Apologies first of all for the delay in posts over the last few weeks – I have been preoccupied with career related studying and job hunting and stuff so the golf (and hence this site) has taken a wee bit of a backseat…
Nevertheless, with the long summer evenings in Scotland in June, I have been out on the course a few times recently and have taken the opportunity to test another golf related smartphone app. (As ever it is the Android version I have used as I do not own an iPhone – volunteers to test Apple products for the site would be gratefully accepted.)
This time, I have returned to the first app I used since returning to golf last summer – Golf Pad GPS.
Despite the name, it is not just a rangefinder but indeed is an “all in one” golf app which will not only guide you round the course but keep score and (if you use certain options) track your stats and playing history for you.
Like many other golf apps, the engine of Golf Pad is driven by Google Maps aerial photography of the course in question. It uses the GPS lock to load suggestions for local courses but if (like me) you prefer to keep your mobile network connection switched off as much as possible, you can load up favourite courses when in WiFi range and the program will keep these. You don’t actually need a network connection to use the basic functions of the program while playing a round which is a function I really like (my data allowance on my phone isn’t generous so I tend to rely on WiFi…). Of course the functionality is better when connected but not essential.
When you open up the app you are greeted with a straightforward welcome screen:
From here you start your round and select course (as mentioned above) and move on to the main playing screen:
I really like the way this page is set out. It has a full 18 hole scorecard displayed very compactly at the top with the rangefinder function using the main part of the screen real estate. At the bottom you have the important, scoring function, buttons which you can use to put in your shots as you play. The button in the bottom righthand corner is the really interesting one which I will talk about in a minute.
The rangefinder has the usual front, centre and back readings depending on where the pin is. In practice I have found this function to be pretty accurate. I previously praised the accuracy of Free Caddie but I would say that (on this one course at least) Golf Pad matches is. Probably not that surprising really when both programs use Google Earth for their mapping data.
The menu button is the one with the lines in the top lefthand corner next to the course name (Dalmilling here) where you can change settings, access statistics or finish the round amongst others.
In the top right you can go straight to the map view of the course. This lets you hit the screen to gauge distance to to other points on the course from your current position to e.g. check how far that stand of trees is and if you’re likely to carry them or if that bunker on the left is in play from your tee shot. This is not a function I have used much as I have been playing of late at my home course of Dalmilling but as I have observed elsewhere for other golf apps, it could prove invaluable when you are playing somewhere you are not familiar with.
You can even just use Golf Pad as a straight forward scorer – press “quick score” on the main playing screen and you move to this page:
Here, you simply record your score (with the options of putts and penalties). I don’t really use this page myself but it could be useful if you don’t need the rangefinder or maps options (although in that scenario I would imagine most players would simply use scorecard and pencil).
The button at the bottom right of the main playing screen is the interesting one as I mentioned – press this and Golf Pad records a stroke at the exact location as determined by GPS (so make sure you have a lock before hitting it when teeing off on the first!).
This seemed like a really simple thing to me when I first discovered it but quickly the implications became clear – suddenly you get accurate distance data on all your shots! I haven’t used but you also have the ability to tell the app which club you used for the previous shot. This also has the happy ability of automatically determining things like whether you hit the fairway with your tee shot or achieved green in regulation.
After you complete your round you can even review your game visually on the map:
At the end of a round you can review your scorecard and email yourself a copy if you wish:
I have to say that I really like Golf Pad. When I first used it last summer it was simply one of the first apps I happened across when I searched for golf in Google Play – the reviews were solid so I gave it a try. I used to really just use the scoring function but have been utilising the GPS side far more this time round. Especially, as I talked about, after I discovered the GPS tracking score function.
The basic version is 100% free but as you can see from a couple of the screenshots, there are ads. They are not overly intrusive but as someone who breaks out in a sweat if I have to use a browser without AdBlock Plus installed, not particularly welcome.
There is a premium version of course which will get rid of the ads – and more. There seems to be a whole host of advanced stats which need the premium version to access. At this point – about a year after taking up golf again – I don’t really need that sort of depth in the analysis of my game. No. of putts is about the only stat I consciously track and that can be done in the free version. Maybe in a couple of years when I am a single digit handicapper (ahem…)!!
The premium version is also required to access smart watch functionality. Again while this is not something I am currently able to use (attempts to blag a free watch for “reviewing” purposes have so far failed), it is a function that excites me. I think golf is one area where smart watches could really take off – it is so less intrusive to check distances and track scoring on your wrist than pulling out your phone every time.
At $9.95 for a year’s subscription, I think I would be needing to be playing quite a lot of golf to justify upgrading though…
One last recent development that is worth watching is the addition of Golf Tags. These are little Near Field Communication chips that fit onto each club – they screw at the top of the grips. These apparently allow the easy accurate tracking of all shots – instead of pulling out your phone each time to record where you are playing your shot, you simply touch the club against the phone (in your pocket or bag) and the tracking is done automatically. As far as I am aware, this is how the much lauded Game Golf system works.
I don’t think the Tags are available widely yet (the Golf Pad website says they are out of stock and it is not long since I received an email about a crowdfunding project for the tags so I guess it is early days yet. Definitely one to keep an eye on. With that and smart watch support, Golf Pad GPS is set to continue to develop as one of the top golf apps on the market and my current favourite (and the only golf app installed in my phone right now – my highest endorsement!).