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Master your iPhone with these great golf apps

by David Lister

As the first major of the year, the Masters Golf Tournament is, in some ways, the beginning of the golf season – or at least its first step in the consciousness of the mainstream. That also makes this the perfect time to break out that iPhone and dust off those golf apps.

While undeniably pricey, golf apps have also been at the forefront of iOS technology. From tournament apps with all kinds of video, to apps that help your game with GPS and video recording, in many ways the iPhone can be a golfer’s (and golf fan’s) best friend.

The Masters Golf Tournament

The search for the most complete Masters app starts and ends with The Masters Golf Tournament, a free app with loads of video content. iPhone users can watch the tournament’s Par 3 contest, action from Amen Corner (holes 11-13), holes 15 and 16, and a selected group’s trek through the entire back nine via Wi-Fi or 3G (in the U.S. only). There are also live press conferences, as well as non-video features such as live scoring, push notifications and course information. The only thing the app is missing is full video (or audio) coverage, but given the price it’s hard to muster up too much anger over this. The Masters Golf Tournament remains one of the App Store’s top sports app and a must-download for all golf fans.

Golf Magazine Front9

Golf Magazine’s first foray into the App Store, Golf Magazine Front9 ($2.99), scores major points in many areas. It’s a fresh idea, with the app updating every Tuesday with the nine most relevant stories from the world of golf, and the price tag is entirely reasonable given that there’s no in-app purchases involved. Front9 also boasts a flashy and easy-to-use design, something you would expect from a magazine app, but something that others have not been able to pull off. On the downside, the articles link outside of the app to a website, so one can’t help but feel like you’re paying three bucks for links. There is still some good content here, and weekly updates ensure that Front9 will be useful beyond just the Masters Tournament.

Related: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 leads iPhone Games of the Week

Golf GPS

No doubt there’s a market for the aforementioned news apps, but the iPhone’s portability, multimedia features and connectivity options make it ideal for golfers wanting to enhance their game. Take golf GPS apps, for instance, which have shot up the iTunes top paid sports apps list as temperatures rise. While the initial download of GolfLogix: Golf GPS may be free, you’ll have to get the $19.95 subscription for all its features. In addition to giving you yardage, the app also has plenty of stat-tracking options, and regular updates have ensured it stays relevant. Golfshot: Golf GPS ($29.99), on the other hand, requires no subscription fee after the initial purchase price. The app gives you access to distances and aerial views for more than 35,000 courses, and tracks statistics such as greens in regulation, sand saves and much more. Finally, Golfscape GPS Rangefinder ($19.99) is from the same company as Golfshot, and also offers info on more than 35,000 courses as well as up to 40 targets per hole. The difference here is there are no scoring features, but you save a little money.

Tiger Woods: My Swing

Many have tried, but instructional golf apps for the iPhone have produced mixed results at best. While skeptics may write off Tiger Woods: My Swing ($9.99) as just another one of these apps with a four-time Masters winner’s name attached to it, impressively positive feedback (not to mention some snazzy recording features) have made this arguably the top app in the genre. My Swing is all about swing analysis, and users can capture videos of their swing and compare against themselves or Woods himself. Among the app’s other goodies include a handy drawing tool and how-to videos from Tiger, so while this app my strike some as a bit pricey, there’s enough content to justify it. Whether My Swing is the best instructional golf app is very much up for debate, but it is the one with the best reviews and is very likely to be the top seller in the genre as well.

Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12

Speaking of Tiger, his EA Sports’ franchise has returned to the iPhone, a welcome sight for those who want to improve their virtual game instead of their actual one. Many elements of Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12 ($6.99) won’t come as a surprise to those familiar with the game – like past versions, this one boasts top-notch iOS graphics, real players and plenty of replay value. The time-consuming PGA Tour mode returns, while the Tiger Challenge features 20 mini-games for when you don’t have as much time. The game’s Closest to the Pin challenge allows you to compete with Facebook friends, a nice mix of gaming and social networking. The exclusion of Augusta has caused quite an uproar among many users, but PGA TOUR 12 is as good as golf simulators get on the iPhone, with all apologies to Real Golf 2011.

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