How to Use Swimmers Guide?

Swimmers Guide is entirely map-based. If you're a swimmer looking for a new set of black lines to stare at close to home, or going on a trip, or considering relocating to a new town or city, you'll find the site helpful. To find the swimming pools closest to where you are at the moment, be sure your device or browser's location service is turned on and the Home Page will auto-fill with a map and a table showing the 50 Swimmers Guide listings closest to you. If you're looking for a pool somewhere else, fill in the search tool in the home page and you'll get the same results for that location.

What is location service?

Location service is a feature of a browser or smart phone that allows it to know where it is by triangulation of GPS satellite and/or cell tower signals. You control whether the feature is enabled/allowed or disabled/blocked on your device and every browser or phone's system is different so, if it is disabled on your device and you don't know how to enable it, simply go to a search engine and ask it "How do I enable location service on ___?" Fill in the blank with the name of your browser or the name of your phone's operating system. You'll find that enabling the service is easy. Swimmers Guide works whether location service is enabled or blocked, it's just a lot cooler with location service enabled.

Some apps use location service tools keep records of users' locations continuously, a feature that many consider to be invasive of their privacy. We understand that; we encourage users to study the question and make their own decisions as to whether or not to enable the service, based on their own preferences and concerns.

The Swimmers Guide website works best when location service is enabled, but the site does not track, obtain, retain, or otherwise use any individual's location history.

Searching for a pool:

The precise latitude and longitude of every one of the 26353 facilities listed on the site has been determined and included in the pool database that underlies the site. Using that information, together with Google Maps' worldwide database of addresses and places, Swimmers Guide allows its users to find the pools anywhere, even in places where they don't know anything more than the name of a city or town - and sometimes, even less than that. (Of course, we can't tell you about a pool if we don't know it's there; more about that later.)

When you first go to the Swimmers Guide home page, you will be presented with one of two versions of the page:

Location service enabled: If you have location service enabled, you will see a map with the Swimmers Guide logo in the center, pinpointing your actual location, and as many as 50 green, red, and yellow map "pins" around the logo. Each pin marks the location of a swimming facility; the pin colors indicate whether it offers casual or "drop-in" admission for the general public (green pins), does not offer casual or drop-in admission for the general public (red pins), or the pool's admission policies are not known to us or a simple "yes" or "no" answer doesn't quite fit (yellow pins). The numbers inside each pin's circle indicates the length of the pool, if a standard length (50m, 25m, or 25y), pins without numbers in the circle indicate a non-competition standard length (e.g., 50f, 20m, 33y, etc.).

If you have location service enabled but you want to search for a pool somewhere other than your present location, use the text-entry search tool described in the next paragraph.

Location service blocked: If you have blocked your browser from detecting your location (or, if you want to find a pool somewhere else), you'll be presented with a page showing a simple text-entry search field in the center. Place your cursor inside the entry field to the right of the first question mark ["?"'] on the page, where it says "Enter a location to search here" and begin typing the name of a city, an address, an airport code, the name of a hotel, or some other landmark. As the Google Maps-powered search tool recognizes possibilities that match what you're typing, it will present you with options in the form of a drop-down menu - the more you type, the more the options narrow down. When you've typed enough so that you are presented with an option that matches the location you're looking for, simply click on that option and you'll be presented with a map with that location centered and the surrounding pools' pins shown as described in the Location service enabled description shown above.

Note that although the Swimmers Guide website is an English-language site, the Google-powered search tool will accept entries in any language or writing system supported by Google Maps, including, Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Greek, Japanese, Cyrillic, etc.

If the page doesn't change after you enter a location, it may indicate that you've confused Google Maps and it could not determine where you are looking. If you limit yourself to the choices presented in the search bar and drop-down selection menu, that won't happen, a new map will always come up. And, if Google Maps doesn't give you a choice that appears to match your requirements, you may need to check your spelling or find another way to identify the search location.

The search results are presented in two formats: On a map, with colored pin points surrounding the center of your search, which is the Swimmers Guide logo; and in a table listing the pools by name and sorted by the distance of each pool from that center point.

Using the map to pick your pool:

On the map section of the results page, if there are no pool points shown or if there are only a few, use the "-" button in the top right corner of the map frame to zoom-out and get a smaller scale (larger area) map; if there's a cluster of overlapping pool points, zoom-in using the "+" button to get a larger scale map (showing a smaller area) that will break-up the "pin clumps".

