When GPS devices started showing up for golfers, I seriously considered getting one to help improve my game. Then I looked at the cost of most (300.00 +) and decided that I had been a member of my own course long enough and I could do a decent job of figuring out my own yardage.
Then last August I got my new Blackberry Bold that has a built in GPS receiver and started looking at software that I could maybe use on the golf course. I did find and try two excellent packages; IntelliGolf and GreenFinder. Both are programs that you can purchase with IntelliGolf coming in at 59.95 USD for the non GPS version and 69.95 USD for the GPS enabled (Eagle Edition) IntelliGolf also sells versions for other mobile devices. GreenFinder sells a yearly subscription for 35.00 USD and is available for Blackberries and the iPhone. Rogers Wireless in Canada also sells this as a service that you can add to your wireless plan for 3.00 CDN per month.
I downloaded GreenFinder to my Blackberry Bold and used the 5 course trial download last fall. It worked very well on my phone and I found that it was quite accurate for the yardage. You can see the distances to the front, middle and back of the green, see distances to hazards and even mark and get a distance for your shot. Currently there is a database of approximately 10000 courses online. I was quite impressed with the software when I used it and was seriously considering purchasing it.
I also tried IntelliGolf which can do a little more than just give you distances of the course. It can track your scores, keep track of side games, as well as keeping your stats. The price of the software is a onetime fee and you can download from their library of 25000 + golf courses. When I tried it my course wasn’t GPS enabled in the database and I never got around to doing it on the course itself using the software.
Recently I happened upon a free application called BB GPS Golf. I downloaded the software over the air to my Blackberry Bold and tried to find my home course (we actually have 27 holes). They did not exist in the database so I visited the web site to see how to map the courses myself and found that I could do it via their website using satellite images and Google maps. I mapped each of the nine hole course at my club simply by dragging pins on the maps from the tee to the green and using very simple instructions (although I have to say it was probably a little easier on my dual monitor system). In less than 2 hours I had all 3 nine’s mapped out and saved to the database. The next time I went to the club, I downloaded the 3 nines to my Bold selected the first 9 I was playing and off I went.
The first time i used the software I didn’t take advantage of any of the extra features found in the program (like keeping score, marking club distances etc), I didn’t even download my club distances from the site. I concentrated on checking the data for the courses I created using markers on the course. I did find that I was in most cases very accurate with the distances I think the largest discrepancy was 3 yards. I also found, just like with other GPS devices, that you had to stop and wait for the device to settle before taking a reading.
The software interface is pretty simplistic. It gives you text data to the front, middle and back of the green as well as the calculated depth. If you have input your club data on the website and download them to your Blackberry, the software will also suggest a club. When I mapped our courses I took advantage of the 5 extra fields for every hole and marked the start and end of fairway hazards as well. If you want to see a detailed image of the hole, the program has the option to view the hole on Google maps.
This weekend I played a round and actually marked some of my shots and used the score keeping feature. I had to figure out how to mark each shot but after the first mistake I made I figured it out.
To mark a shot, you press a menu button, indicate to mark location at which point the software will ask for what club you are using, hit your ball and move towards it. Once you get to your ball, wait for the unit to settle a bit, press the menu button and press end mark. The software will ask you if you hit a good, ok or bad shot. Once you answer the software will upload the data to the website under your account (or new with version 1.17 released May 18, 2009) allow you to store the information to a memory card or device memory for later uploading. This could be a worthwhile feature if you are travelling and don’t want to pay roaming charges on your data.
I checked the results of my shot marking today from my last round this weekend on the website and I was quite impressed (not with my shot making but with the software)! I was able to see the data of my good, ok and bad shots, as well I had the ability to see the shots on a map. I did notice that a few of the shots were a little off but I believe I can attribute that too two things; marking the end point of the shot before the GPS had settled and/or inaccuracy of a consumer grade GPS unit (usually +or – 3 Meters). For the most part however the information was pretty good. Another factor that was difficult to account for was wind. Out here in the west we often get high winds and the day I played it was a 1 to 2 club wind (I know because I hit my Sand Wedge 130 yards, normally it is 105 yards). I think I solved this by marking almost all my shots as OK (except for the really bad ones). Shots marked as Good and OK show up in your club stats, shots marked as bad do not.
While out of the three BB Golf GPS software packages I have tried BB GPS Golf has the fewest courses in it’s online databases, one of it’s big strengths is that is very easy to create a course yourself at the website. Currently there are just over 4200 courses in the database online and just over 2400 of them are fully mapped. As users add courses though they immediately become available to all users. Usually before I travel (and if I am planning on golfing) , I often make my decisions on where I will be playing before I leave. I will search the database before leaving and if the courses I am planning on playing don’t exist I will quickly map them. I have noticed that three of the courses that I usually play when visiting Maui are not listed so I will probably try to map those this summer in case we head out there this winter again.
While there is no formal documentation for the program, the website has some tips and tricks and there is a fairly active community with 3100 + members and a forum. The author of the software has been very good about finding bugs and adding features that are being requested. He does give away the software for free, but does ask for a small donation. I agree that if you try the software and like it, you should donate a little bit of money to the author so that he continues to develop it.
In fact I was playing a few weeks ago with someone at our club. On the second hole he asked what software I was using and within a few minutes he had downloaded and installed the software as well as downloading the courses I created and was using it himself on his Blackberry Storm!
Overall I have really enjoyed using the software and will continue to use over the foreseeable future! I like all of the features in the software the way they are now and it has been very stable running on my Blackberry Bold. True there aren’t as many courses listed but that will change as people discover the software and start mapping their own courses. You really can’t go wrong if you want to use GPS with your Blackberry on the golf course. Even if you don’t have a GPS enabled Blackberry there are small Bluetooth GPS receivers that you can use with your Blackberry and still enjoy using this software!
You can get more information, create a free account and download the software from http://www.bbsgpsgolf.com.