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Callaway LR1200

The Callaway LR1200 is part of the new Callaway lineup of five (!) rangefinders, and is their high-end USGA-compliant device. While you may not have traditionally thought of Callaway as a provider of rangefinders, they have jumped into golf accessories in a big way with their current line of laser rangefinders (which is co-branded as “technology from Nikon”) and their acquisition of uPlay, makers of the uPro golf GPS device.

SCORE
90
GRADE
A-
Ease of Use
92
Features
90
Obtaining Readings
93
Cost/Value
89

The 7x magnification of the Callaway LR1200 tied for the highest level of magnification of any laser rangefinder we tested. It features the ability to scan targets and receive constantly rapidly updated distance readings, and does so while still doing an excellent job at picking out flagsticks at a distance. Additionally, the Callaway LR 1200 is the only device tested that displays yardages to 1/2 yard increments.

While it is the highest priced device in our test, the Callaway LR 1200 is a well-made device that covers all of the needs a user would have in a USGA-compliant device. We recommend that it be included on any buyer’s short list.

Retail price: $499.99

Availability: Discontinued; Replaced by the Callaway iQ


92 / A-

Ease of Use
The Callaway LR1200 is the most portly of the vertically-held laser rangefinders tested by a wide margin, at 10.1 oz and 5.7” x 1.9” x 3.2”. It comes with a lightweight soft “sport case” (picture a wetsuit for a laser rangefinder) designed to be kept on the device during use, and includes a carabiner clip to attach the LR1200 to a bag or cart (though reviewers tired of having to clip and unclip the carabiner each time and would have preferred a pouch similar to the Leupold devices). The “case” features a removable lens cover (button on one end, Velcro on the other) – users can either remove this cover entirely during play, or simply un-Velcro it for each reading (we are anal enough that we preferred to keep the lens protected during play…just in case).
The Callaway LR1200 displays the distance read-out in the upper half portion of the viewfinder. If you’ve read our review of the Leupold GX-I, you’ll know what comment is coming next – we think that this positioning makes the distance read-out more difficult to see because the dark LCD numerals are often shown against a dark background, such as a tree line (though the situation is not as extreme as with the Leupold). Compare this with the Bushnell devices, which place the yardages directly below the crosshairs, where they are typically contrasted against the lighter colors of the green or fairway.

There is no ability to choose from different styles of crosshairs – just one simple version with lines extending from the center of the targeting area, and additional lines emanating from the center that appear when the laser is fired.

The LR1200 shines in generating rapid distance readings, and providing them in half-yard increments, the only device tested to provide such specificity (the company caveats that accuracy may not achieve +/- 0.5 yards at distances shorter than 22 yards or greater than 550 yards). The ability (or simply decision) to show in ½ yard increments sets the Callaway apart from all other laser rangefinders tested – now whether the typical user’s golf swing requires this level of precision is another matter entirely. The distance readings we obtained on the Callaway LR1200 were as accurate as the other devices we tested. As noted in How We Test – Accuracy, it was virtually impossible to differentiate the accuracy of one device from another – instead, variations were generally the result of better interfaces that lessened the chance of reading the distance to the wrong object.

As with most other rangefinders tested (the exception being the Opti-Logic InSight GL device), the Callaway LR1200 features an eyepiece that focuses the internal display. Compared to the others in the group, the LR1200’s eyepiece is the easiest to focus with one hand on the device.

Two buttons control the device, a power/laser button that powers the device on/off and also fires the laser, and a mode button to toggle between using yards and meters as the standard unit of distance.

The Callaway LR1200 takes one 3-volt Lithium battery. A battery meter is displayed at the bottom of the viewfinder at all times.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder ease of use.


90 / A-

Features
The Callaway LR1200 features a “pin locating” mode (Callaway calls it “First Target Priority” mode) that helps the user lock in on a flagstick or other object, which is active at all times. As with “pin locating” modes on competitive devices, “First Target Priority” mode means that when the device detects multiple objects when the laser is fired, it will provide the distance to the closest object. As a result, if the user is targeting a flagstick in front of a grove of trees, First Target Priority should help the device return the distance to the flagstick, which is closer.

Although the LR1200 in always in First Target Priority mode, it still allows the user to pan to different targets on the course and receive constantly updated distance readings by simply holding down the power/laser button. Contrast this with the Bushnell devices, which do not offer the panning mode when their “pin locating” mode is engaged. After about 25 seconds of continuous scanning, the user must re-fire the laser.

The Callaway LR1200 is about as simple as you can get – no settings to change other than yards or meters. And while some might say the more features the better, what the Callaway does, it does extremely well. It’s a straightforward device that is USGA-compliant, and meets all basic rangefinder requirements and then some.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder features.


93 / A

Obtaining Distance Readings
Callaway’s marketing materials state that the LR1200 can obtain distances from 11 to 1,200 yards, but doesn’t provide “performance ratings” of maximum distance readings for different types of objects. That’s fine with us – these “performance ratings” are relatively meaningless once you get to the course.
Ease of Locking on a Target:

  • At 150 yards, the Callaway LR1200 was quick in delivering readings, as were all of its competitors
  • Between 200 to 300 yards the LR1200 could pick out flagsticks reasonably well, though not at the level of the Bushnell 1600 or Leupold devices.
  • At over 300 yards, where users are pushing the abilities of rangefinders to lock onto flagsticks, the Callaway LR1200 was tops in our test alongside the Bushnell 1600 under optimal conditions, though under more challenging conditions trailed the Bushnell 1600. Flagsticks are really somewhat irrelevant at this distance, but for those who like to plan their strategy for laying up on a hole, this long-range accuracy can be handy.

