OVERALL RATING: 86. GRADE: B. We loved some of the forethought that went into designing the GolfBuddy Tour. GolfBuddy clearly put a premium on making the use of the device extremely simple. The user interface is remarkably intuitive – the way you access different features is just how you’d think you would access them. We also love that there are no additional fees associated with accessing golf courses on the device. Extremely strong course coverage is an added bonus.
While the GolfBuddy Tour lacks some of the nifty features that are available in other premium-priced golf GPS devices, it’s one of the top picks for someone who isn’t computer savvy – for other users, it’s probably not as clear cut, but we think most will find it to be among the finalists in their purchasing decision.
- Ease of setup – just turn it on and go!
- Ability to easily add targets during play
- No membership or course download fees
- Intuitive to use
- Not as feature-rich as other devices in its price range
- Varied consistency among courses on the amount of detail provided
- Some mapping inaccuracies to layup points observed
Retail price: $289.99
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the GolfBuddy Platinum
The Good: The GolfBuddy Tour scored a perfect 100 for setup, because you simply open the box, remove the GolfBuddy Tour and power cable, charge it for 3 hours (an external LED tells you when charging is complete), and head to the course. No software installation is required, and with courses pre-installed on the device, you don’t have to worry about loading courses from your computer. Now if only the folks at GolfBuddy could get together with Linksys and simplify the process for setting up a wireless network in your home…
The Bad: No Mac support – just Windows 2000/XP/Vista.
Details: “Wait a minute”, you might say, “why are there details on setup if all I have to do is turn the device on? “ Well, you may want to sync your GolfBuddy with a PC to upload a course that you have custom-mapped on your own, to download a course mapped by another user, or to update a course already on your device. If you opt to go down this road, you will need to register for a free web account, install desktop manager software on your PC, and sync your GolfBuddy Tour to the PC through a USB cable.
What’s in the Box: The GolfBuddy Tour comes with the following:
- Belt clip
- USB cable
- Wall charger
- GolfBuddy Tour User Manual
Critical Golf Test: Our course coverage analysis ranked the GolfBuddy in the top tier of devices tested, with impressive 99% coverage of our select sampling of golf courses.
Manufacturer’s Claims: GolfBuddy boasts of having 24,000 courses available worldwide in its course database, the largest number of any of the GPS devices tested.
Ease of Use
The Good: GolfBuddy markets its device as simple and easy-to-use, and indeed it delivers. The designers put a premium on automating many processes and making the use of the controls intuitive. Navigating among different screen views is a breeze.
The Bad: The joystick protrudes a bit, and frequently gets accidentally toggled while inside a pocket, advancing the device to random menus. Also, it takes a bit to realize that one can actually scroll down on the menu page to access additional menu choices that aren’t initially visible.
- Buttons. The buttons are simple: Power On/Off, Mark, Menu, Cancel, and an easy-to-use five-way navigation joystick.
- Screen. The screen performs well in both bright light and shade, and the contrast is adjustable (although we found the default setting to be just fine). Numbers and text were clear. Though the GolfBuddy Tour has a color screen, the device doesn’t take full advantage of it.
- Form Factor. The unit is about average for the devices in our test of size and weight, and can easily be kept in the pocket during play. If you would prefer not to keep it in your pocket, there is a belt clip provided (which may get in the way if you carry your bag).
- Starting a Round. After powering on, it took 30 seconds for the GolfBuddy Tour to acquire satellites, and then another 30 seconds to automatically recognize both the course (no need to scroll through a long list of golf courses) and the current hole.
Suggestion Box: Our reviewers expressed some dissatisfaction that distances to all marked points continue to clutter the screen for the duration of the time the user is playing the hole. It would be nice if marked points were removed after they have been passed by the user, since players rarely hit the ball back toward the tee box.
A chart comparing ease of use across different devices is available here.
Course Detail and Mapping
The Good: The GolfBuddy Tour excels in the ease with which a user can add additional marked points (hazards, layup distances, etc.) while on the course.
