Technically golfing: The best of (pretty much free) golf technology

By J. W.

T.C. Teebox Contributor


Giving your game a tech upgrade

I’ll admit it: I’m a tech nerd. But I’m also a golf addict.
Luckily for you, I’ve sacrificed hours upon hours of productive work time to bring these two passions together so that you don’t have to.
Why should you care about bringing personal technology and golf together? Well, for one, you might actually become a better golfer. Websites and phone applications allow you to track your scores and stats and know your distances on the course. The pro’s do it, so why don’t you?
Two technologies have become a regular part of my golf game: oobgolf.com (website) and Greenfinder (iPhone app).
(NB: There are a lot of other websites and apps out there, but these are the ones I stick to, for the reasons mentioned below. If you have arguments – for or against – please comment.)
oobgolf.com (website, free)

You might think of this as Facebook for golf. There are a lot of social networking features (sharing scores, sending messages, finding golf buddies, etc.) but I mainly use it for two things – stat tracking and finding course reviews. Plus, it’s free.

Oobgolf lets you track critical game improvement stats – handicap, fairways hit, GIR, putts – and a whole lot of other stats that you may or may not care about. Once you set up a profile, navigating and entering scores on the website is relatively simple.

While you can do live score updating via your phone, I prefer to keep my stats the old-school way – on a scorecard with a Sharpie. I just use two extra rows on the scorecard: one for +/- on fairways and greens (splitting each box diagonally) and one for putts. You might also want to keep a row for club off tee and fairway misses (left or right).

Did I mention it’s free? You typically have to pay for a fee ($30+) at a course or through a golf shop to get official handicapping services.

The other great feature is the course finder. While it isn’t mind-blowing, it gives you what you can’t find anywhere else I’ve looked – a map of courses with reviews. If you’ve ever scoured the internet for reliable reviews/ratings and a map of golf courses in your area, you know that what’s out there is generally horrible, at best. Oobgolf users generally provide good reviews/ratings and the maps will help you find decent courses in the area your area of interest. Even if you aren’t using the stat tracking features on the site, it’s worth checking it out if you’re looking for a new course to play in an unfamiliar area.
Other services to check out: Make Me Better at GolfDigest.com
GreenFinder (iPhone app, $34.99)
Golf range-finders have become hot items over the past few years, and for good reason – knowing your distances (to the hole or other important hole features) helps your course management, which (potentially) lowers your score. If you are going to spend $100-300 to buy a range-finding device, you’ll have to wait for another article on GPS vs. Laser. However, if you have an iPhone (or other GPS-enabled phone) you can spend a fraction of the dough to turn it into a pretty decent range-finder.
While there are a lot of golf GPS iPhone apps out there, I’ve been using GreenFinder for over a year. The newer ones have more features (like GPS maps, shot marking, and more target distances), but GreenFinder wins for me because it is dead simple. You can find the course you’re on through GPS or a course search. Nearly every course that I play is mapped. It gives you front, center, and back yardages within a few seconds. It works.
Accuracy is hardly an issue – every yardage I’ve checked has been within 3 yards of a sprinkler head yardage. But let’s be honest – if you really needed more accuracy, you’d be a tour player with a full-time caddy. For the rest of us, it’s good enough to know that it is about 125 yards. You’re probably going to shank your 9-iron anyways.
If you are looking at other GPS apps, you should definitely consider the following: (1) Cost – is it a subscription service or one-time fee?; (2) Courses – does the app provide a list of courses that includes the ones I most frequently play?; (3) Usability – can I pick it up and use it when I need it?
Other apps to check out: GolfCard ($7.99, BONUS – integrates with oobgolf), ViewTi 2010 ($29.99), Golfshot: Golf GPS ($29.99), AirVue Golf ($9.99), GolfLogix: Golf GPS (free, but you need a subscription)
On a side note, if you use a GPS (or any other range-finder, for that matter) on the course, don’t let it slow you down. You don’t need to use it on every shot. REPEAT. You don’t need to use it on every shot. Do the rest of us a favor and use it selectively on the shots that either (a) really matter (like money is involved) or (b) you really don’t know what club to use. Otherwise, sprinkler heads will generally give you enough information.

Fairways and greens,
Jeremy
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