A good golf app is an added weapon, like a skilled caddie or a (legal) 15th club. Name your need -- swing tips, clubfitting, rules clarification -- and there's an app for it. But not all are created equal. We sifted through a crowded market to find five you should add to your arsenal right now.
WGT Golf Lite (free)
Inside every office drone is a daydreamer longing to be out in the fresh air, locked in mortal battle on the links. This escapist app lets you play a match against your buddies on a virtual layout that looks strikingly real. The format is a nine-hole closest-to-the-pin challenge -- you not only pit your skills against your pals, but you see how you stack up on a global leaderboard. The current version has two courses: the Ocean Course at Kiawah and Wolf Creek in Mesquite, Nev. Additional courses (including Pinehurst and Harbour Town) and new features (such as tournaments and peer-to-peer challenges) are coming soon.
Visulax Golf ($4.99)
Golf, as they say, is 90 percent mental, and Visulax is 100 percent devoted to that side of your game, providing everything from visualization and relaxation techniques to course-management tips and help with blocking out distractions. A feature lets you set a daily goal, rate your progress and send notes to your calendar. At $5, it costs a lot less than a sports psychologist.
You have a choice: Field swing tips from your know-it-all golf buddies -- or from renowned teacher Peter Kostis. Decisions, decisions. The CBS analyst and Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher offers video tips on simple ways to correct common mistakes, which you can view after you've used the app and SwingSmart club sensor to upload your detailed, 3-D swing data onto your iPhone or iPad.
Golf Rules Quick Reference 2012-2015 ($9.99)
Maybe the only thing harder than keeping track of all those swing thoughts is keeping track of all those rules. This digital reference helps you get a handle on them, including recent changes (18-2b: if your ball moves at address, and you didn't cause the movement, it's no longer a penalty). Answers, and resolutions to your on-course disputes, come in a matter of seconds, and an interactive tool called a Relief Finder tells you if you really deserve that free drop.
My Pro To Go (free)
Time was when only Tour pros had their swing gurus on speed-dial. Not today. Film your swing from two angles (side and back), and upload the video. Within 24 hours, you'll get frame-by-frame feedback from a certified instructor, customized drills, and an interactive follow-up session, along with access to a video library of your past lessons, and drawing tools that you can use on yourself and your friends. (Note: The app is free; lesson plans start at $39.) myprotogo.com
Fun fact: Your smartphone has more computing power than the Apollo 11 spacecraft that traveled 221,000 miles to the moon. These three GPS golf apps let your handheld miracle gauge slightly shorter distances.
Swing by Swing Golf GPS Rangefinder
The free App gives you access to more than 34,000 courses worldwide, with dead-on distances to the centers of greens and to hazards, all with a simple swipe of the screen. A $14-per-year upgrade offers distances to the fronts and backs of greens and lets you track vital playing stats, such as greens in regulation and putts attempted. It's available on iPhone, Android and most BlackBerry phones.
Golfshot: Golf GPS (golfshot.com)
Golfshot ($29.99) maps any course that has a clear aerial image from Google or Bing maps (some 38,000 worldwide), so you can zoom in on the hole for greater detail. TouchPoint positioning gives the distance to any point from tee to green, with up to 40 targets per hole. You can track the distance of every drive and approach shot, and keep track of fairways hit, greens in regulation, and putts and sand shots.
Skydroid Golf GPS (skydroid.net)
How's this for a bargain? Two bucks gets you a virtually unlimited number of courses. More than 20,000 tracks are preloaded, and if the course you'd like to play doesn't appear, no problem -- the Course Mapper tool maps it for you and downloads it into your phone. The app can also search for all the Skydroid-mapped courses in your area, so it's great for the traveling golfer.