Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SportsTracker Review

I’ve recently started using the Sport-Tracker application for WP7, and registered on the site.
So far I’ve logged a few activities (running / golf / cycling), and I must say that it’s a rather fun way to log your exercise activities.
The Details:
- Windows Phone Sports-Tracker app downloaded from here.
- Sports Tracker website here
Preliminary Advisory: I’m a software developer by trade (blog), and dabble in windows phone development in my spare time, so I’m probably a little more critical that your average user.
Update 16 Jan 2012: I’ve been using Sports Tracker for a while now, so I’ve added a few other observations….
On to the details…
Firstly, the app – website and phone – are really simple to use. The design and use of fonts are really user friendly. The flash website takes a little long to load, but imo worth the wait for the user experience once it’s loaded. The developers of the product are a spin-off from nokia, so already there’s an association of quality there, and you won’t be disappointed. The support, while I haven’t personally used it yet, seems very accessible, with all the social network access points, email, forums and contact details one could hope for. They also have a “most-wanted” feature list on their website, which to me demonstrates that they’re really serious about keeping their users happy.

The Windows Phone App:

Firstly, and most importantly – it’s free. The home screen is fairly self-explanatory:
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A brief summary of your work-outs are available, as well as access to more detailed work-out info in a diary format. The “start new workout” button is front and centre – you can literally start the app for the first time, press the button, and presto, you’re logging an activity.
While on the move, you can pause, resume, record a lap, view the gps map data etc – all very easily accessible.
Make sure your location services are active for tracking GPS data, and your data services are active for viewing the map info.
I switch my data services off (it’s expensive here in sa!) – the GPS tracks fine without it.
The workout screen is simple enough – the more important information is displayed in a larger font, and it’s metro design allows for quick-glimpse information access, which you need while out on the road.
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The plus and minus buttons on the map view could use a re-touch though, since it kind of disappears behind the map (although that’s probably what they were going for). In my WP7 map apps, I’ve added an opaque background to the buttons, which still gives visibility to the map behind, but makes the buttons clearly visibly. Also satellite view on the phone would have been handy (it’s only a few lines of code to add) – especially for activities that don’t take place on the road system – like golf. I also prefer the standardised windows phone round metro buttons to the traditional square buttons being used here.
image .. imo much better.
Some minor functional gripes:
- When an activity is saved, I never get a confirmation what exactly took place – since saving also synchronises with my web account. I usually have my data turned off, so a notification that told me workout was saved, but not sync’ed would be nice – or even just a notification that save and sync was successful.
- One stat is turned out to be pretty pointless – maximum speed. I would have thought that they would factor in and eliminate extreme readings, but apparently not. My easy run has me clocked at doing 80.4 km/h!
- Sometimes I add a description to a workout, save – only to find that it hasn’t been added when I return later. Second attempt always seems to work though.
The windows phone app was only just released, so I’m sure they’ll be ironing out the wrinkles in due course.
16 Jan Update:
- The sync’ing between the device and web isn’t anything to write home about. Work-outs I’ve created\updated don’t sync to the device – and workouts I’ve deleted online don’t get removed from the device.
- There is no way to delete a workout from the device.
- If you accidently press the back button when you’ve completed a workout, you’re presented with a dialog asking whether you’re sure you want to abandon the workout without saving – only problem is there is no Cancel button! Ouch – how did that pass testing!? OK – so you can use the hardware back button to exit out of the dialog – but I don’t think this is standard UI practice.
Finally, you can share your workouts from your phone via a number of channels, including the sports-tracker website and social media integration such as twitter and facebook.

