It tends to be the case that people write apps for people like themselves. More often than not, it's a first-hand practical experience that first identifies a problem in the world and then goes that extra step to inventing a solution for it. On that basis it is no surprise that there are so many gaming apps out there – what is it about code writers and games? But there are plenty of apps streaming into the mainstream in a way that is a little bit less clich©d.
One area that seems to be especially fruitful for app writers is our sporting performance. Maybe there is a connection between leisure time and the way we experience the spark of creative genius that can bring a new app into the world? Whether that is the case or not, the number of sports apps out there seems to be growing by the day. And nowhere is that more true than in the game of golf.
There are hundreds of golf apps out there, but they don't all do the same thing. Some are designed to simply record what you've done – electronic scorecards in other words – some will help you find your way around a new course and there are even apps that will help you improve your technique. And that's not to mention all the apps that will stream media and news reports on your favourite game direct to your device. We take a look at some of the stand out golf apps out there, as well as some of those that are not quite such big hitters.
First find your course
In the UK you're never more than a few miles away from a course, but knowing which ones are able to accommodate you is another matter. The teeofftimes.co.uk app carries details of more than 1,300 courses the length and breadth of the country with multiple search options that take the uncertainty out of matching your budget and ability to the courses in your area. What is more, booking tee times via the app often yields significant savings on green fees. It means that the app, which is free to start with, pays for its presence right from the word go.
In the US the ForeupGo app is even more impressive. It is cloud-based and incorporates many of the gps tracking and scorecard functions featured on many other apps. There really is very little that they haven't thought of.
The ThinQ golf app is unusual. It's not a gps-based rangefinder, and it's got nothing to do with swing mechanics. Rather, it is a brain-training programme for sharpening up a golfer's mental approach to the game. They do say that 90% of the game is played between the ears – even if your name is Tiger Woods – and that is precisely the space the ThinQ app is intended to address. As apps go it's not cheap – it comes in at $8 monthly or $80 annually, but it promises to lower a handicap score by 2-4 shots within just a matter of weeks, and there aren't many golfers who could resist that kind of an offer.
The software presents users with a range of different golf-related posers and the opportunity to compete against like-minded individuals. The claims for improved decision making and enhanced powers of concentration look to be straight out of the brain training basket, but if it works, who are we to criticise? There is also the small matter of a clubby community that is perfectly pitched at sportsmen and women for whom the social aspect of their sport is every bit as important as their own performance.
Sports betting is an area of rich pickings. There are certainly plenty of them around. It goes without saying that depending on what your particular sporting interest is, some apps will suit you better than others. When it comes to golf, the Betfair site offers a comprehensive overview of the US and European tours as well as detailed long-term markets looking at the majors and the form of the main players. A streamlined interface and consistently competitive and continuously updated betting odds ensure that the Betfair app is just about as good as it gets for anyone with an interest in the professional game.
Arccos stat tracker
Amateur golfers have always envied the technology that the pros are able to benefit from. Once upon a time that might have been simply a matter of being able to see yourself swing a club – it's amazing how what goes on in your mind can differ from what everyone else sees! But as time has moved on the science of golf has become ever more sophisticated. Enter the Arccos stat tracker which is just about as comprehensive a training aid as it is possible to find.
Here's how it works: Fourteen sensors are fitted to the top of each club's grip. Combining Bluetooth and GPS sensors the tracker codes and stores every aspect of your swing and your performance on the course. Average club distances are rendered as a matter of hard fact, greens in regulation and putts per hole figures pinpoint precisely where you are losing shots (and where you might be claiming them back!). It is the perfect caddie! Easy to use and entirely unobtrusive on the course Arccos has a lot going for it. At $399 it doesn't come cheap, but when you think how much golfers invest in lessons that leave them guessing exactly which club to hit, that price point is certainly not completely out of bounds. Just about the only thing it doesn't have is a wind gauge.
SwingTIP Golf Swing Analyzer
The Arccos is not the only app out there promising to calibrate the numbers of your swing. The SwingTIP Golf Swing Analyzer is free, but you'll still have to pay $129.99 for the hardware that attaches to your club to use it. The data is shared with your app via Bluetooth to provide power and impact metrics amongst others. The device auto-calibrates for whichever club you select. There is also an accompanying MySwingTIP website that lets you check out your stats later.
