What’s Acceptable on the Course And What’s Not. Your Guide To The Technology That’s Helping Reshape Golf In A New Generation’s Image  

Technology is more pervasive and relevant to our lives than ever before. And leading that charge is the smartphone. The first mobile phones to feature software applications or “apps” (using a stylus and touch screen) hit the market about 20 years ago. Since then they’ve advanced to become indispensable multipurpose computers the size of a deck of cards. Astonishing, considering how other things, like commercial airplanes, have remained basically the same during that time.  Turns out, we love our smartphones. In fact, we really, really love them, and nowadays we use them for everything.  Most media sites receive more visits from phones than on laptops or PCs and a recent study found that we spend almost four hours a day staring at the screens on our phones – more time than we spend watching TV.

VIDEO streaming websites like Netflix and Vevo are seeing a surge in users streaming video on their smartphones.

The industry is embracing this growth. Twitter recently launched Periscope, an app that allows people to stream live video on their phone. In the golf space, new smartphone apps are launching all the time, doing everything from tracking personal stats in real time, to offering swing advice, to improving your on-course psychology.

Given the world around us is changing so drastically, the rules regarding smartphone use on the golf course should shift alongside it. If golf in the past was a phone-less, exclusive,
etiquette-fuelled haven, the rise of smartphones is helping reshape the game in a new generation’s image.

“I’m always on my phone when I’m on the course,” says Bubba Watson, a seven-times US PGA Tour and two-times Masters champ who has more than one million Twitter followers. “I’m always texting my friends and family, tweeting; it makes golf more fun.”

Lexi Thompson, one of the LPGA Tour’s bright young stars and has all but perfected the gym selfie, which has become a mainstay on her Instagram account.

“It’s a great way of keeping in touch with my fans and letting them know what I’m doing,” Thompson says. “It’s something I have fun with.”

The rest of us might not have hoards of fans hanging on our every status update, but this mindset reflects a broader attitude shift when it comes to phones on the golf course.

According to a recent survey, 50 per cent of golfers describe their attitudes as “liberal” when it comes to on-course smartphone use (see results below). They keep their phones with them when they play, usually in their bag or cart, and not only because of emergencies. They text friends, take pictures, answer emails and post the occasional selfie. Whatever inspires them in the moment. The golf course is still seen as a place to unplug, but increasingly it’s a selective unplug instead of the full scale disconnect it was not so long ago.

When it comes to using smartphones on the course, what’s acceptable and what’s not is fluid, but it’s starting to gravitate around certain values. Among them: “Don’t be rude,” and “Use common sense.”

As the survey suggests, a lot of golfers are fine with using their phones on the course, provided it’s not obtrusive to their playing partners. If our respondents support any kind of phone policy, it starts and ends with respecting the rules of the course you’re playing and always keeping your phone on silent.

Text on the golf course all you want. Just don’t hold up play. If you have a phone call you need to take, duck to the side and keep it quick. If you like using your smartphone to play music on the course, go for it. Just ask your playing partners first. And, please, allow some mutual control over the playlist. We’re not animals.

Take lots of pictures, early and often. Instagramming, Tweeting, Snapchatting, Facebooking, Vining, whatever – go for it, you’re only promoting our great game.

Asking somebody to video your swing is fine, but don’t ask them more than twice a round. Gets annoying. Have fun filming other people’s swings, too but make sure to ask them before standing directly behind them with the camera.
Also annoying.

It’s common sense, and honestly, it’s kind of liberating. You’ll be amazed at how much people love sharing in your experiences. Just don’t spend the whole round staring at a screen (you are outside with friends, after all), but do what makes you happiest. Smartphones aren’t going anywhere, so you might as well embrace them and create something fun. It’s all good with us.


