2011 · STORIES
by Susan Lassetter on December 04, 2011
Players will soon have a new tool to help them "be the ball" at Mississippi State's nationally ranked golf course.
An application being developed for camera-equipped smart phones and tablet computers will provide detailed information about the layout of the green, allowing players to make more putts by better predicting the movement of their ball.
"Having this system will be like having a virtual caddie; someone who knows the green and can be your guide. Kind of like a road map," explained Tony Luczak, director of the Mississippi State Institute of Golf. "We hope this will help people become better golfers and maybe speed up play for people trying to squeeze a few rounds into their busy schedules."
The product of a collaboration between Luczak; Ed Swan, an associate professor of computer science; and Sujan Reddy, a computer science doctoral student, the app will essentially read the topography of the course for the user, giving the golfer insight into the unseen hazards of the course.
"Reading the green is a tough skill to learn and most players don't have the time to dedicate to it," Luczak said. "That's why professional golfers have caddies who are familiar with the course and can offer advice about how to play a hole."
He explained that during the construction of a course an architect will try to hide subtle characteristics of the land. Clever landscape design can cause the ball to move in ways the golfer might not have expected. Some designs can even make the path to the hole appear to veer one way when it actually goes another.
The MSU golf course app will put this information in the hands of the golfers.
"Once you know the typography of a golf course, like how much slope there is on a hole, then you know what the ball is going to do after you tee off, and you'll be able to make shots from all over the course," Luczak said.
From the golf side, Luczak said the toughest part of the app development is mapping the green, a living organism that changes over time. For the computer scientists, the difficulty comes from matching the display to what the user is seeing in real life.
The app uses augmented reality to overlay lines that indicate the slope of the ground and angle to the hole into the real-life image that is being displayed to the user. To activate the app, the golfer will use his or her mobile device to scan one of many markers that will be placed around the course. This tells the program where the player is on the course and allows the relevant topographical information to be displayed.
"Unlike virtual reality, which would be a completely computer-generated image on the screen, augmented reality places digital objects into a live image," Reddy explained. "This allows the golfer to see information that is specific to the part of the course he is dealing with."
In addition to topographical information, the researchers plan for the app to include information about course hazards, such as how much height a player needs on a drive in order to avoid hazards like trees or sand traps.
"This will probably never be legal for tournament play, but for someone just looking to come out to the course for a 18-holes of fun and relaxation, this app will be worth every penny," Luczak said.