Tap and shoot! Four apps that take ‘playing on your phone’ to the next level

October 13, 2018

If you’ve been playing golf for long enough to remember wound golf balls, you definitely know what it was like to judge distance by the naked eye or simply from the red, white and blue fairway markers. And analytics, advice or interacting with friends and fellow competitors via social media certainly wasn’t possible, since smart phones and various other technologies simply didn’t exist. These days, the ubiquitous pocket computer is a valuable tool for many things, including utilizing golf GPS apps to not only measure distance but also keep track of all your stats, read greens, get advice from a personal caddie, get specific info on a given course, or even brag to your buddies about your long drive of the day. If any of these features interest you, check out the four notable systems below with an eye toward improving your scores — and having a lot more fun on the course.

Arccos 360
$250 for 14 sensors | arccosgolf.com

Arccos made a splash a few years back when it partnered with Cobra to get its sensors (capable of measuring distance and accuracy) in the company’s flagship driver. The new and improved Arccos 360 features a screw-in sensor for every club, live shot tracking, upgraded GPS and the proprietary Arccos Caddie 2.0. As the name suggests, this A.I. aid makes recommendations based on what the app knows about your game and the course you’re playing. Arccos worked with Microsoft to map out more than 40,000 courses—every tee, tree and trouble spot. Pair that with its database of some 100 million shots played on those courses, and you have the virtual equivalent of a grizzled old looper right there in your pocket, learning more about your game each round. The app maps out your best course of action in real time, based on everything from personal tendencies to weather forecasts and elevation changes. According to Arccos, users trimmed their handicaps by 3.55 stokes in 2017—46.7 times faster than the average golfer.

Unique Feature: Virtual caddie that learns your game over time and provides unique advice specifically for you.

Potential Problem: The required grip sensors for each club and the need to have your iPhone on your person while hitting might bother some.

SkyGolf 360
$20 for basic, $30 for premium, $50 for pro; all subs are per year | skygolf.com

SkyGolf was one of the original players in the GPS game. Twenty years on, it’s still a go-to for all kinds of electronic wizardry. A sizable lineup of watches and handhelds, swing analyzers and simulators are available, but the main draw has always been the maps. For our money, it doesn’t get much better than basic SkyCaddie Mobile, which comes included in the SkyGolf 360 app. Rather than using aerial photos, SkyGolf employees actually walk each course they map. The result is free of distortions and obsolete data that come with flyovers. The personal touch offers a golfer’s-eye view of important details, such as targets off the tee and key distances. SkyGolf charges an annual fee for 360, which includes the IOS- and Android-friendly mobile product. Plus, the cloud-based platform allows you to track scores, log statistics, explore other courses and follow your friends. It also syncs with other SkyGolf products, but if you’re keeping it basic, the data entry needs to be done manually.

Unique Feature: Courses are measured by actual walking, which provides a more accurate view than flyover mapping.

Potential Problem: Less expensive options require data to be entered manually after each round.

GolfLogix + Putt Breaks
$50 per year (other subs available) | golflogix.com

Ever seen a professionally crafted Tour yardage book? They’re nothing like the glossy brochures you pick up in pro shops. These things have every hill and hazard meticulously mapped and measured to provide the most precise information possible. Problem is, they’re often difficult to decode. GolfLogix gets that, so it engineered its newest premium product to do the dirty work for you. With its Approach View feature, you can figure out exactly where on the green you need to play to from the fairway to snuggle one in close to the pin—and you can do it on more than 35,000 courses. That alone is worth the purchase price. Add to that the innovative Putt Breaks feature, which provides a realistic, 3D view of the green and a slick algorithm that can actually read your putt (the company used lasers to survey every green to within a centimeter), and you can see why the app has amassed a legion of a million-plus users. A free, ad-supported version of GolfLogix is available, as is a free 30-day trial of the entire package.

Unique Feature: Ability to provide green reads for improved putting and more accurate approaches.

Potential Problem: The limited number of greens (8,000+) mapped for the Putt Breaks feature might not include your most-played courses.

*GolfLogix is owned by Emigrant Bank, the parent company of GOLF.

Bushnell Phantom
$99 | bushnellgolf.com

The Phantom is basic and affordable—the square-shaped device comes ready to use right out of the box, with more than 36,000 courses across 30 countries programed in. Turn it on and it’ll automatically find the one that you’re playing, supplying front-, center- and back-of-the-green yardage. Just clip the thing to your belt—or, better yet, use the built-in magnet to stick it on your cart—and play. But here’s where the included iPhone- and Android-compatible app comes in handy. Not only does it update the Bluetooth-enabled device, it supplements the Phantom’s bare-bones yardages with 3D visuals. Tap “Play Golf” on your phone and you’ll get access to flyovers, maps and intermediate distances for the hole you’re about to play. Other products will do everything short of swing the club for you—this isn’t one of them. The Phantom is the KISS Principle (”Keep it simple, stupid”) personified, and we know plenty of golfers who’d benefit by taking that advice to heart.

Unique Feature: Simple to use and accurate, with 3D visuals at the tips of your fingers.

Potential Problem: Requires a physical device on your belt or on the cart, which some golfers might not prefer.