Ever since golf was invented by shepherds in Scotland more than 400 years ago, those who play have tried to figure out a better way to do it. Hickory shafts gave way to steel shafts, which gave way to graphite shafts. The ball went from wood and bird feathers to the balata and Surlyn covers of today. The next step in technology is information. Everything you need to know about a course is now in the palm of your hand. Apple's iPhone in particular has numerous applications that can give a golfer information overload. GPS technology enables apps to provide accurate yardage from anywhere on just about any course in the country. There are apps that keep all your personal stats, apps that read the break on greens and even apps that provide easy access to rules. There are also other devices not affiliated with the iPhone that give course information. Here are a few of the many devices that could shave strokes off your game, or at least make you more informed.
If you really want to break down your game, TeeShot is the app to do it. Say you play a course on a regular basis. You can punch in the stats and score from each round and it will tell you your stroke average, average putts, fairways hit and even duration of rounds. It also allows you to download your rounds to oobgolf.com or ushandicap.com to obtain an official USGA handicap. You'll be able to track your strengths and weaknesses. It also has a GPS function for yardage and it gives you the ability to keep score for up to four players. A stat geek's dream.
Using one of these could make you feel like Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack when he unveils the putter that automatically reads breaks: "Hey, Albert Einstein gave me this putter.'' After it is calibrated, put the application about 5 feet from the hole and between the hole and the ball and it will read slope and break. The claim is that after using it for a while you will get accustomed to the amount of speed needed for certain breaks. Good luck with that.
The main feature of this application is that it gives you a bird's-eye view of each hole. Not only that, but it finds your position on the hole and gives you yardage to the green or sand traps and water hazards. It also has a scorecard and a statistics page that can chart number of putts or fairways hit, complete with a pie graph.
So you're pretty sure your partner doesn't get relief from that water hazard, and with this application you can find out quickly. The USGA rules are stored in an organized way and include illustrations and explanations. It may not come up very much on the course, but this application can be used anytime. If you're sitting around the clubhouse discussing a particular rule, you can get an answer within minutes.
This does not require an iPhone. It is a handheld, waterproof device that easily fits in the golf bag and comes in handy for yardages and scorekeeping. A check of the courses in the database showed just about every one in the Tampa Bay area. Punch in the course you're playing and the touchscreen displays each hole. Touch where you are on the hole and drag to the green to get distances.
Another GPS system but with a different display. It can also track your ball on the hole, but it displays the yardage in large numbers at the top of the screen. It also has the ability to break down a green and give you distance and break.
A very simple GPS system that doesn't require the iPhone. You can store up to 10 courses, and it gives you distance to hole and distance to front and back parts of the green. It also gives you distances to the nearest traps, water hazards and doglegs. It is small enough to fit in your pocket and it gives quick yardage readings.
There are going to be days when it rains, or it's just too dang hot to play golf. There are still plenty of apps that can provide a golf fix while you wait for the weather to break. One of the top-rated apps is this one, which has realistic graphics and features.
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or (727) 893-8810