Golf Pad: the app and tracking system that can take your game to the next level

There have been a few apps coming out recently that can help improve the way you play golf – including Biirdie, which I looked at here, and NoteCaddie, which is another great way to improve your game and get used to golf courses you’re unfamiliar with. But one of the sleekest, most exciting examples of a great golf app and tracking system is Golf Pad, which offers a wealth of features, stats and smart recommendations in real time.

You may recall I wrote a review here in February of last year that talked about the “face off” between GPS apps – Arccos and Game. At the time my preference was the Game app despite the price differential, it just felt more comfortable to use and in my opinion the stat tracker had the edge. However the folks at Gold Pad Inc who have devised the Golf Pad app have come up with a category killer in Golf Pad. Let’s take a closer look:

At the time of writing I am testing the V9.10, however there is a new version planned shortly which has even more features, incredible though that sounds. Let’s start with the bad news….

With the basic app you are able to purchase separately for $99 the Golf Tags, a small disc shaped object that fits snugly into the end of each grip. Sadly though, these only work if you are an Android user, so my iPhone would not pair with the tags which was disappointing. Since testing out the product though I have since spoken to a friend who was able to use these tags to help on his round and he reported that the accuracy and consistency of each tag, was incredible. His comments to me were that they require no battery to use, and best of all you simply tap the device against your phone and it will send all its data across just like that. What’s more, all of this happens in real time, so there’s no waiting around while you play. Genius.

And, excitingly, it’s just been announced that while the current Golf Tags don’t pair with an iPhone, next month sees the release of Golf Pad LINK – an automatic, real-time tracker that will pair with iOS as well as Android.

The basic Golf Pad app comes with very few measurable features and it pays to upgrade to the premium version for $9.99, which gives you access to things like landscape contours on and off the green, elevation calculations, intelligent club selection and crucially synchronization with the Pebble, Samsung Gear, Android Wear, Magellan and Apple smartwatches. This for me was the silver bullet. The seamless way in which the app talks to the iWatch was a thing of beauty.

I was reminded of how poor my experience was with a Garmin Approach S1, which I am sure they have improved since I had mine. I actually had three of these watches, the previous two just failed me when trying to load the course I was playing – a fundamental software flaw that was evident in both watches. The GolfPad app however was rock solid, with a very impressive list of courses, some of which I had never heard of that were within 5 miles of where I live.

My test was conducted at the Marriot Hanbury Manor in Hertfordshire, England. The first course Jack Niclaus designed in the UK and a wonderful rolling layout with the trademark sideways greens and lots of water. Here is a link to the course for any of you interested in playing it.

I was playing with two 5 handicap golfers both using Bushnell rangefinders, so it would be interesting to compare the accuracy of each device. By the way the Bushnell Tour costs $539.00 so keep this in mind for the sum up at the end.

While you can just use the Golf Pad app while you’re playing – and it will enrich your game doing so – pairing it with a smartwatch allows you to focus on the round you’re playing without getting distracted. You can simply glance down at your watch after a shot or before you step up to swing, and you’ll have important data to hand.

Through using the app and the tags together, you can paint a picture across the course and see all your shots on the map, to get an idea of how you’re playing the round and where you can improve. Over time, this data is accumulated and can be used to design strategies for specific holes, allowing you to improve the way you approach your game. It can also calculate your handicap automatically, using either USGA, CONGU or EGA handicaps.

I found that one of the most attractive aspects of the Golf Pad app is its intelligent club recommendation system. The more you play, the better this will get, as it learns how you play and what clubs you’re best with at different stages of the course. It is difficult to gauge how accurate this is over one round of golf, however it did feel like the app was good at interpreting my style of play and whilst in some cases it was difficult to see how short I hit some shots, the reality check was useful and it helped improve my approach to shot making. The app takes into account the distance to your target, the change in elevation, your individual history, the altitude, temperature and humidity to zone in on the best club for every situation – and presents the results to you on your watch or on your phone. It’s like having a coach on your wrist, and works very smoothly.

If you really want to take things to the next level, you can use the app to take notes while you play. These are then recorded along with your scorecard and shot map. The shot maps are particularly nice, using Google Maps to bring up an accurate overview of the course, allowing you to see precisely where you are, how far you’ve got to go, and where your shots are landing. You can come back to these maps or your notes at any time. You can even share them instantly over Twitter, Facebook and email, (not that anyone has time to do this when your friends are taking your money), however if inclined, you can brag to your friends about the particularly good round you are having, or not as in my case!

So how do you actually use the thing – and is it really as easy as the Golf Pad guys (and I!) make it out to be? Let’s dive in and take a look.

All you have to do to start tracking your game is load up the app and select “Start A New Round.” Golf Pad automatically locates your nearest course, so you don’t even have to enter any details – and as I alluded to earlier, it has 34,000 of the things in its database – so all you have to worry about is heading out to the tee box to get the game underway.

One note to the developers reading this, when you choose your tee box from the menu, it would be nice to have a button to “continue” rather than backwards navigate as for the mere mortal this is confusing and does not give you the confidence that your selection has been saved.

The bulk of the features come into play in Map View, so tap that button in the top right hand corner and take your game to the next level with club recommendations, distances to hazards and the green, and an overview letting you see exactly what you’re up against on the course.

This is especially useful if you’ve not played the course before, or if like me you forget the layout halfway round! Coupling this with club recommendations can really help you out. If you’re um-ing and ah-ing over which to use to get yourself in the best position, you can trust the Golf Pad statistical analysis to get you on the right track. Second note to developers, I am not sure I would have the 18 holes displayed on the main screen, this takes up valuable real estate and is not very useful for in game play. But that might be just me. A simple screen with just the distance to the hole, with an indication on how far it is to the back of the green and the front is all that is needed, wind direction might also be very useful, the other GPS devices have proven this to be the case I think. Rant over…

So back to my game and the comparison to my friends Bushnell. The distances recorded by the Bushnell matched against the GolfPad were staggeringly accurate and consistent. This is of course the main reason anyone would use this kind of device and my experience with the GolfPad was a very good one. It has to be said, probably the most memorable I have experienced so far when you factor in price and convenience of use (I hate having to take the Bushnell out of its cover stand around and point it at the top of the flag stick to record the distance, as accurate though this is, I would rather just look at my watch)!

To the developers and marketing guys at GolfPad……you are onto something. You have a great product, albeit with slightly too many features in my humble opinion, less is more, but I could not fault the accuracy, convenience, price and technology.

Can’t wait for the next version!!


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2 Comments

  1. The reason Golf tags don’t work with iphones is because of Apple doesn’t allow it. That’s not golf pad’s fault, it’s apple’s. Having to pay $250 just to get this work with your phone is another reason not to buy an iphone. There are so many good Android phones out there right now, some (S6, S7, Note 5, Nexus 6P, LG G5) with even better cameras than the iphone. Not to mention the flexibility Android provides both in terms of hardware and software. This case of the golf tags just provides one more reason why the Android ecosystem, as a whole, is such a greater value.

    • Tim you have a point. I did hear that Apple were going to allow this soon, so I will follow up with the Golf Tag boys and update the post when I have more info. Thanks for your contribution!

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