The iPhone Does Everything – REVIEW of View Ti N and View Ti Golf -UPDATED AFTER USE

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Addendum 5-23-2009: contest for a download of View Ti Golf –link here

Preview -authored 12-2008

With the iPhone and App Store, every day is like Christmas. I had held off buying a Sky Caddy this year, because after purchasing the iPhone 3G, the first thing I noticed was when I GPS’d myself on Google Maps while playing at Hyperion, my exact spot on that hole showed up on the satellite view. I mentioned it to DH, and pointed out that if I could send a caliper to my target on the map, it would give me yardage readings. Why get a Sky Caddy?

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Well, the wait wasn’t too long -it seems every nook and cranny of a target iPhone owner’s needs are being met almost on a daily basis. I don’t go more than two or three days before perusing the App Store for the next great thing. But it was actually YH who recommended View Ti while we were out in NY. I downloaded the free Lite version to see if it had any Iowa courses on it -well it didn’t and I let it sit for a while. The closest listed course was over 80 miles away.

Couple of days ago, I went to the app’s website, and saw that you can email course requests. I zipped over requests for Wakonda and several other courses I scoot around on, and lo and behold, at 4 in the morning, I get an email telling me that all the courses were on.img_00111

When you pick the course, you are immediately given your GPS distance to the middle of the first green. Picking Wakonda, you get a setup screen for your game -it keeps your score as well! You then go to the yardage screen and you get a satellite view of the hole and your yardage -which from the my home office is around 18,924 yards! That would be about 90 perfectly hit hybrid-3’s as the bird flies.

This is impressive, and the paid version is 12.99 which is a significant discount from it’s previous price of around 20. Compared to a Sky Caddy -fuhgeddaboudit. Amazon lists various flavors at 150-300 bucks. It would be another golf gadget to get lost in my bag.

I am thoroughly impressed and look forward to actually using the program. I just purchased the full version while writing this preview.

Addendum: 2/2/2009:

I have noticed my 12.99 View Ti did not have the Google Maps images, but rather a simple display of yardage only . After some investigating, I have found that the 12.99 is for the basic version, with a View Ti G offering the Google Maps for a 39.99 fee. I will see if there is an upgrade path (with paying just the differential). Frankly, I don’t think that it’s a dealbreaker, because I know my course. The accuracy is claimed to be on par with SkyCaddie. It is still 20 degrees here in Iowa, so I haven’t had a chance to spin it up, but will report as soon as I use it.

Addendum: 2/21/2009

I tried both View Ti N and View Ti Golf. I am visiting my folks in Orlando, Florida, and it was easy to get their home course up (Sanctuary Ridge) from the GPS. img_0908The course is unusual for a Florida course in that it has challenging topography. None of it was created for the sake of undulations, but rather, the sloping hills of former orange groves have been carved into a very nice layout. The subdivision was one of the last built by Levitt and Sons before they went belly up -an early casualty of the current crisis.

img_0020The score keeper function works nicely except for a bug I noticed in going back to a hole to edit the score -the previous score tends to persist until you go back and change it a couple of times.

The personal scoring feature is seen in both the cheaper N version as in the Golf version. The star feature of the Golf version, which brings out the green for the approach shot and allows you to move a red cursor to the pin position worked fine, but I have one complaint. The satellite images that were used for this course came from an old satellite set that shows the greens and fairways when they were under contruction.

Don’t expect real time satellite views -it’s expecting too much. The other annoying thing which I think is a deal breaker for me and makes me wish I didn’t pay the full 49 bucks (only hours before it became available today for 24.99), is that it takes time to download the images and orient them on the screen -takes up a crucial 5-10 seconds which I don’t want to use fiddling. This is where the View Ti N works just fine.

View Ti N has advantage in that the image of the green does not have to be downloaded and you are limited by GPS satellite fixation -takes about 2-5 seconds.

takes about 5 seconds, and are outdated images

takes about 5 seconds, and are outdated images

As for scoring a foursome, it just does not beat the utility and legal formality of a scorecard and a pencil. I think the utility is personal -in being able to track Fairways, Greens in Regulation, and Putts. This is something I do with a scorecard and View Ti N (and Golf) do this well.

