One of the ironies of exploring the Golf Channel Academy App is that the target audience seems to contradict the technology. When one thinks of apps, Silicon Valley and start-ups come to mind. They are essentially acceptable, get-rich-quick schemes by young professionals who understand that consumers want convenience and they want it cheap.
That’s not to say the older generation can’t use an app, but it doesn’t necessarily identify with the mindset used to produce them. Plus, smart phones can be tricky with all the swiping of buttons that aren’t really buttons.
And yet all good apps share the same mantra: simple is better. This is true of games, Angry Birds for example, as well as tools (ie Shazam). The best apps, however, are both simple and complex in the things they offer.
Which brings us back to the Golf Channel Academy App, designed for the weekly hacker; men and women with disposable income who spend a good portion of their time and money on the course. For them, Golf Channel has produced the perfect aid for those pesky practice rounds.
To be honest, the initial reviews made me skeptical, not because they weren’t good, but I instinctively distrust positivity (I’m the guy who always hates the movie). User after user, aside from a few of the earliest reviewers, gave the app five stars. “Best instructional app available,” says J. Austin king. “What a treasure,” adds user Peugotami. High praise—praise that I’d echo.
The first thing I noticed was the friendly interface. As soon as the download completed, the instructional screen was up, highlighting videos and showcasing the app’s best feature (which I’ll get to).
The video library is impossibly deep and easy to access. Professional instructors and players provide a unique blend of teaching perspectives. This allows the user to develop an idea of what works. The featured collections are particularly useful. They can be broad, breaking 100 (11 videos), or narrow, make more short putts (9).
I clicked on make more short putts because currently I resemble Dustin Johnson at the 18th at Chamber’s Bay every time I’m faced with a 5-footer. Here’s the screen that greets me:
I can choose videos from different Golf Channel programs as well as instructors. For example, the Fuzzy Zoeller clip is just 48 seconds. I can line up three or four balls on the practice green, watch the lesson, then sink the putts in a span of two minutes. Immediately I’ve improved or at least made the first steps toward improvement.
But the real prize of the app is the swing capture feature. Now, this requires either a practice partner or some ridiculous self-camera work, but it’s worth it. I didn’t have the luxury of either so I just doodled some things with the feature:
Here’s how you do it. You record a swing with the app. When you play back the video, you can mark up the film with swing notes; a circle to measure your head movement, straight lines to measure your angle on impact or in your backswing, a free drawer to make any other notes.
It’s brilliant, simple and, frankly, fun. Each swing is stored in the app so you can measure your progress over time.
Separate, the video library and swing recorder would be well-worth paying for. Together, they’re damn near invaluable.