Another variant on the digital coaching theme, Myprotogo.com is an app that goes right back to that TV technology and uses it to put you personally in touch with a pro. You film your swing from the side and from behind and then upload the video. The deal is that within 24 hours, you'll get frame-by-frame feedback from a certified instructor, plus customized drills, and an interactive follow-up session. The app also grants you access to a video library of past lessons, and drawing tools that you can use on yourself and your friends. The good news is that the app itself is free; the other news is that lesson plans start at $39.
The old ones are the best
Tradition is part and parcel of the game and nowhere is that more true than at Augusta, home of the first major of the year. The free Augusta golf app will give you unparalleled coverage of what promises to be an epic contest this April. With copy delivered by the Augusta Chronicle – the paper to have covered the tournament every year since Bobby Jones's inaugural win in 1934 – the app will put you in touch with the history as well as the unfolding drama from America's most iconic venue.
The Masters is not the only event you will want to keep track on during the course of the golfing year. Barely a week goes by that doesn't see the pros strutting their stuff somewhere and keeping track of who is in form, who is out of form and who is picking up the money can be a full-time occupation. Happily the Golf news app is designed to filter all the latest golfing news into one readily accessible format. By tapping into all the major news sources the app allows fans to keep abreast of breaking stories and developing competitions wherever they are taking place around the world. It's not rocket science, but – like all the best ideas – it makes a virtue of simplicity. No golf fans should be without this free app.
Know the rules
Any golfer knows that as soon as the game gets serious you need to be fully au fait with the rules – and the rules aren't always easy. That's why there's always an official on hand for the pros. Nice as that might be when it comes to settling those on course debates, we don't all have access to the sages of the USPG and the R & A. Enter an app from the US Golf Association that gives you instant access to the entire rulebook. What's more it's fully searchable which makes it a lot quicker to use than the actual paper copy. The Rules of Golf retails at $3.99 which is a small price to pay for knowing that every single stroke or drop you take is 100 per cent within the rules as well as the spirit of the game. As golfers everywhere would no doubt agree, there is no substitute for accuracy.
Get it all down
Some apps are just so simple they can't help but succeed. A perfect example is the Golf Gamebook app (golfgamebook.com) that simply records your scores. What's more it records lots of other people's scores, too. It makes for a great way to compete with pals at a distance as well as to keep track of your own performance. It gives you and your club mates the means to enjoy the same unfolding sense of drama as the pros as competition leaderboards are updated in real time.
The only downside we can see is that your boss might be able to see when you're on the golf course! The app enjoyed some publicity last year when it was used to identify the world's most active amateur golfer. Swede Robert 'Robban' Andersson carded his 1,000th round in just 40 months last September. That's a lot of golf!
Tiger Woods My Swing App
It wouldn't be right to spend all this time talking golf and not mention Tiger Woods. Of course Tiger has his own branded app, but it's a good one. Basically it takes Tiger's swing (circa 2012), points out the key planes and angles involved, and then allows you to match your own swing against it. It is another app that makes a great virtue of simplicity. All that is required is that you upload a video of your own swing to the app so you can compare your swing side-by-side with Tiger's. The app retails at $4.99. What you do next is left to you – as with Tiger's recent form that remains an open question.
It goes without saying that there are hundreds of straightforward gps apps that will give you yardages and fly-bys out there. There are certainly enough free ones not to have to consider paying for them. In the interests of your good name, however, we should also recommend that you don't consider using them during the course of a competitive round. You'll find that rule 14-3 is quite detailed on the matter. There is also the small matter of slowing down play – it doesn't matter how well you're striking the ball, taking too much time on the fairway will not make you any new friends.
And there is one other small matter to consider as well: if you're letting your smartphone do all the thinking for you, how are you ever going to get the necessary inspiration to come up with a new app? There is bound to be an idea out there waiting to be picked up and brought to market. The apps described here are no more than the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wealth of apps that are available for the avid golfer. Of course, that doesn't mean there isn't room for one more. All it takes is that one moment of inspiration.