Golf is a game with a rich historical heritage extending to the 15th century. The first-ever golf course, “the Old Course,” was founded at St. Andrews in 1764.
The game has come a long way since those days. Imagine introducing people in the late 1700s to your 450cc titanium driver with a performance carbon shaft. Can you imagine the look on their faces as you drive for 300+ yards?
Technology changed the game, and it continues to influence how golfers approach the sport. There’s an app for everything today, and golf is no exception. There are dedicated golf apps for enhancing your pre-game, in-game, and post-game experience.
We curated this list of the top picks for the best golf app. Check them out. Many of them come with a free trial.
GolfShot is a top contender for the best overall golfing app available. With more than 11,000 reviews and an average rating of 4/5-stars on Google Play, it’s a top-rated app for your golf game. GolfShot has over 5-million members in its community and is the only golf app compliant with the World Handicap System (WHS).
You get more than 45,000 courses preloaded into the app, with options for courses in locations across the globe. In-app features include the distance to the green from the front, middle, and back. Targets and hazard identification, and 3D flyover previews for every hole on the course.
Here are some of the standout features available on the app’s free version.
- Digital scorecards for up to four players.
- Statistic tracking for fairway shots, greens in regulation, and putts per hole.
- Voiced hole information and auto-hole advancement.
- Handicap tracking.
- Discount fees with GolfNow partners.
GolfShot also brings you a premium version of the app for an annual fee of $49.99. Some of the additional features included with the premium version are the following.
- Real-time distance to targets, layups, and hazards,
- Club recommendations on the spot.
- Zoom and pan functionality in hole flyovers.
- Ad-free user experience.
- Handicap tracking by entering your GHIN number.
- Advanced scoring for skins, match play, and Nassau.
The iOS version offers you the “Ultimate Combo” edition, giving you access to coaching material and other Pro features of the app.
18Birdies is a close runner-up to GolfShot for the best golf app. With nearly 9,000 reviews, it has a 4.5-star rating in the Google play store. It’s one of the best free apps available, and you get plenty of useful course information and scoring utility from the app without having to pay a dime.
You get a GPS rangefinder with statistics tracking and scorecards. We like this app’s user-friendly interface and easy navigation, bringing you distances to the front, center, and back of the green and distance to hazards. You can calculate the distance to any point on the course from your current location.
Google Maps provides the framework for the app, offering you data on more than 35,000 courses worldwide. Some of the other standout features in the free version include the following.
- Side games to track bets with your friends.
- Options for Skins, Dots, Wolf, Targets, Nassau, and Vegas games.
- Instant tee-time bookings across 6,000 courses.
- Handicap tracking using scorecard data.
You can upgrade to the premium version of 18Birdies for $99.99 per year. You also have weekly payment options at $4.99 per week and monthly at $9.99 per month. It’s twice the cost of GolfShot, but you might find it preferable due to the extra features you get with the premium version.
- Club suggestions and GPS-based yardages.
- AI Coach for analyzing your swing.
- Additional charts with custom filters and advanced stats.
- Strokes-gained scoring.
- Tee-shot planners for finding the safe side of the fairway.
- Putt and shot tracking.
- Precise distancing via GPS to any point on the course.
18Birdies is a great alternative to GolfShot, but we feel that GolfShot has the upper hand between the two options. Still, you can download the free versions and see which one you prefer before committing to a subscription.
If you’re looking for the most popular golf app, go with SwingU. This app has nearly 50,000 reviews, with an average user rating of 4.5-stars. With more than 5-million users, SwingU has a database of more than 34,000 courses in locations worldwide.
SwingU comes with options for a free or premium version of the app. Here are some of the top features of the free version.
- Accurate distancing to targets, hazards, and the green.
- Scorecards and auto-hole advancement.
- Statistic tracking for drive accuracy, number of birdies, putts per hole, and more.
- Daily tips from over 100 instructors.
- Free handicap registration after three rounds.
- All game types, including Nassau, Skins, Stableford, and match play available.
SwingU premium comes with a monthly membership cost of $9.99. You have the option to purchase the annual subscription at a discounted rate of $99.99 per year. Here are some of the extra features for premium users.
- “Plays Like” yardages are based on temperature, elevation, humidity, barometric pressure, and wind.
- SwingU Versus: for personalized tracking and analysis of your in-game stats.
- Zoom-in feature for accurate distance measurement to greens and course yardage information.
- Club recommendations are based on elevation and wind speed.
- On-demand access to more than 600 videos for lessons and drills from top instructors.
- Personal swing lockers for saving and analyzing your swing.
- Additional games.
- An ad-free experience.
SwingU is a great choice, but it’s twice the price of GolfShot. While it has nearly 5-times the reviews, it doesn’t mean that it’s the better app. Still, it’s a great choice for golfers, and the premium features are decent.
