November 4, 2019

The Story of Graff Golf Pt. VI: Our Memory

This is the final chapter of our story, and by far the most important.

​Several members of Graff Golf’s founding team are student-athletes at Johns Hopkins University. Early morning on January 2nd, 2019, we received the shocking and sad news that our school’s beloved head coach, Jim Margraff, had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. He had been the central figure for the football program, an inspiration to each of us and a pillar in the Hopkins community for nearly 30 years.


We decided that we wanted to honor Coach Margraff and the way he led and mentored each of his players as athletes, students, and most importantly as people. He embodied the values and determination that are a hallmark of greatness. His wisdom and style brought his teams together and made the sum greater than the parts. And so we became Graff Golf in memory of someone who was a special mentor to each of us.

Margraff began his coaching career in 1982, coaching at numerous different schools before returning to his alma mater. Over Jim Margraff’s 29 years at Johns Hopkins, he compiled 221 wins and 14 conference championships. His impact, however, cannot simply be measured in numbers. Coach Margraff served as much more than just a coach over his successful tenure as head coach.

Coach Margraff taught life lessons through the sport of football. At the end of every Friday practice, it was his custom to share a lesson with the team. Each lesson was to prepare the team for the upcoming game, but, more importantly, each lesson was about life. One particularly impactful lesson came the evening before the team’s biggest conference matchup. Coach talked about the idea that there are three things in life that you can never get back: a spent arrow (get behind the wheel under the influence), a spoken word (say something hateful to someone you love), and a missed opportunity (the opportunity at hand was the chance to win a conference championship). Hopkins won the game and later engraved the quote, “spent arrow, spoken word, missed opportunity”, on the back of the championship rings.

Over time, Coach Margraff developed a number of simple and poignant quotes to remind us of these lessons:

  • “Pride and Poise”
  • “If not now, when?”
  • “Pressure is for surgeons and soldiers... [football is fun]”
  • “Don’t spend your time, invest it”
  • “Your reputation is a Redwood Tree, it takes hundreds of years to grow and only 15 minutes to destroy”

​Above all, Coach Margraff emphasized one simple, encapsulating reminder for what he wanted the program to be: “Good football, better men.” He would always tell his players very simply, “Do the right thing. If you don’t know what the right thing is, then call me and I will tell you.” While we no longer have Jim Margraff to call or text when we need help, we will always have the lessons he taught us through football.

As a founding team, we are proud to call ourselves Graff Golf in Coach’s memory and make the vow to dedicate 1% of our resources to charities close to Margraff’s heart. We would not have come together without him, and we value the impact that he had on us in much too short of a time.

September 9, 2019

The Story of Graff Golf Pt. V: Our Passion

Now that we at Graff Golf have introduced you to our founders, our idea, our technology and our future, we thought it was time to talk about our passion: the game of golf. 2019 on the PGA tour had some great moments, let’s reminisce while it is still fresh.

The season opened with some familiar names finishing atop the leader boards: Kevin Tway, Mark Leishmen and Brooks Koepka. Koepka averaged an astounding 69.38 strokes per round throughout the year! Into the spring we saw familiar faces: Matt Kuchar, Charles Howell III and Justin Rose all won weekends.

The first Major of the year, The Masters, was Tiger’s triumphant and historic return to the top spot on Sunday afternoon. Who will ever forget the emotions and rock solid conviction of play that has always been Tiger’s hold on the game?

Ricky Fowler, Phil and DJ all picked up wins keeping the old guard and the up-and-comers familiar on our weekend broadcasts. Rory had a nice win at the Players Championship in March foreshadowing his big win at Fedex in Atlanta to cap the season, Koepke continued his winning ways at the PGA Championship and The Fedex St Jude invitational. 

Right up with the excitement and emotion and just plain love of golf has to be Shane Lowry’s dominance of The Open at Port Rush, Northern Ireland in front of his home crowd. It was almost wire-to-wire for Shane and you could just feel the pride and excitement of every shot as he won at home. 

The scoring on the tour is unbelievable, to say the least. The top 16 players on tour average under 70 strokes per round. Koepke shot back to back rounds of 65 and 63! What separates the tour pros? Obviously they have insane talent and great coaching, but they also have the tools and equipment to help them improve their game. From trackers to trainers, they have what they need for an edge. That is what we at Graff plan to bring to you the weekend golfer: affordable and user-friendly tools and coaching to help bring your score down noticeably and quickly to make the game more enjoyable.

Who knows, maybe one of you in our Graff Family will end up on tour!