The 7x magnification of the Callaway LR1200 is better than every other vertically held laser rangefinder, and equals the magnification of the horizontally held Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition. It’s a great advantage to have this level of magnification, which makes targeting objects and flagsticks at a distance much easier. We were surprised to find that there was a noticeable difference when we switched to using a device with just a slightly lower magnification (such as 6x). If you are like us, you will have a hard time returning to a device that provides any less magnification.

Speed Test:

In our speed test we found that the Callaway LR1200 was the fastest in scanning among devices tested (58 seconds).

  • Panning Mode: When we compared the LR1200 in its one mode (since it always has panning and pin-locating available) against other devices in their “panning” modes, the LR 1200 came in quickest among currently offered devices.
  • Pin-Locating Mode: When we compared the LR1200 in its one mode (since it always has panning and pin-locating available) against other devices in their “pin-locating” modes, the LR1200 really pulled away in terms of speed.
  • Using Both Modes: Suffice it to say that the LR1200 was also tops in the speed test when other devices were allowed to use both modes together (which, in the case of most other devices, required pushing the buttons to cycle between modes).

For comparison, check out the Critical Golf comparison for Ease of Obtaining Distance Readings.


89 / B+

Cost/Value
At $499.99 retail, the Callaway LR1200 is the highest priced USGA-compliant laser rangefinder that we tested, and was exceeded by only the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition among the more expensive slope-adjusting non-USGA compliant devices.

But value isn’t solely based on how cheap a device is. The LR1200 provides not only the Callaway name (for whatever that’s worth), but also 7x magnification, rapid distance updates while scanning at 1/2 yard increments, and solid flagstick targeting at the longest distances. It isn’t going to be easy for the Callaway LR1200 to match up against devices that are over $100 cheaper and offer the same functionality, such as the Leupold GX-I and Bushnell Tour V2, but if you are looking for an very good USGA-compliant vertically held laser rangefinder and you want to do your part to help bring this recession to an end, this device should be on your short list.

Amazon.com price: Discontinued; replaced by the Callaway iQ Laser Rangefinder


Leupold GX-I

Although the Leupold name has been around for over 100 years, the name may be new to many golfers. And when we took to the Leupold GX-I to the course, we have to admit to being skeptical about its performance. A small, lightweight, virtually unknown (to us) rangefinder…how good could it be?

SCORE
91
GRADE
A-
Ease of Use
96
Features
92
Obtaining Readings
94
Cost/Value
94

The answer – very, very good. In addition to being both the smallest and lightest rangefinder tested, the Leupold GX-I is an exceptional device. It picks up flagsticks at a distance as well as any of the portable vertically-oriented rangefinders, and features respectable 6x viewfinder magnification, a scanning mode to continuously update distances while targeting objects, and even the option for the user to choose from a number of different crosshairs.
All of this, combined with a reasonable price, make the Leupold GX-I a device we can wholeheartedly recommend.

Retail price: $374.99
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Leupld GX-1

For those who like the look of the Leupold GX-I but are looking for additional features such as slope-adjusted distance, check out our review of the Leupold GX-II.


96 / A

Ease of Use
Our testers liked the extremely compact size of the Leupold GX-I, which is both the lightest and smallest laser rangefinder we tested. A small carry case is included that clips to a bag or cart and even has a small external pouch for an extra battery.
The vertically-oriented device is easy to hold, with a somewhat tacky rubber exterior. The Leupold GX-I’s body is virtually entirely black. Head to head against other vertically-oriented rangefinders, the 6x magnification of the Leupold devices bests the Bushnell Tour V2, but falls shy of the 7x provided by the Callaway LR1200. The user can focus the display by twisting the eyepiece, though the Leupold GX-I is a bit more challenging to focus with a single hand than other devices.

Like most laser rangefinders, the Leupold features two buttons, one located on the top of the device that powers the device on/off and also fires the laser, and the other located on the lower left side of the device that toggles between modes. The user presses the mode button and then pushes the power/laser button to cycle between the different settings for that mode. In the GX-I, the only “mode” to be selected is yards versus meters as the standard unit of distance.

The Leupold GX-I’s “panning” mode enables the user to pan around the course to obtain distances to different points by simply holding down the power/laser button. The device will provide updated distance readings that blink on the upper left of the LCD display as they are refreshed. When panning across multiple targets, the Leupold GX-I does not update its readings quite as rapidly as some competitors, and will on occasion have the same problem we had with the Callaway LR1200, which, while quick to report a distance, will sometimes “skip” one reading if the user pans quickly across targets with large distance gaps (say, moving from a target at 150 yards to one at 300 yards). The Leupold seems to adopt a slow(er) and steady approach to updating the distance readings that we think most users will find to be sufficient for their needs. Note that while some rangefinders update readings significantly faster at shorter distances than they do at longer distances, we found that the Leupold updates at approximately the same rate regardless of distance.

The Leupold GX-I takes one CR-2 Lithium battery. A battery meter is positioned in the lower center of the viewfinder, along with an indicator of yards or meters to its right.

Our reviewers weren’t fond of having the distance reading displayed in the upper left of the viewfinder, where it was often difficult to see against darker backgrounds (such as a tree line). It is also slightly more difficult to have to look back and forth between the aiming crosshair in the center of the viewfinder and the yardage in the upper left, particularly when targeting faraway objects.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder ease of use.


92 / A-

Features
The Leupold GX-I has a “pin-locating” feature, which they call “Pinhunter” (the equivalent of “PinSeeker”, “PinPoint” or “First Target Priority” mode on competing devices), that makes it easier to determine the distance to specific targets such as flagsticks. The device automatically filters out readings from larger more “reflective” objects (like trees) in the background, and concentrates on obtaining a reading from the closer of the targets that are within the crosshairs (which should be the flagstick). But wait, there’s more! The Leupold is one of only two manufacturers (the other being Callaway) that uses the “pin-locating” mode all of the time, including while the user is panning across multiple objects – other devices force the user to switch back and forth between a panning mode and a “pin-locating” mode.

