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Dark Sky and Forecast.io Weather Apps: Editor Review

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This app saved my round, it is as simple as that.

As golfers, we have control over the courses we play, the ball we play, the clubs we play and hopefully, the shots we play. We have zero control over the weather. I’ve been a fan of Dark Sky for a while — a state-of-the-art weather forecasting app for iOS that predicts, down to the minute at your exact location, when it will rain or snow.

This past weekend I fell in love. I had been looking forward to an upcoming round, but every weather source said there was at least a 70 percent chance of rain all day long. The hourly forecast looked bleak. My playing partners were ready to cancel when we arrived at the course and the head pro said, “It doesn’t look good.”

I had been monitoring the forecast with Dark Sky for iOS and also on its website — forecast.io — and I was confident that we were playing. I pulled out my phone and Dark Sky told me the rain would stop in 11 minutes. Twelve minutes later, we were on the first tee.

You can download the Dark Sky app on iOS for $3.99. You can also install its free web app, Forecast, by going to forecast.io from your iOS or Android device or simply go to forecast.io from your desktop. There are a plethora of weather apps and websites, but I haven’t found an app that provides at-a-glance, accurate forecasting down the minute like Forecast.io and Dark Sky.

Pros

  • Accurate weather prediction down to the minute at any location.
  • Clean radar data.
  • Simple and intuitive user interface.
  • Push notifications.
  • Free web app and website option.

Cons

Not many!

Minute-by-minute predictions

Dark Sky Minute PredictionsDark Sky’s differentiator is its ability to accurately predict precipitation and temperature down to the minute at your exact location using GPS. This is huge for golfers. When we’re on the golf course and the sky starts to darken, every minute is important and we need to know what the weather will do where we’re actually standing, not just a general forecast for a city or zip code. Without Dark Sky, we might decide to head to the clubhouse to wait out a storm when in reality, all we need to do is wait it out in a safe location for a few minutes until the rain stops. We might look at the sky and think the rain will start to pour down, but looking at the radar (see below) and the minute-by-minute predictions, we see the rain will miss us completely.

Dark Sky makes it really easy to decide what to do. It presents concise forecast information such as “rain for the next 11 minutes” or “possible sprinkling.” Sprinkling? Yes, it even knows when it is just sprinkling versus raining. An animated graph shows the relative intensity of precipitation over the next hour, providing a clear visualization of the next hour of weather. This is huge for all of us golfers. We still need to use our best judgement and get off the course if dangerous conditions are in the area, but Dark Sky gives us more information to make better decisions and allows us to focus more on hitting good golf shots and less on the weather.

Hourly forecasts

Hourly forecast data isn’t new and some larger services also offer 15-minute forecasts. Where Forecast and Dark Sky truly shine, is in their presentation of the data and in their accuracy. Because they are presenting extremely accurate minute-by-minute predictions, their hourly forecasts are much more accurate. The Forecast.io website or web app (see below) is the best place to find hourly data for the next week. The visual presentation is innovative and allows you to easily scan through the data. I use the hourly forecast in the days and night leading up to my round to get a sense for what the conditions will be like for 4 to 5 hours while I’m playing. Once I’m on the course, I rely on the Dark Sky app’s minute-by-minute predictions.

Simple and clean radar data

Dark Sky RadarRadar data is another area where Dark Sky looks and feels completely different from other weather services. It has spent a lot of time trying to perfect radar data presentation. Traditional weather radar data is messy and noisy, often making it look like there is more precipitation in the area than there actually is. Dark Sky strips out the noise and presents only the actual precipitation, direction and movement for the next hour. You can easily and smoothly swipe left and right to see how strong the precipitation is and when it will move out of the area.

Free website and web app

With Forecast, the Dark Sky team has opened up its forecast prediction service to everyone for free at forecast.io. It is an excellent companion to the Dark Sky app. The website and web app provide clean and accurate forecast predictions and visualizations. Enter your location and you can see the forecast for the next seven days. Click on any day and then click on the details button and you can slide through the entire day to see if it will be sunny, cloudy, sprinkling, raining and more. You will also see accurate temperatures and sunrise and sunset information, which is also very valuable when you’re planning to get in a round of golf.