Smartphone Illustration


1. Describe the attitudes towards smartphones at your home course.
(a) Liberal. We post selfies from the 19th and first tee 46%
(b) Tolerated. There are usage restrictions that most people follow 30%
(c) Transitioning. It’s way more relaxed than it used to be 21%
(d) Shunned. Get caught with it, and you’re getting a letter 3%

2. During a round, my smartphone is . . .
(a) In the cart 42%
(b) In my bag 35%
(c) In my pocket 19%
(d) In my car, where it belongs 4%

3. I’m most likely to use my smartphone at the course to . . .
(a) Check email or post to social media 36%
(b) Track stats or watch instruction videos 29%
(c) Monitor the weather or footy scores 25%
(d) Film my swing or take a selfie 10%

4. How many times do you check or use your smartphone during a round?
(a) Every few holes 44%
(b) Once at the turn or after the round 22%
(c) Never 17%
(d) Between most shots 17%

5. What’s the worst breach of etiquette involving a smartphone on the golf course?
(a) Having the phone go off during someone’s backswing 41%
(b) Holding up play 31%
(c) Checking email or talking on the phone between shots 20%
(d) Getting information that’s against the rules, such as assisting in the play of a hole 6%
(e) Taking photos or selfies 2%

6. To what extent do you need your smartphone when playing golf?
(a) I have it in my bag in case of emergencies, but I try to forget it’s there 66%
(b) I try not to be rude, but I can’t go a few holes without at least checking my email 26%
(c) Thanks to Bluetooth, I don’t even have to interrupt my conference calls when putting! 5%
(d) I leave it in the car and turn it on when I’m done 3%

7. Can you play 18 without checking your phone?
(a) Absolutely. My phone isn’t the boss of me 50%
(b) No way. My phone and I are inextricably linked 21%
(c) I’m sure it would be good for me. I’m doing it the next time I play 21%
(d) Probably, but I’d experience withdrawal symptoms 8%

8. If your playing partner made one of the following calls, which one would bother you the most?
(a) Calling the golf pro for a swing thought 46%
(b) Letting a spouse know when I’ll be home 30%
(c) Calling the office to check in 18%
(d) Placing an order with the halfway house 6%

9. Which phone restriction would you be fine with adopting at your course?
(a) Golf course is OK if your phone is set to silent or vibrate 45%
(b) No official policy. Use common sense 43%
(c) Clubhouse only 8%
(d) Car park only 4%

Sort your apps logically so you don’t waste time. My favourites go on the dock and bottom two rows of  the main screen. Above those rows use folders for your favourite
categories – like golf!

Disable app push notifications in your phone’s settings. They do an excellent job of draining your phone’s battery life.

When taking a photo, tap and hold on any part of the screen to focus on that area. Doing this will also adjust the exposure to ensure your subject is properly lit.

Only need to use your phone on the course to take photos? Then set it to airplane mode. This saves your battery and turns off distracting alerts.

Know your shortcuts. On my iPhone, for example, I can double tap the home button to bring up the apps I’ve recently used, and I can swipe up from the bottom to bring up quick settings.

Don’t have a speaker? Don’t worry. Drop your smartphone in an empty plastic cup or your golf cart’s cup holder for a makeshift amplifier.

A smartphone screen can be hard to read in direct sunlight. Adjust the settings to enlarge the font or increase brightness. Doing this before your round means you won’t have to squint during it.

Keep a couple of ziplock bags in your golf bag. If it rains, you’ll have something to keep your phone and other electronic devices dry.

Nothing uses up your phone’s battery like searching for a signal. Turn on your phone’s airplane mode if the course you’re playing
is out of mobile signal range.


Smartphone Illustration

6 Awesome Apps for Aussie Golfers

There are so many apps out there that it’s way past the point of being overwhelming. Apps can do almost anything, and that’s good for golfers. Instruction, humour, news and course management. Use them right and smartphones can be a golfer’s best mate.

