FlagHi Review: An App to tell you how weather, elevation affects distance
05 Feb 2015
by Pete Wlodkowski of

see also: Equipment Reviews

Nate Regimbal of FlagHi
Nate Regimbal of FlagHi

I love it when I come across somebody who has created a better mousetrap. These days, it tends to involved technology - for example the Fitbit I wear to track my steps or my Zepp Golf swing analyzer that connects to my phone to track my swing plane and provide me with really useful information about my game.

Both of those technologies involve a device (albeit a small one) that connects to a smart phone via Bluetooth. The other day, I met Nate Regimbal, the inventor of the FlagHi app. It doesn't require anything more than a smart phone and 99 cents.

Based on the company's slogan "Because air affects the ball" FlagHi provides an easy calculation of what you can expect from each of your clubs at various elevations and temperatures. And before you think "I already know that," ponder this. FlagHi is being used by several players and caddies to put together yardage books, prior to traveling to locations that vary greatly in temperature, humidity, and elevation.

I spoke to founder Nate Regimbal about his company and how a $.99 (standard) or $2.99 (pro) app might make sense for amateur golfers. (AGC) What is your background?

Nate Regimbal: (NR) I have a Masters in Business Administration with an undergrad in Microbiology. Most of my career has been in strategy & technology consulting and custom software development. My business partner, Mark Stratz, is an executive at a commercial real estate company in Phoenix, Arizona. We have been close friends since meeting at Washington State University

Where was the idea for FlagHi™ born?

NR: Mark came up with the concept after a guys’ trip to Bandon Dunes, Oregon. Mark is a low single-digit index but got clobbered in match play, losing 7&6 on Bandon’s par-3 course. Going from Phoenix conditions to the Oregon coast in January had a big effect on his carry numbers – and club selection was total guesswork, especially for his scoring irons.

After the trip, Mark sketched up the schema we have now – this idea of “home” and “away” carry distances – then called me asking if and how an app could be built to solve this problem: how to calculate how changing temperature, elevation and humidity affects your typical and familiar golf club carry numbers.

We did some research, architected the algorithms, created the design artifacts for our dev team and formed an LLC. Nine months later we launched on iOS after beta testing with two NCAA Division-I golf teams. And somewhere in there we invested in patent and trademark protections.

What does it do?

NR: FlagHi answers the age-old question in golf about how playing conditions – especially changing playing conditions – affect golf ball carry distances.

It is easy to use: You simply enter the playing conditions for your current (or upcoming) round. The app tells you the effect those playing conditions have on all your clubs’ stock carry numbers. The technology also calculates how conditions affect the distances that shots “play”.

Which factors impact ball carry the most?

NR: Answering this requires a quick set-up: Our technology and methodology currently utilizes temperature, elevation and humidity – which, collectively, act as proxy for air density. We chose these parameters because 1) the vast majority of golfers already understand and accept that conditions affect carry; 2) information about these conditions is readily available on your smartphone via apps or a web browser; 3) conditions may be reasonably guessed if you do not have a smartphone, are outside of network coverage, or do not have access to a thermometer or a hygrometer; and 4) because players typically do not walk around carrying a barometer [grins]. Our intellectual property protections cover the use of barometric pressure differentials and the effects therefrom – should we decide to incorporate air density measurements into the formulas down the road. But feedback so far is that the numbers are spot-on, so there are no plans to change anything yet.

That said, to answer the question: Since the units for each condition parameter differ, you cannot compare the numbers and effects directly. As an example with Temperature, a 20-degree Fahrenheit increase will add almost 5 yards to your 190 club. A 2,000 foot decrease in elevation will take about 7 yards off your 160 club. Humidity has the smallest effect: going from 0% to 100% relative humidity adds only about 2 yards to your 170 club. For those who just raised an eyebrow regarding humidity adding to carry: humid air is actually less dense. People oftentimes conclude that humid air is  “thicker” – but the opposite is true.

How much technology is behind the scenes?

NR: FlagHi is a very lightweight app – it is only about 2 MBs. Although the equations looked daunting when I drew them up on butcher paper on my kitchen table – their programmatic adaptation was quite straightforward. There is no BS. And there are no ads in the app. No registration either.

How are Tour Players using FlagHi?

NR: Touring pros, their caddies, collegiate players and their coaches all tell us the same story: They find the weather forecast and enter it into the app, along with the elevation above sea-level of the golf course they are about to play. The app allows them to swipe through all their clubs to see their updated carry numbers. Players (or caddies/coaches) write these new numbers down in their yardage books or any other piece of paper and then take that with them to the course.

