A range finder on my BlackBerry? About $&#!ing time

After months of suffering the indignity of watching your rangefinder-wielding buddies dial in exact yardages to the pin while your approach shots continue to fall short or soar long, maybe youre finally ready to drop the hundreds of bucks necessary to get a laser yardage finder or GPS device of your very own.

If so, hold the phone a second.

If that smartphone youre packing is an iPhone or comparable model of BlackBerry, take a long, lingering look at GreenFinder GPS, a low-cost, low-frills, downloadable app by Itinerant Software based in London, Ont., that uses global positioning technology and accurate, pre-existing measurements from more than 11,000 golf courses in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.

Do they allow cell phones on the course at Bushwood?

Do they allow cell phones on the course at Bushwood?

The Black Course at Bethpage State Park, home of the 2009 U.S. Open? Yep. Pebble Beach, where theyll play it next year? You betcha. Glen Abbey, the scene of the upcoming RBC Canadian Open? Natch. Hayseed Pastures Backwoods Golf and Auto Wreckers? Quite possibly _ all for a ridiculously low $35 a year.

In the old days, the knock against software-based GPS systems was the availability of courses. Those days are clearly over, judging by how difficult it is to stump the GreenFinder system. Unless you play nothing but backyard goat tracks and farm pastures, its a safe bet the course you play most often will be available using the software. Even if it isnt, there are ways to make it happen _ either by notifying Itinerant directly or by entering your own waypoints the next time you play.

The only real downside to GreenFinder, of course, is the lack of visuals. Expensive GPS systems like SkyCaddie and the Callaway uPro give users a handy overhead perspective on the hole theyre playing (the uPro in particular, which actually features video flyovers) _ undoubtedly an advantage when trying to determine how to play a hole, particularly on an unfamiliar course.

But if youre an old-schooler whos generally playing the same tracks time and again and like to get by with numbers like carry distances and the measurement to the front, centre and back of the green, GreenFinder GPS is all you need _ on a device you probably already have (and, if youre like me, end up looking at a dozen times over the course of a round anyway).

Play 10 different courses in a single season and at $35 a year, were talking about something that costs less than a Pocket Pro for each layout.

Arrive at your course and fire up the GreenFinder, and it will ask you if you want to locate a course using the GPS. Click Yes and the software starts comparing its database of courses against your co-ordinates, and if it finds the course youre at, it will usually be listed first. Otherwise, its usually just a scroll and a click away.

With a friendly admonition to play well, youre on your way. Hit the first tee and GreenFinder gives you carry yardages to any hazards in play, and with a flick of the finger, your distance from the front, middle and back of the green. Just don’t ask it to help you hit the ball.

“My game was atrocious,” GreenFinder spokesman Andy Sherbin said of a recent round, “but at least I knew how far I must have hit to wind up in the “pond on right.”

One fun feature is you dont have to be playing golf to have fun with GreenFinder. Case in point: My living room armchair is just shy of 28,000 yards from the front edge of the first green at Eagles Nest Golf Club, which is just north of Toronto. Number 1 green at Bethpage is more than 637,000 yards away.

If youre already packing the appropriate phone, GreenFinder really is a no-brainer for the committed or regular player whos content to work with just the basic numbers and doesnt need fancy graphics or laser precision to calibrate how far they need to hit the ball.
The Gear Head has for a number of years now been packing a Bushnell laser rangefinder, which is designed primarily to provide yardage to the pin itself _ something the GreenFinder cant do, since pins move around. Having yardages to the front, centre and the back, however, is the next best thing, and if youre packing both devices, you can paint a complete by-the-numbers picture of the hole youre trying to play.
The nicest thing about the GreenFinder is how effortless it is to use. Lasers can be finicky and demand a steady hand; all one needs to do with the smartphone is scroll between fairway and green in order to get carry yardages and distances to the green. Once you get your round underway, you dont even need to cycle through – the GreenFinder is smart enough to know that once youre past a certain distance, youve moved on to the next tee, and changes the hole accordingly.
During one of our test rounds _ Royal Ashburn Golf Club, a personal fave and home to the Canadian Tours fall qualifier, north of Ajax, Ont., northeast of Toronto _ a playing partner wielding the SkyCaddie system was calling out yardages that were consistently identical or within a yard or two of the numbers coming off the GreenFinder.

While GPS-enabled BlackBerrys and iPhones comprise the bulk of the GreenFinder-friendly devices that are already plying fairways across North America, the software is also available for units with global-positioning technology running the Windows Mobile operating system. An Android version is also in the works.

Cant find your course? No problem – just let the GreenFinder folks know and theyll do what they can to get it into the database. Or, next time youre out, just mark off the appropriate waypoints yourself and theyll be there waiting for you the next time you play.

