Gone are the days when recreational golfers used their wits and experience (and a marked sprinkler head or two) to estimate the distance to the hole.
Yardage books? Too complicated. Mini telescope and standalone GPS rangefinders? They’re okay, if you’re ready to drop upwards of $300 for a gadget you’ll use as often as you put on golf spikes. So what’s the next best thing for a golfer hoping to lower his handicap, win a skin or two from his buddies, or at the very least, save his expensive box of Titleist balls from a watery grave? The answer lies in your smartphone.
As with personal navigation for drivers, app developers are leveraging the GPS functionality inside smartphones to create golf apps that provide accurate distance info and other critical course data. Many of these smartphone/app combinations rival some of the most popular and expensive standalone GPS rangefinders in terms of accuracy and features—but they’re free (at least for the basic versions).
So, for the recreational golfers out there, here are three golf rangefinder apps worth checking out.
GolfLogix (available on Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Phone)
In terms of number of downloads, GolfLogix has been the number-one golf app worldwide for the last four years. Its popularity spans skill levels from amateurs to pros such as GolfLogix endorser Zack Johnson, who uses it during practice. The free membership includes:
•Free unlimited lifetime GPS distances to green centers
•More than 30,000 mapped golf courses
•Personalized club info
•Yardage book with high-quality images of fairways and greens
•Aerial imagery of each hole
•Score and stat tracking and four-player scorecard
•Share rounds and scores; post challenges to Facebook.
Upgrade to the Champion membership for $19.99 a year and you’ll also get GPS distances to front, center and back of greens; the patented club tracking feature; flyover animation of hole; and more.
Swing by Swing (available on Android and iOS)
Swing by Swing claims to work on every golf course in the world, and includes:
•A full-featured GPS rangefinder that shows the distance to the center of the green, and every obstacle on the course
•A free golf scorecard to keep score for your entire foursome
•A website account to review and share your rounds in detail including scores, stats and any pictures you took and uploaded during your round
•Graphs and stats (on your smartphone and on the website) so you can track your progress
•Satellite images of the hole you’re playing plus zoom and touch to get distance from where you are
•Distance shot tracking—proof that you really did nuke that drive 300 yards!
Swing by Swing claims to be 100% free—what you’re getting is not a “trial version” or a “limited functionality” app.
FreeCaddie (available on Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Phone)
FreeCaddie followed the old marketing maxim, “If you want people to notice, put ‘free’ in the headline” (even though its pay version uses the same naming tactic). FreeCaddie highlights include:
•As “the official golf app for the Pebble Smart watch”—you can check the distance to the green by simply glancing at your watch
•More than 28,000 courses covered
•Get distances to front, center and back of greens
•No registration required
The paid version, FreeCaddie Pro, offers hole flyovers, shot measuring, four-person scorecard and more.
The standalone golf rangefinder appears to be going the way of the standalone personal navigation device—into that drawer of timeworn electronics devices, inhabited by that Walkman, point-and-shoot digital cam, single-game handheld video games, and the Atari game console. All of which, have been replaced in many ways by today’s smartphones and tablets.
It’s only a matter of time before developers come up with a way of incorporating indoor navigation into rangefinder apps. Why not? You could find restrooms, the bar and meeting rooms a lot easier.
Disclaimer: Spark encourages all golfers to adhere to proper golf etiquette, including silencing your smartphone while on the course.