  1. R&A Rules of Golf
    The R&A’s official rules app for the iPhone and iPad is a comprehensive guidebook to cover any rules situation that could arise on the course. From the Rules of Golf (2012-2015) to on-course behaviour, the R&A can quickly adjudicate. Cost: free.
  2. Weatherzone
    Golf requires precision, and Weatherzone is the best app for instant weather readings using Bureau of Meteorology data. Before you tee off, access real-time observations of temperature, humidity, raind and wind, as well as seven-day forecasts at 2,000 Australian locations Cost: free.
  3. PGA Tour Australasia
    Follow the Aussie summer of golf closer than ever with the PGA Tour of Australasia app. Enjoy live leaderboards, schedules, news and video highlights. Highlight your favourite players to track their progress, or even check the tour’s Order of Merit! Cost: free.
    This comprehensive app is your behind-the-scenes ticket to the world’s biggest stars playing on the US PGA Tour. Watch premium video highlights, read the latest news, check tee times and get to know the tour’s hot shots with player profiles. Put your knowledge to the test with the US PGA Tour’s fantasy league. Cost: Free.
  5. Golf Link Mates
    Analyse your game, share your golf passion with mates, check out where you finished in club competition rounds and view your national, state, club and grade rank. Cost: Free with Golf Link Mates membership – golflink.com.au.
  6. Hole 19
    One of the world’s most popular rangefinder apps offers accurate GPS distances on more than 34,000 courses, as well as simple score and stat tracking. Cost: free.

– by Rickie Fowler

Golf’s a social game. In casual rounds, who you play with and where you play is more important than how you play. That’s why I think the perfect selfie is often about everything but yourself. No one likes a picture where it feels like you’re showing off, even if that wasn’t your intention. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you might’ve noticed I often frame myself in a lower corner so that more attention is directed to my playing partners and our surroundings. Keep an eye out for moments when everyone in the group happens to be close together, like around a green or tee box. Below is a pic I grabbed of my girlfriend Alexis Randock and I at the par-3 tournament at Augusta this year. Spontaneous shots have more energy than staged ones where everyone gathers around (though those can be pretty fun, too, especially later in the round). Also, think about which characteristics best define a place. You tend to get the most memorable image not by pointing your camera down a fairway, but by looking for features outside the course’s boundary.

A selfie of Rickie Fowler with his girlfriend

Be wary of the #humblebrag
By all means, share your golf experiences on social media. Just try not to be obnoxious.

  • People are always amazed at how far and straight I drive the ball given my size. #ThingsIGetaLot
  • @PebbleBeach, @Cypressgolf, @Spyglass in 2 days. Upgrade to first class would make this perfect #prayforme
  • Stock 8-iron now 170 metres, down from 180m. Weak loft! Get them checked, people #orhitthegym
  • Won fourth club champ today. Beat Bob Smith again. Bob, your day will come mate #gotlucky #toughopponent
  • Two weeks touring the US and trip to the Masters. Good to be back in own bed, though.
  • So nice to put a few kilometres on the F40 today. Great to clean the pipes out and warm the tires up. #Ferrari #Rossa #CorsaRed

James Poulter's Ferrari

Golf’s Biggest Smartphone Fails
One of the downsides of having a smartphone is that the potential for a damaging mistake is always at your fingertips. Blowouts happen to everyone, including those with a large audience and a household name. Here’s what we mean:

1. In 2014, Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson had all but settled on Bill Haas as his final captain’s pick until Webb Simpson sends Watson a 4am text message that changes his mind the day of the team announcement. Simpson wins half a point in the two matches he plays, and the Cup ends in a five-point loss for the US team.

2. During a rain delay at the 2014 PGA Championship, Rory McIlroy is waiting for play to resume when he reaches for his phone. Just as he is typing in his passcode (4589) a camera shifts to McIlroy and reveals it to the world. “Passcode changed,” Rory tweets minutes later. “Now time to play some golf!”

3. At the 2012 Ryder Cup, McIlroy mixes up his time zones, sets his smartphone alarm for the wrong time and almost misses his singles match against Keegan Bradley. “I was casually making my way out of the hotel room, and I got a call saying, ‘You have 25 minutes till tee off,’ ” McIlroy said. “I was a bit worried.” A police escort gets McIlroy there with 10 minutes to spare, and he wins, 2&1.