One caveat, however: If you normally play at a ritzy country club that enforces a strict no-phones policy on the course, youre liable to run afoul of the authorities (and you know what that’s like, especially if you’re a guest). Best course of action would be to check with the pro shop first and find out if they’ll make an exception for a device using GPS software.

And if not, let them know they’ll want to think the issue through a little – this is a handy-as-hell little perk of the modern age that is not going to go away any time soon.

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James McCarten

When James McCarten isn't at the Ottawa offices of The Canadian Press, where he works as parliamentary news editor, he's either on the golf course or putting off his latest freelance golf-writing gig to spend time with wife Lisa and school-age kids Claire and Lucas. With 20 years of experience in Canadian journalism, James also suffers from a financially crippling addiction to all things Scotty Cameron.

14 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Be carefull when you buy this. Hard time to connect to server and get yardage markers up. Not pleaed with this purchase.

  • Program is not up to date with course changes. Played three courses in my local area that were extensively redone in 2007. None of them were updated by GreenFinder. E-mailed them two days ago and no response back.

    Otherwise simple program that gives you the basics including how far you hit the ball.

    No scorecard, side bet tracking, # of putts, etc, etc. which is a plus for me. How do you enjoy a round a golf when some systems you put in what club you hit, how did you hit it, where did the ball land, how many putts, did you make the green in regulation, etc.

  • I found it easy to use. I had a wee bit of issue getting GPS to work but sent an email and developer was in immediate contact with me. I use it on my Palm Treo and saw it on a biuddies Curve. I have shown it to all my playing buddies and all are getting it. I do not need the fancy graphics. I use GPS track my vehicles and this product is very accurate. Very impressed with the value . I am not nornmally a golf gimmick guy – almost never but for $35 USD a year you cannot go wrong. I used 3 test rounds and already purchased the product before my trial ran out.

    Very clever marketing to give a free trial and the price is fantastic

  • try

    no annual fee, one time charge & can keep track of almost anything you can think of … including a host of side bets

  • I lost my blackberry and got another and no response from the maker of greenfinder if there is anyway to transfer the service to my new phone.

  • great product…….watch some other comments on here. they are just trying to sell their product by knocking this one.

    I golf in canada and USA and all courses i golf are on here, or i have requested them to be marked. staff at greenfinder did it within a few days.

    i can only contribute this product for lowering my handycap by 4 points!! that’s a total of 7-10 strokes/round. With the money i’ve made off friends, it has paid for itself 🙂

  • I heard about an application for the blackberry and did not like the look of it and I continued to search and came across greenfinder. I have found it to be right on the money as far as yardage was concerned.
    After playing in a golf channel tournament with guys in my group who all had a gps device and would not share info I felt like I was at a disadvantage. I tried the greenfinder out and now have told all my golf friends about this application.
    For the price I can certainly do without the graphics. I would love to see a layout but again $35 come on.

  • I am shocked to read some of the above coments. I just finished my free trial and I am totally happy with Greenfinder. The only comment I can agree with above is that if you are playing a new course, you dont have the overhead view but there is nothing better than going to the first tee, turning it on and there you are with all the information needed, well maybe $35 a year is better. I am totally satisfied and have no problems with Greenfinder. My friend had GPS complaints like some of the above and then we found out that his Blackberry was NOT GPS enabled. Once that was fixed, he was hooked and has not had any problems since.
    This is a steal at $35!!

  • When I wanted to subscribe and ready to pay it was easy to reach someone at Golfinder.. Atfer that, I marked a new course, wanted to share infos with them, they charged me twice on my credit card and they removed their phone number from their website. They never published my course and even tough i wrote three times,Im still waiting news from them.Thank god,its just 35$.Its unfortunate because they have a good product.

  • Are courses downloaded to our phones, or do we have to have cell phone service? My home course –the Dorset Field Club — is in a part of Vermont that has no service. Thanks, cook Neilson

  • Bad product…doesn’t work on Blackberry consistently…when i finally got an email response, it was my blackberry problem, not theirs.
    It doesn’t work on 1 and 18 at my home course, but this is my Blackberry’s problem. Their solution was to suggest to remove the battery and restart phone each time i use greenfinder…am a very unhappy customer and want a refund but no one will respond…

    Glad im only out $35 bucks…


  • This product works exactly as advertised. Only problem I have encountered is that some courses I have played aren’t yet included in the database. Very handy. I leave it in the cupholder of the golf cart. Same question another person had: can you transfer the subscription to a new phone?

  • Does what is says it will do on my Blackberry Storm – front of green, middle of green and back of green yardage. No more, no less. But I won’t buy it. If you read their privacy policy they have permission to provide your contact information (read: sell) to anyone they want. I have no problem with this policy IF you can opt out – but you can’t. No sale here.

  • I love this app! Has worked very well and the yardages are very accurate. The only thing I would like to see added is the capability to save stats!

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