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Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

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GolfBuddy Tour

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.

SCORE
86
GRADE
B
Setup
100
Course Availability
99
Ease of Use
94
Course Details
87
Features
82
Accuracy
90
Cost/Value
86

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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


100 / A+

Setup
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:


99 / A+

Course Availability
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.


94 / A

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.
Details:

  • 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.


87 / B+

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.
Details:

  • 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.

82 / B-

Features
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.)
Details:

  • 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.

90 / A-

Accuracy
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.


86 / B

Cost/Value

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.


GolfLogix GPS-8

Editor’s note: GolfLogix has stopped manufacturing the GPS-8 as the company turns its focus to their new GolfLogix iPhone golf GPS app (also available on other smartphones). The GolfLogix GPS-8 is still available from Amazon.com as they sell through their remaining inventory.

It doesn’t get much more basic and easy to use than the GolfLogix GPS-8. There are adequate hazards marked per hole, solid accuracy, and automatic advancement between screens. The GolfLogix web site promotes that there are no buttons to push during the round – and that is the one key item to remember about this GPS device.

If you don’t care about bells and whistles and are looking for a device to turn on at the start of the round, off at the end, and never touch a button in-between, this could be the GPS unit for you. If you are more comfortable with technology, you will probably be happier looking elsewhere. No frills means no hole views, no ability to record additional targets, and no recording of scores or shot statistics.

Even though the GolfLogix GPS-8 has one of the lowest costs of ownership over a three-year period, buyers still seem to be paying a premium for the Garmin brand name, along with the celebrity endorsements from Peter Kostis and Gary McCord’s moustache. Consumers would be remiss to not consider other competitive units that have price points slightly above and below that of the GolfLogix GPS-8.

SCORE
74
GRADE
C
Setup
74
Course Availability
100
Ease of Use
89
Course Details
77
Features
74
Accuracy
92
Cost/Value
79

Pros:

  • Simple to use
  • One of lowest total costs over three-year period
  • Impressive coverage of golf courses in our course availability test

Cons:

  • Most bulky of units tested
  • All text – there are no pictures of holes
  • Simple is as simple does – fewest features of units tested

Retail price: $199.95
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the GolfLogix iPhone app


74 / C

Setup
The Good: Straightforward desktop software makes it easy to manage the transfer of golf courses to the device. The ability to load up to 20 courses on the device is useful for anyone going on an extended golf trip. The GolfLogix GPS-8 uses 2 AA batteries (included), so there is no charging necessary prior to use. Our reviewers liked this feature, since there is never that panic-stricken moment at the airport on a golf trip when you remember you left the charger for your golf GPS device at home. Just remember to toss a couple of extra batteries into your bag …just in case.
The Bad: Took the longest of all devices tested to set up, mostly as a result of the required software download and an update to that software.
Details:

  • Required Steps. Like most devices, the GolfLogix GPS-8 requires a set-up process involving:
    • registering on their web site to create a free account;
    • installing “desktop manager” software on a PC or Mac;
    • searching for desired golf courses through the desktop manager software;
    • downloading selected golf courses to the PC or Mac; and
    • using the desktop manager software to transfer (or “sync”) the courses to the device.
  • Time Required for Setup. Unfortunately, the GolfLogix GPS-8 took the longest of any device tested to set up, with a start-to-finish time of 25 minutes, a good part of which was the result of the required software download and the latest update for that software.

What’s in the Box: The GolfLogix GPS-8 comes with:

  • Bag-belt clip
  • USB cable
  • 2 AA batteries
  • Quick Start Guide

Required Download:

  • GolfLogix Course Manager software

Optional Download:


100 / A+

Course Availability
Critical Golf Test: The GolfLogix course database flexed its muscle in our course coverage test, with best-in-class coverage of 100% of the courses we sampled and strength across all types of courses and in all regions of the country. The GolfLogix GPS-8 scored big points with our reviewers on this front – after all, what good is a fancy device if the course that you are playing isn’t available?
Manufacturer’s Claims: GolfLogix claims to have over 25,300 courses available worldwide in its course database, the second largest number among GPS devices tested. As detailed in “Talladega Nights”: (Ricky Bobby) “You can’t have two number ones.” (Cal Naughton, Jr.) “Yeah, ’cause that would be eleven.”


