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When looking to get yardages and track statistics for a round of golf, dedicated golf GPS watches or handheld units are great and serve their purpose well. But there is another option that may not even require an additional purchase: GPS apps.
These days, nearly all iPhones made by Apple come with their own integrated GPS tracking systems. Golf GPS apps can take advantage of this to provide distances to the green and other points on the golf course, course views in colour, statistics tracking, and more. All that’s needed is your phone.
If you have or are planning on getting an iPhone, there are several excellent golf GPS apps available that are highly rated by users. Most of them offer a paid version with added features, but otherwise, they can be used absolutely free.
If you’re looking for the best golf GPS app for your iPhone, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll review and compare our picks for the best golf GPS apps for iPhone.
We base these choices on our own personal experience, popularity, and the general reception from consumers and critics who have used the apps.
Our Top Picks For Golf GPS Apps For iPhone
Based on our own testing, research, and experience, here are our top selections:
- SwingU Golf GPS App
- 18Birdies Golf GPS App
- Golfshot Golf GPS & Caddie App
- Golf Pad Golf GPS & Scorecard App
- Golf GPS ++ App
1. SwingU Golf GPS App
SwingU is arguably the most popular golf GPS app for iPhone right now with over 6,000,000 users.
There are over 34,000 courses in the database, although SwingU claims that the app works on any course in the world. The four main functions of SwingU are:
- GPS: get accurate distances to the green and every hazard.
- Scorecard: tracks your score and putts. Holes advance automatically.
- Statistics: includes putts per hole, driving accuracy, scoring accuracy, and number of birdies.
- Instruction: a daily golf instruction tip from top-100 instructors.
You can get a free handicap after posting scores for three rounds. Games such as skins, stableford, Nassau and match play are available.
SwingU Premium (monthly or yearly subscription) is an AI-powered digital caddie and instruction platform. It offers a number of powerful features that include:
- “Plays Like” yardages which are based on factors like elevation, temperature, humidity, wind, and barometric pressure
- SwingU Versus: tracks every facet of your game and gives you a personalized strokes gained analysis
- “zoom-in” distances for greens as well as additional course yardage information
- club recommendations based on wind speed and elevation
- on-demand access to over 600 video lessons and drills from top-100 instructors including Chris O’Connell and Jason Sutton
- a personal swing locker for saving and analyzing your golf swing
- additional on-course games
- no ads
The golf instruction feature sets SwingU apart from other golf GPS apps. But aside from that, it’s a top choice for iPhones and it has a ton of social proof to back it up. Check the SwingU website for premium discounts.
2. 18Birdies Golf GPS App
18Birdies is a golf GPS app available for iPhone that has one of the highest average user ratings on the market.
It offers free and premium versions, but the free version is packed with plenty of features that give you all the course information you need for improving your game.
18Birdies provides a GPS, rangefinder, and scorecard and statistics tracking. The interface looks great and is easy to read. Of course, you can get distances to the front, center and back of the green, as well as to hazards. Even better, you can find the distance to any point on the course you’d like.
The app is powered by Google Maps to provide data for over 35,000 worldwide courses, each of which has verified GPS measurements for maximum accuracy.
Other features in the free version include:
- side games that you can use to track bets with friends. Available games include Skins, Wolf, Dots, Targets, Vegas, and Nassau.
- instant tee time booking for over 6000 courses
- golf handicap tracking based on past scorecard data
- monthly sweepstakes for a chance to win course trips, golf equipment, etc.
An optional premium version of 18Birdies (weekly, monthly or yearly subscription) adds features such as enhanced “plays like” GPS yardages and club recommendations for every shot based on elevation, humidity, temperature, and other factors.
Other features in the premium version include:
- AI Coach: send in a video clip of your swing and an AI-based swing analyzer will provide instant feedback with suggestions for improvement.
- advanced stats with additional charts and custom filters
- advanced strokes gained scoring
- a tee shot planner which indicates the safer side of the fairway
- shot tracking and putt tracking
- exact GPS distances to the flag location on every hole
There are other features that we haven’t covered. The bottom line is that 18Birdies is a very well-made golf GPS app with some powerful unique features and exceptional user reviews.
3. Golfshot Golf GPS & Caddie App
You’ll see Golfshot recommended all over the place as a top golf GPS app, and there’s a reason for that. It has many thousands of positive reviews.
Golfshot is claimed to have over five million community members and be the only golf GPS app fully compatible and compliant with the new World Handicap System (WHS).
The app is loaded with over 45,000 courses around the world and gives you distances to the green (front, middle and back) as well as hazards and other targets. You can also visualize each hole with 3D flyover previews, or view an entire 3D course preview before starting a round.