When you see a pool's point on the map, you can click on it to get a pop-up box with "snapshot" of the critical data in the listing: the pool's name, address, whether the pool offers public access, the length of the pool there, and a link to its full detail listing page. (If there's an "alert" in the listing, e.g., an indication of a temporary closure or severely limited hours, the nature of the alert will be shown in the snapshot view.)

If the snapshot information looks interesting to you, click on the "Read More" button within the box to go to the complete, detail listing. Note that in all cases, detail listings will open in a new tab so you don't have to start another search to check out another listing before you decide where you want to swim - just go back to the search tab, it will be waiting for you, unchanged.

Using the table to pick your pool:

Beneath the map, there's a line with text showing the GPS location of the center of the map, followed by a "Filter" box, whose function we'll describe a little bit later.

Beneath the Filter line, you'll see a table listing summary information about the 50 pools closest to the center point.

The table has seven columns:

  1. The distance of the facility from the center point of the map (shown above the Filter line), in both miles and kilometers.
  2. The name of the facility, the name of the neighborhood or district where it's located (if we have that data in the listing), and the contents of any "alert" that may be associated with the listing.
  3. The name of the city and state or province or country where the pool is located.
  4. The length of the primary pool in the listing. A facility can have more than one pool; the length shown will be that of the pool we think lap swimmers will find most appealing.
  5. An indication as to whether the pool offers public access, e.g., drop-in or casual admission, indicated by a "Yes", "No" or "?".
  6. An indication as to whether the pool is located in a hotel or, if not, whether guests registered at one or more local hotels are allowed admission to the facility on a basis more favorable than that offered to the general public.
  7. The types of competitive swimming teams whose names and website links or contact data are included in the listings.

Each of the seven columns in the table can be sorted and re-sorted by clicking on the column heading.

Within the table, the Facility Name is a clickable link to the pool's detailed listing page, with the same function as the "Read More" button in the map point box. As with choices from the map, clicking on a pool's name will bring up the detailed listing page in a new tab so you can always return to your original search results.

You can use the "Filter" tool above the table to enter text to search for; if, for example, you're looking for a Masters swim team, typing "Masters" in the Filter field will bring all the lines with the word "Masters" in the table entry to the fore and eliminate from view all the entries that do not have the word in the line. You can also filter a filtered list, e.g., after searching for listings with Masters clubs, you can filter that list to show only those clubs that train in 50 meter pools by adding "50m" in the Filter box. If there is no entry with your search term, only the table headings will remain; the table can be restored by simply erasing your filter term. The filtered list can also be sorted by any of the seven column headings.

Note that the number of pools displayed is limited to the 50 pools closest to the map's center point. In locations that have a lot of Swimmers Guide listings, the 50 pools may all fall within a small area. For example, a search on "London, England" brings up a map centered on Trafalgar Square and extending only about 3.2 miles/5.2 kilometers from Trafalgar Square - that's an area of just 32 square miles/85 square kilometers. The land area of the City of London and its 32 boroughs covers 607 square miles/1,570 square kilometers, so that search picked up only about 5% of London's land mass.

If the initial search results are close to but don't show any listings the area you're looking for, you may need to be more specific with your search criteria; an alternate strategy in our London example might be to use "LHR" to find pools near London Heathrow Airport, or "Croydon" to find pools further south of "The City", or "The Dorchester" if you're staying at that hotel. You can also use the place names, such as Ealing or Clerkenwell on the first map as search terms for a second or third try.

At the time of this writing, you can find pools outside of the displayed area only by starting a new search. We are working on making the map dynamic so that, when you drag the map, pins for the pools in newly revealed areas will appear, pools that no longer are within the closest 50 to the new map center will disappear, and you'll be able to change the table beneath the map by clicking on a "Refresh" button.

What if there's a pool you know about that's not on the map?

If there's a pool you know about that meets our listing criteria but isn't on the site, go to the Add a Pool section of the site and tell us about it. If you find our questionnaire too long, use the email address in the page footer, below, to tell us by email. Using the form will get a new listing on the site a lot faster, but either way usually works, as long as we get enough information to be able to find it and create a listing.


This page was last updated on April 14, 2020.