89 / B+

Ease of Use
The Good: The GolfLogix GPS-8 is designed for ease of use. In terms of features, the device is one of the most basic and stripped-down devices we tested – the positive spin is that it could not be any more simple and straightforward to use.
The Bad: To paraphrase Dean Wormer in Animal House, thick, long and heavy is no way for a golf GPS device to go through life. Also, would it kill GolfLogix to show us what hole we’re on in the primary “target” view?
Details:

  • Buttons. The GolfLogix GPS-8 only has four buttons: power, scroll up and down, page and enter, and is unique among the devices tested with all buttons on the sides as opposed to the face.
  • Screen. Screen quality is only fair, with large readable text being the saving grace for the extremely low resolution. There are 11 different contrast settings, but regardless of the setting, the screen quality isn’t at the level of premium GPS devices.
  • Form Factor. The GolfLogix GPS-8 is among the larger and heavier devices we tested. It is better suited for a belt clip – but do you really want to be one of “those” guys? You might as well wear a Bluetooth headset through your entire round as well, just to top off the look.
  • Starting a Round. When powered up, the device automatically determines which golf course is being played (based on the location) and automatically advances the user from hole-to-hole throughout the round. Within a given hole, the GolfLogix GPS-8 will also auto-advance to the particular screen view (there are one or two “target view” screens that provide a list of targets and the distances to those targets, as well as a “green view” that shows distances to the front/middle/back of the green) it believes is appropriate for the user’s position. For the most part this works well and simplifies the use of the product, though at times the device will auto-advance too quickly. We saw examples of where our reviewer was still nearly 150 yards from a bunker when the Golflogix GPS-8 advanced to the next hazard screen (perhaps the device was trying to play a Jedi mind-trick on our reviewer – “You don’t need the distance to that bunker…this is not the bunker you are looking for…you can go about your business…move along.”).

Suggestion Box: One glaring omission for the GolfLogix GPS-8 is that is does not display the hole number on the target view screens (the hole number is displayed on the green view). Maybe we are just paranoid, but when we were off of the fairway, we would worry that the device would think we were on the hole coming back the other direction, and show us hazards for the wrong hole. This resulted in a lot of fumbling back and forth between screens to assuage our paranoia.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf chart comparing ease of use across the different golf GPS devices tested.


77 / C+

Course Detail and Mapping
The Good: The distances displayed on the green view for “front” and “back” of the green are for the nearest and farthest points on the green from the user’s position. In other words, the “front and back” distances are measured relative to where the user stands, as opposed to being the front and back of the green as seen from the tee box.
The Bad: Because the GolfLogix GPS-8 does not display a picture or map of the hole, it can be difficult to tell which hazard is being referenced. For example, we saw distances listed “To Bunkers” when there were bunkers on the left and right sides of the hole, and “To Lt Bunker” when there were multiple bunkers on the left. Also, the device shows a maximum of 6 targets per hole, which sometimes isn’t enough information. This problem is only compounded by the fact that there is no ability to supplement maps with additional targets.
Details:

  • Views. The GolfLogix GPS-8 has two views – the target view and the green view.
    • Unfortunately, none of the views utilize graphics – the data is all textual.
    • In the target view, the device will show up to six marked points (i.e. hazards or layup distances) per hole. In most instances there are 3, 5 or 6 marked points. As indicated above, there are times when the maximum six marked points are not nearly enough information.
    • The device regularly provides distances to 150 and 100 yard layup points, as well as 125 yard layups on occasion. These layup points are fixed points located in the middle of the fairway.
  • Hole Information. As mentioned above, it befuddles us why GolfLogix GPS-8 doesn’t show what hole you are on in the target view (it is, however, willing to share this information on the green view).
  • Custom Mapping. Users who want to add additional target points on the course are out of luck as the GolfLogix GPS-8 lacks the ability to add additional targets or map courses. With distances to hazards provided in some situations and the distance to clear hazards at others, users may be left without the information they need.

74 / C

Features
The Good: Easy to use the shot-distance measuring function. Oh, and the device is waterproof!
The Bad: Shot-distance measuring is about the only nifty feature that the GolfLogix provides. The trade-off for its simplicity is that device provides an extremely limited set of features – if you are looking for shiny bells or whistles, you will have to look elsewhere.
Details:

  • Shot Tracking. The GolfLogix GPS-8 does allow users to measure the distance of their last shot quite easily, but if the user is in the process of measuring this distance, they cannot leave the distance tracking screen.
  • Score and Statistics. The device does not allow for recording scores, tracking statistics or betting.
  • Auto-Advance. As noted above in “Setup”, the GolfLogix GPS-8 auto-advances to each hole, and will also move to different target view screens based on where the user is within the hole.
  • Waterproof. The GPS-8 is one of only two devices tested that is 100% waterproof (as opposed to being water resistant), so feel free to drive the cart right into a water hazard with no concerns (Editors note: the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by this reviewer with respect to plunging a cart into a lake do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs or viewpoints of Critical Golf, LLC or its management). The downside of the waterproof design is that the buttons are not quite as responsive as on other tested units, a byproduct of the waterproof outer layer.

