Multisensory ‘Jedi putter’ helps golfers make the cut

Engineering students have developed a training putter for golfers that offers audio, visual and tactile feedback to help them learn a consistent putting stroke.

Team Jedi Putter, from Rice University in Texas, has finished a prototype and filed for a patent on the putter that incorporates an accelerometer, a gyrometer, and a magnetometer fitted into the head of the club.

‘In the past few years, some work has been done on modelling the physics of putting,’ said Ray Simar, Rice professor of electrical and computer engineering who challenged five senior students with designing and creating a putter that provides multisensory feedback. ‘In particular, how the ball rolls, trajectories on the green and also the sweep path and how that should perform. I pitched the students on ‘What if we build a putter that we could drive from the perspective of the physics?’’

According to a statement, Simar’s original idea was for the data from the club to be downloadable after the player’s practice session. The students, working in Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, achieved this and took it a step further by designing the sensors to give real-time feedback via the grip of the putter. If a user’s club head moves up or down, doesn’t move through a straight path or twists, the sensors in the head signal a vibration to the grip. The user practices with the three-dimensional sensors until they have a ‘clean’ stroke at the ball.

‘The idea is that while you’re in the motion of the putt, it will deliver audio, visual and tactile feedback to help you correct your stroke,’ said Rice senior mechanical engineering student Sid Mullick. ‘The correct stroke is rooted in basic physics. You want to achieve a straight back-and-front stroke, a linear stroke, and you want to swing at the resonance frequency of the pendulum formed by your arms and the putter. We have all that in our algorithms, and we’re able to deliver feedback to the golfer that no other product can deliver right now.’

The practice putter can also provide data to the user though a Bluetooth-enabled device, such as their smartphone or computer, where players can analyse the data and their stroke.

Looking ahead, the team plans to introduce a speaker in the head to help a user synchronise their swing to tones – much like a metronome, and they will be adding a laser in the centre of the club head to assist with impacting the ball squarely.

The team has also produced a ‘dummy” club that is designed and weighted the same as Jedi Putter but without the electronics, making it useable in real golf play.