Rangefinders and golf GPS devices have been out for a while and really changed the game of golf for amateurs and weekend warriors. The problem that remained, especially for golfers who do not take the game too seriously, was that the technology was pretty cost prohibitive. You could find good and accurate devices, but they were expensive devices in an already expensive game. Now, thanks to the proliferation of apps for your smartphone or smart watch, all you need to have a good GPS out on the course is the smartphone that you keep with you 98% of the time anyway.
Golf apps now give you the capability to have everything you need right on your phone. You can locate the distance to the front, back, and middle of the green. You will get satellite imagery of the shape and contents of each hole. You may even find an app with scorekeeping capabilities or data collection and storage. The bottom line is that a lot of these apps can really help you, and best of all, they are free!
What Should You Look for in a Golf GPS App?
The golf GPS app market is huge and growing all the time, and this can make it difficult to find the one best suited for your needs. In this section, you can find some of the features that can set these apps apart and make one the right one for you. Some of the things you should look for include:
Ease of Use
You want to make sure you can easily get the information you want without wasting time between shots. This feature is really personal preference, so trying a few different apps on the course or at home just to get a feel for them is really the only way to figure out which apps are easiest for you to use.
Cost to Upgrade
You should find out which features are free and which features require you to upgrade to a paid membership plan. You also want to find out how much it would cost you to upgrade if you want to in the future. To move up to the next level, some apps may charge you as much as $20/month or more while others may charge you less than $5/month for the advanced features.
There are some things that are more important than others for each golfer when it comes to finding the right golf GPS. If you only care about knowing the general distance to reach the middle of each green from different areas of the course, then that takes a lot less specialization than if you want to know the distance to the front, back, or middle of the green. Some apps will also tell you the distance from the tee to different hazards or obstructions on the course, and this can also be important yardages to have. You want to make sure to find the app that is in-depth enough in the yardages given for what you need.
Accuracy in a golf GPS app can be a difficult thing to measure and you will often have to rely on reviewers and other customers to get their take on the accuracy of a device. While it may be difficult to measure, accuracy is an extremely important feature for a GPS because getting the correct yardage before a shot is the primary reason to have a GPS on the course.
The maps features is another one of the most important reasons for having a GPS. Almost every hole on every golf course will have a map of each hole at the tee box. GPS maps, however, are different. They will oftentimes show you where the ball is on the map, some have 3D maps, and all of them give you a little more detail than the maps on the tee box signs.
Round up of Best Free Golf GPS App
Not every golf GPS app is free, and not every free golf GPS app is good, so we have reviewed some of the best free apps on the market to help you figure out which one may work best for you.
18 Birdies has come out of the gates hot with celebrity endorsements from Ernie Els, Paige Spiranac, and Scott McNealy and they turned those endorsements into over 700,000 downloads in less than a year.
It is also a well-designed and feature-rich app with a free version and a paid version. It features clean and crisp satellite images and a very accurate and free GPS. You can setup tournaments or games and keep track of your score as you get distances and images of the course ahead. If you step up to the paid version you get even more information and advice, but the paid version can be a little hard to use during play.
- One of the best apps for just the free GPS feature.
- Accurate yardage and distances.
- A great design with clear and crisp images.
- The free version does not have a lot of pop-up ads or anything else too distracting.
- Not as easy to use as some of the other free apps.
- The paid version has more information than you will probably ever use.
GolfShot is one of the most popular and most downloaded golf GPS apps out there. You get detailed satellite images, a list of distances for each hole, and a very intuitive and attractive design.
The app has over 40,000 courses and the free version gives you the distance to the middle of the green on each hole along with some other features. While you are on the course, you can also keep track of every shot you hit on the course and which club was used as a way to gather data and help improve your game. There is a reason that GolfShot is popular, and its mixture of features and ease of use are difficult to find in a free app. You can also upgrade to GolfShot Plus for $30, and that upgrade could add quite a few features to the app including distances to the middle and back of each green.
- A lot of non-GPS features for a free GPS app.
- You can keep score for up to a foursome, review stats, and check golf news on the free version of the app.
- You get the distance to the center of the green for over 40,000 golf courses.
- Available for Android, Apple, Apple Watch, and Android Wear with a free or paid version of the app.
- You have to pay to get some of the features that other apps offer for free.
- You only get the distance to the middle of the green with the free app.
- There are a lot of ads that pop up when using the free version of the app that might be a distraction.
The GolfLogix app has been around longer than any other app on the list and remains one of the most well-known and popular GPS apps. The free version of GolfLogix uses graphical representations instead of satellite images which are really clear, but some people prefer the satellite images.
You can visually see distances to different objects on the course and distances to different levels of the green on each hole, and it is really easy to use it quickly without wasting time. The thing that sets the GolfLogix app apart from others is the “green reader” feature, but that is only available in the paid version. The free version of this app can be distracting because of ads and how hard they try to get people to upgrade, and it is not as feature-rich or crisp and clear as some of the other free golf GPS on this list. If you are planning to pay for an app eventually, this is a good one to try because the paid version is one of the best, but if you are looking for a free app alone, there are some better ones.
- The best course coverage of any free GPS app.
