SBD/April 22, 2014/Media

App Review: USGA's Rules of Golf Proves Straightforward, But Functionality Needs Work

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The USGA’s newly released Rules of Golf mobile app provides a destination for referencing just what the title says. While there is some room for improvement, the app successfully brings the rulebook to mobile in a way that works. Rules of Golf was developed by the USGA in partnership with Lightmaker. It is a free download sponsored by Rolex. I conducted this week’s review on an iPhone 5 version 7.1 with AT&T service. A table of contents greets the user upon launch including topics like Etiquette, Definitions, Rules of Play and Decisions. There is also a handy How to Use section for beginners. Tapping on any one of these topics opens a deeper section of content.  For example, under Rules of Play, rules 1-34 are listed, each of them containing a full set of rule points along with associated decisions. The app’s content is searchable and savable. Entering a keyword or phrase brings up relevant results, and tapping the star icon saves a rule to the user’s favorites. When viewing content pages, a rule can be shared via e-mail. Font size can also be increased for the blurry-eyed. 

WINNERS: The layout and navigation of the app is very straightforward. In Wikipedia fashion, certain words and phrases within a rule or decision are linked to their basic definitions, or in some cases, other rules or decisions. This is very useful for finding information quickly. The favorites function is nice, too. The decisions section includes an alphabetical index that allows users to simplify their search by tapping on the first letter. With the exception of a Rolex logo above the content, the lack of advertising makes the experience clean. Certainly there is room for growth here, as I do not think golfers would mind seeing a few more ads.

PENALTY STROKES: The search functionality is promising but buggy. At times during the review period, the keyboard opened and closed repeatedly before a word could be entered. After a word was entered, there was sometimes no way to get back to the search box to enter another word. In the search results, it would have been nice to see more than just the title of the rule -- perhaps a few lines of content surrounding the search keyword. This would make it easier to find the desired information. I was confused as to why there was an index within the decisions section, but no index in the main navigation of the app. As for sharing, e-mail is the only option in the app’s current state. The omission of SMS and social sharing tools is an unfortunate oversight.

BOTTOM LINE: USGA’s Rules of Golf mobile app offers a very user-friendly, not overly complicated way to reference the rules while playing golf. It is sure to make a good companion for a day on the course as both a dispute resolver and a conversation starter. Some improvements like a bug-free search and an expanded list of sharing tools are needed in the short term. Down the road, the inclusion of video clips explaining the rules would be a nice addition.

Amie Sheridan (amie.sheridan31@gmail.com) is a freelance writer in Philadelphia.

See Sheridan's previous App Review submissions for THE DAILY:

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