The Leupold rangefinders were the only laser devices tested that offer the ability to select a different style of targeting crosshair, allowing users to select from seven different options. Not necessary, but it certainly is nice to have a choice.

Some devices will power off if the user is in “panning” mode for an extended period of time. Not so for the Leupold GX-I! It was kind enough to maintain power while our ace laser reviewer scanned back and forth across the landscape for well over a minute before determining that no, he really can’t carry the ball over the bunker that is 248 yards away.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder features.


94 / A

Obtaining Distance Readings
Leupold’s marketing materials state that the GX-I is rated to accurately provide distances to flagsticks, trees and reflective objects at up to 250/600/750 yards under optimal conditions. While these numbers were the lowest among the devices we tested, we believe them to simply reflect marketing conservatism (an oxymoron, to be sure), as the Leupold could compete with the very best of devices at picking up targets at any distance.

Ease of Locking on a Target:

  • At up to 150 yards, the Leupold GX-I provided easy locking on a target, as did all of its competitors.
  • At up to 225 yards, the Leupold GX-I was competing with the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition as the best device for locking on to a flagstick.
  • At yardages in the high 200s, with a bright flag the Leupold could still pick up distances against a background of trees on most every refresh of the distance. Remember, the advantage of the Leupold’s combination of “panning” and “Pinhunter” in a single mode is that the user can receive constantly updated distances, and can thus quickly determine which distance is accurate if the device is moving between alternate distances – no need to re-shoot and wait for the device to lock onto the flagstick again.
  • At over 300 yards, the Leupold began to slightly lag the Callaway LR1200 and the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition in picking up a flag – although, none of the devices were exceptional at these distances.

Speed Test:
The Leupold GX-I finished toward the back of the line in our speed test for obtaining distance readings.

  • Panning Mode: When we compared the Leupold in its one mode (since it always has panning and pin-locating available) against other devices in their “panning” modes, it came in last (although it was within several seconds of two other devices).
  • Pin-Locating Mode: When we compared the Leupold in its one mode against other devices in their “pin-locating” modes, it finished in the middle of the pack. Which makes sense, since a great advantage of having a panning mode is that it is quicker to pick up multiple targets.
  • Using Both Modes: The Leupold also finished in the middle of the pack in the speed test when other devices were allowed to use both modes together (which, in the case of other devices, required pushing the buttons to cycle between modes).

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison for Ease of Obtaining Distance Readings.


94 / A

Cost/Value

At a retail price of $374.99, the cost of the Leupold GX-I is in line with competing vertically-oriented competitors. But as someone once sang, “It’s just the little things you do, that make me want to get with you…” And the Leupold GX-I does lots of little things well, with its portable size, reasonable 6x magnification, and ability to pick out targets. But wait, there’s more! The user can even choose from among a number of different styles of crosshairs. The result is a pretty good bang for the buck.
Oh, and the singers of that beautiful lyric? Wreckx-N-Effect in their touching ballad “Rumpshaker”, which peaked at #2 on the charts in 1992, behind Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. Ah yes…that takes us back…”Check baby, check baby, 1, 2, 3, 4…All I wanna do is zoom-a zoom zoom zoom in a boom boom…”


Callaway idTECH

OVERALL RATING: 88. GRADE: B+. The Callaway idTECH is part of the new Callaway lineup of rangefinders, and is their top-of-the line device. The idTECH is co-branded as “technology from Nikon”, and indeed, you can see the similarities to the Nikon Forestry 550. We liked the 6x magnification of the Callaway idTECH (the second highest level magnification available among the devices we tested), the “panning mode” for scanning across targets and receive constantly rapidly updated distance readings (in ½ yard increments up to 100 yards), and the idTECH’s ability to pick out flagsticks at a distance.

SCORE
88
GRADE
B+
Ease of Use
92
Features
86
Obtaining Readings
93
Cost/Value
88

We were a bit more lukewarm about the slope-related features of the idTECH. Unlike its competitors, the Callaway idTECH does NOT provide the user with an estimate of how far they should play a shot. What it does provide is a lot of information, including the line-of-slight distance (the hypotenuse, if you will), slope, elevation change to target, and horizontal distance (calculated assuming there was no slope), which can help the user in making their own determination of how far they ought to play the shot. Users with low handicaps are probably best positioned to take advantage of the data the idTECH provides, while higher handicappers may want to take a look at other devices that will provide an estimated “as adjusted” distance.

Retail price: $429.95
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by Callaway iQ.

Pros:

  • Quick to provide yardages
  • Excellent (6X) magnification in viewfinder

Cons:

  • Provides angle of slope, but doesn’t calculate a slope-adjusted distance
  • Positioning of distance display in viewfinder makes it hard to see against dark backgrounds

92 / A-

EASE OF USE

The Callaway idTECH is average in size and weight, though comfortable to hold while targeting objects. As with its non-slope-adjusting cousin, the Callaway LR1200, the idTECH comes with a lightweight soft “sport case” (picture a wetsuit for a laser rangefinder) designed to be kept on the device during use. A carabiner is also included for clipping the idTECH to a bag or cart – although our reviewers tired of having to clip and unclip the device and would have preferred a pouch like those provided with the Bushnell or Leupold devices). The sport case features a soft removable lens cover (button on one end, Velcro on the other) – users can either remove this cover entirely during play, or keep the lens protected and simply un-Velcro it for each reading.

