Golfers have more choices than ever in how they want to get the distance to the hole in every golf round they play. They could go with a laser rangefinder and get a custom, to-the-stick yardage. They could go with a specific GPS unit which gives them yardages to the front, middle and back of each green. Or, and this is a more recent development, they could download a GPS app for their smartphone -- typically an iPhone or an Android device -- that could give them specific data without having to buy a separate device.
GPS apps for phones now often do so much more than giving yardage from Point A to the green. They'll now let you figure out from anywhere on the course how far you are from specific hazards, other landmarks and a particular point on any putting surface. Now they'll even help you figure out how the wind, barometric pressure, temperature and other weather conditions will affect the shot. They'll account for changes in topography, going uphill or downhill.
On top of that, these GPS apps will help you manage your entire round. They'll help you keep score, either by yourself or in a game with your buddies. They'll help you settle up bets. They'll help you connect with other golfers and even let you find out who your golfers will be when you make a tee time through the likes of GolfNow.
If you've given a golf GPS app a look in the past and find they weren't for you -- either because you preferred a separate device or were worried about the drain on your phone's battery -- now is a good time to give these golf GPS apps another look.
We recommend any of these four golf GPS apps, which are available for both iPhone and Android devices. All are free to download, though all also have premium functions which make available everything each app has to offer.
Best golf GPS apps for iPhone and Android
18Birdies is a relatively new player to the space, and they're a unique app in that they're kind of a catch-all.
Not only do they have a free GPS function that works on any golf course in the United States, but they also surround the GPS and score-keeping functionalities with a social network. You can follow famous golfers -- be they pros or social-media stars -- and connect with buddies. You can share your rounds live, so your friends can track your progress, even if they're not in your game. You can set up games with all kinds of formats and bets, and the app will help you keep it all straight so you can focus on playing golf.
For a small fee, you can upgrade the GPS to a subscription GPS+ which accounts for wind where you are and other weather conditions to tell you actual distance, plays-like distance and makes recommendations on shots and clubs to hit based on your history of shots logged by the app. It's like having a caddie in your pocket.
Arccos Golf makes hardware that, in concert with their app on your phone, helps golfers track their performance in real-time and digs up statistical patterns and information that golfers can use to improve their games. As part of the Arccos app functionality, you can purchase a subscription to Arccos Caddie.
Based on shots you've tracked using Arccos, the Arccos Caddie can offer suggestions on how to play any hole in the world. It gives you a blueprint to follow to finish a hole with the best score possible...assuming, of course, you pull it off as you normally would. A recent addition to Arccos Caddie is Plays Like distances, taking into account weather and topography to give realistic distances into greens.
Arccos Caddie has pricing of $7.99 per month, $39.99 for six months or $49.99 for 12 months (plus a 30-day trial).
Swing by Swing
Swing by Swing is one of the OGs of golf GPS apps. It's been around for years. The app has an easy-to-use GPS function, has scorekeeping functionality and offers golf news through their Clubhouse. It has wind functions and plays-like distances. With their premium Looper function, you can keep detailed stats on each shot and hole you play. You can see graphics laid over shots to show where your ball will land depending on how far you hit it. It'll track your clubs without using tag hardware, and you can track games using that function. Also, you can book tee times in the app.
GolfLogix is another golf GPS app which has been around for a while, and it's still kicking and doing well. Like the other apps, it offers a graphical map of holes, tracks statistics, will help you keep score for a foursome and more. The distance grid is always handy. You can book tee times through GolfNow. They just added green-reading maps, which is pretty amazing, too, even as they're just starting to bring courses on (and it's only on iPhone for now). The premium membership is $30 per year. After your round, based on stats and data, you can also get customized lessons through Golf Digest (for $10 per year).
Lots of good choices
There are plenty of great golf GPS apps out on the marketplace. All of them will help you keep score and track your game on top of helping you figure out how far you are from the hole on each shot. Each app has a different visual look and feel, so try them out in free modes to figure out what works best for you. You may be more drawn to an app that helps you track games of multiple formats. Maybe you like the green reading. Maybe you want hands-free stat tracking. Whatever you're looking for, at least one golf GPS and score keeping app has you covered.