The Website:

Admittedly, I haven’t delved too much into the functionality of the website, but from what I’ve seen, it’s awesome. All the information that is on the phone app is accessible here (including the missing satellite map views). Here’s a screenshot of a workout:
You can mouse-over the graph and it will give you the data for the exact point on the map on the left.
There’s also a comparison with previous workouts of the same activity, as well as the ability to export that data to a gpx format file.
This last feature turned out quite handy for me, as the GPS data for one of my runs was not recorded due to loss of signal. I hopped on my bike, recorded the same route, exported that data, and imported the gps information into a new workout.
It would have been handy to import the data into my existing workout though.
There’s also a heart rate stat – which I’m assuming is used in conjunction with the heart-rate product I’ve seen advertised on the website.
It doesn’t end there – you can add pictures – link friends – view comments from friends etc.
Finally – they’ve also made web widgets available for those of you like myself who have blog – viewable in the right column of this site. You can embed a summary widget, as well as a single workout.
So in summary – if you’re anything from mildly active, and have one of the supported smart devices (Android, Nokia, Windows Phone, Apple) go and get the app and start logging Smile

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Atlantic Beach 26 December 2011

Another pleasant booking experience through lastminutegolf resulted in a visit to atlantic beach golf club. The affiliated fee for playing was a little steep, imo, but there aren’t many courses that have the setting and wildlife that atlantic does, so if you’re into that sort of thing, then it’s well worth the visit, especially if you haven’t played here before.
There are quite a few springbuck scattered throughout the course – we had the pleasure of their escort for the first 3 holes, as well as a visit on the practice green:
View from the first tee: Generous fairway, but landing beyond the fairways will cost you some balls.
Also try and stay out of the bunkers. Much of them have steep faces, which can be pretty hairy to get out of:
Quite a few of the holes have unsighted tee shots. Your only guide is a black and white pole to use as a marker:
The markers are pretty accurate, and I find that the drives are actually better off on these holes – probably something to do with a smaller, more exact target.
The bush a few meters in from the fairway is not very forgiving (as in not at all) – so keep it straight, or you’ll end up doing a lot of this:
The par 3’s are fairly easy, mostly because you don’t have to worry too much about the bush, and from the white markers, most of them are an easy wedge in (120m range).
We were fortunate enough to be playing on a day with very little wind. More often than not, the wind blows quite excessively here, so if you’re playing punch shots to keep it low under the wind, keep in mind that the fairways are very firm, so club down at least one.
There are also a few waste bunkers to contend with:
The course is quite “linksy” – so expect the have a few uneven lies on the fairway:
The springbuck on the course are pretty tame, so remember to bring your camera if you’d like a few rare close-up shots:
The only criticism I have of the course is that a few of the fairways on the back nine resemble more an unkempt sandy lawn, rather than pristine country-club fairway, but given the little rain and beach-front location, its understandable. Given the cost though, and the condition of much improved beachfront course - Milnerton Golf Club – I don’t think that I’d be visiting again too often. It’s definitely worth the visit if you haven’t been here before though.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bellville 23 December 2011

It’s been a year since I’ve played Bellville – ironic since it’s probably one of the closest golf courses to where I live. The course is a best to play in the summer – it gets a bit wet in the winter. The wind was quite strong today, which made the game rather challenging on this tree-lined course. One of the only down sides of this course, imo, is the uneven fairways. Even if you centre a drive, you could still be left with a tricky shot well above or below your feet. There are also plenty of doglegs and elevation differentials to keep the game interesting.
On to the pics:
The first hole is quite short and down hill. Well advised to take a hybrid off the tee

On the 2nd, favour the left side to give yourself a line into the green.
The par 5 3rd has an elevated green. Stay out of the bunkers.

The 5th is an interesting hole. Long hitters can reach the green when with the wind – but it’s high risk. Off the tee it’s uphill

…but then turns sharply left downhill.

Should have birdied the par 3 7th – putting wasn’t good today:

The 9th is another shorted par 4. Hybrid off the tee will keep you clear of most of the hazards.

The stroke 1 11th is a bit of a challenge, especially into the wind. Keep left of the fairway for a line into the green.

The par 4 13th is another elevated tee shot inviting you to open the shoulders – especially with the wind from behind. Was my best drive of the day – 280m down the middle Smile

Some nice houses look over the course…

Remember to apply the brakes to your carts on this hilly course, else…

Another example of those uneven fairways:

The 18th is also an elevated tee. If you look carefully, my ball is left of the 2 trees on the 10th hole fairway – a good place to be if you want to take the water out of play for your approach.

