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Category: Range Finders

January 29, 2011

Callaway UPro gets the picture

Posted at 8:08 PM by Gary Van Sickle

Upro ORLANDO, Fla.--According to one bit of research, 32 percent of all avid golfers already own some sort of rangefinder device, whether it's GPS based or laser. Rangefinders have been the hottest selling item in an otherwise down golf economy, and the competition is fierce.

Bushnell leads the way in lasers, SkyCaddie has ground-measured GPS that has a new function to pinpoint flag positions and Callaway's UPro MX is an interesting GPS competitor. The UPro MX comes in a slim, small three-ounce body. The UPro is different because it uses actual aerial photography. One of its features is a flyover of each hole, kind of what the TV networks use during their telecasts. It's a great way to get a bird's-eye view of a hole and eliminates the excuse of, gee, I didn't know there was a fairway bunker over that mound. No other GPS product offers that.

Each fairway bunker or hazard on a hole automatically comes with a yardage to the front and back--no extra mouse movement necessary. It is very easy to use, very easy to zoom in on a part of a hole and you just can't get enough of the graphics.

The UPro can keep track of your on-course stats and record the distances and clubs used. The device can store 50 rounds of stats, its website has unlimited storage.

The UPro MX has a suggested retail of $199 for 25,000 courses in basic mode. ProMode, which includes complete photographic hole layouts and video flyovers, is available for a one-time $29.99 fee for 25 course downloads or $59.99 for unlimited downloads.

(Photo: David Walberg/SI)

January 28, 2011

SkyCaddie raises its game again

Posted at 8:01 PM by Gary Van Sickle

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 ( 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.

Bushnell's Hybrid does it all

Posted at 3:32 PM by Gary Van Sickle

ORLANDO, Fla.--Perhaps the hottest product in the golf business the last few years has been yardage finders. It's rare to play golf in a foursome anymore where at least one of the players doesn't have a laser rangefinder or a GPS unit. Bushnell

Lasers are great because they supply exact yardage to the pin. GPS units are great because they supply yardage to the front, back and middle of the green even if you're in the trees or behind a hill and not in sight of the green. There are situations where you can't get a laser reading and at those times, wouldn't it be nice to have GPS?

Bushnell has a new rangefinder that combines the best of both worlds. It's the Hybrid, the standard Bushnell laser rangefinder. Piggybacking on the top of laser is a small GPS unit. So now you've got both options.

I tried out a Hybrid before the PGA Merchandise Show during a round at the Golden Bear Club at Keene's Point. I found myself using the GPS option most often on the tee box before I got out of the cart to see how long the hole was, since I don't know the course too well, and whether I'd automatically be grabbing the driver or maybe want to hit something else.

Another good reason to have both functions in one gadget is the backup it provides. I cost myself shots last summer several times because I got bad readings with my laser. That is, I screwed up and thought I hit the flagstick with the laser and got a reading but actually pinged a tree behind the green. So I got the wrong yardage and overclubbed. With the hybrid, I can check the laser reading with the GPS yardage and make sure I zapped the right target with the laser. It's a small point--except when you just made a goof like that. Then you're furious.

Naturally, you're going to have to pay a little bit more for this kind of luxury. The Hybrid's suggested price is $499.

(Photo: David Walberg/SI)


January 31, 2009

Navigating GPS for golf

Posted at 6:39 PM by Gary Van Sickle

With the world economy sinking into a tar pit and dragging the golf business with it, one bright spot in golf equipment has been GPS yardage devices. At the moment, GPS units look like the only growth market in golf.

It appears that 2008 may have been a jump-the-shark year for GPS devices, which outsold laser rangefinders by almost a two to one margin. In the past, rangefinders had held a similar lead over GPS units. It’ll be interesting to see if that trend continues.

Laser rangefinders have an accuracy that is difficult to beat. Their drawback is targets can be hard to hit, and targets that can’t be seen can’t be measured. How far to that hidden lake over the hill? Sorry.

