Review: Nokia N93 Golf Edition (Pro Session Golf)


A fabulous golfing aid or a gimmick? I take it out to the driving range, to find out.

Author: Nokia

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Lesson screenshotAnnounced a while ago but only really available from selected outlets, the Nokia N93 Golf Edition is the result of some good lateral thinking from the people at Nokia. Given the sort of premium price tag applied to the N93 and given its fast, high resolution video camera, why not look at activities enjoyed by those with a little money to throw around and then think of ways in which the hardware could help?

At its heart, the Golf Edition is a standard N93, with slightly different packaging (some golf photos in place of some of the regular box artwork) and with an extra application, Pro Session Golf, supplied on a 1GB miniSD card. This extra card partly explains the £50 price premium for the Golf Edition, of course. The rationale for needing such a large card is presumably that Pro Session Golf is a video-based application and creating lots of your own golf swing videos might eat up a lot of space, though after a heavy session on the driving range I only managed to get through 50MB, 1/20th the card's capacity.

And so to the software itself, all linked in seamlessly to the N93's camera. The core of Pro Session Golf is the front/side comparisons of your swing with those from a professional, supplied on the card. In practice, this means getting a friend to film you, using the software and a steady hand, lining up the shot using a handy 'ghost' image on-screen, so that you get head/body/ball in approximately the same proportions as the 'pro'. Your friend films a few swings, some from the 'side' (misleadingly named, actually from behind), some from the 'front' (from the side! - though maybe this term confusion simply illustrates my lack of golf knowledge...)

In action

Once plenty of footage is 'in the can', you can both retire to the warmth of the clubhouse and start your analysis. It's possible to use the software out on the range, of course, but it's very limiting for two people to try to do anything useful in terms of analysis on such a relatively small screen, possibly in the freezing cold (hey, it's winter over here in the UK and I was braving the conditions in the name of this AAS review....).

Far better to use the N93's other unique feature, the TV-out facility, to operate the software and view its comparisons on any convenient TV set, the larger the screen the better! Here are snapshots of Pro Session Golf comparing a swing with that of its 'pro' (a 'reference' swing):

Swing analysis
(incidentally, some of these graphics are necessarily taken from snapping the TV image, since the video playback software in Pro Session Golf isn't compatible with available S60 screen capture utilities)

One important aspect of the comparison process is synchronizing playback of the two swings, in order to notice differences more clearly. This is done by starting and pausing the reference swing, then using a single menu command, followed by using navigator left and right to advance your swing to the same point as the pro's. Playback can then be simultaneous and repeated as often as you like.

As you can see from the TV grabs above, and despite my golfer friend's impressive swing (to the casual eye), it's painfully obvious that there are things to learn and work on, pointed out by the swing-to-swing comparison. Looking at just the three capture points above:

  1. not bad at this stage, although the right leg seems splayed, probably meaning the initial stance is slightly wrong
  2. again, pretty good, although there's not really anywhere near enough movement in the right leg and hip (where a lot of a pro's ball speed comes from), and the shoulders look to be lagging a little
  3. at the end of the follow-through, the shoulders are square on to the ball's direction, in contrast to the pro, who is more supple and has put more 'body' into the shot and whose shoulders are almost 180 degrees turned from the moment of impact. In addition, the feet are still pointing in the same direction as the initial stance, whereas the pro's feet have swivelled with his body

Lesson screenshotNow, I'm no golfer and no coach, but it really was easy to at least point out basic differences and suggest areas to work on. Out on the driving range, I completely forgot about an important facility, that of being able to change the reference swing between 'iron' and 'driver'. It's a menu option within the 'Compare' section but I missed it completely, my own fault. Still, the swings are similar enough not to have mattered too much. Interestingly, it seems you can even record your own reference swings, perhaps to match up your swing against your local club professional's, for example.

Also provided in the Pro Session Golf package was a set of six video 'lessons', each only around a minute long and showing tests you can do to see what physical problems might be causing your swing to be in trouble. These mainly serve to point you to the TPI web site, where the co-makers of Pro Session Golf handle tips and exercises in more detail. Still, a useful set of pointers.

At any time, you can play back your recorded swings, or those from the pro, in full-screen, from the Pro Session Golf 'Album'. Again these look far better on the big screen, using TV-out.

With any swing loaded up, there's a useful 'Draw' facility, letting you annotate any paused frame with simple line, circle and rectangle primitives. At first gimmicky, these can get handy later on when you start to analyse a swing seriously, pointing out limbs which aren't aligned correctly and movements which shouldn't be there.

It's also worth noting that there's full support for left-handers, with options to flip everything, from framing marks to the reference swings themselves.

I have to confess to being a little sceptical at first, was it really worth setting up a whole themed edition of Nokia's flagship just for a single application. In truth, the software really should be released as a third party addition to existing smartphones - maybe this will happen in the future. In the meantime though, the Golf Edition will hopefully impress many people in and around the clubhouse and improve Nokia's Nseries visibility amongst a demographic who probably won't flinch at the purchase price.

Screen Screen

And, altruistically, plenty of golf swings will hopefully be changed for the better. "Bogeys to birdies"? Maybe!

Steve Litchfield, AAS, 13 November 2006

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