Technology continues to factor into the rounds of everyday golfers, especially those wearing the Apple Watch.
The race to improve golf apps for the Apple Watch is competitive. Just last week, Arccos launched its updated Apple Watch app that features major improvements for golfers. Another popular app, Golfshot, has made big promises for 2023 on its blog.
Ever since GolfPass posted its first Apple Watch golf app review in 2019, the landscape has gone through a serious evolution. Virtually every app has improved for users. Initial tests left us underwhelmed, so much so that former Managing Editor Brandon Tucker recommended a golf-focused watch above of the Apple Watch.
Fast-forward several years, Apple Watch golf apps have continued to add features and functionality. All iOS app developers have been hard at work cleaning up code for a faster experience and better features. The result has improved life for tech-addicted golfers.
As we all know, technology comes with advantages and hassles. Constant battery drain is always an issue when using technology during potentially long five-hour rounds of golf, but Apple says its Series 8 Apple Watch launched in 2022 can run 18 hours during normal use. During his tests from 2019 to 2021, Tucker found that some apps seemed to drain the battery more than others. Software updates are another issue golfers must stay on top of for the technology to work properly.
Here are some of our picks for the best Apple Watch golf apps to use in 2023:
The best Apple Watch golf apps for 2023
V1 Game for Apple Watch
Since launching in 2020, V1 Game has vaulted up the ranks of established app makers to become the best app for serious golfers using Apple Watch. Its shot tracking is the clear-cut winner among the apps that don't require club tags, while the app dashboard provides illuminating strokes gained and traditional analysis using scoring and shot data. The watch has a clear and simple display with GPS showing front-middle-back yardages to the green. But it particularly stands out with its Auto-shot detection and A.I. breadcrumbs.
When you hit a shot during a round, the watch detects it, vibrates and prompts you to select the club you hit. Voila. But the secret sauce is what happens when it misses a shot. Every shot tracker we've ever used - club tags and wearables alike - misses shots. But V1 Game does the best job at predicting where those shots likely happened. It uses a combination of artificial intelligence and breadcrumbs, tracing your steps with a little blue line. So when reviewing your round afterwards, it's that much easier to pinpoint the location of a shot it missed and tag that spot with a shot. Golf is, after all, a game of misses.
Unlike Arccos and Shot Scope, which rely on the user to set the pin location to determine proximity of approach shots to the hole and putting stats, V1 Game instead prompts the golfer to input their first putt length and how many putts were needed. (Note: because you aren't tagging the specific location of your approach shot on the green, it means your irons yardage data won't be as accurate.)
The V1 Game watch app has real-time shot measuring from your last recorded location. This is a favorite feature because if you hit the ball offline, knowing exactly how far you've walked off the tee gives you a good idea of when to start looking seriously for your stray. It also helps give you a better idea of how the wind affected your previous shot.
But shot tracking doesn't really matter if the statistics dashboard isn't insightful, and V1 delivers here in a way that rivals Arccos. It slices and dices your rounds and shot data in a multitude of ways. V1 Coach shares which facets of your game are losing the most shots and where you should spend precious practice time.
V1 Game has two pricing tiers. The "Birdie" tier is $59.99/year and provides Apple Watch functions, shot tracking and Strokes Gained analytics. The "Eagle" tier ($119.99/yr) offers "Virtual Coach" and "Virtual Caddie" that provide both in-round assistance based on your swing history and post-round analysis. This is the most expensive Apple Watch golf app per year but it delivers the goods. Download V1 Game here.
Arccos app for Apple Watch
Arccos, a leader when it comes to shot tracking and strokes gained analysis for amateur golfers, has come a long way since our first review in 2019. It started with the 2020 addition of the Caddie Link, a belt clip that tracked shots and set pin locations instead of having to keep your phone in your lead pocket. Arccos added shot detection to their Apple Watch app in 2021, and in the biggest innovation yet, as of March 2023, golfers can now track shots using Arccos exclusively on the Apple Watch without even needing their phones.
Now, Arccos Caddie members can view A.I. Rangefinder distances, receive personalized club recommendations, add penalty strokes, see shot history and holes scores and make any necessary edits right from their wrist. Setting pin placements, which was once our biggest complaint, can be done with a push of a button while standing next to the hole.
“From a product standpoint, we have completely re-developed the Arccos Caddie app for Apple Watch architecture from the ground up,” said Dave LeDonne, Arccos’ Vice President of Product. “With well over half a million rounds played by Arccos members on Apple Watch last year alone, this redesign makes the experience dramatically better.” Arccos Smart Sensors cost $199 and come with a free first year annual membership.
TheGrint app for Apple Watch
TheGrint built its Apple Watch app from the ground up and it's now faster and smoother than our first test in 2019. As long as you don't crave strokes gained or intuitive shot tracking, TheGrint is an excellent option for an Apple Watch scoring and GPS. One of the shortcomings of shot-tracking-first apps is your score almost always requires review and edit because they miss putts or chips or penalty strokes. Scoring using TheGrint app is clear and fast. Its hole-by-hole scoring feature allows you to easily enter putts, driving accuracy and tag any hazards (drops, bunkers, O.B., etc.). Even if you don't want to use it during the round, you can still enter scores and detailed stats afterwards for an official handicap index and additional game insights.