The Callaway idTECH, like the Callaway LR1200, shines in its ability to rapidly generate distance readings. The Callaway devices are also the only rangefinders in our tests to provide distance readings in 1/2 yard increments (the company caveats that accuracy may not achieve +/- 0.5 yards at distances shorter than 22 yards or greater than 550 yards). Distance readings with the Callaway idTECH were as accurate as the other devices we tested. As noted in How We Test – Accuracy, it was virtually impossible to differentiate the accuracy of one device from another – instead, variations were generally the result of better interfaces that lessened the chance of reading the distance to the wrong object.

The Callaway idTECH displays information both within the viewfinder and on an external display on the side of the device (see image at the top of this review ). Both the internal and external screens continue to display distance information for 30 seconds after the laser is fired.

The internal viewfinder will, depending on the mode, display either the line-of-sight distance (the hypotenuse, if you will), the elevation change to the target, the horizontal distance to the target (calculated as if there was no incline), or the slope. Unfortunately, Callaway made the decision to display the distance in dark numbers above the crosshairs, which can make the readings difficult to see when targeting against a dark background, such as a tree line. Compare this with the Bushnell devices, which place the yardages directly below the crosshairs, where they are typically contrasted against the lighter colors of the green or fairway.

The external screen, which we found ourselves using far less, always includes the slope, the elevation change, and the line-of-sight and horizontal distances. If you’re anything like us (we’ll leave that to you to decide if it is a good thing), you will never use the outside screen for slope and distance information.

Two simple buttons control the device, a power/laser button that powers the device on/off and also fires the laser, and a mode button to toggle between using yards, meters, and, um, feet (maybe useful for a forest ranger, but less so on the course). The mode button, if pressed and held slightly longer, allows the user to select what piece of information to show on the internal display: the line-of-sight distance, the elevation to the target, the horizontal distance to the target position, or the slope.

The Callaway idTECH takes one 3-volt Lithium battery. A battery meter is displayed at the bottom of the viewfinder at all times.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder ease of use.


86 / B

FEATURES

While it provides a nice set of basic functions, the Callaway idTECH does not sport some of the flashy bells and whistles of its competitors, such as club selection advice, multiple options for the style of crosshairs, and adjustments for other factors like temperature and altitude.

As a matter of fact, the idTECH does not even provide a recommended “as adjusted” distance to the user, but rather provides the raw data to calculate the “slope-adjusted” distance and an example of how to do the calculation. Hmmmm…doing math calculations on the golf course…not our idea of a fun afternoon in the sun.

The Callaway idTECH does feature a “pin-locating” mode (“First Target Priority” mode), which helps users lock onto a flagstick or other target and ignore objects in the background. The device is in First Target Priority mode at all times, and there is not an option to turn off this mode.

The idTECH also has a “panning mode”, which enables the user to hold down the power/laser button and receive constantly updated distance readings while panning on different targets on the course. Contrast this with the Bushnell devices, which do not offer the panning mode when their “pin locating” mode is engaged. After about 25 seconds of continuous scanning, the user must re-fire the laser.

As with most other rangefinders tested, the Callaway idTECH features an adjustable eyepiece that focuses the internal display, and is collapsible for those who wear glasses while playing.

The Callaway idTECH is a relatively simple device – no settings to change other than the unit of measurement, and the information to be displayed in the viewfinder. There is no ability to choose from different styles of crosshairs – just one simple version with lines extending from the center of the targeting area, and additional lines emanating from the center that appear when the laser is fired.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder features.


93 / A

OBTAINING DISTANCE READINGS

Callaway’s marketing materials state that the idTECH can obtain distances from 11 to 550 yards, but doesn’t provide “performance ratings” of maximum distance readings for different types of objects that some manufacturers do (which, in truth, are generally meaningless to the average user).

Ease of Locking on a Target:

  • At 150 yards, the Callaway idTECH was quick in delivering readings, as were all of its competitors. It easily locked on to targets at distances up to 200 yards.
  • Between 200 and 300 yards the idTECH could pick out flagsticks reasonably well, though as target distances approached 300 yards it trailed the capabilities of the LR1200, Bushnell 1600 and Leupold devices.
  • At over 300 yards, where users are pushing the abilities of rangefinders to lock onto flagsticks, the Callaway idTECH was usable, but not as consistent as either the LR1200 or the Bushnell 1600 in picking up flagsticks under ideal conditions. Targeting flagsticks is somewhat irrelevant at this distance, but for those who like to plan their strategy for laying up on a hole, this long-range accuracy can be handy.

The 6x magnification of the Callaway idTECH doesn’t match the golf-standard 7x magnification of the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition, but nevertheless should be adequate for most users.

Speed Test:

In our speed test we found that the Callaway idTECH was second fastest in scanning among devices tested (65 seconds), trailing the USGA-compliant LR1200.

  • Panning Mode: When we compared the idTECH in its one mode (since it always has panning and pin-locating available) against other devices in their “panning” modes, the idTECH came in third quickest.
  • Pin-Locating Mode: When we compared the idTECH in its one mode (since it always has panning and pin-locating available) against other devices in their “pin-locating” modes, the idTECH is one of the better devices.
  • Using Both Modes: The idTECH moved into second in the speed test when other devices were allowed to use both modes together (which, in the case of most other devices, required pushing the buttons to cycle between modes).

For comparison, check out the Critical Golf comparison for Ease of Obtaining Distance Readings.


88 / B+

COST/VALUE

At $429.95 retail, the Callaway idTECH is reasonably priced among the group of slope-adjusting laser rangefinders.

But while it is one of the least expensive devices in its class, the Callaway idTECH also doesn’t provide the “as adjusted” distance. So while the idTECH is a well-made device that comes with the Callaway brand name and provides a wealth of data that would theoretically help a user calculate how far to play a shot, our guess is that most users may be more inclined (so to speak) to look toward those rangefinders that take the additional step to actually provide the user with an estimate on the “as adjusted” distance. At least then we can blame the device, instead of our own calculations, if the shot winds up being 20 yards short of the green!