Check out the Critical Golf comparison chart of golf GPS features across all devices tested.


92 / A-

Accuracy
Device Accuracy: We did not observe any noticeable device accuracy issues during our test of the GolfLogix GPS-8, with distances to known targets coming well within the acceptable margin of error of three to four yards.
Mapping Accuracy: Our on-course testing also found the device to be generally reliable with respect to mapping accuracy. We do note that because the GolfLogix GPS-8 stops providing distance readings once a user is within 30 yards of a marked point or the green, we were only able to test accuracy at distances outside of that range.


79 / C+

Cost/Value

Retail Price: The retail price of the GolfLogix GPS-8 is $199.95, one of the lowest unit prices for devices tested.
Fees for Access to Course Database: GolfLogix requires payment of an annual membership fee of $29.95 to access their course database. We were somewhat displeased to see that GolfLogix buries this cost in tiny print on its web site.
Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: Even with an annual membership fee, the GolfLogix GPS-8 comes in with a three-year total costs of ownership of only $289.80, one of the lowest costs for devices tested.
Value: Value, of course, is more than just the raw cost of the device – it factors in the features and functionality that the device provides. In the case of the GolfLogix GPS-8, unfortunately you only get what you pay for.


Golf Guru Color Guru

The Golf Guru Color Guru is rich in features but the design of the hardware, user interface and packaging all could use a lot of polish. It ranks highly with respect to the amount of data that users can add to existing course maps, but the interface to add this data is challenging for those who are not gadget-oriented. The device has a nice color screen, but the data presented by the device is largely text based and doesn’t fully utilize the color functionality. Lastly, the manufacturer made a puzzling design decision that will have you consistently holding the device upside down.

Even with the second lowest three-year cost of any product, we think most consumers would be well-served to check out whether one of the more user-friendly alternatives to the Golf Guru Color Guru would be a better fit for them before making this purchase.

SCORE
87
GRADE
B+
Setup
78
Course Availability
100
Ease of Use
80
Course Details
90
Features
91
Accuracy
94
Cost/Value
92

Pros:

  • Maps up to 30 targets per hole
  • The second least expensive device over a three-year period
  • Easy to track score and statistics

Cons:

  • Device layout makes you feel like you are holding it upside-down
  • Unclear identification of hazards can make for confusing distances
  • Little utilization of premium color screen

Retail price: $399.95

Availability: Discontinued; replaced by the Golf Guru 4


78 / C+

Setup

The Good: Setting up the Golf Guru Color Guru is like putting duct tape on your muffler to pass a smog test – it ain’t pretty, but it doesn’t take too long, and it works.

The Bad: Clearly Golf Guru’s technical writer has gone on to an illustrious career of writing unintelligible assembly instructions for Scandinavian particle board bookshelves. Take the Quick Start Guide and throw it in the trash, as it contains references to a download URL that no longer exists, a CD that isn’t included, and technical specs that don’t mention that Apple computers are supported (they are). Turn instead to the User Manual, which looks as if it was created in about an hour. While you may eventually find that you want to throw the User Manual in the trash as well, at least it contains up-to-date information. The lack of attention to detail is clear throughout, and we don’t think anyone wants to read a manual that outlines how to alternate between the “center, near and fart [sic] measurements by scrolling the joystick…” (insert your own joke about the bean burrito at the turn here) . We wish we were kidding.

Details:

  • Required steps. Setting up the Golf Guru Color Guru is a process similar to those for most other devices, involving:
    • registering on their web site to create a free account;
    • installing “desktop manager” software on a PC or Mac;
    • searching for desired golf courses through the web interface;
    • downloading selected golf courses to the PC or Mac; and
    • using the desktop manager software to transfer (or “sync”) the courses to the device.
  • Time required for setup. The entire set-up process took us about 12 minutes, including the registration process and syncing 15 different courses (four minutes were needed just for course syncing). Golf Guru’s web interface and desktop manager software weren’t particularly slick or pretty (and in some cases were decidedly awkward), but they got the job done.

