I have previously used Hole 19 as a combined rangefinder and score keeper and although I liked a lot about it, it didn’t quite win me over as my preferred golf app. (That award currently goes to Golf Pad.)
However, they have recently added a function which piqued my interest and brought me back to try it again – Android Wear support.
To me, smartwatches are perfectly suited for golf. We have had dedicated golf watches for some time and while some of these are rather sophisticated, using an app on your wrist seemed to me a more comprehensive solution. (Plus, although I haven’t found any as yet, surely there must be some non golf apps available on AW that are worth having?)
So after a bit of eBay scouring, I found a deal on an LG G watch – it is one of the earlier AW models, being released in 2014. After ensuring that my phone was up to the task of running the two apps that I knew had AW support (Golf Pad and Hole 19) I made the purchase! (My phone is Android 4.4.2 and the manufacturer has no plans to offer an update to Lollipop and these days I am coming across some apps that now require Lollipop.)
Today I headed out to try out the new equipment!
I hadn’t thought about it when I bought the watch but one additional advantage is that you can keep your phone dry. It was smeary, wet rain today on the course so I popped my phone in a ziplock plastic bag and stashed it in the valuables pocket of my golf bag. The watch is water resistant so not such an issue to get it wet.
If you open the app from the watch, you get an initial loading screen:
You can then choose your course from a range of local ones:
However, at this point if you choose a course the app requires you to switch to the phone to setup the round (choose tees etc). This is perfectly understandable as the watch app is basically just an interface for the main program running on the phone. It just means you need to remember to set it all up before you stash your phone in the bag!
On the “card” view on the watch you get the relevant yardage information for the current hole:
Going into the app itself gives a screen with a bit more info (par and S.I.) and which allows you to change holes:
By swiping across you can get access to the other functioning parts of the watch app.
Input stroke and putts:
Did you hit the fairway?
Move onto the next hole:
My initial impression was very favourable. It was just such a nicer experience using the watch on your wrist to check yardage than whipping out your phone every time. (Like many people I have a PIN on the lockscreen of my phone for security which makes it even more of a pain…)
The only complaint I have is similar to that of the original app – there was sometimes a lag in the lock on to the GPS and thus showing the correct yardage.
Also, the UI was a wee bit glitchy. Often the yardage on the card screen (the first yardage screen above) was correct but then when I went into the app itself it still showed the yardage from the previous shot. Exiting and coming back into the app sorted this but it was a bit niggly – I would expect the correct yardage to be on the screen in the first place. The yardages themselves seemed pretty accurate, as you would expect from a modern golf app .
There were a couple of times when I looked at the watch yardage when teeing off and thought they didn’t look right. Then, I realised I had left my bag about fifty yards in front of the tee to be collected when walking to my second shot. The distance my watch was showing me was of course the distance as measured by the GPS of my phone – in the bag! I guess the way round this would be to carry your phone in your pocket but I didn’t really want to do that. Besides, it is typically approach shots, not tee shots, that you want the yardage to the green.
It’s a doddle to input your score and putts – the score defaults to par so if you score par you only need one press of the screen. Likewise the putts default to 2. It is therefore really quick and easy to do this as you make your way to the next tee.
Finishing the round, like setting up, requires the phone app so it can be incorporated into the “changing the shoes and chucking the golf bag into the boot of the car” routine.
The experience of using a smartwatch rather than your phone to interact with your golf app is as pleasant as I hoped it would be. I cannot see myself ever pulling out my phone on the course again! (And besides, many golf clubs prohibit the use of phones on the course so this is a way around that and still get the functions of your app.) It is just so much easier and more natural to use a wrist mounted device for golf.
Another great advantage to using a smartwatch to talk to your golf app is the lack of drain on your phone’s battery. Despite GPS and Bluetooth being enabled all the time, with the screen being off you hardly use any battery up. I only played nine holes today but only lost a few % of phone battery. Of course, the downside is that you have two devices to charge! I have struggled in the past though with some golf apps that really drain the battery and you needed to ensure your phone was fully charged to make it round the course. Not an issue using an Android watch!
Will Hole 19 be the app that I use on a regular basis? The jury’s out on that one. I have yet to try the watch version of Golf Pad and according to the team at Free Caddie, they will be releasing an Android Wear version imminently. Of these three apps, Hole 19 is the only one that offers all its functionality completely free and that is very much to be applauded. If that will be enough to make me settle on it with my watch remains to be seen.