Leupold GX-II

Like its sister device, the GX-I, the Leupold GX-II is the smallest and lightest rangefinder tested and overall an exceptional device. It picks up flagsticks at a distance as well as any of the portable vertically-oriented rangefinders, and features respectable 6x viewfinder magnification, a scanning mode to continuously update distances while targeting objects, and even the option for the user to choose from a number of different crosshairs.

SCORE
91
GRADE
A-
Ease of Use
89
Features
98
Obtaining Readings
94
Cost/Value
92

The Leupold GX-II also adds a number of fancy features, such as slope-adjusted distances, temperature-adjusted distances, altitude-adjusted distances and club recommendations. Oooh…shiny! Like the GX-I, the GX-II packs all of this into a lightweight portable package.

Buyers who are looking for an excellent device that will teach them to account for variables such as slope, temperature and altitude (and don’t mind that the GX-II is not USGA-compliant) should look no farther than the Leupold GX-II.

Retail price: $499.99

Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Leupold GX-2


90 / A-

Ease of Use
Our testers liked the extremely compact size of the Leupold GX-II, which is both the lightest and smallest laser rangefinder we tested. A small carry case is included that clips to a bag or cart and even has a small external pouch for an extra battery.
The vertically-oriented device is easy to hold, with a somewhat tacky rubber exterior. The Leupold GX-II form factor is the same as the GX-I, with the difference being that the GX-II’s body is black and gray as opposed to all black. Head to head against other vertically-oriented rangefinders, the 6x magnification of the Leupold devices bests the Bushnell Tour V2, but falls shy of the 7x provided by the Callaway LR1200. The user can focus the display by twisting the eyepiece, though the Leupold GX-II is a bit more challenging to focus with a single hand than other devices.

Like most laser rangefinders, the Leupold features two buttons, one located on the top of the device that powers the device on/off and also fires the laser, and the other located on the lower left side of the device that toggles between modes. The user presses the mode button and then pushes the power/laser button to cycle between the different settings for that mode. Like the GX-I, the GX-II allows the user to select either yards versus meters as the standard unit of distance. In addition, the the GX-II provides additional modes for slope-adjusted distances and club recommendations. To select and change different modes, the mode button is held for one second, then is pushed quickly to cycle between different modes. The power/laser button is then used to toggle between settings for a specific mode. We promise, this is easier to do than it is to explain it in words. It’s like trying to write specific instructions on how to use a mouse. The process is reasonably intuitive.

The Leupold GX-II’s “panning” mode enables the user to pan around the course to obtain distances to different points by simply holding down the power/laser button. The device will provide updated distance readings that blink on the upper left of the LCD display as they are refreshed. When panning across multiple targets, the Leupold GX-II does not update its readings quite as rapidly as some competitors, and will on occasion have the same problem we had with the Callaway LR1200, which, while quick to report a distance, will sometimes “skip” one reading if the user pans quickly across targets with large distance gaps (say, moving from a target at 150 yards to one at 300 yards). The Leupold seems to adopt a slow(er) and steady approach to updating the distance readings that we think most users will find to be sufficient for their needs. Note that while some rangefinders update readings significantly faster at shorter distances than they do at longer distances, we found that the Leupold updates at approximately the same rate regardless of distance.

The Leupold GX-II takes one CR-2 Lithium battery. A battery meter is positioned in the lower center of the viewfinder, along with an indicator of yards or meters to its right.

Our reviewers weren’t fond of having the distance reading displayed in the upper left of the viewfinder, where it was often difficult to see against darker backgrounds (such as a tree line). In addition to that contrast issues, it is also slightly more difficult to have to look back and forth between the aiming crosshair in the center of the viewfinder and the yardage in the upper left, particularly when targeting faraway objects.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder ease of use.


98 / A+

Features
The Leupold GX-II has a “pin-locating” feature, which they call “Pinhunter” (the equivalent of “PinSeeker”, “PinPoint” or “First Target Priority” mode on competing devices), that makes it easier to determine the distance to specific targets such as flagsticks. The device automatically filters out readings from larger more “reflective” objects (like trees) in the background, and concentrates on obtaining a reading from the closer of the targets that are within the crosshairs (which should be the flagstick). But wait, there’s more! The Leupold is one of only two manufacturers (the other being Callaway) that uses the “pin-locating” mode all of the time, including while the user is panning across multiple objects – other devices force the user to switch back and forth between a panning mode and a “pin-locating” mode.

All of this is available on the lower-priced GX-I. What sets the GX-II apart is that is also features “TGR” (“True Golf Range”) functionality, which not only provides an adjusted distance based on the slope between the user and the green, but also can adjust distance for the impacts of temperature and altitude. With “TGR” mode activated, readings are not as rapid as when it is off.

Note that we played in temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees, and all of our test rounds were at or near sea level, so we can’t say that we were able to see how well the device compensated at extremes. If Leupold would like to fund an all-expenses paid test in Lake Tahoe in the summer (the new Ritz Carlton should be open by then), we would be happy to give it a whirl at altitude. And what the heck, if they’re paying, we’ll test it at Bali Hai in Las Vegas when it’s hot.

In conjunction with “TGR” mode, if the user provides the Leupold GX-II with average distance information for three specific clubs, the 8-iron, 6-iron and 4-iron, the device will then recommended the appropriate club for the distance. And if the user enters the typical altitude and temperature that corresponds to those average club distances, the device will then make recommendations based on altitude and temperature (i.e. if the user normally plays at altitude in Colorado, and enters average clubs distances achieved at his home club, then when he travels to Nebraska, the GX-II will adjust for the lower altitude in suggesting a club). With all information entered, the Leupold always provided within ½ of a club of what our reviewers would have selected on their own.

