Golf is hard. It’s made harder by not really understanding how we play or practice, beyond subjectivity (“I didn’t putt well today”) and score. This doesn’t provide clarity on how you’re performing, and exactly what you need to do to improve. Without a clear picture of your current performance, it’s impossible to set goals and track progress over time.
We all want to achieve our golfing goals, whether it be hitting a scoring target, gaining college admission, winning a tournament or turning pro. Strokes Gained is a method of gaining an understanding of performance and tracking it over time, so that you’re practicing more efficiently to achieve your goals, whatever they may be, faster.
Strokes Gained analyzes every shot you take, and compares it to a peer group that you select (for example scratch, NCAA Div I, PGA TOUR average, or PGA TOUR winner). When you group these shots into categories like Approaches, and sub categories like Approaches: 100-125 Yards, you start to understand exactly how you’re performing, where your strengths are, and what areas you might need to focus on.
There are a number of different options for golfers to consider, each with their own benefits. We will shed some light on the top 5 strokes gained apps to improve your golf game:
With so many things you could work on to improve, Circles helps you understand exactly where you should focus to optimize your training and get results faster.
Circles is built for players who are motivated to improve. The platform and exceptional customer support helps you develop a plan of attack to achieve your unique goals. Built by a team who’ve coached world #1 golfers, olympic teams and athletes across most international tours, Circles culminates years of elite expertise, delivering insights seamlessly for users.
Where Circles stands alone is their “Improvement Opportunities” - advanced data science and machine learning to analyze your unique performance profile and outline the top 3 areas you should focus on, leading to accelerated score reduction. Along with their predictive modelling to show you where your performance is trending over the next 3 months, Circles is uniquely positioned to guide players on how to achieve their goals in the shortest amount of time.
While the algorithms are complex, the ultra-sleek, polished design makes the information easy to understand, with clear and actionable insights provided. It does the work for you, so that you can spend your time on improvement and not analysis.
Circles is the best solution for players who want to better understand how they should focus their time to maximize their score reduction. It's for players who are regularly able to get on the practice range and out for a round, and want to use their time in the most effective way. Whether you're doggedly chase your next scoring goal, trying to be recruited to play College, or looking to eventually turn pro, Circles is designed to help players achieve their goals faster.
Circles is great for players who prioritize accuracy; they will be collecting the distance to the pin using a rangefinder as part of their pre-shot routine. This suits most mid-to-low handicap players who have this in their routine, however can be challenging for higher handicap players who don't yet operate in this manner.
Circles' free 5 round trial, with no credit card required, removes any barriers for players who want to see how strokes gained data can optimize performance, but aren't yet ready to commit to a purchase.
For players who are looking to understand what course strategy is and how they can implement techniques to shoot lower scores, Decade is a powerful platform. They analyze performance using Strokes Gained, suggesting the videos you should watch to address course strategy for that area of the game.
Decade was popularized by founder Scott Fawcett’s approach to course strategy first used with Will Zalatoris, and later adopted by players like Bryson Dechambeau through college. Will is quoted as saying "you've given me 25 years experience in 5 days". Users collect data through the Decade stats platform Birdiefire, which then suggests the most valuable content for players to consume.
Decade is a fantastic platform for low-handicap and college players who want to improve their understanding of course strategy. It uses groupings from elite players to help you understand every area of the game and how a player of that capability should approach strategy to shoot their lowest scores.
The video content provides rules for all players to use, so you may need to make adjustments using your personalized performance profile and tendencies. This is more challenging for those starting in the game or with higher handicap that can't yet achieve the dispersion patterns of an elite player. This being said, players of all capabilities will better understand the game of golf and strategy considerations through the Decade platform.
Arccos’ Smart Caddie is one of the most comprehensive offerings for players wanting to better understand the game of golf. With sensors that you attach to your club, golfers can simply start playing and have their data collected. This is displayed through a clean user interface with information like strokes gained per club, so that you can see which club is most effective in your bag.
Their GPS offering allows not only the automatic collection of data, but also can be used as a rangefinder for users while they are on the course taking into consideration elevation, weather and other factors to act as a virtual caddie. *Note that this shouldn’t be used during tournament golf to ensure you’re playing within the rules.
Arccos has partnerships with some of the main club manufacturers, and occasionally has partnership offers. The latest is for free Arccos sensors with a purchase of a Taylormade Stealth Driver.
Arccos is a great solution for higher-handicap players and those who are starting in the game. The use of GPS is accurate enough for those high handicap players, with a single solution that allows data collection, range finder, and club selection suggestions. The sensors have good reliability and when something does go wrong, the customer support team quickly resolves any issue and will send out additional sensors where required. The active user base of Arccos means that you can easily find reviews about the solution of forums like GolfWRX.
As players better understand their game, know their yardages, want to play particular shots and require more precision, it might be time to consider one of the other offerings available.
UpGame has a long list of features to engage users. The introduction of groups and games targets coaches who are wanting to make practice more appealing for their players, with games and leaderboards for teams.
UpGame has an attractive design, highlighted by the ability to enter shot data using the smart maps overlay. Each page on the app is modern in feel as you look to enter and understand your shot data.
UpGame has a long list of features geared toward engaging groups of students. The platform is most effective for coaches with large groups of students who engage in both solo and group lessons, where the coach wants better visibility on player performance and needs to help motivate players to get out playing and practicing.
With a focus on raw data of performance vs a PGA TOUR player, UpGame provides players and coaches with a range of ways to visualize shot data. Users can use this to make their own analysis of where to focus and what areas will have the most impact on their game.
Coaches and players using UpGame will get the most value by spending time to understand strokes gained in more detail, and how to relate the data against a players performance goals.
Golfmetrics founder Mark Broadie is the pioneer of Strokes Gained, developed in the early 2000’s as a project through Columbia University. He established a professional benchmark and established it on the PGA Tour over the past 11 years. Mark is author of “Every Stroke Counts”, a book which every app listed here has read cover-to-cover.
Mark works with male and female tour players and aspiring tour players to interpret their data in such a way to diagnose and solve the things that hold them back.
If you're looking for raw strokes gained data to make your own analysis, Golfmetrics is your platform. It breaks data down into all areas of a players game, providing users with an understanding of their performance in a handicap sense (e.g. putting 5-10 feet performs like a 6 handicap). Golfmetrics focusses on collection of data, displaying in a format that allows users to start their analysis.
Golfmetrics is a great platform for those players of all capabilities who want to objectively understand their current performance, in terms that make sense to them. It's also valuable for the more analytical golfers who want to have a go at using strokes gained to establish their own training regiment and course strategy insights.
So there you have it. Your comprehensive guide to the best strokes gained apps on the market. Spoilt for choice? Try starting with the Circles free trial to see how shot data can revolutionize your performance.