Guest Golf Blogger Martin has reviewed the Greenfinder GPS software, which works through your iPhone or Blackberry:
If you are like me, you have found yourself at the course ready to play but with a dead or dying GPS battery, or maybe with the GPS or Laser sitting on the desk at home. Well, if you have an iPhone or certain Blackberry devices, Greenfinder GPS could come to the rescue. My review below is for the iPhone 3g based version only- except where indicated.
Greenfinder GPS is a fully functional GPS app for smartphones, with from what I have seen, seems like a large array of courses in the library. The courses download live (in just a few seconds at the start of your round) after a GPS based (or text based) search and you select the course you are to play. For example, when I bring up the app, I select “GPS Search” and I am presented with a list of about 10-15 local courses which appears to be based on distance from my current location. When I select the appropriate course, within about 10 seconds the whole course loads (on an iPhone with 3G service).
Like many of the new dedicated GPS devices, the library is expanding. While it looks to be significant for my area, you may find a course which is not marked. Well, you can mark those yourself, and those update back to the main database, and then after a review for accuracy, Greenfinder will make that available to other golfers. Likewise, if you find a change in your course, that will update as well. Also, you can request a course be loaded, and Greenfinder will get that course into the database; one of my regular courses was not in their database, as well as a spelling issue for another, and these were both added/changed within a few days of my request.
How well does it work? Over the past two weeks I have checked Greenfinder for accuracy against my own Callaway uPro device, against partner’s SkyCaddies, and against course markings. I have found it to be within my expected range of accuracy for GPS’s (3-4 yards on average). Greenfinder states on their website for the iPhone 3G that the accuracy is within 7 yards, I have seen nothing to indicate that is incorrect.
The user does need to be aware that, when you locate your ball and bring the GPS from sleep mode, there are a few moments where it needs to reacquire the signal and build accuracy. I would bring the iPhone out of sleep mode on the way to my ball to start acquisition. This is similar to the way I use the Callaway uPro as well, but it is a change from the way Skycaddie owners use their devices which stay ON all the time and rarely lose acquisition of the satellites. You get used to this method – and if you find the gps to not make sense in relation to the 150 pole or another course marking, you will see the changes reflect on the screen and in a few moments you will have a fairly accurate idea.
Greenfinder does have the capability of providing intermediate measurements (to hazards and landmarks)- in addition to the Front, Center, and Back of the green- however one of the courses I use does not have hazards mapped, so until you know if they are in there, you should consult a yardage book as well on an unknown course.
Power conservation does have to be in your mind with the iPhone (and I would doubt that few users don’t already keep this in their mind.) The iPhone is an energy hog, the screen uses a lot of power, and then if, like me, you almost always have 3G enabled, along with Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, I can see if you used Greenfinder a lot in your round, you could end up with a dead battery. The website greenfindergps.com has some tips on conserving power, my main advice would be to disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. On my course, if I leave the Wi-Fi enabled, the iPhone will attach to every house going down the fairway and the battery will get drained quickly – but just the seeking of a Wi-Fi hotspot will also consume power, so disable that. You can disable 3G, but I have not gone that far myself.
I have tried some other apps for the iPhone which provide this capability, and have been disappointed in accuracy; also, one of the competitors has you map your own course from Googlemaps- which didn’t work out so well for me accuracy wise – although I did like that idea. Greenfinder’s library of downloadable courses is one of the big pluses for this product, and they do list those courses on their website so you can check your favorite courses before purchase.
GPS vs. Laser? Some of you may have read in the forums my thoughts on this. I have had both, and I have chosen GPS. GPS provides the intermediate targets (some like shorelines are not clearly visible sometimes) and GPS provides distance to the center of the green. For an 18 handicapper like me, going for the center of the green is more important than knowing the exact yardage to the flag (which is what a laser provides).
Is this a better option than a dedicated GPS? I think that depends on your frequency of play, and how much you would use a dedicated GPS. I do think that even dedicated GPS owners might like this app as a backup, and laser owners in particular might like this as a way to get hazard information. I play over 75 rounds a year, and so I will continue to use a dedicated GPS (the Callaway uPro), but will enjoy having this app as a backup.
What about the value of this App? The app is $35 in the iTunes store. On the greenfindergps.com website, this is listed as $35 a year, but iTunes does not currently support the subscription model for apps, so it is a $35 purchase. I would hope if this goes to a subscription based model that the price drops to a more reasonable $15 or $20. $35 puts the subscription for this app at more than the base SkyCaddie subscription price, and for many in the dedicated gps market, there is no subscription fees at all. Also at $35 it may be the most you will ever pay for an iPhone app. However, if you find this app useful, in five years you would only pay $175 which is on the low end of the Golf GPS market for a single device, and if you stopped using it in a year, you would have only paid out $35. Still, hopefully if it does go to a subscription model, it might be a little less expensive.
If you are a Blackberry owner, this app may also be available for you, check the website. Some Blackberrys may get even more accurate than the 7 yards, and some are less accurate. One Blackberry feature not on the iPhone is voice prompts of yardage – that would be neat (especially in bright sunlight). Android and Windows Mobile do not have a version available yet, but the website says that is coming.
What would I add to this app? I would like to see the voice prompts for the iPhone since it is there for the Blackberry. I would like to see scorecard functionality built in, and I would like to see statistics added – as well as a way to measure yardage by club selection. I am not aware of any app doing all this, but hey, it is my wishlist.
I have to say, from my experience with a couple of the competing apps, I was skeptical of Greenfinder GPS, but I found it to be a capable and accurate product which may fulfill the needs of golfers without a rangefinder, and the backup needs for frequent golfers already owning a dedicated GPS or laser.