Of course our question was that if a user already knows his average club distances, does he really need a device to tell him what to hit? Then again, human laziness knows no bounds (see, for example, people who will circle the parking lot for their gym looking for a good spot so they don’t have to walk very far…to their gym…where they will exercise…). If you are forgetful or simply don’t want to have to think about what club to hit, this is a nice feature to have. And hey, since the device already isn’t USGA compliant because of the slope-adjusted distance feature, it’s not like you can get put on “double secret probation” by using an additional USGA non-compliant feature, right?

Our reviewers liked that the display of the Leupold GX-II continues to show actual line-of-sight distance (top left) while in “TGR” mode, in addition to the angle of slope and compensated distance in the bottom right.

The Leupold rangefinders were the only laser devices tested that offer the ability to select a different style of targeting crosshair, allowing users to select from seven different options. Not necessary, but it certainly is nice to have a choice.

Some devices will power off if the user is in “panning” mode for an extended period of time. Not so for the Leupold GX-II! It was kind enough to maintain power while our ace laser reviewer scanned back and forth across the landscape for well over a minute before determining that no, he really can’t carry the ball over the bunker that is 248 yards away.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder features.


94 / A

Obtaining Distance Readings
Leupold’s marketing materials state that the GX-II is rated to accurately provide distances to flagsticks, trees and reflective objects at up to 250/600/750 yards under optimal conditions. While these numbers were the lowest among the devices we tested, we believe them to simply reflect marketing conservatism (an oxymoron, to be sure), as the Leupold could compete with the very best of devices at picking up targets at any distance.
Ease of Locking on a Target:

  • At up to 150 yards, the Leupold GX-II provided easy locking on a target, as did all of its competitors.
  • At up to 225 yards, the Leupold GX-II was competing with the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition as the best device for locking on to a flagstick.
  • At yardages in the high 200s, with a bright flag the Leupold could still pick up distances against a background of trees on most every refresh of the distance. Remember, the advantage of the Leupold’s combination of “panning” and “Pinhunter” in a single mode is that the user can receive constantly updated distances, and can thus quickly determine which distance is accurate if the device is moving between alternate distances – no need to re-shoot and wait for the device to lock onto the flagstick again.
  • At over 300 yards, the Leupold began to slightly lag the Callaway LR1200 and the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition in picking up a flag – although, none of the devices were exceptional at these distances.

Speed Test:
The Leupold GX-II finished toward the back of the line in our speed test for obtaining distance readings.

  • Panning Mode: When we compared the Leupold in its one mode (since it always has panning and pin-locating available) against other devices in their “panning” modes, it came in last (although it was within several seconds of two other devices).
  • Pin-Locating Mode: When we compared the Leupold in its one mode against other devices in their “pin-locating” modes, it finished in the middle of the pack. Which makes sense, since a great advantage of having a panning mode is that it is quicker to pick up multiple targets.
  • Using Both Modes: The Leupold also finished in the middle of the pack in the speed test when other devices were allowed to use both modes together (which, in the case of other devices, required pushing the buttons to cycle between modes).

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison for ease of obtaining distance readings.


92 / A-

Cost/Value
The Leupold GX-II retails for $499.99, which is the highest priced slope-adjusting laser rangefinder tested. We think the GX-II provides plenty of value with its portable size, reasonable 6x magnification and ability to pick out flagsticks at a distance – whether users “need” all the additional features included in the Leupold GX-II will be up to them to decide. But when calculating the distance to play a shot, elevation and temperature are two factors that can’t be ignored, and the Leupold GX-II is the only laser rangefinder that deals with them. Now if they could just tell us how to adjust for the swirling wind around the green…


Nike SasQuatch Tour

SCORE
86
GRADE
B
Club Storage
85
Legs
80
Straps
89
Pockets/Storage
87
Rain Hood
94
Carrying Impressions
81
Style
94
Innovation
89
Cost/Value
83

The Nike SasQuatch Tour Carry Bag absolutely LOOKS cool. Kudos to the design team for aesthetics. But when it comes to carrying performance, the bag is larger and heavier than most of the other bags tested. It appears to be designed as a hybrid between a carry bag and a cart bag, and unfortunately, when you try to please all of the people all of the time, you wind up pleasing none of the people some of the time…er, all of the time…er, all of the people none of the time? Suffice it to say that we were not completely pleased. But if you’re looking for something to use primarily as a cart bag, with only an occasional stroll, the Nike SasQuatch Tour Carry Bag may be worth checking out.

Retail price: $190


85 / B

Club Storage
If you didn’t know how many clubs you are allowed to carry in a round, you will after you get a Nike SasQuatch Tour Stand Bag – the dividers segment the bag into 14 slots, one of only two bags that provided dedicated space for each club. The dividers run the entire length of the bag, so the shafts and grips of your clubs will not touch one another. Mr. Monk, we have found the bag for you! But for our reviewers, re-inserting clubs into the designated slots became a bit of a pain at times – after hitting a terrible shot, it is difficult to display the appropriate level of disgust if you have to actually find the appropriate slot before you can dejectedly slam your club into it.


80 / B-

Legs
Tipping was an occasional problem with the Nike SasQuatch Tour Stand Bag when setting it down quickly, perhaps because either the legs aren’t quite long enough for the body of the bag (a bit like Elizabeth Hurley…I’m not saying she isn’t unbelievably beautiful, but next time you see a picture of her, see if you don’t agree with me that her torso is a bit too long for her legs) or because the angle at which the legs extend is insufficient. The legs only have rubber caps over the end of them, instead of the larger feet found on many of the competitors’ bags, so there is less stability. The spring was also a bit tighter than on most bags, forcing us to exert some effort before the legs would extend.


