary table of swing lengths and distances. He said <paraphrasing>, “So many people look at the game of golf and think the core of the game starts at the tee box. I beg to differ…it starts at 100 yards to the pin.”
I’ve always been a hack. The kind of golfer my colleagues invited to play when they were one short, or when they just needed some comic relief. I was a loose cannon. The one that, on a good day, could impress anyone off the tee box. But my short game has always been atrocious. Nobody can squander a perfectly striped 300yd drive down the center of the fairway like me. I could grab a PW or a 60 degree and make an equally disastrous approach shot to the green. I was always overthinking my short game and had no clue that each of my wedges could provide me flexibility on the required shot just based on my swing length.
I lead the software development team for SkyTrak. I honestly believe that my intricate knowledge of golf from being in this industry for so long, coupled with my ability to relate to the average golfer (I suck just enough), makes me the perfect candidate to help decide what will make SkyTrak an effective tool for golfers of all skill levels. So I took Joe’s idea and ran it through the internal team, and we decided to give it a go. Our kickass design team put together an amazing grid interface and user experience, while our developers plugged in the logic to make it all work. What we ended up with was the SkyTrak “Wedge Matrix”.
It looked pretty and it worked as designed, but I had no idea at the time the implications it would have on my golf game. Being involved with software development, I’ve always had the task of rigorous testing on any new features we release, and thus, I got plenty of time to experience the Wedge Matrix. After weeks of testing, we released the feature to our users who, not surprisingly, embraced the new addition to ‘Game Improvement’ as much as myself. Shortly thereafter, I got the chance to play golf outside again. Like on a real golf course with real grass, real trees, and oh yeah…real consequences. It was a massive double-edged sword of excitement and anxiety, as this invitation happened to be for world-renowned Pinehurst No. 2. <Gulp>
The last time I played golf with Joe Hallett, he told me “I’d like for you to work on 3 things. If you can focus on just these 3 aspects of your game and get them right, then we’ll work on the other 64 things you’re doing wrong”. Joe has an incredible personality and sense of humor, and can translate that into real teachable moments without any sense of intimidation. He has learned what really works for players of all skill levels and how to break things down into bite-sized chucks that are easily digestible — just like the wedge matrix.
That day on Pinehurst No. 2, I ended up shooting a legitimate 89 (with the help of a great caddie). It may not sound like a huge achievement by many standards, but it was a major accomplishment for someone like myself that manages to get out on the course about 3 – 4 times a year with no golf background or practice time.
Being that much of my job is planning features that will have the biggest impact on our user base, I find it increasingly important to find features that can benefit the beginning golfer as equally as the scratch player, and I truly believe the Wedge Matrix sits at the top of that list.
Thanks, Joe 😊