Suggestion Box: It would have been to nice to have a light on the device to indicate that the unit has completed charging – the only way to check seems to be to power on the device, wait for it to boot up, and look at its battery indicator meter on the screen – a bit of a clunky process.

What’s in the Box: The Golf Guru Color Guru comes with:

  • USB cable
  • Wall adapter
  • Quick Start Guide

Required Downloads: The user must download:


100 / A+

Course Availability

Critical Golf Test: In our course coverage test, the Golf Guru Color Guru finished at the top with perfect 100% coverage. Nothing more to add to that!

Manufacturer’s Claims: Golf Guru claims to offer about 20,000 courses for download, which puts it in the middle of the pack among devices tested.


80 / B-

Ease of Use

The Good: The Golf Guru Color Guru is relatively easy to use. With just a little bit of experimentation (because even if you are one of those three people in the world who reads a manual before using a device, trust us that this is NOT the manual to read), users can quickly learn to explore the wealth of functionality that is available.

The Bad: Users will be naturally inclined to hold the Golf Guru Color Guru upside-down, because contrary to the design of every portable device on the market ranging from calculators to cell phones to iPods, the designers of the device opted to put the buttons ABOVE the screen instead of below it. This means that the screen will be blocked by your fingers when navigating menus, and that you will quickly see smudges on the screen from your hot dog condiments at the snack shack. It is truly maddening. In theory this is to provide stronger signal strength for the GPS antenna, but we didn’t notice any advantage in accuracy over the other devices tested.

Details:

  • Buttons. There are seven buttons (power, mark shot, back, menu, and three soft keys) and one joystick – this allows for quick navigation through menus once you are up to speed. The buttons have a nice solid feel to them, though players with larger fingers may find them bit too close together.
  • Screen. The screen was crisp and clear, and our reviewers noted no problems viewing it in either bright sunlight or under overcast skies. Users can choose from four levels of screen brightness.
  • Form Factor. Though the unit was one of the largest tested in terms of length and width, it was the second thinnest device and felt comfortable in a pocket during play.

90 / A-

Course Detail and Mapping

The Good: The Golf Guru Color Guru displays better than average detail on the courses during the play of a round. For those users who have the initiative, it also provides remarkable flexibility for adding and saving additional targets to the course maps.

The Bad: The device sometimes omits distances to certain obvious targets or provides only half of the equation. For example, it will often provide the distance to a bunker, but not the distance to clear the bunker, even when the bunker is clearly in play. And unlike some of its competitors, the Golf Guru Color Guru does not provide distances to layup points (100 yards from the middle of the green, 150 yards, etc.).

Details:

  • Views. Users will likely cycle between two screens when utilizing the device: the target view and the smart green view.
    • The target view is text only and shows up to three target distances along with the distance to the green. Navigation between the target and green views is simple. While it is relatively easy to decipher the target descriptors (“Clr Lt Bunker” = Distance to clear the left bunker), it often isn’t clear which point on the golf course is being referenced. For example, in a cluster of bunkers, it may not be clear which bunker is the “2nd Lt Bunker”, since that descriptor refers to the second bunker marked on the hole, not necessarily the 2nd bunker on the hole. Since the Golf Guru Color Guru doesn’t provide an overhead pictorial map of the hole, you are left to your best guess.
    • The smart green view displays a graphic of the approximate shape of the green, which is relatively basic but acceptable. Blue and red marks helpfully denote the “near” and “far” green points from the user and move according to the player’s position relative to the green. The Golf Guru Color Guru’s joystick allows the player to pinpoint any location on the green and is very responsive (some competitive devices display a noticeable lag in responding to joystick movements).
  • Hole Information. While the target and green views both display the current hole and par, there isn’t a notation of hole handicap, and we did find one case where the hole par was incorrect (this can be fixed by editing the course).
  • Custom Mapping. As mentioned above, the Golf Guru Color Guru is great for those who enjoy customizing a course map on their own. The device stands apart with the ability to map a whopping 30 target points per hole and provides a unique feature that allows the user to map an outline of the green merely by walking around the green during the mapping process. We do note that using this mapping functionality is not the smoothest process, requiring more time to learn and navigate than on other devices, so it may appeal only to more technologically savvy users.

