Winner of the 2022 award for Management of Innovation, category for large enterprises

How to stay ahead of competitors and win the hearts and minds of golfers

Golf is an expensive game and so is – or was, rather – the technology that golfers use to measure their performance on the green.

In fact, with a price tag of between $10 000 and $20 000 a pop, owning such technology was an impossible dream for the average recreational golfer.

Then along came the Covid-19 pandemic. As professional and amateur golfers alike found themselves confined to their homes, FlightScope, a Stellenbosch-based sports performance measurement company, spotted a gap in the market.

“We adapted our simulation software and made a big jump into consumer products,” says Tom Johnson, chief technology officer of FlightScope.

The prices of the new products were between 10 and 20 times less than the original product line – which were used almost exclusively by top golfers – and quickly became a hit among recreational golfers. “We have photographs of our customers with setups in their basements, garages, living room and gardens; it was fun to see,” says Tom.

This is not the first time FlightScope has taken a giant leap in the sports performance technology sphere, first in cricket, tennis and baseball, and later golf. About 20 years ago, this South African company was the first in the world to bring tracking technology into the world of golf.

“We were the pioneers. When I think back, we have changed the way golf is played, taught and experienced,” says Tom, whose brother Henry, CEO of the company, invented the prototype in the year 2000 after being told it pie in the sky to try to track a golf ball from the moment it is struck to the moment it lands.

“Today, our technology can track a golf ball from launch to up to 250 metres – something they told us in the early 1990s wouldn’t be possible,” says Tom.

He laughs. “That’s probably the only way we innovate. You are told something is impossible and then you prove it isn’t,” Tom says, adding that Henry is usually “two mountains ahead” of everyone else. “The rest of us bring what he sees to fruition.”

That, in a nutshell, is the formula FlightScope has followed since it started out all those years ago, he says: “You need a strong individual innovator, supported by strong implementation.”

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