With nearly a million members, SHOTLY is one of the most popular golfing apps around. It provides everything from a comprehensive scorecard to a GPS rangefinder, with detailed statistics also offered to help analyse your game. We’ve been talking to SHOTLY developer James Vertisan to find out how SHOTLY came about and what golfers can look forward to in the future.
As one of the best apps on the Windows Phone Store, it’s perhaps surprising to hear that SHOTLY actually has it’s roots in an app created back in the 1980s, and an idea born out of the developer’s desire to be a professional golfer. James explains: “My dad’s a professional golfer, and so is my grandfather. So I wanted to turn pro and play on the professional PGA Tour. I couldn’t seem to break around 75 in terms of my score though.”
“I was also an avid computer programmer at the time,” says James, “so I made this programme called Executive Caddy to track my scores and stats on the golf course. It meant I could work out where I was losing strokes so I could get better and become a professional golfer.”
“I never did become a professional golfer though, and developed a real passion for the computer software.” Executive caddy went on to make an appearance on mobile devices including early Psion organisers, but James decided his idea was too far ahead of technology at the time.
The launch of Windows Phone changed everything, giving James a platform to create his perfect golfing app, and following a long hiatus he also decided it needed a rebrand. “There are so many apps around with the word Caddy in the title,” James points out, meaning people would accidentally download rival apps when searching for his. “So it was time for a rebrand, and the product is now called SHOTLY.”
Supporting 32,000 golf courses
If you love golf, SHOTLY really does have all your needs covered. “SHOTLY supports pretty much every golf course in the world,” says James. “There are roughly 32,000 golf courses, and we have over 99 per cent of them. Every year some go out of business, and others are created, so we’re always updating our database.”
“We’ve been cultivating that database full-time for eight years,” adds James. “We have close to a million members, so when a new golf course is built we usually get an email from one of them.
What happens next is more than impressive, with the potential to add a course in just minutes: “If our members take a photo of the scorecard for the course, we can add it to our database in under five minutes, we’re really punctual about that. It usually then takes us around an hour to sort out the GPS side of things.” The SHOTLY team will also contact the facility to ensure the details are correct.
“We don’t group source information,” says James. “We’re providing statistics and analysis for somebody’s game; if the underlying data is incorrect then all of the statistics are incorrect. The only way we can ensure everything is 100 per cent accurate is if we enter it ourselves, so that’s where the eight years of work have gone!”
Inspiration from other apps
Although James isn’t a fan of rival golf apps, pointing out that he gets more ideas of what not to do when checking them out, he is a big fan of plenty of other apps on the Windows Phone Store: “I’m always downloading new apps, taking a look at them, seeing how people have solved certain design issues in the UI, and I can pick and choose things I like, say ‘oh yes, that’s a good idea, I like that’.”
“Looking at other apps that are out there in the marketplace, making a list of features you like or want – it doesn’t have to be in your industry – is a great way of solving common problems.”
It’s Windows Phone that really makes all the difference for James and SHOTLY though, and he enthuses: “I love Windows Phone. We also have an iPhone app, and our Windows Phone app probably has 60 per cent more features. I think the user interface and the whole user experience is superior. That has a lot to do with the whole design paradigms for Windows Phone, particularly the panorama controls, and the way Microsoft envisioned the UI.”
So what next for SHOTLY?
Future versions of SHOTLY will integrate with Facebook and Twitter, and James adds that Foursquare may also be on the list.
“We also have a new product coming out later this year called GOLFLY,” says James. “It’s a stand-alone product, but it will integrate with SHOTLY. SHOTLY is designed for the golf course, whereas GOLFLY is designed to be a social network for golfers.”
“It offers real-time interaction and visibility with people using SHOTLY, so you can see your buddies on the course, where they are, what their scores are – and you can heckle your friends! It really ties the phone and desktop/tablet experience together, as there will be both a Windows Phone and Windows 8 app.”
We already love SHOTLY, but the addition of a new free app to go alongside sounds great to us.