Other features you get with the free version of Golfshot include:
- a digital scorecard for up to four golfers
- the tracking of statistics such as greens in regulation, fairways hit, and putts per hole
- automatic hole advancement and voiced hole info
- handicap index tracking
- discount tee times provided by GolfNow
- Siri functionality for asking for hole information
Golfshot offers a paid version of their app called Golfshot Pro. With Golfshot Pro, you get (not limited to):
- real-time distances to hazards, layups, targets and the front and back of the green (in addition to the center of the green)
- on-the-spot club recommendations based on past performance
- ability to zoom and pan
- an ad-free experience
- integrated handicap index tracking by linking a GHIN number
- advanced scoring for match play, Nassau and Skins
One more offer, The Ultimate Combo, gives you all Pro features in addition to Golfplan. Golfplan is a golf coaching and instruction solution that provides a library of 350+ videos powered by Revolution Golf.
Experts on Golfplan include Don Saladino, Martin Hall, and Martin Chuck. Golfplan is also available as a standalone purchase.
One of the great things about Golfshot is that once it’s downloaded, it doesn’t require data to be used. Customer support is excellent and will help you if you’re having any issues.
4. Golf Pad Golf GPS & Scorecard App
Golf Pad is one of the most consistently praised golf GPS apps out there, with over 2,000,000 users. It’s simple to understand and easy to use.
What we really appreciate about Golf Pad is that the free version provides many features that are locked behind a paywall with other GPS apps. This includes:
- distances to the front, middle and back of the green (not just the middle)
- detailed PGA-quality scorecards for up to four players
- aerial maps with flyovers
- a one-tap shot tracker that can be used for every shot tee-to-green
Golf Pad provides GPS functionality with satellite views for over 40,000 courses around the world. For each course, you can tap the screen to measure the distance to absolutely any point including bunkers, water and other hazards.
Other features included in the free version are viewing full player history with the ability to add notes, group rounds, online leaderboards, strokes gained shot-by-shot analysis, and statistics tracking. More features are being added over time, many of which come from golfer feedback.
Golf Pad offers a Premium version of the app for a yearly fee. Some of the features added with Golf Pad Premium are:
- smartwatch compatibility (including Apple Watch)
- hole elevation profiles with change in elevation to target
- multiple scoring modes with handicap scoring
- detailed stats for every club
- club dispersion analysis
Golf Pad also has another offer called Golf Pad TAGS. This is a physical purchase that gives you special tags for mounting to the top of your club. Once the tags are in place for a particular club, you can track shot distances, accuracy, putting stats, and much more. You can get the full details on Golf Pad TAGS here.
Golf Pad conforms to USGA tournament rules and is optimized to save battery life. Golfers find the accuracy to be excellent and within a few yards of handheld rangefinders.
5. Golf GPS ++ App
Golf GPS ++ is an app designed by Vimo Labs. It seems to have been designed with the Apple Watch in mind — it can function standalone on the Apple Watch without you needing to carry your phone.
The app is also excellent on the iPhone. It was featured in the 2017 edition of Golf Digest.
Golf GPS ++, which is usable with over 35,000 golf courses around the world, offers a slew of features in the free version such as 3D maps and hole flyovers. Other features include:
- measured distances to the hole and hazards
- automatic recording of your GPS location every time you swing
- club distance and accuracy tracking
- automatic hole advancement
- simple score tracking or shot-by-shot tracking
- real-time forecasts of wind direction
- the ability to zoom in on high-res satellite imagery
- tracking of various statistics like fairways hit, putts per hole and GIR
With an Apple Watch and a premium membership (monthly or yearly subscription), you can unleash the power of the Golf GPS ++ App with gesture-recognition technology that recognizes golf swings, automatic score tracking, integration with the Health app, built-in swing analyses, and built-in putt analyses.
What we like is that once a course is loaded and cached in the app, an internet connection is not needed to use it. The app’s developers have come out with many updates over time that have improved reliability and user-friendliness of the interface.
There are many golf GPS apps available for iPhone, and because they all essentially do the same thing, knowing which one to choose isn’t always easy. This guide will provide you with the education you need in that regard.
The most essential purpose of a golf GPS app is being able to conveniently get distances to the green as well as other points on the course such as bunkers and water.
If you want to find the best golf GPS app for you, here are the most important factors to consider:
1. User Reviews
One of the first things you should do when choosing a golf GPS app is look at the user reviews.
Apple’s App Store displays the average score, number of ratings, and distribution of ratings from 1-5. However, unlike the Google Play store, you can’t see all the reviews left for an app; you can normally only view a selection of featured reviews that may be limited to your geographical area.
It’s important to note that when it comes to any mobile app, you’re going to see low ratings, regardless of how good the app is. This is the nature of the beast because there are so many factors that can influence how an app runs such as the phone model, phone configuration, internet connection speed, and other factors specific to an individual’s phone.
As a result, you will see a lot of reviews complaining about various technical issues. But you should not assume that this is due to an issue inherent in the app itself.