How it makes its predictions

Forecast.ioIf you’re interested, you can head over to blog.forecast.io to learn how the team creates its accurate short-term weather predictions. Forecast and Dark Sky work by aggregating a number of different weather models into a single forecast and using their proprietary algorithms to generate accurate predictions for virtually any location around the world. It is very impressive work under the hood and the team is constantly adding new features, such as the recently launched Forecast Lines, which visualize weather data from numerous sources to give you a peak at the data it uses to power its predictions. If you want to sound smart about weather predictions, these are the guys to learn from.

Bottom line

Every golfer should have both of these apps installed on their phones and bookmarked on their computers. The Dark Sky team has truly re-imagined weather forecasting and presentation. The data has proven extremely reliable in my tests from numerous locations. And, as I mentioned at the top of this article, these apps gave my playing partners and I the confidence to get out and play when every other source was telling us to stay home. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.

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When he is not obsessing about his golf game, Kane heads up an innovation lab responsible for driving innovative digital product development for Fortune 500 companies. He is also the co-founder of RoundShout and creator of Ranger GPS, the free iOS GPS app for the driving range. On a quest to become a scratch golfer, Kane writes about his progress (for better or worse) at kanecochran.com and contributes golf technology-focused articles on GolfWRX.com.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. D I ck

    Nov 23, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Does it forecast wind speed and temp feel

  2. Chris

    Jun 29, 2013 at 10:47 am

    I’m a bit of a weather app nut, and my most preferred app is currently the official NOAA Hi-Def Radar Cast Pro app. It not only shows you a weather map and tells you when it’s expected to rain/stop raining, but it can also send you push notifications as to when rain is expected so you don’t have to constantly keep looking at the app. Most importantly, for when you’re on the course, the app shows you LIGHTNING STRIKES (hello golfers!) and their proximity to your current location. Best of all, it’s actually cheaper than DarkSky, but I would’ve gladly paid more.

  3. Sean

    May 25, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Thanks for the information. Very nice application.

  4. Steve

    May 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Seems like a handy weather app. 1 question though, why would I pay for the app when I can install a free web app? Is there some sort of benefit to having the $3.99 app instead?

    • Kane Cochran

      May 16, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      It is a good question, Steve. The paid version, Dark Sky, provides minute-by-minute forecast info and radar data for the upcoming hour. I use them both, but I use DS more on the course because the data is extremely granular and accurate. This past weekend, we stayed in the cart an extra two minutes before walking to the tee because DS said the rain would let up. That is pretty cool stuff.

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Accessory Reviews

GolfWRX Spotlight: Crossrope weighted jump rope & app

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An 18-hole round of golf averages out to just under five miles of walking, which on its own is a good workout. Once you throw in some potential uphill trekking you get some serious cardio too, but if you all looking for a quick workout between rounds of golf look no further than Crossrope.

Crossrope – The details

Crossrope is a system of the weighted jump rope that allows you to quickly switch the weight of the ropes you are using to boost your workout—they range from 1/4 lbs all the way up to 2 lbs depending on the kit you start out with. There is an accompanying app that helps you go through multiple workout routines and is available free, or you can upgrade to the entire library of workout routines along with more workout tracking options.

This is NOT your middle school jump rope

The handles are heavy duty and feature precision bearings to allow the rope to move smoothly around as you go through a routine. They are also ergonomic and fit into your hand naturally, which making gripping easy, something that is really nice when you’re swinging a 2 lbs coated steel cable around. The handles also come with a fast clip system to make changing cables depending on your selected workout easier too.

The ropes themselves are made from braided steel and are almost impossible to tangle, allowing them to be easily transported and stored when not in use. All in you are getting a premium piece of workout equipment that is effective and easy to store—hard to same the same thing about a treadmill.

When it comes to a workout, skipping rope is one of the most effective cardio workouts you can do, and with Crossrope, you can get both cardio and low impact weight training when using the heaviest ropes, and follow along with the guided workouts.

As someone that hadn’t used a jump rope in over a decade, starting out lighter was a nice way to ease in before moving up, and I was pleasantly surprised how easy and fun some of the workouts in the app were. If you are looking for a fun way to add something to your workouts, or you just want to try something new to get you into golf course walking shape, this could be right up your alley. To learn more check out crossrope.com

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Accessory Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Athalonz EnVe—The best golf shoes you’ve never heard of

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One of the coolest parts of being in this part of the golfing world is being able to shed light on smaller companies that typically get overshadowed by their bigger corporate brothers.

