TRAVERSE CITY: A caddie or a detailed yardage book no longer are needed to determine the distance to the center of the green on the first hole at The Bear.
Any one of several mobile phone apps that use GPS takes the guesswork out of whether a 7 iron is needed or an 8 iron will suffice.
These apps created another potential problem that the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa was able to solve with its new fleet of 215 Yamaha golf carts. Each of the carts features a dual USB port, and each side has a built-in cell phone holder.
“(Apps) can be a big draw on the phone batteries,” said Tom McGee, the resort’s director of golf operations since 2001. “That’s why people were reluctant to use them before. Now that we have USB ports, they just go ahead and use them.”
“It’s a great feature,” said Jamie Bush, a member at Grand Traverse Resort.
Bush said a lot of golfers in his league arrive straight from work and need to plug their phones in to recharge after a full day of use.
McGee said a lot of golfers don’t know about the charging capability on the four-wheeled carts. He said the pro shop, but more likely the bag attendants, will let golfers know of the feature.
“Golfers love it,” McGee said. “It’s a pleasant surprise.”
While the cart addition may have been intended for using apps on the course, McGee said the mobile charging stations are used for other applications.
“People are enjoying them as you might expect, for a variety of reasons,” he said. “Some use it to charge their phones. Some use it to listen to music, especially younger people. We allow that as long as the music is appropriate and you use it just for your foursome. I don’t want to hear the music blaring all over the golf course.”
McGee said he saw a demonstration of a new Yamaha golf cart that has built-in Bluetooth speakers.
“Then there’s the GPS apps,” McGee said. “That’s probably what they’re going to use it most for. It gives you distances to the front of the green, the middle of the green or the back of the green. There’s so many apps out there that use GPS.”
YamaTrack, GolfLogix and 18Birdies are some common free golf apps, but there are several others. The apps use GPS technology to determine yardage off the tee as well as the distance remaining.
The pro shop at the Resort also has 50 Bushnell golf rangefinders available to use for free.
Bush said he uses 18Birdies early in the golfing season or when he’s playing elsewhere.
“I use it early in the year to figure out where my game needs a little more work and when I go away,” Bush said. “It has a built-in GPS and can keep track of all my distances. They’re kind of handy to have, especially at away courses.”
Golf apps have other uses beyond determining yardages.
Some can book tee times, track scores and display instructional videos. Other apps allow users to rate the condition of a course, pace of play and overall experience. Bush said an app can even track bets made with a playing partner—if one is so inclined.
When McGee plays one of the resort’s three 18-hole courses, he doesn’t use a mobile app because he’s so familiar with the terrain. But he suspect those on the course for the first time will find value in them.
Bush said when he’s playing at Grand Traverse Resort, he’ll input stats following the hole and use those statistics to alter the way he approaches certain holes.
“It keeps track of everything, all the way down to chips and sand shots,” Bush said. “It does fairways hit, greens in regulation, putts per round and even putts per hole.”