Golf Pad has more than 2-million users and a 4.6-star rating on Google Play. It’s a user-friendly app with a simplified interface and easy navigation. The app comes with more than 40,000 international courses loaded as standard. With Golf Pad, you get many features in the free version that other apps lock behind the paywall in their premium versions.
Here are some of the standout features in the free version.
- Accurate distancing to the hole, hazards, and green.
- PGA-quality scorecards for supporting up to four players.
- Flyover views of your course.
- One-tap shot tracking for every shot from the tee to the green.
- Full player history and ability to add notes.
- Online leaderboards and group rounds.
- Statistics tracking
- Strokes gained statistics tracking and shot-by-shot analysis.
The free version is great, but the premium version unlocks more. Best of all, it’s the most affordable annual subscription, costing you just $19.99 per year. Here are some of the extra features you can expect from the premium version.
- Integration and compatibility with your smartwatch.
- Club suggestions and stats on your clubs.
- Dispersion analysis for clubs.
- Several scoring methods.
- Handicap scoring and tracking.
- Hole elevation profile and monitoring of change in elevation to the target.
We like the innovative Golf Pad “TAGs.” You can purchase the Tags for a one-off cost of $99 and attach them to your clubs. The Tags don’t interfere with your swing, and they help with accurate tracking of your shot distance, accuracy, putts, and much more.
Golf Pad complies with USGA tournament rules, and we feel it’s another great alternative to GolfShot. The premium version is affordable, and you get a wide range of features on the free version.
Hole19 offers you a no-frills experience with the features that matter to your golf game if you’re looking for a straightforward golf app. With Hole19, you get a digital scorecard, a GPS rangefinder, and live leaderboards.
A free version of the app is available and compatible with Wear OS devices. Hole19 has more than 43,000 courses around the world preloaded into the app. View course ratings from other players to find the best option in your area.
Here are some of the features available in the app’s free version.
- Stroke play and Stableford scorecards.
- Social interaction and sharing with the community.
- Real-time competitions with other app users.
If you want more features, you can install the premium version of Hole19 for $9.99 per month or $69.99 per year. Some of the additional features included with the premium version are the following.
- Club recommendations based on your best distances.
- Shot tracking with shot-by-shot inputs.
- Matchplay scorecards.
- Handicap calculators and simulators.
- Statistic tracking for drive accuracy and greens in regulation.
- Premium golf course mapping with enhanced image resolution.
- Personal highlight reel.
- An ad-free experience.
Hole19 is a great choice if you want a free app with the basics for your game. However, it’s a bit annoying that you have to take the premium version to access the matchplay scorecards. However, we feel the premium version can’t hold a candle to GolfShot, and GolfShot has a cheaper annual subscription rate.
What Do I Look for In a Golfing App?
Free Version Vs. Paid Features
All the options for golf apps in this review come with free and premium versions. Typically, you’ll want to get the full version if you’re going to unlock the app’s full potential for improving your golfing experience. However, the free versions offer you plenty of utility.
If you’re on the fence about your decision, download the free version. By starting with the free version, you get a chance to get a feel for the user experience and navigation of the app. Download one of our top choices before each of your next five games and see which one you like before committing to the premium version.
When you’re sizing up a golf app, most offer you a limited range of features on the free version. You get a host of advanced features on the app’s premium version, provided that you’re willing to pay the subscription fee.
In any case, the app’s free version should include a basic GPS rangefinder for distances to the hole, target, hazards, and other locations around the course. You should also get a scorecard, with several game options included.
The app’s premium features should include statistic tracking for your game and further GPS information that enhances your pre, in-game, and post-game experience. Our top choice for a golf app is “GolfShot.” You get the best range of free features and an excellent user interface.
GolfShot unlocks powerful advanced features and in-app coaching for your swing if you decide to take a subscription.
The last thing you want is to get halfway around the course only to find that your golfing app has drained your battery. Using the GPS on your phone chews the battery; every user knows that. Add a data-hungry app to the mix, and you have a recipe for a flat battery.
The apps in this review all get top marks for preserving battery life in use. The app automatically dims the screen brightness and limits GPS use when it’s not tracking anything. So, when you’re standing around waiting for others to take their shot, the app isn’t draining the battery with repeated GPS location requests.
To avoid serious battery drain and failure of your device, we recommend charging your device before you head to the course. It’s also a good idea to get a power bank for charging on the go. Keep it in your golf bag to charge your device if it fails on the course.
The crux of any golfing app is its user experience (UX). If the UX is confusing and crowded, the player won’t have an easy time understanding how to use it. When we assess a golf app, we look at its navigation and its responsiveness.
When assessing the app, the yardage numbers should pop off the screen. Look at how the app displays the overhead hole view and how it presents course information. Personal preference dictates which one you will prefer, and the UX of the app plays a huge role in that decision.
We feel that GolfShot brings you the best UX, followed by 18Birdies and SwingU. Since most apps offer the same features, the UX usually becomes the defining factor of your choice in golf apps.