I recently started Tweeting to let people know that I had started to write this blog. As my Twitter activity is not really golf focused I had no idea how many/ if any of my followers would be interested so I started using the #golf hashtag. Since then, I have had some interest from other golf players and enthusiasts and one that started following me was @hole19golf.
I followed back and read their profile and discovered it was a golf GPS/ scoring/ tracker app. They invited me to try it out but I commented that I wasn’t an iOS user and had an Android phone – and at that moment in time it was only available on iPhone. In response they invited me to join their Android beta community which I did. However, the Android version of the app has now had its full release and is freely available in the Play Store.
I hadn’t actually got around to installing the beta so when I saw the full version was out, I thought I would give it a go. I played a round at Seafield in Ayr today and gave it a try out so will share my thoughts here.
I should point out that as far as I can tell it has only been in the Play Store a matter of days so I’m sure that it will continue to receive updates which may well address any doubts I may have over the software.
I have previously tried out Golf Pad and Swing by Swing and while I did like them both, in slightly different ways, have never really used them extensively. I will write about those apps in more detail on another occasion.
Initial impressions of Hole 19 Golf were good. It has a very clean, minimal look which I really liked. It asks you to log in either using Facebook or Google or by creating an account with your email address. I generally don’t like linking together so many different networks/ apps as you end up not feeling in control but likewise I couldn’t be bothered setting up yet another account for a service I may well not use long term. So, I signed in with Google and within a few seconds I was looking at my Google+ profile photo on the front page.
It does look really clean, and doesn’t have many options to play around with but that is absolutely fine – it sets out to do a fairly straightforward job so we don’t need tons of bells and whistles.
I initiated a round and you can then find your course by location (GPS if you are at the place), search by name or your favourites (this builds up as you access different courses). Again, I was pleasantly impressed; all the courses I looked for were present and there were no confusing double entries which I have found in other golf apps.
After you choose your course you move on to the meaty stuff – the distance and scoring of an actual round. The map data seems to be from Google Maps so it does look like other apps which use the same aerial photography. It has a nice function where you can click on a part of the map (e.g. a bunker you want to drive over) and it gives you the distance to it from your current location and then from there to the green.
So far, so good. The only slight issue I had was that the crosshairs which you use to aim didn’t line up under my finger. Ie, if I pressed the screen in the middle, the crosshairs lined up about 1/2 a cm above my fingertip. It was at least consistently the same distance away but it was still a bit frustrating when trying to get accurate distance readings.
After some feedback from the Hoe 19 team, it turns out that this is a deliberate feature of the app to allow you to see where you are aiming. I will reserve judgement until I play a few more rounds. My initial reaction was that I didn’t really like it but I can see their reasoning and it may well grow on me.
It has got a nice drop down overview of the distance to the different parts of the green:
The only other real complaint I had was the length of time it took to get a GPS lock after pulling my phone out of my pocket. As I walked up to my ball I would unlock the screen lock of my phone and bring up Hole 19 Golf. It would take quite a delay for the GPS to get a lock and for my accurate distance to display. This did slow me down on a couple of occasions as I had to wait for the phone to “catch up” before choosing my club and playing my shot.
(My phone is not a top of the range one but it is not a budget cheapy. I cannot rule out the fact that the delay is due to my phone’s GPS mechanism as I don’t really use it in many other apps regularly to have a good comparison but I don’t think the other golf GPS apps I have used had this kind of lag.)
On each hole, you can enter your score and a few other details such as number of putts and sandtrap saves which then inform the feedback statistics once you have finished. To be honest, I am not at the stage yet when statistics mean a lot to me so I am not too bothered by this aspect – what it has is fine for me. The only stat I really pay much attention to is putts and that is easily recorded.
Overall, after only playing one round, I quite like Hole 19 Golf. I like the clean look and streamlined function set. Unlike other apps, as far as I could tell, it does not have adverts or try to sell add on services (Swing by Swing for example lets you use the yardage tool for a few holes before trying to sell you a subscription to keep using it).
If I can get used to the aiming tool so it feels more accurate and the app gets locking on quicker when playing a shot (due to the delay I was not hitting the ball as soon as I should have been when I was waiting for the yardage) it will quite possibly be my choice in golf app this season.