Verdict -wish I had this info before pouring 49.99 into View Ti Golf. The N gives you exactly what you need -the distance to the center of the green and the personal golf score function. Scoring for 4 on the iPhone is just a set up for grief and I would avoid it unless it can talk to other iPhones with View Ti Golf.

One more thing – starting with a 75% charge – the phone quickly drained it’s battery. It was redline by the 9th hole granted I was clicking pictures, but the heavy GPS and 3G usage shpwed Having used it only once I can’t say it’s a feature isolated to the Golf version.

An Aussie reader commented that his course was not available -would be very interested in an update.

Addendum 3-8-2009:
View Ti isn’t working in Houston. For the two courses I played yesterday (Houston National and Blackhorse), the yardages were off by 10-20 yards, which coincides with the minimal survivable radius for a mortar round while keeping your blue dot on track in Google maps. I wonder if GPS is detuned in Houston.

Addendum 3-11-2009

Have given the inaccuracy issue in Houston some thought -It was about 10 yards off at Redstone, site of the Shell Houston Open. I think it could because of two things -first -View Ti just upgraded after I got back for “GPS issues.” The other thing I read online is that the location function on iPhone uses a combination of GPS and cell tower triangulation, and when 3G is active, it pushes the accuracy off kilter. I haven’t tried it yet, but I will be on some courses soon -but the gist is that 3G should be turned off for accurate GPS. Who knew?

Addendum 3-17-2009

Having tried it at Montauk Downs on Long Island, I found View Ti N -which I used to avoid lags, to be accurate within to visual estimates and to the fixed yardages on the course. This has been since I updated for the “GPS” issues. I do find that getting a GPS fix takes about 10 seconds, so you should get in the habit of turning it on on the tee.

Addendum 3-22-2009

There has been an update to both View Ti N and Golf -described as a rollback to improve GPS accuracy. I will be trying these out at local courses this week. I wonder if this was at the heart of the readings being about 10 yards off in Houston?img_00011

Addendum 3-24-2009

I requested an odd little 9 hole “farm course” that is common here in Iowa. Small municipalities each have a 9-holer that is tucked away and easily accessible. It is also pretty cheap -with basic 9 hole greens fees running 14 dollars. As a test of strength, I requested the course on iPhone by simply pressing the course request button -it brings up an email addressed to the support people -I specified the course name, Sugar Creek, and locale -Waukee, IA. Didn’t say anything about it being just 9 holes. It took 48 hours -a day longer than a previous attempt, but they successfully loaded it in the correct hole order -I don’t know how they manage this magic as this particular course runs all over the place as the cow meanders. Kudos to the View Ti people. My home course is opening the putting greens this weekend!

Addendum 4-4-2009

In Florida, at Sanctuary Ridge, looking at a par 3, scrnshotthe View Ti Golf is telling me 127 yards (see screenshot to the left), but the tee is two yards in front of a stone marker (inset left) saying it was 133 yards -assuming center of green. The flag was red, and on the front margin, so it was less by a bit, but the discrepancy was annoying. The green as we drove up is shown below.

The question was, do I hit a hard wedge or a soft 9 iron. With the wind at my face, I chose a regularly swing 9 iron with the ball slightly teed up to take a bit of distance off -I was calculating about 124 yards.

I was pin high, but fact is, I think the discrepancy has two sources -the builders may have placed the marker and things may have moved in the 5 years (ie margins of green therefore center of green), or the mappers at View Ti when planting the hold in the visual center of the green are subject to an error of around 1-2 yards. I think the GPS is also subject to a 1-3 yard margin of error.

img_0070This 5 yard variance is a half a club for me. That being said, I was okay with my decision to use the 9 iron. On approach, the distance was not too back, and I rely on my visualization of the flag.

The score keeping function was nice, but I don’t like recording a Fairway reached as a Zero rather than an X. This was confusing at first, as I would have thought a missed fairway was a Zero, and a fairway reached was X. Even specifying yes/no would be better. Also, I reached both par 5’s in two -is that a green in regulation or not? I think not. A GIR with three put should be a bogey, but a green reached in two with three putt is a par.