TheGrint has always straddled a line between serious performance and playful, social features. You can even track how many drinks you had during your round by clicking on the sudsy beer icon to the top right of the watch display. Fun right?
Is there a free version of TheGrint for Apple Watch? You can use TheGrint's phone app for free, but you have to upgrade to TheGrint Pro for watch integration. TheGrint Pro is just $39.99 per year, making it a great value compared to others typically costing $49.99 and up.
Golfshot app for Apple Watch
The Golfshot app, which launched in 2021, has big plans for 2023. Today, it touts golfers in 78 countries who have played roughly 35 million rounds on more than 47,000 mapped courses.
Golfshot has announced multiple new features coming soon - including Swing ID (Swing Individual Data), Strokes Gained, Golfplan 2.0 and optimized maps - for the Apple Watch. Swing ID will measure key metrics like swing plane, tempo/rhythm, hand speed and more to help you identify swing issues and make corrections for improved performance. Golfshot hopes to make Strokes Gained easy by using a proprietary Auto Shot Tracking system to collect data for every shot, including geo-location, lie type, distance to the hole and more. The Golfplan 2.0 will create a personalized practice plan for golfers who want to identify their greatest opportunities to shooting lower scores. It has also partnered with StrackaLine, which is known for its detailed greens-reading books, to enhance more than 24,000 course maps.
Golfshot's phone app has always been the star with its visually stunning graphics. It displays cool, animated flyovers of holes and you can also try out the Golfscape Augmented Reality feature that provides a cool way of checking out distances to hazards. It's particularly helpful on holes with blind hazards. For golfers who want to use their iPhone and watch during their round and play a lot of unfamiliar courses, Golfshot is a very compelling option.
Is Golfshot free on Apple Watch? No, you have to upgrade to Pro for $59.99-$69.98 per year.
18Birdies app for Apple Watch
The popular 18Birdies app touts itself as golf's "#1 scoring app" and the "world's smartest digital caddy". It's got an AI Coach and a $99.99 annual premium version that includes Strokes Gained capabilities beyond the free app, which offers distances to the front, middle and back of greens and other round-scoring features. End-of-year summaries are one of the many things die-hard stats geeks will appreciate. Click here to learn more.
SwingU app for Apple Watch
For those who want strokes gained stats without club tags, SwingU is a worthy runner-up to V1 Game and less expensive, too. Their "SwingU Versus" features a strokes gained stat for Driving, Approach Shots, Chipping & Pitching, Bunker Play and Putting.
The watch app has a shot tracker but it must be tapped each time to start and end the shot. In addition to GPS, if you scroll down on the face you'll receive a "plays like" distance, recommended club and wind speed. A unique in-round feature of SwingU is that it will reliably toggle the watch face to the scorecard when it detects you've reached the green. It might sound insignificant but every additional tap that is eliminated when using Apple Watch does wonders for the user experience.
SwingU has its roots in instruction so game improvement is a big deal with the membership. It uses AI to analyze your game data and send you drills and tips based on what the data suggests you're struggling with. The premium membership features a large instruction library of more than 600 videos from top instructors.
Can you use the SwingU app for free on Apple Watch? Yes! The free app version of SwingU features phone and watch GPS, handicap and scorecard, but the advanced analytics of SwingU offers shot tracking, "plays like" distance and the video library requires the Premium version for $99.99 annually.
GolfLogix app for Apple Watch
GolfLogix is another app that's popular with golfers, according to Apple. It's got all the usual toys for premium members - 3D hole fly-overs, club tracking, GPS distances with slope, scoring and stat tracking - but with a more detailed emphasis on scoring near the greens with "3D approach view" that shows you how the ball will roll on your approach shot and its "putt line" feature showing you the break while putting. You can even book tee times through GolfLogix. A yearly membership costs $59.99.
Hole 19 app for Apple Watch
The vast majority of Apple Watch golf apps require some sort of paid subscription. Hole 19 is a solid Apple Watch app with a premium version featuring scoring and advanced stats or a free version that provides GPS only off the watch. Premium includes the shot and distance tracker, club recommendations and more advanced analytics. $49.99 per year.
Launch monitor apps on the Apple Watch
Over the past several years, we have tested many of the best portable launch monitors, and we were pleased to see both of Flightscope's models, the Mevo and Mevo+, and the Full Swing KIT have solid Apple Watch integration. This is particularly helpful because some other models of launch monitors require you to change the club from the device itself or from the mobile app. Being able to toggle the club from your wrist is very efficient. You can also select which metrics you want to view on the watch. The Full Swing KIT features Tiger Woods as brand ambassador. | View our 2021 Portable Launch Monitor roundup
What are your favorite golf apps for Apple Watch? Let us know in the comments below.