Examine your game from the inside out with Graff!

September 2, 2019

The Story of Graff Golf Pt. IV: The App

Part III, The Technology, gave background on what we have been developing here at Graff. Today, we’re giving you the details on what our app experience will be like.

As discussed last week, we at Graff Golf set out to develop a product that we felt was absent from the sport. In our eyes, this was a product that gave us detailed analytics of our swings but also interpreted the data in a meaningful way.

And that’s exactly what the Graff Golf app does.

The app is a tool that interprets the raw data from the Graff smart golf ball. The app functionality is broken down into three main sections: Play, Analyze, and Improve.

The Play section is where you will spend your time during a live round or training session. Our technology integrates seamlessly with your game, so all you have to do is sync your ball with the app and tap Play. 

If you’re playing a live round, the app will track your score. You can track your strokes and have access to simple course data along the way. When you hit different shots throughout your round, you’ll have the ability to tell the app which club you’re using—and if you intend to hit a certain shot shape. This helps the app learn your game and determine the quality of your individual shots with greater accuracy.

The location feature is also within the play section. If you lose your ball, the app can help you locate it with Bluetooth™ technology. Simply tap ‘Locate Ball’ within the play screen, and follow the direction and distance to find your ball.

​The next section is Analyze. In the Analyze section, you can view all your detailed analytics collected during your session. You can break down the analyses into per-club data, per-round data, or all-inclusive data. 

​The data is broken down in ways that are easy to interpret—and the app will automatically focus on areas of your game that could be strengthened. You can also see how your more recent data compares with older data—to give you an idea of your improvement rate. This enables golfers to make training decisions based on consistency and averages

The last section is Improve. This is likely where you will be spending the majority of your in-app time. The Improve section creates a customized improvement program for you based on the areas of your game that need strengthening. The program is served up to you in the form of drills, tips, and videos.

The Improve section’s logic is based on detailed pattern analysis and machine learning.

The basic concept is that the app draws a conclusion of what happened on the shot, so for example the user sliced the ball. The next step is the app analyzes what it was due to. This could be a multitude of different reasons, anywhere from your stance to where you hit the ball. Lastly, once we pinpoint the most probable root cause of a swing weakness and suggest ways in which to improve upon it.

The app then directs you to specific drills, accompanied with videos, filmed by our VP of Golf, Alex Fortey. Through these drills you can look to strengthen the weaker parts of your game—club-by-club—to maximize your improvement ability as a golfer.

Everyone here at Graff has spent countless hours determining exactly what they would like this app to display and focus on. These three main sections contain all the data that we collect in an easy and communicative way, as well as tell golfers exactly what they need to practice more.

​See you here next week for Part V, The Launch.

August 27, 2019

The Story of Graff Golf Pt. III: The Technology

Part II, The Founders, gave background on how our team came together. Today we’re giving you all the details of what we have been developing for the past year in regards to our smart golf ball.

At Graff, we’ve all similar experiences in the sport of golf—and similar frustrations with the lack of available technology. So, we set out to create a golf ball that would help us improve our games more efficiently.

So, why a smart golf ball?

We could’ve gone down a few different roads when exploring the idea to bring more technology to golf. But we envisioned a training tool that would allow us to play live holes while we used it—because, well, golf’s just more fun on the course. So the team set out to build a ball that could track key metrics for every shot, and then derive specific insights into what a golfer can do to improve their game most efficiently.

Through detailed research and talks with professional trainers, we identified six key metrics that we need the ball to track: spin rate, spin direction, velocity, launch angle, score, and location. These metrics became the building blocks for determining the quality of a swing, as well as being able to diagnose how to improve it.

Using various physics-based extrapolations, the ball can measure each metric isolated from external factors—such as wind. It’s important to be able to know the true consistency of a golfer’s club regardless of the conditions.

For example, we can track how far your drive would have gone—had it not hit that tree.

We each make a lot of mistakes in one round of golf. At Graff, when we shared our golf experiences, we realized how hard it is to accurately analyze our play and to determine what we should work on to get better. This was a key insight we used to develop how the ball should communicate with the smartphone app.

At the conclusion of a round or training session, the app will provide the user with data-driven insights into some of the weakest parts of their game. Using a number of statistical methods, we can not only determine which club was the least consistent—but also gain an idea of what is happening in the swing to create the inconsistency. The app will draw conclusions from the ball data as to how and why certain aspects of a golfer’s game could be improved. These conclusions will be followed by specific drills and insights on how to improve upon that conclusion.

