Data-Driven Route To Winning The Club Championship
Club Championships, Brandel Chamblee Swing Tips and the Future of Arccos: An Interview with Arccos CEO and Co-Founder Sal Syed
Arccos CEO and co-founder Sal Syed stood on the tee box of the downhill, 187-yard par-3 7th hole at Tamarack Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut and knew just what he needed to do. It was the 25th hole of his club’s match play championship round, and he had just dropped a hole to his opponent.
While he held a seemingly comfortable lead with 11 holes to play, match play momentum is a tenuous thing. Armed with years’ worth of Arccos data and countless hours of practice, Syed didn’t hesitate. He pulled out his 7-iron and stuck his tee shot within a couple feet of the pin.
Birdie. Match over. Championship won.
The moment was not just a celebration of all the hard work the now scratch golfer had put in over the past few months, but also a reaffirming reminder of Arccos’ central mission: help golfers of all abilities to get better, faster, and enjoy the game of a lifetime.
“We look at golfers of all skill levels and frequency of play and want to serve them all with Arccos,” Syed says. “On one end of the spectrum there are low-handicap, high-frequency players. They want all the details about their game that they can get. On the other end are high-handicap, low-frequency, and they want surface level insights. As the platform evolves, we have to keep adding value for all.”
With a USGA index of zero that’s dipped as low as +1.6, Syed plays several times a month and fits squarely into the low handicap, high frequency box. He’s a heavy user of Arccos features such as Strokes Gained Analytics and the A.I.-powered Rangefinder.
Then there are Arccos members who play once or twice a month who might gravitate more toward club-level data, such as Smart Club Distances and greens in regulation, or miss percentages (front, back, right and left) around greens. Sal wasn’t born an elite golfer—and when Arccos began, Sal was a 7 HCP. So he is a living, breathing example of how leveraging data can help you take your game to the next level regardless of your starting point.
“For all players, we want data to drive the decisions that they make,” Syed says. “We’re going to take the guesswork out of the game. Not just what club to use for a particular shot, but which ball you should play, and whether you play better when you are walking or riding in a golf cart. Our vision is that every player who is looking to improve should use Arccos to be a smarter golfer.”
That vision still begins and ends with having a sensor on every club in every golfer’s bag, adds Syed. To that end, Arccos’ symbiotic partnerships with PING, TaylorMade and Cobra have helped it reach more than 500,000 golfers and have provided invaluable insights and data that benefits all Arccos members, regardless of which clubs they play.
“Arccos has helped me understand what I need to work on, how far I actually hit my clubs, which clubs are better for my game and which clubs are my problem clubs,” Syed says. “It’s also shown me how to manage my misses on the course by playing strategically. Lastly, but maybe most importantly, it’s taught me how to manage my expectations.” *Jots down this important note as key to becoming plus-handicapper*
Each year, thousands of golfers give up the game because they perceive it to be too difficult. Over the past decade, the number of players leaving the game outpaced the number taking it up, and overall golf participation declined.
That all changed in 2020 with the onset of the pandemic and golf participation is once again on the uptick. Syed believes that Arccos has a key role to play in keeping both existing and new golfers engaged with the game.
“I played a round with Ted Scott (Bubba Watson’s former caddie) the other day and he’s a tremendous player,” Syed says. “He said ‘Every shot that doesn’t go into the hole is a miss because that’s the objective of the game.’ Elite golfers just manage their misses better and they’re able to do that in part because they rely heavily on analytics.”
Syed’s Arccos data allowed him to take an analytical approach to Tamarack’s hyper-competitive club championship. The event includes an 18-hole qualifying round followed by multiple rounds of head-to-head match play. The club’s member roster is chock-full of young, single-digit and plus handicaps who drive the ball over 300 yards.
“I knew I wasn’t going to outdrive most of the guys I was playing against, including the defending champion who is 30-40 yards longer off the tee with driver,” Syed says. “I had a putting edge, though, and knowing my Arccos data, I was able to stay within myself and not get rattled.”
Just before the tournament began, Syed consulted the Strokes Gained Analytics feature and saw he was losing strokes on approach shots from 150-200 yards. Over a fortuitous pre-tournament dinner with Brandel Chamblee, the Golf Channel analyst told Syed he wasn’t compressing the ball with his long irons and that he should work on punch shots prior to the qualifying round.
As a result, Syed gained 3.3 strokes over the course of four rounds. Arccos (and a little tip from a respected analyst, instructor and golfer) quickly helped Syed change a weakness into a strength, and any golfer can harness its power.