- It performs well as a GPS and is very easy to use.
- Good and clear graphics for each hole.
- Accurate and thorough yardages for each hole to go along with the great course coverage.
- They try harder and are more annoying than most apps in terms of trying to get you to upgrade, it can be distracting.
- You need to upgrade to get the satellite images that other free apps give you.
A really good and realistic GPS with a free handicap tracker as well as easy-to-use scorekeeping capabilities. The Grint is one of the most thorough free golf apps out there and offers more features than most in their free version while also giving you the option to upgrade to the paid version.
In the past the Grint could keep up with your USGA recognized handicap for free to use at tournaments at your local club, but that service now costs $19.99. The free version, however, is still a great GPS, has unofficial handicap tracking, and has some of the cleanest and most crisp images and pictures for a free or paid app. If you are interested in having a USGA ranking, the money is worth it, but the free version of the app really gives you everything else you would need.
- It was designed for smart phones and works perfectly on them.
- It is one of the best designed and easiest to use free GPS app out there.
- It gives you distances to hazards, greens, and anything else on the course with a great bird’s eye satellite picture.
- The Grint already has 10s of thousands of courses and it only takes 2 days to add new ones.
- It no longer gives you a USGA approved handicap for free.
- You have to upgrade to get the features that Grint lovers rave about.
The SwingU GPS app has over 5 million downloads and works on almost every course in the world not just America. You also get very accurate distances to hazards and greens on all of the courses in the huge catalog.
The free version of this app is extremely robust, and while you can upgrade, the free version has everything that most golfers want in an app. The images are crisp and clear and the yardages are easy to find and accurate when tested. It is a very easy to use and intuitively designed app that gives you distances and GPS features with very little work on your part.
- Maybe the most advanced free features of any GPS app on the market.
- The GPS rangefinder works on almost every course in the world.
- You can go into “power save” mode on the course where all you see is yardages so that you save battery power for the entire round.
- It is a scorecard app along with a golf GPS app.
- Quite a few banner advertisements on the free version can be annoying.
- The free scorecard is simply a digital manual scorekeeping log.
A high quality golf GPS app that is easy to use, feature rich, and free. The free version of this app gives you the distance to the front, middle, and back of the green without really touching anything on the app.
Given a little time, you can manipulate the app to show you distances to any spot on the hole you are on and it gives you the ability to zoom in on the course layout. There are thousands of course layouts in the app both in America and around the world, and it gives you a digital scorecard in the free version of the app as well. There is a paid “Pro version” of the app, but the free version is one of the most robust and least distracting of any on the list.
- A very accurate golf GPS that gives you distances to any point on the hole.
- Over 43,000 courses available.
- A “zoom” function that gives you an adjustable target for more precise distances.
- No ads, even on the free version.
- No distance tracker on the free version to show you how far your shot actually went.
- The digital scorecard is very basic and almost not worth using.
Game Golf is mostly known for their GPS unit along with their digital shot tracking product that connects directly to your clubs and keeps up with every shot you take.
They do, however, have a free GPS app that allows you to get to know their product before purchasing it and it is a very accurate and easy to use GPS. You are given the distances to the front, middle, and back of each green but you do not get distances to anywhere else on the hole including hazards. The great thing about the app is that you can, if you have the time, manually track your shots on your phone and it holds the data for future use and instruction.
- You get distances to the front, middle, and back of the green.
- The free app is a great introduction to their more robust system.
- You can manually track your shots without adding anything to your clubs or bag.
- The GPS is really easy to use and is helpful in giving your specific distances to the green.
- Works noticeably better if you own a Game Golf device than if you use it on a smartphone.
- You have to manually enter your shots on the app without purchasing the Game Golf hardware.
Latest Golf GPS Apps
In the past, if you wanted a golf GPS or rangefinder, then you had to purchase a separate device that you would carry around the course with you. Today, on the other hand, you can simply download a golf GPS onto your phone and you will be carrying your golf GPS everywhere you go.
Most golfers now take their phone with them on the course anyway, so having the app takes away the need for a separate device. Most of the newer, free apps have accurate distances to greens and hazards, crips and clear satellite images of each hole, and a huge bank of golf courses both in America and around the world.
Some golf GPS apps have been around for 20 years or more, but most of those were apps designed to be used with another device. Most of the latest golf GPS apps, on the other hand, are built to be stand-alone products so that everything you need is right there on your phone.
While many of these apps are free, they also come with the possibility of upgrading to a “Pro” or “plus” model that gives you additional features and specs for the app.
Many of the free apps today are as good or better than any golf GPS in the past, and it is clear that each of the app manufacturers will spend a good deal of time focusing on apps built just for your phone because that seems to be what the majority of golfers want.
Final Thoughts on The Best Free Golf GPS App
As you can tell by the list above, there are some really good options of golf GPS apps on the market. Almost every golf GPS app has a free version and a paid version, but you can usually get a good idea of how the paid version will work by using the free one. Of all of the free versions of golf GPS apps reviewed above, our favorite is Hole 19 because of the features and quality found in the free version of the app. It is a very easy app to use and is as “plug-and-play” ready as any app on the market. The GPS function is also very accurate and gives you yardages to any point on the hole.