The golf GPS app market is enormous, and recently I tested many of the free apps on the course to let you know which ones are worth downloading.
When I did my testing on the course I was mostly looking for the following:
- Ease of use – did the golf app work quickly and not waste precious time in between shots?
- Key yardages – which apps gave you the most yardage information (many of them withheld it for premium upcharges)
- Overall features – which app gave you the best mixture of features for no charge, and which ones were holding back to get you to open up your wallet
I tried most of the free golf GPS apps out there, and only included the ones that I thought were worthy of your time. Many of them performed poorly and did not make the list. The last thing I want any of you to do is get stuck on the course with a buggy app that does any harm to your round!
Here is my list of recommended free golf GPS apps. If you want to see our list of the best golf GPS watches out there then you should read this article.
Overall Pick - The Grint
My overall pick is The Grint for a number of reasons. In my opinion this is the best-designed free golf GPS app out there for smartphones.
They have done an excellent job at making an intuitive design that works quickly on the course, displays important yardage information, and boasts more features for free than any of their competition.
You are displayed key information like the front, center, and back distances to greens. Additionally, layup distances and yardages to hazards are included (which most of the other apps charge for).
Players can easily adjust distances to figure out layup distances and yardages to hazards. You can also keep track of your stats, play games like Stableford against your playing partners, and enter your group scores easily during the round.
Personally I think their strongest feature is that they offer a USGA compliant handicap for free. To my knowledge no other app out there is doing that, and I think it’s a nice additional bonus that many companies charge money for.
There is also a social element to the Grint and their online interface is nicely designed. Their pro membership upgrade costs $19.99 a year, and allows you to track your stats, take a picture of your scorecard, and have your scores automatically updated - something else that no other app out there is offering.
Runner Up - 18 Birdies
18 Birdies is another noteworthy free golf GPS app that golfers should be aware of.
It performed nicely on the course with crisp satellite images. It displayed yardages to the front, middle, and back of every green and allowed you to adjust your target while maintaining distance information. The app is nicely designed, and works cleanly while you’re out on the course. You also can enter scoring and statistical information after each hole quite easily.
If you’re looking to play some games like Nassau or Skins against your group it can handle that as well.
18 Birdies is a bit more than just a GPS app. They’ve tried to create a golfing social network. When you log in you’re presented with a feed similar to Facebook, and you can create social groups amongst your friends and meet fellow golfers who are sharing their experiences on the course.
18 Birdies also allows you to create and manage live tournaments, which is another nice feature. Overall, it’s a great app that obviously had a lot of work put into it as it has more robust features than almost every other golfing app out there. There are no premium upgrades available, so you’re not being sold anything which is nice.
Also Worth Downloading – Golf Logix
Golf Logix has been around for a long time, and has been a leading free golf GPS app for years. As you would expect, it’s a solid app, but I think it fell short of The Grint and 18 Birdies on a few fronts.
For starters, they really want you to upgrade to a premium membership, which costs $4.99/mo or $29.99/yr. While this is a fair tradeoff for using the app for free, it’s a bit more “in your face” than some of the other apps, and ads are displayed quite a bit as well.
Golf Logix performs well on the course as a GPS device. Instead of satellite images, they are using graphical representations of the course. It could be a matter of taste, but I preferred the clearer satellite images from some of the other apps. Nonetheless you are able to clearly see your yardages and the hole design.
You can easily alter your target and are displayed the yardages to all points on the green. One unique feature is that it can display a grid of your landing zones for different clubs (you need to enter all of your club distances beforehand to get an accurate reading).
Entering your score and stats for each hole was fairly easy to do, but maybe not as intuitive as The Grint or 18 Birdies. Overall, Golf Logix performed very solidly on the course. They withhold a bit more information for their pro members than my other two picks, such as hazard and layup distances, but what they offer for free is certainly good enough for golfers looking to get basic distance information.
GAME GOLF has a free golf GPS app available to users who want a taste of their shot-tracking software. The app allows you to manually track your shots, which allows you to get access to their robust online stat analysis software. Additionally, you are given distances to the front, middle, and back of every green (but can’t manually change your target to see distances to hazards etc).
While it might be a bit cumbersome to enter your shots manually on your phone, this is a very nice feature to get for free. You’ll likely want to end up purchasing their GPS unit, which allows a more intuitive shot-tagging process during your round. I am an owner of their device, and highly recommend using it for their ability to take a deep-dive in your stats (you can read my full review here).
Overall the app performs well on the course, but it lacks the features that our three winners had and it performs much better when you own a GAME GOLF device.
Golfshot is a popular free golf GPS app, and it has some nice features like a power saving mode that simply shows your distance to the middle of the green. However, they withhold a bunch of information that other apps give away for free, such as distances to the front and back of greens and the ability to change your targets.
Additionally, ads are more visible during use of the app and would probably be viewed as distracting by many golfers. It’s a solid app, but lacks many of the features that their competition are giving away for free.
This is another popular app from GolfNow, which gives you some nice GPS functionality as well as the ability to book tee times.
Should You Even Use a Free Golf GPS App?
Golf is an expensive game, and I certainly support anyone who is looking to cut costs and keep within your budgets. Many of the apps listed are great for use on the course, and you can get away with using completely free to get your key yardages. I strongly advocate that golfers always know their distances to various targets during their round, and it's a necessity for proper course management.
That being said, I have to be honest about my thoughts on cell phones and golf courses. I personally don’t think it’s a great idea to use your phone during a round for a few reasons:
- It can be distracting because you could be receiving calls, text messages, or feel the desire to check social media when you should be focusing on the task at hand…golf!
- Keeping your phone in your pocket during a round can be an actual physical burden. Some smartphones now are enormous, and it’s not exactly optimal to have in your pocket while you swing. That’s the deal breaker for me.
- Constantly taking your phone out and putting it back in your pocket or your golf bag/cart during a round wastes precious time, and it could slow your play down and really prevent you from focusing during your pre-shot routine.
- Almost every golf GPS app will drain the battery on your phone quite heavily. You have to remember to start off with a full charge, for those of you who can’t bare the thought of a dead battery.
I believe most golfers should be using GPS devices during their rounds if they can afford them. My personal pick from GolfBuddy is just over $80, and gives you all of your yardages information without the interference of using your phone.
Those are just my two cents, and many of you reading this might have no problem using your phone on the course. If you are, I think you’ll be more than happy with some of the options I listed. They are great apps that will enhance your knowledge on the course.