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Golf is changing, although the heritage and traditions of the game remain, how we access the game, improve our skills, evaluate our performance and even measure the distance between our ball and the hole is changing. Leading the way in this technological march are golf apps, those small pieces of software that people can download onto their smartphone or tablet and use to help them with a wide number of different aspects of their game.

 

For many golfers of a more venerable age, this new and exciting Apple-centric world can seem a little daunting. So if you don’t know whether you need an iPhone or an iPad, and if you are confused if you need WiFi or 3G compatible devices and you would like to know the pros and cons of each in simple, clear English – then this is the article for you.

 

Outlined below are the questions you need to ask yourself when considering purchasing a device to use golf apps with.

 

Key Question 1: What Golf Apps am I likely to use and where am I likely to use them? Or to put it another way: Do I need a 3G compatible device or not?

 

This is most definitely the fundamental question when deciding which type of device you would like to buy. Not all golf apps are the same, some use different features of each device in order to run effectively. Some apps require a continual satellite connection when used out on the course, others do not.

 

Therefore the crucial first stage in deciding which device you need to buy is identifying what you would like to use the device for.

This requires an honest appraisal of your golfing habits and your own personal idiosyncrasies.  Are you the kind of person who has the patience to use a golf app out on a course, or are you likely to get bored of it after three holes and leave it at home next time you decide to go for a round?

 

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None of the devices we look at below are cheap and so, if you are to get value for money, you must be willing to persist with using the items and the apps so that you gain the maximum benefit from them.

So assuming you are going to get your money’s worth from your chosen device, what kind of apps are you likely to want to use? In our experience of reviewing apps, we’ve found that they tend to come in one of four different types:

  • Scorecard recorders / Statistic analysers – The simplest of these can be used without a 3G (direct satellite) connection as you can download the scorecard of your course on your home WiFi and simply fill in the stats on your chosen device as you play around.
  • Swing Analysers / Comparison apps – Again, these apps do not require a 3G connection as they can be downloaded on your home WiFi and you would only use your devices video camera function to record your swing (though you do need a partner to record this for you while you take your shot!).
  • Rangefinders, Course Mapping, Live Weather etc – Any app that is designed to be used out on the course and that requires real time data from satellites and the Internet, such as rangefinders or course maps,  do require a 3G connection. This is because they use several satellites to correlate and map your position to within a couple of feet in the case of rangefinders, or in the case of mapping, they access mapping software, such as Apple Maps or Google Maps, in order to produce an accurate layout of the course you are playing. This is not possible without some form of Internet connection, which is achieved through the 3G satellite uplink from your device, or by using the in built GPS in the device.
  • Other Golf apps – These include popular golf games, apps to do with coaching or the Rules of Golf or any that do not fit into the above categories. In most cases, these apps do not require 3G compatibility, but some will require it if used out on the course.

 

The key issue here is deciding if the apps you are going to use require you to have a 3G enabled device or not. If you do not plan to take your device onto the course, or plan to use it primarily to record stats to be further analysed at home, then you may not need a 3G compatible device.

 
This is important as if you do not need to use a 3G compatible device then you can buy the cheaper versions of the iPad (those that are WiFi compatible only) and this will save you around £100.

 
If, like the majority of golfers, you do wish to use the 3G capabilities of some apps, then you will need a 3G compatible device, which are the more expensive 3G (or ‘cellular’) iPads and Mini iPads, or the iPhone 5 (or similar). This is particularly the case if you want to use rangefinders, live weather apps and many of the ‘caddy’ apps that not only keep your score, but also give you distances to the green and suggest clubs to hit based on your past performance.

 
Ascertaining whether you need 3G or not is the first step in deciding which device is right for you and in most cases, we think most golfers would require a device with 3G compatibility if they are to fully realise the effectiveness of the apps available to them to help improve all aspects of their game and take shots off their handicap.

 

 
 
Key Question 2: What is my budget?

Buying a new Apple device isn’t cheap and how much you have to spend will dictate which device is most suitable to you. If you prefer to pay monthly and spread the cost, an iPhone 5 may be the best option as there may not be a large up front fee and instead you can use the device as your mobile, as well as for apps on the course and you should find that all your data needs are covered by your contract (which are usually about £40 per month in the UK).

 

Over a typical 18 or 24 month contract though, the cost of iPhone’s are much higher than buying an new iPad 4, older iPad 2 or iPad Mini. WiFi only versions of these machines are around £100 (£70 for the iPad Mini) cheaper than the 3G enabled versions, so you need to think carefully about whether you need 3G or not and buy the right piece of kit accordingly.

 

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Our belief is that most golfers should seriously consider the 3G option – the real effectiveness of these devices comes when they are used out on the course and having them to hand enables you to record much more accurately the details of your round, as well as providing you with accurate data about your shots and course.

For even the most basic device, you are looking at a minimum budget of £350 with a budget of £500 probably being suitable to purchase a top of the range device for your golfing needs.

 

Key Question 3: What are my hardware options?

So having ascertained that most golfers will probably want 3G, here are the options we’d suggest. For the purposes of keeping this article below 5 million words, we’ve only focused on Apple products here, we will look at other tablet devices and phones from other providers in another article.

If you require 3G capabilities:

  • iPad Mini 16Gb WiFi & Cellular is £369 from the Apple Store (or £349 & £5 delivery from Amazon)
  • iPad 2 WiFi & 3G (the Older iPad) – £429 from the Apple Store (not shown)
  • iPad with Retina Display 16GB WiFi & Cellular (the New iPad) – £499 from the Apple Store.
  • iPhone 5 16GB – £529 for a Pay as You Go, plus £15 for a Sim Card from the Apple Store, or you can pay £36 a month for 18 months on the Orange iPhone extra 36 Tariff, receiving 1GB of Data per month with no up front fee (total cost £648 over the 18 months).

 

 

With 3G compatible devices you would also require a Sim Card to give you your data allowance. These are available in a range of tariffs, ranging from a pay as you go tariff, to £15 a month for 10GB of data.

 

In part two of this article, we’ll examine each of the options above in a little more detail and explain the pros and cons of using each both in the home and out on the course, as well as a few hints and tips on how to get the most out of each machine, as well as the must-have apps to install once you have bought your first device!

 

(Images Courtesy of Gorilla Golf, View Ti Golf Apps, Who’s the Caddy Golf Apps, SWing by Swing Golf Apps, Cnet)

 

 

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Comments

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Course Software May 16, 2013

Interesting and informative post. Thank you for your effort. Interesting, clear and precise. Great job Ian.

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Tommy Priest June 1, 2013

Thank you.

2