GPS devices, which use satellite technology, aren’t as precise and can’t factor in pin locations. Either way, grown men tend to have a thing for gadgets, which makes GPS and laser rangefinders  the hot gift of choice.

The GPS market is getting crowded. Here’s a brief look at some of the GPS devices that were available at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando:

SkyCaddie: This is the granddaddy of GPS, the top product. All you really need to know to make an informed purchase is this: SkyCaddie is the only outfit that charts courses by ground-mapping — that is, having a foot-solder meticulously walk the courses with electronic measuring devices that provide precise yardages.

All other companies use satellite mapping, which can be (but isn’t always) nearly as accurate. No matter how you slice it, SkyCaddie has a smaller margin of error than the others and it displays a fervor and dedication to accuracy for its customers that the other companies don’t. You have to respect a company that won’t include a course’s map without that course’s approval.

Three models: SG5, five-inch color screen, up to 40 targets per hole and IntelliGreen technology (the image of the green rotates to match your line of approach), $399; SG3.5, three-and-a-half inch gray-scale screen, $259; SG2.5, two-and-a-half inch screen, $199... Automatic course recognition... 23,000 courses in database... Requires an annual membership to retain access to the database--$29 for every course in your state, $49 for entire U.S., $59 worldwide, which includes continuous updates to course library to keep current with changes.

Sonocaddie: Four models available ranging from V100, relatively Spartan 1.2-inch black and white view screen, to V300, with full color 3D, and new Auto Play model... Regular models have 18,000 courses worldwide in database, 11,000 in the United States... One-time membership fee is $29.95 for unlimited downloads, or you can get your first five courses free and then pay $5 per each additional course. With Auto Play version, all courses are pre-loaded, no membership fee... V100 lists up to six hazards or targets per hole, premium models list up to ten... V100 stores 10 courses in memory, V300 stores 30... A scorecard function is available, can keep score for one player and retain stats, up to 100 rounds worth... V100 suggested retail price, $199; V300 $399.

GolfBuddy: This is a true GPS unit that automatically recognizes what course and what hole you’re playing from pre-loaded database of 15,000 courses. If your course isn’t in the database, company will map it and include it for you within a few weeks... No annual subscription fees... Comes in two models, the Pro (black and white screen), $379, and the Tour (color) $459... Graphics are limited, focus is on the yardages. For example, a list of hazard yardages may look like this: “Tree 125, LtBkrEnd 115 (yardage to clear left bunker), LtBkr 103 (yardage to left bunker), HzdEnd 35 (yardage to clear hazard), 100 LayUp 52 (yardage to 100-yard lay-up—or you can program it to your favorite layup yardage).”... A scorecard function allows you to track and record up to 1,000 rounds.

Bushnell: A big player in laser rangefinders, Bushnell has partnered with iGolf and uses its GPS software. Four models include Neo, a basic black and white unit that delivers distance to front, middle and back of green, $149; Yardage Pro GPS, 2.1 inch LCD screen and storage for ten courses, $199; Yardage Pro XG, 2.2-inch LCD screen with stores up to 20 courses and has custom green maps, $249; Yardage Pro XGC, 2.2-inch high resolution color screen that stores up to 100 courses, $349. XGC model displays overhead view of hole with golfer’s location and distances to any other point on the hole.

Garmin: GolfLogix model is very easy to use, nearly button-pushing free... No frills, just provides yardages to greens, hazards and layup areas, up to six hazards or targets per hole... Totally weatherproof. A unit was submerged in an aquarium at Merchandise Show booth and it was still functioning... Over 22,000 courses available worldwide, GolfLogix model stores up to 20 courses. You have to download the courses you want, unlimited downloads for $29.95... Endorsed by Gary McCord and Peter Kostis of CBS... Suggested retail price, $299.

On Par: Easy viewing, nice 3.5-inch, full hole maps, user-friendly touchscreen technology — one touch to any location on hole map provides the yardage... Tracks each stroke location, distance and club used, provides stats... Course database of more than 4,000 courses, no membership or course map fees... Suggested retail $479. 

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