The Bad: The GolfBuddy Tour was wildly inconsistent with respect to the amount of detail provided on different courses, ranging from extremely comprehensive to disappointingly limited – so adding additional marked points may be critical. We note that adding these marked points is only useful for the next round you play on a course, something that matters if you travel to play a variety of courses and only get to play one round on each course. And don’t forget to save the targets after the round before powering off the GolfBuddy Tour, because if you forget, all of your work is gone.
- Views. The device provides views with: (1) hole information (par, hole handicap); (2) a “green view” with distances to front/middle/back and (3) a “target view” list of targets and distances (distances to five targets per hole are shown, plus distance to the green). The interface is straightforward, allowing the user to quickly navigate between the different views.
- The green view provides a rudimentary graphic showing the shape of the green. The graphic of the green will rotate as the user’s position relative to the green changes, and quickly calculates the distance to the new front, middle and back of the green from that position.
- Using the joystick, users can select any point on the green to get distance readings. We did note that the response of the cursor when moving on the green view is a bit herky jerky.
- The GolfBuddy Tour does not provide an overhead map of the hole, but when it identifies hazards, the detail it provides is among the best of the devices that don’t provide hole shape maps. For example, with clusters of bunkers, the device was consistent in aggregating together the bunkers and relaying the distance to the first of the bunkers and the distance to carry the last of the bunkers.
- In addition to distances to water and bunker hazards, the GolfBuddy Tour provides distances to fixed “layup” points in the center of the fairway 150 and 100 yards from the green.
- Custom Mapping. Users can add up to 11 additional marked points per hole.
The Good: The GolfBuddy Tour is about average in the set of features that it provides.
The Bad: The GolfBuddy Tour is about average in the set of features that it provides. (What can we say? Average can be both good and bad.)
- Shot Tracking. Users can measure the distance of their shots, but there is no ability to enter the club used for the shot measured, nor to save more than one distance at a time.
- Score and Statistics. The score for each hole can be entered during the round, and the GolfBuddy Tour will keep track the total relative to par. We found that entering scores and keeping track of overall progress was relatively simple, with an easy learning curve. Sadly, for those who are statistics junkies, there is no option for additional information to be input, such as fairways hit, greens in regulation, sand saves, and the like.
- Auto-Advance. The GolfBuddy Tour automatically advances to the next hole, which adds to its simplicity, but for users who hole out early and want to study the next hole while waiting for their playing partners, it’s a bit of a complicated process to manually advance to the next hole.
Device Accuracy: As is the case for most units tested, the device accuracy of the GolfBuddy Tour was generally within 4 yards of where expected, which is perfectly reasonable. Our test was based on accuracy to specific hazards – since the GolfBuddy Tour does not provide graphics for hazards on the hole, we were forced to estimate specifically which point was being measured by the device. Nonetheless, the distance shown by the device was generally close to those shown by its competitors.
Mapping Accuracy: Our on-course experience with the GolfBuddy Tour did raise concerns with respect to mapping accuracy. We had significant issues on one course with repeated inaccurate readings to marked “layup” points which quickly made us lose faith in the mapping for that course. Strangely, the readings to the front, middle and back of the greens as well as hazards were accurate, so it was limited to the “layup” points, but just a few wacky readings (and seeing your shot sail over the desired landing point and into a creek) is enough to make you think about just turning the device off.
Retail Price: The GolfBuddy Tour retails for $289.99, and is one of the least expensive devices tested.
Fees for Access to Course Database: Zippo. No additional annual fees or course download fees. We like it!
Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no additional annual fees or course download fees, the GolfBuddy Tour winds up being less expensive than a number of its competitors when it comes to the three-year total cost of ownership (which we feel is a much better indication of the actual cost to the user).
Value: A reasonable cost for the device coupled with solid ease of use make the GolfBuddy Tour a device to consider.