91 / A-

Features

The Good: The Golf Guru Color Guru is one of the more feature rich devices available, with particular strength in tracking statistics during play (fairways hit, greens in regulation, etc.). The statistics can be synced to your computer (albeit in a not-so-user friendly process) to be tracked over time.

The Bad: There’s a nice color screen, but the device doesn’t take advantage of it. The polish of the text and graphics are less sharp than desired. Also, although Golf Guru trumpets the ability to upload saved scores from your computer to ushandicap.com, they fail to mention the annual fee ranging from $4.95 to $21.95 (depending on whether you want to maintain a USGA handicap, and whether you want easy access to all of your statistics from the web).

Details:

  • Shot Tracking. The device can track distances of multiple shots, and also allows the player to add attributes including position on course and club selection (as long as you don’t play hybrids, as those aren’t included as one of the club choices). At any time during or after the round you can review your tracked shots.
  • Score and Statistics. The Golf Guru Color Guru allows users to track their score through a straightforward interface. It provides a visual scorecard that displays the score relative to par during play, though it is nested a few clicks away from the main hole view. Additionally, it is easy to track fairways hit, greens in regulation and putts.
  • Auto-Advance. Users can set whether the device will automatically advance to the next hole, prompt the user on whether to automatically advance, or only advance manually.
  • Clock. Both the target view and green view show the time, which is particularly helpful in determining how appropriate it is to yell at the slow group in front of you.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS features.


94 / A

Accuracy

Device Accuracy: The Golf Guru Color Guru’s GPS receiver has 16 channels, and our test of device accuracy showed it to be accurate to within three to four yards – as good as any other golf GPS device.

Mapping Accuracy: At a high level, we did not see any accuracy issues with Golf Guru’s course mapping. We would note that the device stops displaying distances to a target once the user is within 50 yards of the target, which makes it difficult to get a real feel for the accuracy of their mapping.


92 / A-

Cost/Value

Retail Price: The Golf Guru Color Guru retails for $399.95.

Fees for Access to Course Database: None! No annual fees, and no per course download fees. Now that’s a price we can live with!

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: The three-year total cost of ownership (which makes certain assumptions on the number of new courses a user will add each year) is the most relevant calculation of cost in our estimate, and the Golf Guru Color Guru shines due to its lack of any additional annual fee or course download fees. With a total cost over three years of $399.95, the Color Guru has the third lowest three-year total cost of GPS devices reviewed.

Value: Notwithstanding the nice three-year cost of ownership, we think that consumers considering purchase of a Color Guru should take a serious look at its grayscale little brother, the Original Golf Guru. Retailing for $249.95, the Original Golf Guru will save you $150 and matches the Color Guru in functionality, with the two primary differences being the lack of a color screen and less storage to hold courses on the device (40 courses vs. the Color Guru’s 200 courses), neither of which are dealbreakers in our estimation.

Availability: Discontinued; replaced by the Golf Guru 4


Sonocaddie V300

OVERALL RATING: 82. GRADE: B-. The Sonocaddie V300 has a lot going for it – there are some great features, and the bright color screen and overhead hole maps are huge selling points. But some serious inaccuracies in distance readings across a number of courses shattered our confidence in the device. Also, while there are rational ways to access each feature, they are not necessarily intuitive (for example, some features are only accessible through buttons on the side of the device, and not through the main menu).

We actually liked the device itself very much, but the repeated significant mapping errors keep us from being able to wholeheartedly recommend it for purchase. If the excellent feature set of the Sonocaddie V300 still lures you toward making the purchase, we would recommend doing some searches on the Internet to see if anyone has experienced problems with the course maps for your favorite courses.

SCORE
82
GRADE
B-
Setup/Syncing
80
Course Availability
95
Ease of Use
87
Course Details
90
Features
88
Accuracy
74
Cost/Value
84

Pros:

  • Overhead map of each hole
  • Vibrant color screen
  • Scorecard and statistics tracking

Cons:

  • Poor mapping accuracy
  • Front and back points of green are fixed and don’t move relative to the player
  • Clipart for targets creates a confusing picture of the hole

Retail price: $349.00
Three year total cost: $378.95
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Sonocaddie V300+ (not reviewed)


80 / B-

SETUP

The Good: Excellent Quick Start instructions that lead the user smoothly through the installation of the software, featuring detailed descriptions of each screen the user will encounter.

