Golf GPS Database
December 16, 2014 7:12 AM   Subscribe

Databases of standard golf course information (address, scorecards, etc) are available from providers such as US Golf Data. However I am wondering how companies are able to provide GPS maps of the courses (as can be seen in apps like GolfNow, MobiTee, and GolfShot). These all appear to be separate companies, did they really each do the mapping themselves (isn't this a huge amount of labor?) or is there a known licensor of GPS golf maps?

When I google the only thing I can find are GPS databases that are sold for individual devices (like Garmin, who has their own app called GolfLogix). What am I not understanding about how this is accomplished?
posted by solmyjuice to Technology (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This can be a very hard problem. TONS of time is spent by GIS analysts in varying types of organizations just searching for datasets and determining licensing/usage.

Speculation (I am in the GIS biz): For now, each of these vendors is doing their own proprietary data collection, hoping to be the one that eventually gets recognized as having the 'most comprehensive' or 'most accurate' dataset. When mindshare settles, a big player like google will buy it up and host the one-true-single-point-of-access-golf-dataset.

Data collection and maintenance is one of - if not the - most expensive elements of a GIS enterprise. It makes sense for the big player to wait until the little players sort it all out.

Now - I could be wrong - there could be someone like Navteq (who aggregates street data), doing the same for golf courses. One thing you could try is poking around those apps looking for copyright notices or attribution for the data. For example, in the bottom right of Google Maps, there is a tiny label that says 'Map data © 2014 Google'. (remember, owning the copyright doesn't imply that they collected or maintain the dataset - that's often a third party). It could be a start.

Aside: To me, one of the greatest business plays of our time was Google Maps acquiring worldwide data and opening it up for free use. Until that time, geospatial data was really held close to the vest, with very draconian licensing/usage terms. Totally shattered the paradigm. It also broke a lot of careers of people who thought Google Maps technical shortcomings would be insufficient for business and government applications. Turned out, 'good-enough' is a very fucking low bar.
posted by j_curiouser at 2:46 PM on December 16, 2014

It may not be as labor intensive as you think.

With the golf app I use - Gold GPS+ - it does come with a handful of pre-defined course maps. But they have an interface online where anyone can go in and map any course that isn't in their database. It basically presents you with a Google maps satellite image, and you simply zoom in and add data points for each hole with as much granularity and detail as you choose to put into it. You also add in the course scorecard details through the same interface.

I've mapped several courses in my rural area - if you want a basic, non-detailed map it might take 15 minutes to map an entire course. To get more detail including realistic contours, correctly shaped greens and bunkers, trees, etc. it took me about an hour per course, and that's with my OCD being really anal about making it as realistic as possible. All it does is spit out a comma-delimited text file of coordinates, which the app uses to draw the course in the app.

I'm not familiar with the other apps so can't say how they create their course databases and whether they use this form of 'crowdsourcing' to add more data, but it's probably a similar process at its core. It wouldn't surprise me if similar databases already existed, as I can remember GPS screens in golf carts before such apps were available; but I couldn't comment on how they were created or distributed.
posted by SquidLips at 9:05 AM on December 17, 2014

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