Users may also give low ratings for reasons unrelated to the quality of the app itself, such as having a bad customer support experience or not wanting to give a certain piece of personal information during signup.
What’s most important is looking at the average rating and seeing what users who give the app four of five stars are saying about it. Click to expand each review and read the developer response if one exists.
Features are, of course, essential when considering a golf GPS app, and this is especially true when you only want to use free versions which have limited features.
The paid version of any golf GPS app worth its salt will have all the features you could ever want including yardages to hazards and the front, middle and center of the green, scorecards for multiple players, statistics, shot tracking, and handicap calculation. If you have an Apple Watch, you may be able to access even more powerful features.
Most golfers interested in golf GPS just want distances to the green and to different points on the course. If you want more than just simple yardage information, take note of how much information you get with the free version. Can you just view distances to the center of the green or can you get more information? Can you get course flyovers? What statistics are tracked?
Most golf GPS apps will also have a unique paid offer such as the 18Birdies AI Coach, SwingU video instruction or Golf Pad TAGS. How much such features appeal to you will influence which golf GPS app you ultimately end up using and whether you go free or paid.
3. Battery Drain
A main concern when using a golf GPS app, whether through a smartwatch or smartphone, is battery drain.
You can expect that golf GPS apps will drain your battery at a faster rate than most other apps because of their power and complexity. The two most influential factors when it comes to battery drain are the GPS and the brightness of the screen.
For example, letting the GPS run continuously in the background will speed up the retrieval of yardages but put much more strain on the battery.
Screen brightness will also have a major impact on how fast the battery drains. The problem is that because golf is played outdoors, the sunlight will necessitate a higher screen brightness in order for the screen to be readable, and this, in turn, will drain the battery more quickly.
Each golf GPS app may have different strategies for stretching out battery life during rounds, which can typically be viewed in the help documentation. At the very least, your device should last on a full charge for one 18-hole round.
Having said that, if battery drain is particularly important to you and you want to get as much use as possible without having to recharge, you should consider golf GPS apps specifically advertised as being optimized for battery life such as SwingU and Golf Pad. Also take note of any user reviews that comment on battery drain.
4. UI & Aesthetic
Two very important factors that affect the overall experience with a golf GPS app are the usability and looks.
In particular, how easy is the app to use, how responsive is it, and how easy is it to navigate? Consider how much the yardage numbers pop off the screen and how the overhead hole view is displayed.
Personal preference comes into play here. Many golfers will choose a golf GPS app based on which user interface and aesthetic they like the most. For us, 18Birdies and SwingU rank at the top, but other golfers may prefer the UI of other apps.
Because golf GPS apps are so similar in terms of the information they provide, the UI may end up being the deciding factor when making your choice.
If you’re looking to pay for the premium version of a golf GPS app, you’ll need to consider the price.
Offers can range from around $20-$100 per year. SwingU, as an example, has a higher subscription cost than other golf GPS apps when a discount isn’t running, but at the same time, it’s extremely popular for iPhones and is our #1 pick overall.
What we would recommend is to not necessarily go with the app that costs the least, but rather to consider apps that don’t cost more than what you’re willing to spend.
Also check to see if an app offers a monthly payment plan in addition to a yearly plan. You’ll pay more on a per month basis with a monthly plan, but the commitment is a lot smaller.
Because iPhones typically have faster processors and offer other advantages over Android phones, golf GPS apps tend to run that much faster and more reliably.
This is why the latest iPhone, a good golf GPS app, and optionally an Apple Watch, is the dream asset for any golfer to have in their toolbox. With features such as high-fidelity overhead maps, live leaderboards, shot tracking and statistics, this technology is revolutionizing the world of golf, making it easier for golfers to hone and refine their game.
Golf GPS apps enable you to obtain accurate information about each hole you play including distances to the green and hazards, and they don’t require the separate purchase of a golf GPS watch or handheld.
Each of the golf GPS apps listed above are proven to work well on iPhones. We’ve given you the information you need; now it’s up to you to go the rest of the way.
Thanks for reading this guide. Which golf GPS app are you using on your iPhone? Do you have any questions? Feel free to leave a comment down below.
We have just released our iPhone app into this class of apps. We tried a bunch of these and didn’t like that they were always requiring logins, collecting your data, and had very confusing over complicated user experiences. So I set out to make a modern app with the cool mapping and statistics features, but is mostly just a nice clean scorecard at a much more reasonable price. Give QuickNine a try on the App Store. https://www.birdsoft.biz/app/quicknine-golf-scorecard/
Thanks Brian. This seems to primarily be a scorecard app with GPS features that are locked behind a subscription, so I don’t think it can be featured in the guide itself. But people who are interested can definitely check it out.
I’ve tried most of these but find mScorecard the best based on features, price and usability.
Looks good, but it seems like it’s mostly a scorecard app with very limited GPS features (just one distance to the green and that’s it). It’s definitely an option, though.