The Graff team is working tirelessly on a product that we truly want and need to improve our golf game, and we cannot wait to share it with the world.

See you here next week for Part IV, The App.

August 20, 2019

The Story of Graff Golf Pt. II: The Founders

Part I closed the loop on how our CEO Aaron Shapiro was inspired to dive into the startup world with his idea for a smart golf ball. Now we give you all the details of how Graff Golf went from merely an idea to an actual company
Aaron met Graff’s co-founders in early September 2018. All founding members are student-athletes at Johns Hopkins. Seeking co-founders with congruent motives, Aaron strategically presented the idea of Graff Golf to Mike Eberle and Patrick Kelly—feeling that their relevant coursework would be hugely beneficial to the company’s progression.

Mike is a computer science engineer in his 4th year at JHU. When Aaron shared the idea with him, he immediately had ideas for how to develop the technology—specifically the smartphone app—beyond what Aaron had originally imagined. After a few meetings, Mike accepted an offer to be brought on as the CTO of Graff Golf. Since that time, Mike has been leading the development of the app as well as contributing to hardware development.

Patrick, also in his 4th year, is an electrical engineering major. When Aaron and Patrick first met, the smart golf ball chip board was rudimentary and lacked top-notch efficiency. Patrick’s initial thoughts on the board components instantly took the technology far beyond what Aaron realized was possible. Through months of research and development, Patrick—now staffed as Graff’s VP of Product—has created a truly one-of-a-kind piece of hardware that we are all excited and proud to share with the golf world.

Together, the team rallied behind the frustration of the lack of data and improvement options in golf. All 3 founding members of Graff have a deep-rooted passion for golf, and they simply wanted more for the sport. More technology options, more data, more ways to get better. The common goals have been the fuel that the team has relied on to push Graff as far as it can possibly go.

These were the initial goals that Aaron, Mike and Patrick outlined for the company:

  • Push hardware development to surpass smart golf balls that have been created in the past
  • Design and code a comprehensive app experience that captures all the data the smart golf ball can provide
  • Develop a system that allows golfers to see swing analytics—and most importantly, provide ways to use the data to improve
  • Provide a sophisticated ball locator within the app, since the technology provided is so precious (ball locator not currently water-proof)
  • Ensure that the app also contains course data for easy round tracking and shot distances for round planning

The founders put countless hours of research, development, and testing at the advent of the company. But they weren’t done yet. Next week—the final 2 additions to the team and how they impacted the company’s evolution.

See you here next week!

August 12, 2019

The Story of Graff Golf Pt. I: The Idea

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When our CEO Aaron Shapiro was introduced to golf at age 14, he experienced a feeling that many golfers feel at all levels of play:

Frustration

Let’s face it—golf’s a difficult game. It’s difficult to be good, and at times, difficult to be able to even play at all. But Aaron is a passionate guy. So he continued to play, take lessons, watch videos, and basically do everything in his power to advance his skill level.

But he never felt that he was truly progressing at all aspects of the sport.

Aaron was well aware of the pervasiveness of modern technology at that age and wondered why it wasn’t more integrated into the sport of golf. The training methodologies for golf were expensive and inefficient. And while tech had been integrated into some sports, and wearable tech was starting to become popularized—golf seemed to be years behind.

Let’s take a step back for a moment.

Aaron was introduced to business at a young age. All of his close family members had started and ran their own businesses: his father, both his grandfathers, and his uncles.

Aaron’s first business endeavor was at age 10 when he’d dye Nike socks different colors and sell them for a profit. This eventually turned into stringing and dying lacrosse sticks—and marking up the materials he purchased to turn a profit for the service.

His second venture was at 13. After securing an investment from his grandparents for design in addition to a developer’s license, he published his first app. A year after that, he had published 10 games.

When Aaron was 15, he figured out how to install colored replacement screens for his iPhone. When enough people commented on his red iPhone screen, he realized there was a demand—and that he could charge a fee to order the screens and replace them for other people. So he set up a website and started advertising the service. The business ran great until the iPhone updated, rendering his screen inventory incompatible.

But the business Aaron had been in for the longest span of time was the business of football. Aaron has played football since he was 7 years old. And at 17, he’d been offered the opportunity to play football at Johns Hopkins University—where he would major in Economics as a student-athlete. Aaron accepted, and left Atlanta for Baltimore, Maryland—not yet knowing that he’d meet some key people who he would one day start his next business with.

And that’s where Aaron’s golf ideas from age 14 would start to become a reality.

 

Next week, Part II: The Team

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