One Degree of Separation: the Broad Reach of iGolf in the Evolving World of Golf Technology
Whether or not you believe in the concept of six degrees of separation for people, it is very likely that if you are a golfer, you have no more than one degree of separation from pioneering mapping company iGolf.
That touchpoint could be something as simple as GPS maps in a golf watch or as complex as a semi-autonomous electric trolley. As host to the world’s largest and most comprehensive Golf GPS database, iGolf has enabled millions of consumer GPS devices ranging from watches, handhelds, lasers, speakers, electric push carts (trolleys), golf cars, mobile apps, launch monitors, and even gaming environments.
To bolster that ecosystem even more, iGolf has invested in additional supporting solutions such as terrain data with 2D/3D viewers, radar and camera-based launch monitor technology, and remote vehicle autonomy.
So, if you play the Royal and Ancient game, you will likely benefit from something iGolf has contributed to golf’s technology.
“Is it 100 percent definitive that every golfer out there who has some level of technology has touched our stuff? No,” said iGolf’s CEO and Founder, Brian Verdugo. “But we – all our employees and the partners of our company – have held a long-running belief that anyone who plays golf has most likely used a product or service produced by iGolf.”
iGolf is a brand that has established a strong global presence in golf data mapping spanning more than 20 years. Uniquely positioned to license companies Golf GPS maps for nearly 40,000 golf courses in 150 different countries, iGolf has invested heavily in adding a new intellectual property to its portfolio, including radar-based launch monitor technology, laser range finder sensors, trolley and golf car intelligence, 3D elevation terrain on 23,000-plus courses and virtual reality environments for the gaming sector. Over 60 licensees, including Fortune 500 companies, rely on iGolf’s technology to bring advanced products into the hardware, software, and mobile sectors.
For nearly two decades, iGolf was content to remain in the shadows, and the San Diego-based mapping company was widely viewed as an industry best-kept secret. However, that all changed this year, and during the PGA Merchandise Show held in Orlando in January, iGolf finally decided to start trumpeting its achievements.
Several partner announcements were made in tandem with over a dozen long-time and brand-new clients, which included Blue Tees, RAD Golf, and TecTecTec; Yamaha, MGI, Motocaddy, Powakaddy, and Evolution Golf; and PhiGolf and Rapsodo.
“This game has given me an awful lot and I would like to feel that, whenever I decide to exit this industry, I will leave knowing that iGolf contributed a great deal and that we have changed the industry in multiple ways forever,” said Verdugo. “And I also want to know that we have moved the game in a direction through technology for the betterment of golf and not for the worse. These are some of the reasons why I have decided to be more vocal about iGolf than ever before.”
The origins of iGolf date back to Verdugo’s days as a San Diego State University student when he was learning to play golf during his spare time from earning a degree in economics.
“I’d find myself on a golf course thinking: ‘There’s got to be a better way of doing this.’ At that time, I had a palm pilot and I thought why can’t we put something on these devices instead of using a laser, which at that time was challenging to use,” said Verdugo. Why not figure out a way to use your smart device (later a smartphone) for GPS distances, so golfers would know how far to hit their golf ball?”
This light-bulb moment initially transitioned into a hobby for Verdugo, who enjoyed handing out re-purposed palm pilots to his golf buddies and then observing their reactions.
“It quickly went from: ‘That’s cool,’ to ‘Well, how do I get it to work on my course?’ I would say: ‘Well, you have to go map it and that takes about two hours.’ And then they’d pause and say: ‘No, I don’t want that. When my course is mapped, call me and I’ll buy one’ Their reactions certainly confirmed that the opportunity was there, but one of the barriers to entry was mapping out an infinite number of golf courses,” said Verdugo. “On the flip side, people really liked the concept and the technology. So, I funded the initial round, and then took investment money from two women who ran a small venture capital fund, Del Mar Ventures. We raised half a million dollars and within three years paid it back and repurchased all their shares.”
The rest is history, and Verdugo has established himself as a trailblazer in the world of golf technology.
He also figured out early on that a fulfilling life is one where a career is built around personal passions, which in his case were flying, boating, and playing golf. It just happened to be the case that all three industries were about to enter a hyper-growth phase in technological advancements.
Consequently, those random rounds of golf which Verdugo played on various courses in Southern California led him to create what we know today as Golf GPS, for which he is credited as one of its early inventors and collaborators. He also gives Richard Edmondson from SkyCaddie credit as they both were pioneers for consumer Golf GPS when many doubted its relevance and importance to the game.
However, the initial journey taken by Verdugo and his companies was both quiet and understated for a handful of reasons – and it all started with the tireless efforts of a driven, motivated and innovative twenty-something who loved to tinker in the solitude of his research laboratory.
That proved to be a very wise use of a young entrepreneur’s labor because Verdugo and the earliest incarnation of iGolf were at the forefront of cutting-edge GPS technology and mapping-related products.
Fast forward to now, and iGolf is providing technological advances in software, hardware, and GPS content for the golfing sector, having established the world’s largest and most comprehensive Golf GPS database, which can now be showcased in a 3D environment, including terrain.
“Imagine building golf courses and seeing what they’ll look like in real time or pre-processed autonomous maps for ‘follow me’ vehicles. The day will come when even golf cars will be fully autonomous, and we’ll be there to power them,” adds Verdugo.
Dare to dream big was the mantra early on. Verdugo and his iGolf team have already conquered a few mountains and exceeded some of their own expectations; now it is time for them to step up another gear for the next act, leaving a lasting impact on the game of golf while inspiring the next wave of innovators.
Verdugo believes change and growth are not just inevitable but necessary for the game of golf to grow with younger generations. All while understanding the importance of the history and traditions of the sport.
If golf is going to thrive generation after generation, then a melding of the traditional ways with the new is crucial – and iGolf’s mission is to bridge that gap while providing the same cutting-edge technology for both the established brands and the next wave of disruptors.
For more information, please visit igolf.com