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Posted April 11, 2017 in Products and Brands by Tom Brassell
It took a while for Richard Edmonson, the CEO of SkyGolf, to realize his passion for the game of golf. But once he did, he embraced it wholeheartedly.
The Mississippi native had a strong business sense long before being exposed to the game, but once he started playing, he realized that what he had learned and practiced as a CPA could immediately translate into the golf industry. Namely, that the technological advancements of wireless communication that had transformed the business world could also transform the golf industry.
Today, Edmonson runs a golf-centric company that puts that technology, literally, into the hands of golfers, primarily through SkyCaddie.
We caught up with Edmonson and picked his fertile brain about his past, present and future, as well as the impact that technology will continue to wield on the game of golf.
How did you come up with the idea of a handheld GPS for golfers? After college, my early career was spent as a CPA with a national accounting firm, where I got to see an array of businesses and what made them work or not work. It was at that stage I discovered an entrepreneurial drive.
During a brief period of retirement, I was finally able to play golf several days a week after years of being limited to a few times per month.
But even as an avid golfer, retirement was not satisfying and I began looking for another business to invest in or participate in as an outlet for my need to build something.
In my search for the next opportunity, I would always trust a friend for advice and guidance on technology-based businesses on my radar. Coincidentally, this friend had built a business specializing in rapid-prototyping of emerging technologies in the areas of wireless communications, GPS and the internet.
At some point, my relationship with this friend led to a partnership that would be focused on taking his broad technology knowledge and capabilities coupled with my business experience to find commercial opportunities.
During my analysis of the many possibilities, I ran across an abandoned project of his concluded in the very early ‘90s that resulted in the “first” demonstrable golf-cart GPS system. This caught my attention because at first it seemed like an emerging opportunity and it was ready to go.
And with that, we undertook the challenges of what ended up being a four-year quest to build and introduce the first handheld GPS device designed for golfers to own personally for use on any golf course in the world to get the distances they need but never had access to before.
What makes SkyCaddie’s product stand out? SkyCaddie is committed to taking an imperfect technology and making it into a product that any golfer, regardless of skill level, can trust to deliver all the distances they need for any situation on a golf course that will allow them to save strokes and play golf to the best of their ability.
Due to imperfections and challenges in using GPS, we learned from the beginning that there are no shortcuts to delivering distances that can be trusted. That is why SkyCaddie goes the extra mile and to actually walk the course the golfer will play to measure accurately and completely the hazards, layups and greens.
What’s the most exciting product from SkyCaddie in 2017? I would say our new watch, the SkyCaddie Linx GT offers some very exciting advancements that should encourage golfers to upgrade their current watch or any game-tracking product they may own.
SkyCaddie Linx GT delivers not only distances with the simplicity of a watch, but it also automatically captures invaluable performance data in the background while you play with no intrusion in your game. Just play and review your strengths and weaknesses later in a companion app that pairs with the watch for seamless transfer of your data to the SkyGolf 360 Cloud.
Why do you think watches have become so popular as yardage devices? The obvious reasons for their popularity would be simplicity and convenience. And the popularity shows that many golfers value the convenience of having their distances with them all the time on their wrist enough to give up some information more effectively delivered on a larger screen.
What are some of the newer technological advancements in SkyCaddie watches? First, all of our watches are Bluetooth enabled to allow direct connection via Smartphones and tablets to our SkyGolf 360 cloud service. With this anywhere, anytime connectivity, without cables, we are able to bring several benefits to our customers before, during and after play.
For example, any of our more than 4,000 annual course updates can be delivered in real time directly to the watch rather than waiting on the occasional republication of course libraries. For those that track their scores and performance data, such information is easily moved from the watch to their personal data locker in our cloud via Bluetooth and available for review with a companion app or at our website.
Where do you see GPS technology going from here? I would love to see GPS reach its full potential to address the two biggest reasons golfers are playing less often. One is many golfers never get better and the other is 4-5 hour rounds. Assuming more GPS products are built for reliability and deliver distances golfers can trust, it has much more potential to improve both scores and reduce time on the course.
What do you love about the game? There is so much to love about it whether it is the inability to master it or its rich traditions; its ability to showcase your character or that of your opponent; or the thrill of those fleeting successes that bring you back. It is truly a game for life played on some the most beautiful venues in the world. What is not to like?
I only wish I had started in my teens rather than late twenties and I wish now I was not a workaholic that never took time off to play other than a few times per month and only a few months of the year.
What’s in your golf bag?
Ping G driver, Titleist 910F 3-wood, Titleist 910H hybrid, Ping S56 irons, Vokey wedges, Scotty Cameron Studio Newport 2.5 putter, SkyCaddie Touch and SkyCaddie Linx GT rangefinder.
Favorite golf book?
“The Game for a Lifetime. More Lessons and Teachings,” by Harvey Penick.
Who would be in your ultimate foursome?
Bobby Jones because of his respect for the game, Arnold Palmer for what he did for the game, Phil Mickelson so I wouldn’t be the only left-handed golfer in the group, and Peter Jacobsen to keep us laughing.
Best round ever and where?
71 at Annandale Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus Design in Madison, Miss.
Best golf destination you’ve ever been to?