So, this post is about one of those products that is definitely competitive against top golf shoe companies, and it’s made by a company called Athalonz, which is based out west in Arizona. Typically known for its innovative baseball cleats and insole packages, Athlonz newest addition takes the patented design to the world of golf with the EnVe golf shoe.

These have started appearing on the world long drive circuit due to the amount of traction they get, allowing players to swing harder. So for the last few months, I have gotten to wear them and see if they are as good as the company claims.

Athalonz EnVe: Living up to claims

The main selling points of these shoes are focused on two things

  1. Design that delivers more power and stability
  2. Custom comfort that lasts all day

These are somewhat difficult to combine into one shoe, and though they are on the heavier side, Athlonz are completely worth it for the benefits. It is obvious that they made strides to hit each box on the list for a great shoe. The patented design has been adapted from their baseball cleat and introduces a spikeless golf shoe with a circular design that allows the player to gain traction through the golf swing. This gives a player the chance to swing harder and faster without losing their footing. They also offer insole packages that help with correct bodyweight placement to help add an extra layer of consistency.

Secondly, it’s very noticeable that there was plenty of thought given to comfort with a roomy toe and custom insoles to fit your style. Additionally, ankle padding helps to provide more stability and comfort.

On another note, they have a good sense of style with a more classic, casual take. In addition to the pictured white/brown color, there’s a black/grey colorway as well.

After multiple months of wear in all types of conditions, these shoes have performed great for me with all the traction I need and while feeling great throughout the round.

Verdict

I am a person who tends to support smaller companies when I can if they make good products. Any support for them goes a long way—especially in the golf business. Since these shoes will set you back about $150, I wanted to be sure they are worth it for the money and they absolutely are. Seriously, for anyone looking to boost their shoe game and help alleviate aching feet and ankles, give these a shot.

 

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Accessory Reviews

GolfWRX Spotlight: Nikon Coolshot 20 GII and 20i GII

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Every golfer should have an accurate, reliable, easy-to-use rangefinder. With the new Nikon Coolshot 20 GII and 20i GII, you get all of that and more in one of the smallest, lightest packages on the market.

Not only do you get a ton of features, but when you consider these devices start at only $199.99 for the 20 G II and then $229.99 for the 20i GII ( slope adjusted version ), you get one of the best values in a rangefinder from one of the most well-known consumer optics companies in the world.

Review: Nikon CoolShot 20 GII and 20i GII

First Target Priority and 8-Second Continuous Measurement: “First Target Priority” is Nikon’s way of making sure you are picking up the flag and not a tree behind your intended target. There is nothing worse than thinking you have your distance dialed in to then have a shot fly over the green. With how quickly it lets you know the ranger finder is locked, getting that distance and double-checking can happen remarkably fast.

In the eight-second continuous measurement setting, the rangefinder will continuously measure the field of view as you scan the target area for approximately eight seconds. This setting is great when playing unfamiliar courses or trying to figure out the exact spot to a dogleg, tree, or hazard on your intended line.

Bright, 6x Monocular: Nikon is known for its glass and multi-coating technology, from telephoto camera lenses to rifle scopes, if it’s Nikon glass, it’s going to be clear, fog-resistant, and high-contrast for easy viewing. From a viewing experience perspective, the Coolshot 20 GII’s 6x monocular has an adjustable diopter for sharp focusing, along with long eye relief—meaning you can keep your glasses (or sunglasses) on when acquiring your target.

Slope-Adjusting ID Technology: With the 20i GII you have the option to get the slope-adjusted distance for any shot thanks to Nikon’s ID Technology. The mode can be turned on and off by the user to comply with USGA rules to make it legal for tournament rounds. Having tested it out on hilly terrain it’s easy to see why so many golfers mis-club going into greens when elevation changes become a lot more dramatic.

Review

The Nikon Coolshot 20 GII’s size and weight make it ideal for anyone who regularly carries and wants the benefit of knowing distances but without having to worry about weight—it weighs about the same as a sleeve of balls.

The size allows you to hold the units stable. However, I could see for those new to the rangefinder space, it could take some time getting used to when first getting acquainted with it. The best bet for this is to take it to a range or just step outside with it on your next walk and get used to hitting targets before you take it to the course—plus it makes for a fun game to see how good you really are at estimating distances.

Overall, for the price and size, it is one of the best rangefinders on the market. Plus, with a five-year warranty, you can be assured of years of use with the Nikon CoolShot 20 GII rangefinders.

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