How Does Toptracer Work?

Over the past few years, golf broadcasts have seen a proliferation of crystal-clear golf shots and plenty of colored lines that define the shot’s rise, speed, arc, and distance. That’s Toptracer at its core. And it’s available at Bend’s best golf course River’s Edge, right now!

In technical terms, Toptracer uses CMOS image sensors to capture objects – specifically a golf ball in flight – and converts the multiple video angles of the struck ball to extrapolate the (nearly) exact flight of the ball. Yeah, it’s not grandpa’s old camera with light through a filter trapped in a negative. It’s computer-generated.

CMOS stands for complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor. The image sensor uses a photodiode and a CMOS transistor switch for each pixel, so light enters the micro lenses, passes through red, green, and blue color filters, through photodiodes, and produces an electrical signal output. Then the magic happens.

Today we’ve got great video and screen graphics. Still, in years past, before Toptracer, golf shots on your home TV screen depended on the skill of the camera operators and the editing of the event shooting director. And even they were tough to see.

TV golf pioneers CBS Sports and Frank Chirkinian get credit for innovations that harken back to the ‘50s, like cameras in trees, multiple camera angles, microphones on the course, and even having the Goodyear blimp taking aerial photography. All cool, but what about the ball disappearing in the high sky?

While technology and the money spent on broadcasting pro golf exploded in the 1990s, watching the ball take flight was still a hit-and-miss (sorry) proposition. Enter Daniel Forsgren.

Developing Protracer

Daniel Forsgren, Toptracer CEO, was a frustrated golf enthusiast in the 1990s. Like so many others, he had trouble seeing the ball’s flight on TV and used his IT background to envision and develop a new camera system that would make any golf shot stand out on camera, and thus a video broadcast.

To that end, Forsgren quit his job in 2003 and worked full-time to perfect his first invention, which he submitted for patent in 2006 as “Image Enhancement in Sports Recordings.”

His design worked by selecting an image position, tracking the ball in flight, and producing an initial image sequence to synthetically produce a continued path of the ball. What we see today includes multiple enhancements through new technology and additional patents.

Watching golf on TV became more enjoyable and technological as announcers explained lift, distance, exit speed, and a dozen other terms used to differentiate shots and players.

Forsgren expanded Protracer’s reach in 2012 to driving ranges, allowing golfers to enjoy the benefits of seeing their shots displayed on monitors.

Topgolf Purchases Protracer

While Protracer expanded to new driving ranges and added technology and experience, Topgolf was tapping a new generation of golfers who wanted more from a driving range than a bucket of balls and a dirt field range to hit them.

If you’ve seen the movie Tin Cup, you know the state of most driving ranges in the ‘90s. Twin brothers Dave and Steve Jolliffe did too. Envisioning a new driving range style, they spent three years kicking off their first project in Watford, outside London. It was a bust.

The new range had golf balls fitted with microchips and a game they called Topgolf, but it failed to draw crowds. Tie-ins to golf equipment companies weren’t successful. Still, the Jolliffe’s believed in their product and were open to partnering and expansion.

In 2003, Richard Grogan and partners David Main, Eric Wilkinson, and Tom Mendell saw a potential market in the US. They licensed Topgolf International (US) and opened a range in Arlington, Virginia, and then Chicago, IL. Return was lackluster, but “third time’s the charm” came true for their Dallas, Texas location – after aggressive marketing and facilities changes. And adding WestRiver Group as a lead investor.

The partners expanded their facilities, increased kitchens and restaurants, and heavily marketed a family/friend’s event style with games and food. Within six months, their fortunes changed drastically. Eighteen months later, they acquired Topgolf UK. Ten more Topgolf locations sprang up in 2013. By 2015, there were 28.

The following year, Topgolf purchased World Golf Tour gaming and then Protracer. The purchase included the company’s golf ball-tracking technology, and although Daniel Forsgren stayed on to guide Protracer, the company’s name was changed to Toptracer.

In late 2020, Callaway Golf Company acquired Topgolf for $2 billion.

