Master Golf’s Digital Game

Golf is increasingly digital. We use launch monitors and motion-capture software to understand the numbers and angles that will optimize our distance potential and make our swings more consistent. Heck, some carts even show us a menu for the halfway house on touch-screens as we’re driving away from the eighth green. So why pace off distances when GPS technology puts a virtual yardage book in your hands for every point on the golf course? We believe the numbers provided by measurement devices make the game easier and faster. For our review of the top golf GPS devices and watches, we focused on ease of use, the range of features and map clarity. Our takeaway: Detailed information delivered quickly and intuitively makes for a better device.


So compact, this unit qualifies as handheld even if you still have your baby teeth. But it packs plenty of grown-up features to go with the 30,000-plus loaded courses with hole diagrams. The touch-screen provides yardage to any spot on the green and allows you to quickly adjust to a view of the green. It also has a scorecard and shot-measuring features that can detail your average distance with each club.


The touch-screen gives users the ability to view a diagram of the hole and the green (including adjusting the hole location), distance to any spot on the hole or a list of preselected targets. Users can also add targets to any course. The screen contrast is a noticeable improvement from past models, and the ProPlay mode includes shot-distance measurement, plus multiple-round statistical analysis for fairways hit, greens in regulation, sand saves and putting.


The screen is as easy to read as a Jumbotron. The course library is extensive, and the standard model provides front, middle and back yardages. But the company’s well-researched course maps target information that is unequaled in the GPS industry come with the purchase of must-have add-on packages, which can be upgraded to the device at any time. Some might find having to download this course maps tedious, but there’s no questioning the value of this device on the golf course.


The numbers on the face are large, but the watch doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a Dick Tracy Wrist Radio from 1952. On the course, this watch neatly goes beyond the portable sprinkler-head stage by providing yardages not only to bunkers and hazards but carry distances, too. There’s also a short-distance calculator, and an odometer to track how far you’ve walked. In addition to the preloaded database, newer courses can be added, or old ones updated, by syncing the watch to the company’s website.


We found this relative newcomer a pleasant if this matters to you, stylist surprise. The large numbers didn’t require reading glasses, and we like the simplicity of the push-button navigation (easier than postage-stamp size touch-screens). More important, the target information went deeper than some handhelds, including hazard, bunker and (very cool) carry distances. Another bonus: The watch comes in North American and international versions, but users can add up to 50 courses to the watch’s database for a golf trip abroad.


The industry leader in the golf GPS watch field provides a sleek new package with touch-screen navigation that lets you position the flag to gauge the distance to the hole. Yardages to hazards are generally lacking in the preloaded courses, but users can input their targets. In addition to a scorecard and short-distance features, the watch’s “smart” functionality will allow users to get emails and text messages when the watch is synced with an iPhone.


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