89 / B+

Straps
There are 4 adjustment points for the straps, and in addition to some basic padding, there are visible air bladders to provide even more cushioning. Oddly enough, some of the air bladders are on the outside of the strap – which would make it comfy for anyone to whom you are giving a piggyback ride on the golf course. Otherwise, we think it’s just for show. Ooooh…air! In any event, the straps were comfortable enough, although we didn’t really notice any significant difference between the “air” supplemented straps and normal padded straps.


87 / B+

Pockets/Storage
The Nike SasQuatch Tour Stand Bag claims to have 10 total pockets.

  • 1 large garment pocket runs along the right side of the bag, with 3 small pockets (including a waterproof velour-lined valuables pocket) along the outside of this garment pocket.
  • There is a medium-sized pocket on the right side of the spine, near the base, and a smaller pocket on the left side of the spine, near the base.
  • On the left side of the bag is a lined “cooler” pocket, and along the outside of the cooler pocket is a mesh “water bottle” pocket. Yes, it struck us that the one labeled “water bottle” should be the one that is lined, but hey, maybe the folks in Beaverton like to keep liquids at multiple temperatures over the course of a round.
  • If you’re counting with us, that only takes us to 8 total pockets. We think that Nike is also trying to count the 2 tiny pockets for a Sharpie and a pencil. How do we know that they are for a Sharpie and a pencil? Because Nike sews on little pictures indicating their purpose, that’s how.

The Nike SasQuatch Tour Carry Bag includes traditional straps on the right side of the bag for holding an umbrella, and a round ring for attaching a towel.
An oddity on the bag is a “quick access” sleeve on the spine of the bag for storing balls. The sleeve has a rubber-lined hole on each end, through which the user can forcibly insert about 5 golf balls. Removing a ball involved shoving a couple of fingers into the sleeve and trying to scoop the ball out. Our experience was that this was neither “quick”, nor was it what we considered “access”. Instead, it seems similar to what we imagine it’s like to reach inside a cow and turn around a breached calf. We vote for just a normal pocket next time!
While the number of pockets is sufficient, their placement left something to be desired. Our reviewers generally applaud efforts to be creative and different, but in this case, we found that “different” didn’t necessarily mean better.


94 / A

Rain Hood
The Nike SasQuatch Tour Carry Bag wins the award for best rain hood. Attaching the rain hood is as simple as hooking an elastic strap around a notch on the front of the bag, then snapping the hood into 4 buttons around the top edge. If you’re going to be caught in a sudden downpour, this is the rain hood you want to have!


81 / B-

Carrying Impressions
The heavier weight of the bag left our reviewers cold. Actually, on a warm day, it left our reviewers overheated.

  • Weight. At 7.0 pounds as tested, including the rain hood, the Nike SasQuatch Tour Carry Bag is one of the heaviest bags we tested.
  • Balance. Something about the weight distribution in the bag was off, as it felt top-heavy (heavier toward the right side when both straps are utilized).
  • Padding. We appreciated the substantial padding where the bag rests against the user’s lower back.

94 / A

Style
If there’s one thing this bag gets right, it’s the swagger in its design. Something about it just looks hot, and we think many buyers will make their decision based on that factor alone. There’s nothing wrong with that – after all, a golf bag is a lot cheaper than a trophy wife.
The Nike SasQuatch Tour Carry Bag comes in 5 different color combinations:

  • Black, with gold trim (this one looks REALLY badass)
  • Charcoal and grey, with neon green trim
  • Charcoal and grey, with red trim
  • Blue and silver
  • Yellow and black, with silver trim

89 / B+

Innovation
All in all, even though we didn’t love all of Nike’s experiments, we gave them bonus points for trying, because that’s what will lead to better products. We’ve already indicated our ambivalence above toward Nike’s ball sleeve and with their “creative” pocket placement. A few other innovations include:

  • The Nike SasQuatch Tour Carry Bag also features a “dual durometer” bag base. This essentially consists of some round yellow rubber circles on the bottom of the bag. We suppose that this makes it easier to stabilize the bag if it is strapped to a golf cart.
  • On the right side of the bag is a Velcro patch for attaching a golf glove. How do we know that it’s for a golf glove? That’s right…because Nike sews on a little picture indicating its purpose!
  • 5 rubber-lined holes are on the right side of the bag. We couldn’t figure out their purpose because there was no picture. No, we kid! They are for tee storage.

83 / B-

Cost/Value
At $190, the Nike SasQuatch Tour Carry Bag is priced at about the median of the bags tested. Our reviewers believe there are better performing bags at an equal or lower price point.


Sun Mountain Zero-G

The Sun Mountain Zero-G takes top honors in our bag test due to its excellent all-around performance and the clever innovation of its belt strap. Sun Mountain has been toying around with ways to distribute the weight of the bag to the user’s hips and legs, instead of the shoulders and lower back, and with the Zero-G, they’ve finally gotten it right. Comfortable, easy to use, what’s not to like? Oh yeah, the steep price point. It may not be worth it to a limber 15-year old, but our middle-aged backs were more than willing to shuck out the extra cash. The additional amount you pay to Sun Mountain is a lot less than you’d otherwise have to pay to your massage therapist and your chiropractor…

SCORE
94
GRADE
A
Club Storage
91
Legs
95
Straps
94
Pockets/Storage
89
Rain Hood
83
Carrying Impressions
96
Style
86
Innovation
95
Cost/Value
90

Retail price: $229.99
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Sun Mountain Three 5 Zero-G
Amazon.com price: Check price now

Editor’s note: this review is for the 2010 version of the Sun Mountain Zero-G.


91 / A-

CLUB STORAGE

The Sun Mountain Zero-G has a 6-way top that splits the club area into 6 sectors, but only two dividers run the length of the bag, so there are essentially 3 main club storage areas. The 6-way top divides each of those areas in two. We didn’t have much of a problem with limited number of full-length dividers, although once in a blue moon, your clubs will get tangled (particularly if your grips are sticky).


