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January 28, 2011

SkyCaddie raises its game again

Posted at 8:01 PM by Gary Van Sickle | Categories: 2011 PGA Merchandise Show, GPS, Range Finders

ORLANDO, Fla.--The battle between laser rangefinders and GPS units is a lot like the old war between VHS and Beta video formats. Neither side is perfect, both sides involve a bit of compromise. But the laser-GPS stakes have been raised.

I wrote earlier about how Bushnell, the big player in laser rangefinders, introduced the Hybrid, its laser rangefinder with a GPS unit attached so players can get some kind of yardage even when they can't get a line-of-sight reading with the laser.

Sky Caddie, the best of the GPS outfits because it measures golf courses step by step on the ground instead of relying on generic satellite photos, has introduced another significant upgrade to its line. SkyCaddie's SGX unit has a couple of nice tweaks. One is its Pinpoint technology. At courses that provide the day's pin positions--like the pin sheets given out at most amateur and professional tournaments--SkyCaddie has a function that allows a player to quickly and easily punch in the pin location data. For example, if the sheet shows that a pin is 10 steps from the green's front and eight steps from the left side of the green, you input those numbers and the Pinpoint technology is able to precisely locate the pin. So now you've got a GPS with exact yardage to those pins.

Another step forward is SkyCaddie's IntelliGreen capability. It's a way to get a better, more detailed look at the green. As you look at the green from over your approach shot, you simply take the SkyCaddie and turn it so it's horizontal and the unit gives you a view of the green and the pinpointed pin. This look at the green provides yardage to the front and back and also highlights green contours, like false fronts.

That information is vital to better players, who not only want yardage to the pin, but yardage to carry to the correct tier and, just as important, their max yardage to the back of the green. A laser rangefinder will provide exact yardage to the pin but not information on the distance to the front or back of the green.

It's also an edge over printed yardage books, in which the distances are measured from the fairway. As any caddie will tell you, it's much tougher to get an exact yardage to the pin from the rough because the angle has changed and now, unless a caddie steps it off, the yardage from a different direction isn't quite as exact.

The SkyCaddie course library now includes more than 15,000 courses and is expected to hit 20,000 later this year. The suggested retail price of the SkyCaddie SGX is $349 (skygolf.com) and its battery should be good for 14-16 hours before recharging.

With the SGX in the laser versus GPS battle, it's advantage, SkyCaddie.

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