The Bad: We ran into a hitch at the end of the setup process, when we were syncing the courses from the PC to the device. The Sonocaddie software continued to display a “Linking” message for about 10 minutes, after which we disconnected the unit. The good news is that the V300 had actually already completed loading the courses. It seems there are some issues with notifying the user when the software has completed transferring courses to the V300. There is no support for Mac users.

Details:

  • Required Steps. The Sonocaddie V300 requires a setup process similar to those for most other devices, involving:
    • registering on their web site to create a free account;
    • installing “desktop manager” software on a PC (the software will automatically search for any necessary updates);
    • searching for desired golf courses;
    • downloading selected courses to the PC; and
    • transferring (or “syncing”) the courses from the PC to the device through a USB cable.
  • Time Required for Setup. The entire process took about 30 minutes, among the longest for devices in our test, though the actual time would likely have been on the order of 20 minutes had the V300 correctly notified us when it had finished transferring courses

Suggestion Box: Sonocaddie sends a confirmation e-mail upon completion of registration for a free web account, which contains a link that must be clicked to activate the account and begin downloading courses. Keep your eye on your spam filter, as the confirmation email sent to us was swept into a junk mail folder.

What’s in the Box: The Sonocaddie V300 comes with the equipment listed below. Consumers should note that the device requires Windows 2000/XP/Vista and is not supported on the Mac.


95 / A

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: The Sonocaddie V300 keeps growing its database of courses, and now is above average in our golf course coverage analysis.

Manufacturer’s Claims: Sonocaddie claims to have 16,000 North American courses available in its database, which places it average against its competitors (no claims are made for a worldwide figure).


87 / B+

EASE OF USE

The Good: The design is pretty well thought out, but isn’t particularly intuitive. Once you learn how to access a certain feature, it’s easy to use that feature, but learning to navigate the buttons or menus requires some investment of time.

The Bad: The Sonocaddie V300’s 5-way navigation button is not quite as user-friendly as the joysticks or circular buttons on other GPS devices, and is a bit too easy for users to accidentally push in one direction when they mean to depress the button. As mentioned above, heavy reliance on the side buttons isn’t particularly intuitive for most users, but does make for an easier experience once you get up the learning curve.

Details:

  • Buttons. The Sonocaddie has the largest number of buttons of any GPS device tested, including a 5-way navigation button, left and right soft keys, and buttons for power, scorecard, escape/back, hole selection, course layout, and mark shot.
  • Screen. The color screen was vibrant and clear, and is one of the strong suits of the Sonocaddie V300. We had no issues seeing the displayed information, even in bright sunlight.
  • Form Factor. Though it is one of the larger golf GPS devices, the Sonocaddie V300 can comfortably be left in a pocket during play. The rubber coating around the outside of the unit makes it easy to hold, but the fluorescent green (good luck matching your golf attire) trim had a remarkable ability to attract dirt and grime.
  • Starting a Round. To begin play, the user needs to select the course to be played from the alphabetical list of courses stored on the device, and then choose the hole on which to begin play.

Suggestion Box: Why not make the 1st Hole the default hole when starting a round, instead of forcing the user to choose the beginning hole? Is there some giant target market of people out there who always play in shotguns and need this flexibility as the default setting?


90 / A-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: We love the overhead map of the hole, as it provides excellent context on how to play the hole. The Sonocaddie V300 also provides an easy interface to add and save custom targets on any hole.

The Bad: The data on distances to the green is limited to the front, middle and back points as viewed from the tee box.

Details:

  • Views. The player can quickly rotate through the three hole views, including an overhead map showing the full shape of the hole (“course layout” screen), a green view, and an informational view of the hole displaying obstacles along with their relative position (“target view”).
    • While the overhead map of the hole proves excellent context, you can’t zoom in on individual points on a hole, or differentiate an individual bunker within a cluster.
    • One serious shortcoming of the device is that on the green view, the front and back points of the green are fixed points that do not move in relation to the player. So if you aren’t dead-center on the fairway, you will have some additional guesswork to do to determine the distance to the nearest and farthest points on the green from your location.
    • Up to four targets are pre-mapped by Sonocaddie on the target view. Users can add additional targets until the maximum total of six targets (including both pre-mapped and user-mapped targets) is reached.
    • On the target view, distances to marked points continue to be displayed even after the user passes them, leaving the screen more cluttered than necessary.
  • Hole Information. Par for each hole is displayed on the scorecard, but hole handicaps are not available.
  • Custom Mapping. The Sonocaddie V300 enables users to quickly mark additional targets during play on the course. Note that while Sonocaddie is enamored with cute little clip art pictures of the various targets that you can add (bunkers, creeks, et al), these pictures can clutter the screen. For example, if the distance to reach a bunker is already mapped, and you want to add the distance to clear the bunker, you will get overlapping bunker clip art on the target view. On the plus side, the Sonocaddie V300 will retain the custom mapping data stored on the device unless the user edits or erases the data on purpose, which is a huge help for those of us who are so focused on the 19th Hole that we forget to click “save” for all the points we mapped during the round.