95 / A

LEGS

We’ll just repeat what we said about the legs on the Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5, since the Zero-G seems to have the same ones. Great legs! These are Stacey Keibler or Elle Macpherson quality gams we’re talking about on the Sun Mountain bags. Wide rubber feet (the Stacey/Elle analogies have now ended) provide excellent stability, and the legs pop out easily upon setting down the bag. There is an element of independent suspension in the legs, in that they don’t both automatically pop out the same amount, which is helpful when dealing with uneven lies. A Velcro strap can be used to lock the legs if the user is traveling or using a cart.


94 / A

STRAPS

Like most of its competitors, the Sun Mountain Zero-G features 4 adjustment points for the straps. The padding on the straps is excellent.

The distinguishing feature of the Zero-G, of course, is the hip belt, which we’ll include as a “strap” for purposes of our review. Sun Mountain’s previous effort at redistributing weight was its terrible “HUG” technology, which involved flipping down an ungainly foam-covered metal brace around your hips.

But with the Zero-G, they’ve figured it out. The new hip belt eases the weight of the clubs and the bag off of your fragile back and shoulders and on to the big muscles of your hips and legs. Users will feel the difference over the course of a round (particularly on hilly terrain).

Using the Zero-G’s hip belt is a piece of cake – as with any other bag, you start by slinging it across your shoulders with the backpack straps, and then you simply fasten the padded belt strap around your hips with the Velcro that is located about where a belt buckle would be. Upon arriving at your ball, you pull the Velcro apart and set down the bag as you normally would. Occasionally, fastening and unfastening the Velcro belt is more trouble than it’s worth (like when you chunk an approach shot 40 yards) – in those cases, users can just leave the belt unfastened.

If you are taking a cart or traveling and don’t want to have to deal with the belt strap, you can easily slip the belt off of the bag and then use the “standard” backpack setup.


89 / B+

POCKETS/STORAGE

The Sun Mountain Zero-G features 7 total pockets.

  • 1 large garment pocket runs along the right side of the bag, with 1 medium sized pocket and 1 small velour-lined waterproof valuables pocket (so your iPhone doesn’t zonk when it rains!) both along the outside of the garment pocket.
  • 1 medium-sized and 1 small pocket rest on the spine of the bag.
  • 1 medium sized ball pocket is on the left side of the bag, with 1 additional beverage pouch along the outside of this pocket. One note – the belt strap interferes with access to both of these pockets when the bag is set on the ground – it’s not impossible to reach them, but the user has to bend the belt strap out of the way. When the bag is on the user’s shoulders and the belt strap is fastened, unfettered access to these pockets (and in particular the beverage pouch) is restored.
  • There’s an additional pen holder along the spine of the bag, so if it wanted to, Sun Mountain could probably claim 8 pockets.

The Sun Mountain Zero-G includes traditional straps on the right side of the bag for holding an umbrella and a ring for attaching a towel.

It’s a very standard layout for pockets, but one that works well.


83 / B-

RAIN HOOD

The Sun Mountain Zero-G has the same convoluted rain hood as the other Sun Mountain and Titleist products. Securing the hood involves the difficult process of threading two Velcro straps through anchors on the front of the bag (instead of around the legs, which was our first guess), then snapping two buttons around the straps, and finally threading a final Velcro strap around the handle. As mentioned in those other reviews, we think Sun Mountain went a bit overboard with the security levels – the lengthy set-up process seems counterintuitive to the immediate goal of getting the clubs covered as soon as possible.


96 / A

CARRYING IMPRESSIONS

Boy did we like using the Sun Mountain Zero-G!

  • Weight. The bag weighed 5.6 pounds as tested (including the rain hood and the belt strap), about at the median of the competitors in our test.
  • Balance. The bag is evenly balanced across the shoulders.
  • Padding. There are two nice kidney bean shaped pads that nestle supportively into the user’s lower back.
  • Handles/Straps. As mentioned in other reviews, one fantastic feature of the Sun Mountain bags is the handle that is integrated into the rim of the bag. The user simply grasps this handle with the right hand to place the bag securely on the ground (and activate the legs) and slide the strap off of the right shoulder in one simple motion. This became such a natural motion for us that we would search in vain for the same handle when testing other bags.

86 / B

STYLE

About average in terms of the looks of the bag itself, the Sun Mountain Zero-G gets docked a little for style because, to be honest, the belt looks a bit dorky when it’s unfastened. The Sun Mountain Zero-G comes in six different color combinations:

  • Red, with white and black trim (similar to the Louisville Cardinals)
  • Yellow, with black and white trim (Iowa Hawkeyes)
  • Purple, with yellow, black and white trim (some mid-major school MUST have this combination)
  • Blue, with red, white and black trim (Louisiana Tech)
  • Orange, with yellow, black and white trim (we’re pretty sure NO school uses these colors)
  • Black, with just a hit of red piping and white trim (Cincinnati Bearcats)

95 / A

INNOVATION

We just can’t say enough about the belt strap. In our minds, it fundamentally changes the carrying experience, much like Izzo’s development of the backpack strap did about 15 years ago. We look forward to seeing further innovation on this design from other bag manufacturers. The Zero-G also gets points for the integrated handle at the top of the bag.


90 / A-

COST/VALUE

The Sun Mountain Zero-G provides solid features and quality performance and the belt strap took it over the top and made it our favorite. Yes, it is the second most expensive bag in our test, at a hefty $229.99, but “value” doesn’t necessarily just mean a low price. What our reviewers look for is whether the product delivers utility commensurate with the price, and our reviewers (and their lower backs) felt that the Sun Mountain Zero-G was well worth the investment.