My score card shown below, was easy to track, and provided very useful statistics. Primarily, if I managed to avoid 3 putting the GIR’s and par fives reached in two, I would have shot a very nice 38! img_00041Addendum 4-5-2009

Wish List:

1. ability to forward your score to the USGA for handicapping -the course’s slope and handicap would be included meaning no fuss for the reporting person. You just have to input your USGA number into the preferences.

2. if you can email the above scorecard as a jpg or pdf, or format as a .csv file.

3. set up a database at View Ti for scores.

4. make buttons for scoring bigger and more visible -there has to be a way to keep shots, fairways, GIR, and putts on the same screen.

5. Turn the O’s into “yes” and X into “no’s” as an option.

6. add option for tracking 150 yards in and up and downs

7. long drive -be able to establish the location of the tee box then press a button to get driving distance -how cool is that?

img_0087Addendum 4-14-2009

The courses around here have opened up, every one except for mine which underwent a major facelift last year. The practice facilities have opened, and so I’ve been practicing my putting stroke -it’s not as easy as it used to be when I was a kid and everything was by feel and really good vision.

Not using View Ti, but using the Masters app, I think there is space for golf instruction apps that combine video, diagrams, and text -I’m not talking swing coach stuff, but rather things like putting drills and alignment drills and course management tips -especially after an analysis of the scorecard above (Would you like some putting tips?). I really like the Golf Tips with Joe Beck, but they stopped updating in 2008. They were short, simple, and effective. The Masters app proved that you can stream high quality video over 3G.

The real test for View Ti will be this weekend -I’m going to play on a course that has radiotelemetry location with a computer on the cart that gives you yardage. It’s very good and calibrated well to the course markings. We’ll see how View Ti matches up!

Addendum 4/17/2009: Faith

I am titling this addendum, Faith, because today, putting View Ti Golf head to head against Legacy’s radiofrequency triangulation units on their golf carts, View Ti did better -this is in comparison to actual course yardage markers, and to results. For example, img_0014the View Ti Golf image on the right shows the distance at 109 yards. The cart computer told me it was 118 yards to the pin. It was an elevated green, and this was a difference between a 9 iron and a PW. I have had growing faith in View Ti even over calculcated distances from actual physical yardage markers -eyeballing the 100 yard mark, I could see that it was about 120 yards correlating with the computer. I chose PW and got the result below:

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The ball to the right is mine which I had left for par…which I missed.

That being said, you have to give it about 10 seconds to get a good satellite fix, you have to use your eyes adjust the red triangle accordingly, and if its your home course, you have to know the yardages and pin locations better. I think the pins had been moved without recalibrating on the cart computer because of the way the physical marker jibed with the cart to center of green. Or I just had a lucky shot.

I think not, because it gave correct calls on clubbing far more often than the golf cart computer.

I found a glitch -if you roll over to next hole while scoring after the 18th hole, the scorecard rolls over to hole #1, and it changes the score to 1. If you press next hole -you then turn the #2 score into 1. The solution, after some frustration, involves fixing #1, then going back to #18. There should be a “finalize scorecard” or “sign scorecard” button that lets you end the round.

Addendum 4/22/2009

I went to the local track, Waveland, and got teamed up with two fine golfers -Rob, a regular, and Tyler, traveling on business. Rob looks to be a solid 15 handicapper who can shoot low, and Tyler used to play college golf, but laid up his sticks for 3 years. Rob was steady, two or three on, always two putting. Tyler could hit the ball 300 yards on the fly, and it was wondrous to see -only he also hit a lot of trouble for his feats of strength. He made up for it with up and down power which is the more desirable ability.

img_00022View Ti Golf just was not

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working! It crashed on boot, and this was annoying as I wanted to use the putt counter. I switched to View Ti N -it has no deep stats, but has green view (didn’t know!). I was having a horrible time pitching, chipping, but putting was on -made several 5-10 footers, and even drained a 15 footer on the 9th and last hole! I realized the range finding function has to be given time -at least 10 seconds, and the admonition about turning iPhone on as you walk up to the ball is a true thing. For example, the yardage marker pictured showed 175 to center.

