The Best Golf GPS Solutions

Rancho Manana Golf Course Hole 4 GPS Map Green View

So Many Golf GPS Solutions

Most golfers aren’t going to have the luxury of a caddy to carry their bag and guide them through the golf course they are playing while providing distances to key landmarks – that’s where golf GPS solutions come into play.  Golfers could play a course that has an in-cart GPS system, or they may opt to wear a golf GPS watch or carry a dedicated golf GPS unit, while others will run a golf GPS app on their smartphone.  But which solution is the best?  Let’s take a closer look at the various options.

In-Cart Golf GPS System

These systems definitely have the biggest “Wow” factor.  Typically found at luxury courses willing to make the large investment, these golf GPS systems tend to symbolize the course’s status as an elite place to play the game.

In-Cart Golf GPS System


  • They generally “just work” and there’s nothing the golfer needs to do or buy.  Just show up to the golf course and start using their system.
  • They’re very accurate.  These are systems that have been customized for the golf course, so they have been professionally mapped and typically use a roof mounted GPS antenna for a strong signal.
  • Sharp looking maps.  Especially in the newer models, the screens reduce glare, and because the golf courses are professionally mapped, the images are crisp and clear.


  • Non-engaging.  While some of them sport touch screens, it is non-intuitive for a golfer to reach up and interact with an overhead screen.  They are more like screens for viewing only.
  • Cart mounted.  If a golfer needs to walk into the brush or the course is playing cart-path only that day, then these units become useless.
  • They don’t come with you to the tee box.  Again, because they are cart mounted, the distances you have while standing at the tee are no more accurate than the yardage markers.
  • See In-Cart GPS Solutions Come Up Short On Golf Courses for more information.

Golf GPS Watch

Golf GPS Watches & Wearables are still relatively new, and making a big impression on golfers.

Golf GPS Watch


  • Convenience!  It’s attached to your wrist, and after wearing it for a few minutes you probably won’t even realize it’s there – that is until you’re ready to make your approach shot.
  • Cost.  As far as paid solutions go, this is one of the cheaper ones.  Golf GPS watches typically cost in the $100-$200 range.
  • Lightweight.  On days when you don’t have your cart or when it is cart-path only, having such a lightweight solution comes in very handy.


  • Limited information.  The lower end models give you the distance to the center of the green, while the higher end models give distances to a few key landmarks on the course such as the primary fairway bunker or the front, middle and back of the green.
  • Cost.  If you’re willing to pay, then as noted above it’s one of the cheaper solutions.  But with so many high quality free golf GPS solutions out there, paying for a golf GPS watch that provides limited information may not make sense for everyone.

Dedicated Golf GPS Units

Dedicated golf GPS units made a big splash on golf courses about 10 years ago.  Providing an unparalleled level of golf course information, these were the first true “digital caddies” on the golf course.

Golf GPS Device


  • Information!  The newer models generally give you a detailed view of the entire hole you are playing with distances to key landmarks.  Having this information enables a golfer to evaluate the entire hole and come up with a strategy.
  • Professional Maps.  Most dedicated golf GPS units use professionally mapped golf courses which enables them to display beautiful maps that are crisp and clear, making it easy for the golfer to identify landing zones and key distances.
  • Ease-of-Use.  Most of these units have a big screen and just a few buttons.  The golfer turns it on, and the nicer models use GPS to determine which course/hole you are standing at, and it automatically displays the maps for that hole.  With just a few buttons, even less tech-savvy golfers find them easy to use.


  • Cost.  These are the most expensive personal golf GPS solutions.  At the time of this writing, the nicer Garmin and Skycaddie models are in the $300+ range.
  • Battery life.  Often overlooked while shopping, but frequently causing frustration out the course, is the battery life.  What good is a dedicated golf GPS unit after the battery dies?  The manufacturers are putting bigger and better batteries in the newer models to address this concern.
  • Footprint.  This is yet another device that you must carry.  The very best ones are about the size of a smart phone, but most of them are a bit more narrow but also much deeper.  Consider what that will feel like in your pocket during a golf swing.  Also, it’s something you have to specifically remember to bring with you so don’t forget it at home!

Golf GPS App

With billions of smartphones out there, it’s natural that golf GPS apps would thrive in the modern day.  There are hundreds of apps for all operating systems and variety of smartphone.

Golf GPS App Screenshot


  • Information.  The better golf GPS apps provide the maximum amount of information a golfer could use.  Wondering how many yards it is to that tree along the right side of the fairway?  The better golf GPS apps will allow you to get distances to any point on the map.
  • Advanced functionality.  It’s a smart phone!  With internet connectivity, golf GPS apps can pull in real-time information, track your score & stats, and allow you to share the fact that you just got a birdie on social channels.
  • Cost.  Some of the best golf GPS apps are free.  And the ones that do charge tend to have small price tags when compared to golf watches are dedicated GPS units.
  • Footprint.  Your phone will be in your pocket anyways, so for most people, this solution doesn’t add any additional baggage.


  • Battery life.  This can be a crippling problem for some golf GPS apps.  Users have reported NOT being able to make it through a round of golf on a full charge.  Some of the better apps have gone to a lot of trouble to make sure this doesn’t happen.  Related article:  Preserve Your Phone’s Better Life With Birdie Apps Free Golf GPS App.
  • Ease-of-use.  While most people find smart phones easy to use, some people do find them confusing.  You’ll need to be able to find the golf GPS app in the app store, download it, launch it, and be able to figure out how it works.  Most of the reputable golf GPS apps provide good documentation to help with this.
  • Quality.  While the good golf GPS apps are arguably the highest quality golf GPS solution, there are hundreds of very poor quality apps available as well.  Some of these low quality apps provide only basic information, such as that found in GPS watches.  While others use satellite imagery from Google Maps which is a very poor user experience for golfers.  The best thing to do is read reviews and avoid the low quality apps in the market.

Alternatives to Golf GPS Solutions

If GPS just isn’t your thing, then you can also think about getting a Laser Rangefinder.  See how they stack up in our Laser Range Finders vs Golf GPS Apps article.

The Best Golf GPS Solution

At Birdie Apps, we probably have a biased opinion, but we strongly believe Golf GPS Apps are the very best golf GPS solution in the market today.  Assuming you use a high quality app, you’ll benefit from:

  • Zero or low cost
  • No additional baggage
  • Unparalleled level of golf course information
  • Good battery life
  • Beautiful, professional mapped renderings of course holes
  • Easy to use

Regardless of the solution you choose, be sure to get outside frequently and enjoy more golf!


Apple Watch App now available.