4. In October 2014, PGA of America then president Ted Bishop is on his way to meet Nick Faldo for dinner when he calls Ian Poulter a “Lil Girl” in a tweet sent from his phone in response to Poulter’s criticism of Faldo in his autobiography. The tweet is denounced as sexist, and the fallout prompts the PGA of America to remove Bishop from office a month before his term ends.

5. Tiger Woods’ phone is the subject  and, according to some reports, the catalyst, behind Tiger’s infamous sex scandal. Did Elin Nordegren learn of an affair after finding a series of text exchanges with Tiger’s then mistress Rachel Uchitel? It only gets worse after a large swatch of raunchy text exchanges with various mistresses starts leaking to the tabloid press.

6. A faulty charger means the battery on Jim Furyk’s phone dies before his alarm can go off, causing him to miss his pro-am tee time and therefore disqualifying him from the 2010 Barclays tournament. “I always use my phone as an alarm, and it had no power this morning,” Furyk said. “I don’t know if something happened with the charger or what, but
I never got it.”



We recently asked Twitter followers (@golfdigest) to share their #smartphonefails. Some of our favourite responses:

  • When I was in Scotland in ’09, I bag-dialled my old internship boss 13 times. Awkward post-round conversation, high-usage fee. @Wrong_Fairway
  • 4 holes of phone ringing. Friend asked to borrow guy’s phone. Dropped it on ground and smashed it with driver. @Gardinerken
  • While in my bag, phone dialled (000), then hung up . . . twice. Police tracked signal, came to course. They weren’t happy. —@MikeKennedyGolf
  • Put it in the cup holder on the golf cart. Drove over a bump on a bridge. It bounced out and into the pond. @AWToland
  • Been stolen by a fox at Monarch Bay in San Leandro. It was in the cart cup holder. The foxes there are notorious for taking stuff off carts. @iam_DBLR
  • My friend somehow dropped his phone in the engine of the golf cart. They had to call a mechanic to get it out. @Zchar_01
  • I dropped it on the 10th green and had to track it via Find My iPhone after the round. @rog_royers
  • It recorded my golf swing. @pmturcotte

One of the better golf course photos we’ve seen this year is our deputy editor Evin Priest’s shot of the 12th hole at Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, and it was taken with an iPhone. Sure, it’s hard to take a bad picture at a seaside course along the spectacular coastline of NZ, but it’s still a ripper: a combination of perfect late-daylight and an unforgettable location. Taking a good picture during your round is easier than ever, so here are three simple tips for doing it on your smartphone.

12th Hole at Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand
Evin’s shot of the 12th Hole at Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand

1. Time of day
This might be the most important element to taking a good golf-course photo. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times. That “golden light” will make colours more vibrant and the sky more dramatic, and the low angle of the light will produce shadows that help accentuate the contours of the course.
Overcast conditions produce even lighting, and that’s a great time to take portraits of your mates. Without direct sunlight you’ll avoid those harsh shadows. As for landscape shots, if you’re playing Barnbougle Dunes on a cloudy day, don’t let the sky dominate the shot. Place it in the upper third of the frame.

2. Composition
This is critical to any picture. Always think about how you’re framing the shot. Find a point of interest to pull the viewer in: a green, interesting tree, halfway house, unique bunker or a silhouette of your mate walking down the fairway. Where you place those focal points is equally important. The rule of thirds is always a good guide. Divide your frame with two equally spaced vertical and horizontal lines. Place important elements of the picture along those imaginary lines and where they intersect. If you’re playing along the coast or in the bush, find ways to incorporate those elements. Elevation also helps give a picture perspective and depth, so don’t be lazy. Climb that sand dune! Always have a straight horizon line, even if you can’t manage to keep your drive straight.

3. Apps
Images shot on your phone often look a bit flat. There are apps on the market that can add life to your image. A good go-to is Snapseed. Other good ones include Camera+, Photogene and Luminance. Adjusting the saturation, contrast, brightness or horizon line is an easy way to punch up a picture. Whatever you do, avoid HDR (high dynamic range) and drama filters. It shouldn’t look like you just played 18 on Mars. Finally, have fun!