Benefits of Toptracer

The benefits of Toptracer now expand past TV viewing and include the fun games found at Topgolf. But the added benefits of learning a golf swing and training light up the scoreboard.

The best golf training aid can continually be updated to your current swing and fitness level. Toptracer technology offers just that. While working with a teaching pro is terrific, Toptracer is always available! You’ll immediately see the results on a video screen as you practice to enhance your driving range experience. Each adjustment you make is captured so you can fine tune your swing. That’s invaluable.

Toptracer Training Modes

  • My Practice – work through your golf bag and improve your strike with each golf club, practicing wedge or tee shots. You’ll see each swing’s distance, ball speed, accuracy, and more. And you can store your changes and results on the Toptracer Range Network.
  • Precision – training for perfection by hitting three balls at one of six target distances to improve your shot-making.
  • Precision Series – add some on-course pressure to your practice session with six shots at different target distances.
  • Swing Capture – record and share videos of your swing with stats and ball tracing technology.

Toptracer Game Modes

  • Closest to Pin – pinpoint your drive by aiming for the pin on a selection of iconic and scenic par 3 holes from golf history.
  • Long Drive – practice your top shot and compete with others to settle the age-old question of who’s got the longest drive.
  • Capture the Flag – take your pin-high shots to the next level and see how many flags you can capture with bonuses for consistency, while the targets get tougher and smaller as you improve.

Do the Pros Use Toptracer?

Professional golfers use Toptracer, even if their interaction is restricted to following shots and analyzing their ball speed and movement.

Due to the excellent graphics and tracing, the PGA Tour and European Tour now offer Toptracer cameras and technology at every tournament. With scoreboard video, even Tiger Woods took note and tested the system with some unorthodox shots at the Open Championship driving range.

With the cameras filming and the scoreboard showing tracing, Woods turned to his left and sent a drive towards the water. Seconds later, his shot could be seen on the scoreboard, scorching left and disappearing into the ocean. Tech proven!

Pros are now regularly seen taking shots on event driving ranges and even tournament holes and turning quickly afterward to view their shot on a scoreboard. The videos’ instant information is valuable for pros and non-pros alike!

Toptracer at River’s Edge Golf Course

Offering golfers an exceptional experience and moving with technology has always been the goal at River’s Edge golf course. The practice facilities are always immaculate and ready for driving, chipping, and putting practice. And now, River’s Edge in Bend, Oregon, offers a new Toptracer range.

The exceptional technology Toptracer offers with a host of fun and challenging games makes the range an excellent addition to the best golf course in Central Oregon. Every driving range bay offers Toptracer Mobile Range technology with the simple use of your mobile device.

Imagine instantly knowing your shot’s distance, curve, height, and launch speed. Work on your drive and short game and improve your strike with each club! Watch your handicap drop from simple tools like pinpointing how far your clubs carry and massage your swing to get the perfect strike to improve spin, distance, and accuracy.

Games and training are suited to all ages and skill levels, so take the family to River’s Edge golf course for a fun afternoon and compete against friends.

Taking Technology Even Further

The Toptracer APP is free; download it from Google Play or the iPhone app store. Enter your email address, choose a username, and offer your gender and handicap if you want. Then, you can store all your River’s Edge Toptracer Range App data in minutes. Every hit, every stat, every new growth, and improvement.

Besides the skill-based games Toptracer offers, you can warm up and get ready for your tee time, take your usual host of shots, view earlier results, and work on specific areas such as launch angle, landing angle, or even side deviation. Your pre-round training will be much more valuable with all the features at your disposal.

If you want to share your shot data with friends or a coach, your stats are available at the push of a button. Plus, you can use the Swing Capture feature to record your swing and view it later – with stats shown right beside the video.

When you don’t have time for a round of golf, the Toptracer APP offers challenges and training, plus plenty of entertainment with its many features.

So how about a round of virtual golf – 18 holes from iconic courses worldwide? It’s available, and so is the new Toptracer30 virtual game with on-course scenarios through nine tees and 21 approach shots.

Then, Toptracer evaluates every shot and offers a performance handicap with real-time feedback on your game’s strengths and weaknesses. Check it out today at the River’s Edge Toptracer Range.