If you’re looking for a good test of golf for your skills in course management – look no further. I lost quite a few shots to bad decisions which will improve my game with lessons learnt for the long run.

I also used my new (free) sports-tracker application on my windows phone:

Total distance 11.2km – guess I wasn’t hitting all that straight Smile with tongue out

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Milnerton 20 December 2011

Visited the milnerton golf club for the first time in about 10 years, and wow has the condition of the course improved! Bonus for the day was that the wind wasn’t howling as it usually does at this coastal course.
The club-house hasn’t changed much – and isn’t all that impressive – since it maintains much of what was over the last 20 years:
From the first tee, one gets a glimpse of the generous fairways – which you’re going to need if the wind is gusting as it usually does.
A blind shot over the hill on the 2nd. Aim for the wind-sock
The fairways are firm – offering decent roll on well-placed drives. A word of warning about the greens – they’re rather firm – but in great condition.
The course has recently evolved into an estate with properties scattered through-out the course
Milnerton is probably one of the few courses where the halfway house is actually a completely seperate halfway house. Lunch was decent enough. On the turn home, you’re greeted with some great views of table mountain across the bay
The last 3 holes have the lagoon flanking the left of the fairway, and if the south easter is blowing – a very strong head-wind.
On the last hole – you’re well advised to keep your aim toward the lighthouse.
This was also my first time booking the golf through – and I was relieved to see our bookings had been made without any issues, and at a reasonable price.

Worcester Par 3 7th


Monday, December 5, 2011

Arabella 03 December 2011

This past Saturday I took part in the finals of our company golf league at the Arabella Country Estate. I arrived quite early, so it took me quite a while to find the club-house, which forms part of the the larger Arabella Hotel and Spa building. There isn’t any signage to help n00bs such as myself as to where to go, so I spent a good half-hour wondering the halls of the posh hotel and spa, before wondering through an emergency exit, some bush paths, and finally to the practice green in front of the pro shop. For those who haven’t yet visited Arabella – here’s how you don’t get lost like I did:

Entrance to hotel look like this – don’t go in.


Instead to the right you will find a path which leads to the pro shop:


Some of the scenes from inside the hotel:


One of the nice things about arriving early, is that you get to appreciate creation at one of the best times of the day:



View from the practice green:


There were some stormy winds predicted for the day, but we were greeted by a gentle breeze – not that it helped the gold any. Missed 2 opening pars with 3-putts and finished with a dreadful 49. The course is amazingly beautiful, but doesn’t tolerate a bad day off the tee.

From the first tee: It’s quite short, especially with the south-easter from behind, so consider a hybrid off the tee.



The 2nd is a long par 5, which isn’t too difficult if you respect it. Here’s Nelson showing how you should finish your golf swing:


The 5th is a relatively short par 3, but can play long into the breeze. Take extra club to get over the front bunker – I didn’t:


Some of the greens are quite well guarded by bunkers, so don’t be afraid to lay up short and chip ‘n putt for par:


One of the signature holes on the course is the 8th – another 3-shot par 5:


The 13th  presents an interesting choice off the tee. It’s 200 m to clear the water, but plenty of bunkers waiting for your ball. Safe shot is to lay up left:


The 16th plays downhill toward the lagoon, but can play longer when into the South-easter. Favour accuracy off the tee here, as it’s OB right and trees left – I know – I lost 3 balls here Disappointed smile



The final 3 holes are VERY tough in the wind, so temper your expectations. The finishing hole is a par 5 that requires you to be highly accurate, with bush on the left, and a bunker and the lagoon guarding the entire right side:


Even with the sub-par golf (my worst score in over 2 years), the day was really enjoyable thanks to good company and a good company (Pragma). Looking forward to next year!

PS: If you’re looking for a course layout, this site was quite helpful.