Who doesn’t want a caddie accompanying them at all times on the golf course? A companion to let you know how much you’ll have to grunt to clear that water situated in the middle of a fairway, to keep up with your score and track statistics like greens in regulation and fairways hit and to provide top-notch personalized instruction immediately after your round based on your performance that day.
That might be stretching it for your typical, white jumpsuit-clad bagman, but not for TOUR Caddie, a golf GPS app co-created by Shotzoom and the PGA Tour.
It’s easy to be skeptical of using a GPS app for the golf course. Battery life is the main concern. On sunny days, screen brightness needs to be cranked up to almost maximum effort -- unless you spend most of your time out of the fairway and in the shade of the trees. Will it be clunky to pull out a device for each shot and after each hole and force an already slow round to come to a screeching halt? Will your escape from the outside world on the course be hindered by looking at your phone a few times each hole?
Those concerns -- all justified -- are alleviated with one, perhaps two, rounds of using TOURCaddie, which surpassed the 550,000 download mark for iOS devices in October. I had sampled several GPS apps on the course previously, but never found one I enjoyed using. Many were inaccurate, slow or didn’t have data on several courses I played. I was ready to put the PGA Tour’s attempt in the same category. But then I actually used it.
At first glance, the app looks slick -- clean and simple, exactly what you want on the course. After you download the app, you can search for courses nearby (from a database over 41,000 courses strong) and begin your round. At the basic level, you can view the proper yardage on every shot. In the pro version, the yardage to reach and clear any hazard is given along with a overhead rendering of each hole. You can attach a note or photo for any hole you think might give you trouble next time. After the hole, you record your score, number of putts, fairways hit, sand shots and penalty strokes and move on to the next hole. After the round is over, an email with your full scorecard and stats is sent to you. Personalized instruction is available via the TOUR Academy video tutorials with a separate subscription of $9.99/year.
Perhaps the best part about is the app is that you can use all of the robust features offered or only the scorecard to track your stats for the round. You can jump from hole to hole or track each individual shot. You can use it from tee to green or just for approach shots.
The biggest drawback is the price point: $29.99 for a yearly subscription to TOUR Caddie Pro features. The basic TOUR Caddie version is free, but its features are minimalist. You get what you pay for.
Ben Addoms, Shotzoom CEO, answered a few questions for Golf.com about the upcoming Android release in February, an iOS update in March and the process of creating a GPS golf app for more than 41,000 courses worldwide.
What’s the upcoming version of TOUR Caddie going to look like?
We have a number of new feature designs that are in progress. One of those is live leaderboards. Whether you play with four friends on a regular basis and want to keep up with your scores in real-time, run a charity tournament or have a regular golf group at a course, people will be able to create dynamic groups and live leaderboards. It’s designed around making the app more social and gives people tools to share info with each other in real time. We’ve also been working with the USGA for a GHIN update portion of the app. You can use scorecards from the app to update your handicap. We’re not taking any time off in the ‘off-season.’ It’s only the off-season north of the Mason-Dixon line.
What was the most difficult part of the TOURCaddie creation process?
The most difficult thing in the beginning was to create the GPS data points for all of these golf courses. When the first iteration of GPS apps in our family were launched in 2008, we had 4,000 clubs in North America over the course of six months, then we added the remainder over the course in the past four years. It’s now over 41,600 worldwide. You need a scorecard for each course, the distance from each tee, and obviously all of the data for the hazards and greens. That’s a massive undertaking that takes place in the background. And we add courses each week. The number keeps going up.
How long does it take to get the GPS points for each course?
I know we went from 3,000 courses to 30,000 over three years. We were adding more than 1,000 a month. We have five full-timers on customer support that help update all that info on an ongoing basis. From that 30,000 level, we’ve been incrementing courses as we knew more about them. We always intended to be global and have every golf course, private or public, in the database. I’m sure we’re missing a few, but we don’t get as near as many requests anymore.
What would you tell those who balk at the price of the app?
The nice thing about TOUR Caddie is that you can use it free for 30 days. If you use it two or three times and aren’t hooked, then we aren’t doing our job. We guarantee people their money back after a 30-day free trial. If you aren’t addicted to it, there’s no harm, no foul. We’re focused on big things like battery life. As new phones are released, we’re introducing a feature that auto-optimizes battery settings so users don’t have to go into their settings themselves. We get literally thousands of helpful comments a month. We read them, pay attention to them and incorporate their feedback into the design process. So TOURCaddie is free, and it’s free forever. TOURCaddie Pro has advanced settings, and it’s $29.99 a year. The TOURAcademy tips and drills is 9.99/year. This is our first foray into that market, and it’s gone extremely well.