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Distance Measuring Devices - Reviews of GPS and Laser products
March 2012

Today’s golfing DMDs embrace a wealth of technology from laser-based rangefinders to GPS devices sporting a variety of graphics, interactive features and game analysis gizmos to play with both during and after your round. We invited Roehampton assistant club pro, Richard Weeks, to take some of the latest models for a test drive and offer up practical tips on how to make the most of both types of device. Following that, equipment editor Dominic Pedler guides you through a glossary of the essential technical terms

1. How Distance measuring devices can help your game
2. Distance measuring devices terminology
3. Reviews

Going The Extra Yard

Rather than list every feature for every unit on the market, here are my immediate thoughts on the leading devices I have been trying out over the last few weeks. Full details can be obtained from each of the individual websites.

GolfBuddy World Platinum

This is the larger, pure touch-screen model of the two GolfBuddys and is ideal for the golfer who wants their historical playing statistics at their fingertips so they can quickly compare and contrast. The unit is also great for keeping tabs on the rest of your fourball as multiple player scores can be entered into the unit. It’s worth noting there are no annual subscription or course download fees with GolfBuddy.

Guide: £329

GolfBuddy World

This is the smaller, sleeker design of the two and gives access to the menu system via a choice of buttons and touchscreen. The unit saves scoring and shot details purely for the round being played, although the data can be stored online through the Golf- Buddy Manager software. This unit is slightly cheaper and better for the player more interested in the course layout as opposed to on-the-spot statistical analysis.

Guide: £279

SkyCaddie SGX

SkyCaddie have pulled out all the stops with this device which comes with 30,000 pre-loaded courses with the option of storing up to 50 advanced feature course maps at any one time. As I discuss in my instruction, the special tilt function which allows you to access different functions such as a scorecard or a close-up of the green is very clever but you need to get the hang of it in practice I realise the company’s annual subscription may not suit everybody but there are various interesting benefits to membership for avid golfers from an online community to golf plan insurance, fitness programmes and far beyond.

Guide: £329.95;

Callaway uPro

This claims to be the only GPS with actual aerial imagery onscreen, and one of the very few with a flyover sequence of each hole complete with 200-, 150- and 100-yard marker lines super-imposed for good measure.

Although an interesting USP, the flyover happens quite quickly so you may need to re-watch it a couple of times to get a real sense of the hole.

The unit has all of the normal GPS features, including excellent yardage feedback on each green with distances to the front and back of any surrounding bunkers.

I hear a spectacular new version [the uProMX – Ed.] is in the pipeline but I haven’t seen it yet.

Guide: £299

Golf Plus Caddie Lite

Entry level unit that gives yardages to fairway bunkers and other hazards from the tee and then distances to the green from the fairway.

It only holds up to 10 courses and without the mapping and scoring features of more sophisticated rivals.

But it was very effective for basic yardages and can also record the distance achieved by any club in your bag.

Guide: £79.99 (for the standard model) and £99.99 for the deluxe edition which includes map credits for course downloads.

Sonocaddie V500+

The Sonocaddie comes with over 2,400 preloaded UK courses – however you do have to connect the unit up with a computer first before being able to use it.

The screen view is fantastic – probably the best on test – with instant yardages to numerous points on the hole for the tee shot.

Good touch screen performance giving you an instant yardage to any point and also from that point to the green centre.

A topend contender.

Guide: £325

Bushnell Tour V2

A very simple and user-friendly device which gives effective yardages to within +/- 1 yard. Fitted with PinSeeker technology designed to pick out the flag rather than something just behind the green which could easily give you a duff yardage. Available in a cool range of colours, too. As a practical unit at a reasonable cost, this would be my first choice laser along with the Nikon 350G. Guide: £270;

Bushnell Tour V2 Slope Edition

All of the above features but with the added benefit of a slope calculator which makes a prediction on the potential variation in yardage for the shot in hand. Very useful if your home course is particularly hilly! See my instruction section on this useful but, it must be remembered – non-conforming – feature. £300;

Bushnell Pro 1600 Tournament Edition

The ultimate Bushnell for the avid golfer, this one has a range up to 1,600 yards and is 100% waterproof. Again this one is fitted with PinSeeker technology and even comes complete with a tripod mount which is ideal for the practice sessions with those wedges which I discuss in my instruction. £350;

Bushnell Hybrid

Clearly both laser and GPS have their advantages so the idea of combining both into one surprisingly small compact hand-held unit is a winner. After all, there is nothing more comprehensive than planning your shot into the green with GPS distance measurements to the front & back followed by a laser reading directly to the flag.

The Hybrid is a fantastic piece of equipment giving the golfer all the essential information for each shot, including a 5x magnification laser and GPS that includes Shot Distance Mode and self-editing functions. OK, it doesn’t have all the full-hole view, maps and other bells & whistles of the top-of-the-range GPS units, but it was an obvious choice as my Best Overall DMD. Guide: £435;

Nikon 350G

Nikon have a flag detection system very similar to the Bushnell and it seems to work just as well, ensuring the flag is picked out and not something else behind the green. One press of the button allows for eight seconds of continuous scanning which allows for easy measurement of multiple targets. Inside 100 yards, the Nikon works in 0.5 yard increments allowing for highly accurate yardage readings. In our tests, performed very similarly to the Bushnell Tour V2.

Guide £249.99 www.nikonrangefinders.

Nikon 1000AS

The top-end Nikon measures distances up to 1,000 yards and is aimed at serious golfers in practice rounds, hence the Slope feature. I also like the active brightness control allowing you to use the unit even late in the day as the light starts to fade, which can be an issue with laser technology.

Guide £399.99;

In summary

Whatever type of DMD you decide to go with there is no doubt it will help you score better on the course. Planning your shots will become easier as you won't have to rely on guesswork when standing in the middle of the fairway. Practice sessions also become more rewarding with many of the devices giving you precise yardages on how far each shot went. There is however one key point to note and that is cost.

The devices reviewed start from £150 upwards with the average price around the £250-£300 mark. The dedicated golf companies are already facing competition from the ‘app’ community with even Apple recently releasing a GPS App for the iPhone and iPad for £17.99! Remember, however, that a compass elsewhere on your device would render it non-conforming – but could this be the future?

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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