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Have you ever been on the golf course, and something happened to your ball that requires a rule check, but you can't for the life of you remember where you put your USGA rule book? Perhaps you spend 10 minutes digging through your bag trying to find it while annoying your playing partners. Then, assuming you do find it, you waste another 5 minutes trying to find the right page with the rule that applies while everyone else is rolling their eyes and sighing at your lack of consideration. Does this sound like you? Some of us, not necessarily myself included, are really careful to ensure we are abiding by the appropriate rules while playing a round of golf. While I'm the type of guy who will just take a stroke and drop in the interest of ready golf, there are others who want to be sure they're not wasting precious strokes and require the confidence that they did the right thing in any given scenario.
If this sounds like you, and you happen to be one of the lucky folks out there with an iPhone, I've got the solution for you!
iGolfrules, available through the iTunes store for $9.99, is a nifty reference to the USGA rules of golf. Broken down into several sections that are designed for easy navigability, this little application can be a life saver on the golf course. We downloaded a copy to review about 2 weeks ago, and have been spending copious amounts of time looking through the various sections and scenarios, but strangely up until last weekend, had yet to take it out on the golf course! If you download this app, you will find yourself browsing the the rules and scenarios while you're waiting for the light to turn red in the car, or sitting on the train, or perhaps even waiting in the doctors office. You might even kill some time at work with it. We never thought we'd have this much fun with the rules of golf. The engine that drives (no pun intended) iGolfrules is the "Golf Rules Quick Reference", which has been on the international best-seller list for some time now with over 500,000 copies sold, and was developed by Yves C. Ton-That - a known expert and international rules official. Currently available in English, German, Spanish, and French (with more languages in the works)!
So let's fast forward a little and talk about actual usability on the course. For starters, iGolfrules contains more than 200 graphics and illustrations covering both stroke play and match play. The built in interactive help tool can help you determine whether you are entitled to free relief in a given situation, or if you must take a stroke (or worse.) The rules and relief scenarios are broken down into sections that are organized with big easy to read icons that do a great job of guiding you so you do not have to spend a lot of time reading the descriptions when you're trying to look up the rule in the shortest amount of time possible - this is important during play as you do not want to be introducing any unnecessary time to your foursome. Navigation through the menu systems is very intuitive and easy, especially for the technically challenged. Basically, you start off on the main menu by choosing stoke play, match play, or straight to the relief finder. You then are presented with sections where you click on the area where your ball is located (On the tee, fairway, rough, bunker, water hazard, etc.) and then click on one of the various headings that fits your scenario the best. A list of options will then appear with step-by-step procedures that include easy to understand images and icons, outlining the specifics of the related rule.
Actual usability was quite good. I intentionally went to the iPhone during our field test where normally I may have already known the rule, but just wanted verification. In most cases, I had no problem getting to the rule quickly - much more quickly than if I had been leafing through the actual USGA rules book. Keep in mind, though, that most of you will keep your iPhone zippered in your bag or in the cart, as it's a little awkward to carry with you while playing. This may introduce a little time into the process. Also, another thing we noticed was that the actual application takes a few moments to load, so if you habitually navigate back to your main screen on the iPhone after each use, you will definitely require additional time to get to the rule you are looking for because the program will have to load each time. Fortunately, if you just leave the application open, it will stay right where you left it, so future uses will be much more efficient.
Overall, we were pretty pleased with the application. As I mentioned earlier, we probably toyed with it more in non-golf situations while we were waiting in lines, queues, and other scenarios where we were just looking for something to read and had our phone handy. On the course, the retrieval of the information needed was intuitive and quite handy to have such quick access to. If you're a tech savvy kind of person, this is the rule book you want to be carrying around. There will be others out there, however, who will prefer the actual hard-copy book, but at least now us gear-heads have an option!
For a video demo, please visit www.iGolfrules.com.
By Chris Bereznay, Editor, GolfGearReview.com