Some of our users check the hourly forecast for their round and make note of their carry numbers both for when they tee off, and then again for two hours later when they make the turn. It is a smart idea especially for players with early tee times who have to deal with the biggest swing in playing conditions.

Can average amateurs benefit?

NR: Absolutely. As an example, I am about an 11 index and played a member-guest at PGA West in La Quinta, California last January.  We had a shotgun start after a frost delay. Our starting hole was a 152-yard par-3. I knew from FlagHi that my 8-iron, which normally carries 160 yards, would go only 153 yards at 42 degrees. I grabbed the 8 and stuffed it to about six feet. Had I grabbed my 9-iron (normally 150 yards) I would have been well short of the green and in a bunker.

If your skills are not quite to the level of caring about a specific carry number, then the PlaysAs™ feature in the FlagHi Pro version of the app is definitely helpful. It determines the distance a shot actually plays – a home course equivalency if you will. For example, if I am in Denver, Colorado on a 187-yard par-3, the PlaysAs value for me, as a San Diegan, is 170 yards. That means I hit my usual170- yard shot and Denver’s thin air will do the rest to get it to 187 yards. Whether you’re a pro or an amateur – you will definitely benefit from knowing that a shot plays 17 yards shorter than what it measures!

What is the difference between FlagHi and FlagHi Pro?

NR: FlagHi performs the club-specific calculations: you simply enter the conditions and the app tells you what your new carry numbers are. FlagHi Pro has everything in FlagHi but it also has that PlaysAs feature – where you enter the measured distance of a shot, and the app tells you the distance it actually plays.

PlaysAs was actually not included in our original specification. Rather, it arose from feedback from my father-in-law who said that swiping through clubs, and seeing their updated carry values, was “too hard” [grins again]. He suggested that we should also allow a player to simply enter a distance so they can know the distance it “plays”. Which made a ton of sense. That’s always the question – what does this shot play. There was some work to rearrange the algorithms, but we finally figured it out. And we saw so much value in this feature we created two apps: FlagHi – with its club-centric adjustments, and FlagHi Pro – everything in FlagHi plus the distance-centric PlaysAs function.

What is next in line – other apps? Partnerships?

NR: It turns out the PlaysAs function in FlagHi Pro allows for some interesting opportunities. The first – which we believe is a no-brainer – is integrating with GPS apps. GPS is amazing at providing golf course distance measurements but, as mentioned above, a perfect measurement may not necessarily be enough information for club selection. Without FlagHi, a golfer from San Diego would not know that a 187-yard shot in Denver plays only 170. We are speaking with GPS app companies (for both smartphones and golf cart tablets) about integrating our technology – so that players can see both the measured distance but also the distance it plays.

We have also been in touch with television networks to discuss how our technology can augment on-air commentary and tournament graphics. Unlocking the effects of a particular round’s playing conditions enables a fair amount of new and meaningful content for announcers and producers. We have a great iPad app that is all spec’d out that allows broadcast teams to select any player and quickly get insights that include 1) his/her updated stock carry numbers, 2) the distance any (and every) shot actually plays for that golfer, and 3) the distance a hole or the entire course plays for that golfer. All this information varies by player: it is all relative, and depends on where each player calls “home”.

Other interesting insights we unlock include how conditions positively or negatively affect carry distances on a week-to-week basis. For example, players lose about 2% going from TPC Scottsdale to Torrey Pines. We can also enable the correlation of playing performances with the extent to which players had to adapt to any given round’s conditions – adding meat to the “home course advantage” discussion.

Golf announcers already spend a fair amount of time discussing the conditions. For example, there are always comments on how Cherry Hill (in Colorado) adds to carry – or Pebble Beach knocks it down. FlagHi technology enables additional insights into a topic that everyone already understands and therefore would readily accept. After all, when digging for something to talk about, what is the go-to topic for nearly everyone? The weather, of course!

Do you do better on Apple’s App Store or the Android marketplace?

NR: We just launched on Android so we cannot compare successes across the two platforms quite yet. The app looks great on Android. On iOS we’re in 28 countries and see more downloads every week – with downloads spiking during the majors (go figure!). We joke that our company consists of “two guys and a Twitter handle”. So when we consider that FlagHi immediately appealed to competitive golfers, and that we’re the only app in the golf technology marketplace that does what it does – we feel very successful already. Looking forward to whatever happens next!

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