What’s true about the Golfshot Golf GPS app is probably true of several dozen other golf GPS apps: blink and you’ll miss something new, cool and, more than likely, pretty useful.
Golf GPS app technology is moving forward at a bold and impressive pace. What separates the best apps from the maddening crowd is, more often than not, features found only behind the paywall. That’s true of Golfshot as well.
In its most recent update, Golfshot is offering an easy-to-use Strokes Gained metric. If you’re already a Golfshot user, it probably caught you by surprise.
Golfshot Golf GPS App: Auto Strokes Gained
“This all started two years ago with the introduction of Auto Shot Tracking,” says Golfshot GM and Executive Vice President Alex Flores. “Our ability to collect data automatically on the course through an Apple watch makes it possible.”
Automatic shot detection and tracking primarily have been the domain of Arccos and Shot Scope. Traditionally, shot tracking requires a sensor in the butt end of the club. Then either a watch or some other wearable detects an impact and plots that location using GPS. The system then picks up your next shot, records the data and provides you with a shot-by-shot snapshot of your round.
The Golfshot Golf GPS app does the same thing, only without sensors or any hardware other than what you already own: your smartphone and smartwatch. Using accelerometers and other technology built into smartwatches, plus Golfshot’s own algorithms, the watch automatically detects your swing motion and contact.
As it was, Golfshot collected most of the information needed to calculate Auto Strokes Gained. The final pieces of the puzzle have come together this year.
“Last summer, we set out to update our mapping tools and some of our back-end systems,” says Senior Product Manager Kyle Schomer. “We had to remap 25,000 golf courses so we could know if you’re hitting from a fairway lie or from the rough. Then we can automatically attribute that lie to the tracked shot.”
Golfshot’s mapping partner had more than 130 people working on the project. Using these updated maps with Golfshot’s automatic shot-tracking function (seriously, all you have to do is play), the app has most of the information it needs to calculate Strokes Gained. All it needs is data from the green.
Entering Your Putting Info
Like many golf GPS apps, Golfshot links your smartphone to your smartwatch. With Golfshot, that brings hole maps, front-middle-back distance, hazard info and scorekeeping to your wrist. During a recent round, I was greeted with this little surprise as I was entering my score for the first hole.
Hmm, this is new.
Having already used Shot Scope’s Pin Collect function, it was easy to figure out without instruction. Next, in the scorecard function, you put in your score and the number of putts. Then came the next surprise.
It wanted to know the length of my putts. It’s back to normal after that. You confirm what club you used off the tee and whether you hit the fairway, left or right rough or out of bounds. Then you hit “save” and move on to the next hole.
At that point, Golfshot has all the info it needs to calculate your Strokes Gained for the four key parts of your game: tee shots, approach shots, short game and putting.
During my first round, I found the Pin Location function to be so-so for accuracy. Schomer says relative accuracy is primarily a function of your Apple watch model. I’m using an SE.
“In our testing, we’ve learned the Apple Watch 7 and Apple Watch 8 have dual-band GPS which is very accurate compared to older models.”
Going forward, if golfers playing ahead of you are Golfshot users and have already set the pin location, your watch will tell you that.
What Is “Strokes Gained?”
If you want to get better faster, there’s no substitute for Strokes Gained. As the name implies, Strokes Gained uses your stats to identify where you’re gaining or losing strokes relative to a standard. It sidesteps ego to objectively pinpoints your strengths and weaknesses.
Behind the mountain of data, Strokes Gained can be calculated with just five or six pieces of information. Specifically, did you hit the fairway, rough or something worse off the tee? How long was your approach shot? Did you hit the green? How long was your first putt and, finally, how many putts did you have?
For example, stats will tell us a scratch golfer would take three strokes to hole out from the fairway, 150 yards out. And let’s say you hit your approach to 15 feet, where the scratch golfer averages 1.7 strokes to hole out. If you subtract your ending position value of 1.7 strokes from your starting position value of three strokes, you’ve gained 0.3 strokes on the average scratch golfer. If you sink the birdie putt, you’ve gained another 0.7 strokes on that hole.
Getting the updated course mapping was the first part of the Strokes Gained equation for Golfshot. Its Auto Shot Tracking system took care of Parts 2 and 3. And the new pin location function and putting distance input finalized the package.
Currently, Golfshot compares your performance against a pro golfer. As the app collects more user data, Schomer says you’ll be able to compare against other handicaps.
“Measuring yourself against a scratch or pro golfer is the best way to go as opposed to a 20-handicapper measuring himself against a 15. It really highlights how many strokes you could be saving and what parts of your game you should be focusing on.”
What’s Next for Golfshot?
We introduced you several weeks ago to the unique Swing ID feature in the Golfshot Golf GPS app. By leveraging the technology within an Apple Watch, Golfshot is able to automatically record your swing by the motion of your hands. The app provides data on your swing rhythm, transition, tempo, swing path and hand speed. Next on Golfshot’s hit list is adapting Swing ID so you’ll be able to use it on the practice range.
“Apple agrees with the idea,” says Flores. “We’re working on it, and it should be ready later this fall.”
Apple, in fact, has highlighted the work it’s doing with Golfshot in past product launch events. Additionally, Flores says Golfshot is working with Apple on some new stuff that he can’t really tell us about yet. We’ll have to wait for the big Apple event in September.
“We have high standards and we have aspirations to improve it even further,” says Schomer. “We would love to automatically track putts. We’d love to do that in conjunction with total graphic greens to read breaks and direction.”
The Golfshot Golf GPS app is also compatible with Android devices but the capabilities often lag behind Apple. The reason is pretty simple. Apple is a single manufacturer and owns its own platform. Android devices are made by several different manufacturers, each with its own unique variables.
“We’re out there every week testing new iterations of the software,” adds Schomer. “There’s probably about eight of us on the golf course every week critiquing it and making sure we’re filling gaps either from a usability perspective or from a technical limitation standpoint.”
Can an App Really Help You Get Better?
Accurate data, no matter where it comes from, by itself won’t help you get better. What you do with that data, and how effectively you work on what that data is telling you is what ultimately helps you improve.
“We understand what we’re capable of with technology,” says Flores. “But we also want to understand what’s going to help a golfer on the course and what’s going to help an instructor.”
The free version of the Golfshot GPS app gives you basic GPS functionality, some in-depth stats and basic shot tracking. The Pro version, ($59.99/year on the Golfshot website), gives you distances to key targets and hazards, club recommendations based on your performance, a link to automatically post scores to your GHIN account and the ability to zoom into targets for better course management.
Golfshot’s Ultimate Combo ($79.99/year) offers an extensive video library from Revolution Golf and instructors such as Sean Foley and Martin Chuck. The app features a full library but it will recommend videos specifically for you. Both Flores and Schomer insist the app isn’t “listening” to your on-course conversations. But after a round spent trying to learn how to hit a reliable cut off the tee, and discussing what I would call “incomplete success,” the first video that showed up was Sean Foley’s “Learn to Hit a Fade Intentionally.”
Spooky. Cool, but spooky.
For more information on functions and pricing, visit Golfshot.com.