88 / B+

FEATURES

The Good: Great scorecard and statistical tracking that is easy to enter.

The Bad: Not much to criticize here, as the Sonocaddie V300 is one of the more feature-laden devices available.

Details:

  • Shot Tracking. The Sonocaddie V300 can track the distances of shots. It also has a unique “auto track” feature that will record the path the user walks during the round. Users can later view this path on each hole to see just how wayward they went, and combine it with the “shot track” feature to show the location of each shot during their round.
  • Score and Statistics. The Sonocaddie V300 has two modes for scoring and statistics – “Normal”, which only shows par and your score, and “Pro”, which allows you to also enter putts, fairways hit and whether you visited any bunkers around the green. If using the Pro mode, an analysis view will show you a variety of statistics, all shown as percentages aside from average putts per hole (though we would have preferred to have the option to view the statistics as “X out of Y”). The analysis view is extremely thorough, though not all of the statistics shown are particularly useful (the percentage of the time I have a double eagle during a particular round sadly isn’t particularly relevant to my game). As a side note, scorecards are not available for all mapped courses.
  • Auto-Advance. The device does have an auto-advance feature, but the prompt to auto advance comes before you can enter your score and statistics. As a result, if users want to enter their score and statistics, they need to decline the auto-advance and manually advance to the next hole after inputting the data.
  • Preferences. The Sonocaddie V300 allows adjusting a variety of preferences, ranging from color palette to backlight time and brightness level, although the button combinations necessary to effect these changes during a round will likely deter the average user from doing so.

Suggestion Box: The Sonocaddie V300’s statistical analysis backs-in to whether you hit a green-in-regulation (GIR) based on the user’s number of putts, though it can be inaccurate for corner cases on those lightning-fast greens where some of us (ahem) happen to putt off and then need to chip up to the green again. A “yes/no” entry for GIR might have been more appropriate. Also, it would be nice to see the par for the hole in the hole views (it currently is only available from the scorecard).

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS features across all devices tested.


74 / C

ACCURACY

Device Accuracy: The Sonocaddie V300 indicates how accurate its readings are, determined by how many satellites are being picked up at any given time, a feature that no other unit offers. And our tests showed the device itself to be spot-on in accuracy. That’s the good news.

Mapping Accuracy: The bad news is that we found inaccurate distances created by mapping errors – and these were horrifically off the mark (more than 20 yards off). Our reviewers have a tough enough time hitting good shots – imagine their shock when they airmailed a green by 20 yards because of a bad distance reading.

This course mapping accuracy issue wasn’t limited to a single course. Distance inaccuracies were confirmed on multiple courses in clear weather with full signal strength and the device indicating that it was accurate within 3 yards, and cross-checked against distance markers on the course and other GPS devices. These mapping errors can be fixed through re-mapping the course on your own, but we expect a lot more for $400 retail.

We note that once the V300 was less than five yards from a target, it would no longer provide a distance reading to that target. This seems perfectly reasonable given the standard margin for error of GPS (3-4 yards).


84 / B

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: The Sonocaddie V300 retails for $349.00.

Fees for Access to Course Database: Users can choose between paying:

  • $29.95 one-time fee for unlimited courses within the United States, with courses outside of the United States priced a la carte at $5 per course;
  • $49.95 one-time fee for unlimited courses worldwide; or
  • $5 per course with no lifetime fee (and 5 free initial courses).

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: Our calculation of the cost to the user over three years for the Sonocaddie V300 was $378.95, which puts it right in the middle of the pack in our cost comparison of GPS devices. The relatively reasonable course database access fees were offset by the high retail price for the unit itself.

Value: Of the higher-priced premium units in our test, the Sonocaddie V300 adds a one-time fee to push it to a price point higher than some of the competition. While still lower in total cost than some of the competition, the interface and mapping errors we encountered affected our perception of the value of the device.

Updated (course coverage): March 2013