View Ti N initially showed 188, but slowly, and I mean slowly, counted down to 176 yards. Good thing, because the group ahead was playing circle jerk.

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The paced out yardage was 188, and View Ti N reported this truly. I chose to fade a hybrid 3, aimed slightly left of center, and made an effortless swing -got the result below. About 15 feet away. View Ti N will give you as good a yardage as Sky Caddy for a fraction of the cost.

img_0152The upshot is that you have to turn the iPhone on as you approach the ball. It has to have a good clean 10-15 seconds -which can be an eternity if you’re not prepared or if you aren’t following the donkey and the three wise men.

After I got home, I couldn’t help notice that View Ti Golf had an update on the iTunes. They really, really have to consolidate their choices to ONE GREAT APP.

Update 4-25-2009

View Ti Golf is not working despite the update -it tries to startup then crashes back to the apps screen. View Ti N works fine -again, YH’s comments about turning it on and keeping it on while walking up to the ball (10 seconds on) gets it a good GPS fix. Good enough for allowing me to choose 4H over 3H at 177 yards to an elevated green. Results below:img_0160

Addendum 5-23-2009: contest for a download of View Ti Golf –link here

UPDATE 7-20-2009

I have downloaded Golfshot (review here) which is a new golf GPS app for iPhone. It certainly looks more polished than the trusty View Ti -I will review. Their course loading process takes a week and requires sending them a scan of the scorecard -which may mean more richness of course info. Wakonda and several other courses are not on so won’t be able to tell for now.

Comparing View Ti to a commercial handheld GPS -GolfCaddy- on four separate measurements this weekent, got the same reading!

A Contest for View Ti Golf download -iPhone Golf GPS App

IMG_0239I was having problems with my View Ti Golf, but the usual fix of removing, resetting, and reloading appears to have fixed it. On my home course, I have made it a practice to keep a notebook of findings, conditions, plays that work, and yardages, so I only rarely use View Ti Golf. It’s when I go to a course that isn’t as well marked and new to me that View Ti Golf shines. My review is linked here.

View Ti Golf, which has never given me any funding or support, recently responded to a support query about the same crashing question. I have no reason to believe that it was the program, but the way that the iPhone apps can interact. I have found them to be a gracious, class act. They have given me a free download of View Ti Golf. Which I will give away to a reader who comments below. The contest will close out on 12am of Father’s Day, US Central Daylight time. I will then program my HP15C calculator to generate a random number between 1 and the number of commenters, and I will run this program five times, picking the fifth result. I will post on Father’s day.

You have to have a valid email. That’s it. It’s a 25-50 dollar value depending on what they’re doing at the App Store.

Good luck.

The Error of My Ways

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The View Ti Golf’s strength is as much in its scorekeeping functionality as in the yardage by GPS. The round I played today at The Legacy in Norwalk, IA, was an evolutionary step. First -the front nine was a better round on several measures – there was only two three putts, and I putted 17 times -under the 18 putt goal. The back nine was another story. The last three holes were played in 8 over par. This is in distinction to the first six holes played in 5 over par. Overall, I was striking the ball purely and was in fact made seven of 18 GIR’s which is pretty good. I had three or four up and downs -these aren’t tracked explicitly in View Ti, but hinted at by the one putts. The things I have to work on can be summarized by the stats screen to the right: img_00171

I drove pretty well -in fact, I missed four fairways into the first cut of rough, and had one out of bounds. I played the par fours at bogey but suffered on the par 3 and par 5’s. 

But again, to accentuate the positive -I took an average of 2.1 putts/green which is better than 2.7 putts per green which was my season average based on the cards that I kept. I kept a positive attitude through the round and for the first time in a long time, could see the line. The line was not the problem today -it was the strength with which I hit the putts -I missed two birdies by overrrunning the hole. 

It was a great round played in bad weather -for most of the round, we had steady light rain and cool winds which kept the balls on the green  -I stopped a hybrid 4 at 176 yards dead on the green thats how soft it was. My playing partner, DH, who also toughed it out, agreed that it was a fine day for golf.

I mean, would you miss church because it was raining a little?