Beware of Using Golf Apps While Traveling

I'm sure many of you have big summer travel plans, but a quick word of caution if you're heading overseas:

Using your favorite golf apps can cost you big time.

Just ask the golfer who came home from a mere three-day trip to find a $3,100 cell phone bill waiting for him...and he didn't make or receive a single call.

All he did was use a golf GPS app, but because he wasn't connected to his wireless carrier's network, those dreaded roaming charges kicked in -- yes, it works the same for voice and data.

So, what should you do if you're taking an overseas golf vacation?

Downloading golf courses before leaving home helps, but it's not a sure thing; some apps continue to send/receive data.

One option is to buy an international or local sim card, but this seems better suited for those traveling for a few weeks or more, not days.

Some standalone, handheld golf GPS devices can be used fee-free anywhere in the world, but if you're partial to using your phone's golf apps (and others), the best option might be to buy an international data package from your carrier; Verizon's and AT&T's monthly plans start at $25 and $30 for 100 and 120 MB, respectively.

(For phone calls, the best option is simply to use a WiFi connection and Skype).

Of course, the other option is just to turn your phone off and play the old fashioned way.

Or better yet, hire a caddie -- you'll get colorful yarns with your yardages, and you won't drain your battery or your wallet.

How do you use apps and/or make calls when you're traveling overseas?

Please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.


Craig Better is one of the founding editors of Golf Vacation Insider. In addition to traveling to 15 foreign countries, he has twice traveled across America to play golf courses in all 50 United States. Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Craig was a freelance writer who contributed to GOLF Magazine, Travel + Leisure Golf, Maxim Magazine,, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
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Commented on

I have also used Golf Shot in Australia, Hawii, and the main land US and have found that when you get there, simply sync with Golf shot using the hotels free WIFI and then make sure that Data roaming is turned off this enables you to receive calls and txts but not get a big bill for Data. The Golf Shot uses GPS from the satellites so there is no charge. Happy golfing and come down under some time great and Cheap golf.

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Using your North American based cell phone/provider overseas is definitely a crap shoot due to all the variations from telecom to telecom. My advice to anyone is if you are NOT very savvy regarding using your smart phone out of your home coverage area (all of the USA for most) then leave your phone at home or at least keep it turned off and turn off your data pack so your phone does not inadvertently run up a ton of data roaming charges. There can be trouble even if you think you are on WiFi in Europe, etc. Some phones can have 2 sim for N.A. and one for Europe (for example) installed in the phone at the same time....but most phones use only 1 sim card at a time.

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Have used GolfShot all over the world and it works excellent. No wireless is needed on the course, the app uses the GPS without being connected thru a telecom supplier. The only thing is that you need to download the maps in beforehand. The app woks without the maps as well, you get the distances, but it is som much nicer with the maps.

So use GolfShot, a cheap way to get distances!

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Yep - you can do it online, too. Other major carriers (Verizon Wireless) may allow this, too.

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I don't use any GPS apps for golf when traveling overseas, but I do use mapping apps for navigation, specifically Google Maps on an iPhone. The mapping features are indispensable in many countries, especially Scotland and Ireland. The guys I travel with don't even worry about navigation any more, they just say "Follow the blue dot." But this app is pretty data hungry too. I always call my carrier before I go and make sure I'm set with an international calling package, texting package, and data plan. Also, do not forget to call and cancel those packages immediately upon return, otherwise you will pay through the end of the month. - CFD

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Note: ATT will often backdate an international data plan to your last billing date if you call as soon as possible. This can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars if you forget to add the plan before you leave the US.

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This seems to be more of a problem with apps running on smartphones, not dedicated, handheld units like the Skycaddie. That said, you usually have to buy the more expensive device/membership for access to courses outside North America. I'm sure different units handle data differently, too, so it's best to check with the manufacturer just to be sure.

You're fine in Hawaii because you will likely be able to stay connected to your domestic wireless carrier (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc.). It's only a problem if you connect to a carrier with which you have no plan.

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Craig - are you saying not to use my Skycaddie, when traveling overseas? Does this include Hawaii?

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Unfortunately, it's all over the map. Different apps handle data sending/receiving differently. To cover yourself completely, you really need to check with the app directly. Some of the better ones actually have phone support, but if not, you can often get a response by email or in a support forum.

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What apps should we look out for?

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