archive page August, 2010 | Critical Golf

Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

More »

Archive for August, 2010

Laser Link Red Hot

The Laser Link Red Hot features a pistol-shape design, where users simply hold the unit at a distance and point the red dot in the viewfinder at the target. The Red Hot can be used to target any object on the golf course, unlike Laser Link’s QuickShot, which can only target flagsticks equipped with reflective prisms.

The “point and shoot” design seems great at first blush, and Laser Link emphasizes the fact that users don’t need to hold the device close to their eyes. The Red Hot does work well for targeting a flagstick equipped with a reflective prism. Unfortunately, we found it much more difficult to hone in on other targets, such as flagsticks without reflective prisms, unless we actually DID hold the device close to our eyes, which sort of defeats the purpose of the design. This problem was only exacerbated by the lack of magnification in the viewfinder.

If your home course features flagsticks with reflective prisms and you like the form factor, the Red Hot is worth checking out; otherwise we think you’re likely to find competing products more to your liking.

SCORE
83
GRADE
B-
Ease of Use
80
Features
86
Obtaining Readings
78
Cost/Value
84

Pros:

  • Cool design that works well when targeting flagsticks with reflective prisms

Cons:

  • Cool design doesn’t work so well when targeting anything else
  • Not as quick to register distance readings

Retail price: $389
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Laser Link Red Hot 2.
Amazon.com: Check price now


80 / B-

EASE OF USE

The Red Hot is designed to be held like a radar gun, using the red alignment dot in the viewfinder to aim at the appropriate target. The resulting distance to the target is displayed on an LCD screen on the body of the device (and not within the viewfinder). In theory, this is great, as you can keep your sunglasses on while using the device.

This system generally works well for easily targeted objects like flagsticks with reflective prisms. Trickier targets (such as a flagstick without a reflective prism), however, required holding the viewfinder up to the eye and then engaging in a convoluted dance of waiting for confirmation (through vibration or an audible chime) that the Red Hot had locked onto a target, looking down at the LCD screen to read the distance, and, if the distance seemed incorrect, putting the viewfinder back up to the eye and starting the process all over again. Contrast this to other devices where users see the calculated distance while looking through the viewfinder, enabling them to easily double check the distance or hold the button and pan across multiple targets.

Compounding the problem is that the Red Hot is one of the few laser rangefinders that lack any magnification (the others being the Laser Link QuickShot and the Opti-Logic family of devices) – compare this to the 6x or 7x magnification of competing devices. The lack of magnification, which is necessitated by the pistol-shaped design, makes it challenging to solidly lock on to thin targets at a distance – like, say, a flagstick.

The device is average in size and weight versus the competition, and comes with a carry case that easily clips on to a bag. Hypothetically, it could also be clipped on to a belt, but we found that to be a bit awkward due to the bulk of the Red Hot. The device is easy to grip, with a hard red and black rubber exterior.

The Laser Link Red Hot takes one 9-volt alkaline battery. When the battery runs low on power, a low battery indicator icon will appear on the LCD display.

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


86 / B

FEATURES

The Laser Link Red Hot is a basic device (not always a bad thing), with a somewhat limited feature set. The device has just one button, which fires the laser and display the red aiming dot in the viewfinder when pressed with the trigger finger. The same button can be used to change the preference settings (accomplished by holding the button down for about a minute). Players can modify the LCD readings between yards and meters, and can also choose between an audible beep to confirm a lock on a target or the Red Hot’s vibrate mode, which vibrates the handle (nice for getting measurement confirmation without irritating your playing partners).

The Red Hot will continue to fire the laser and display the firing dot as long as the trigger button is held, but will stop displaying the distance on the LCD (and turn off the red aiming dot) after approximately six seconds.

The Laser Link Red Hot offers only a point-and-shoot mode at targets, and lacks the pan-and-scan capability available in other devices.

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


78 / C+

OBTAINING DISTANCE READINGS

While the Laser Link website claims measurements to trees and bunkers at up to 400 yards, and to a Laser Link reflector to 800 yards, they do note that “many players will find it challenging to get easy measurements to the flagsticks without a flagstick reflector in place” and that “Laser Link flagstick reflectors are strongly recommended in order to receive consistently simple measurements to the flagstick.” We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.

Ease of Locking on a (non-reflective) Flagstick:

  • Starting at 100 yards, the Red Hot would on occasion have difficulty locking on to a flagstick, even with our non-caffeinated hands.
  • At 150-200 yards, the Red Hot starts to struggle in locking onto flagsticks, though we were still able to successfully target approximately 70% of the time at 175 yards, and over 50% of the time at 200 yards.
  • At 200-250 yards, the Red Hot continues to drop off in ease of locking on to a flagstick, falling below a 40% success rate.
  • At over 250 yards, the Red Hot was virtually unable to lock onto a flagstick, trailing the top devices by a wide margin.

While we have not done a comparative test of all devices on reflective targets/prisms, our on-course testing found that the Laser Link Red Hot, like all rangefinders tested, can easily lock onto flagstick reflectors at distances well in excess of 300 yards.

Speed Test:

The Laser Link Red Hot finished toward the back of the pack in our speed test for obtaining distance readings. The Red Hot simply has one mode, and was tested against the full set of rangefinders, all but four of which have one mode as well.

  • Panning Mode: When we compared the Red Hot in its one mode against other devices in their “panning” modes, it came in on the high side of times for our test.
  • Pin-Locating Mode: When we compared the Red Hot in its one mode against other devices in their “pin-locating” modes, it finished slightly higher than average for the group.
  • Using Both Modes: The Red Hot again finishes in the middle of the pack in the speed test when other devices were allowed to use both modes together.

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


84 / B-

COST/VALUE

At a retail price of $389, the Laser Link Red Hot sits in the middle of the pack in our laser rangefinder cost comparison. Our struggle at times to obtain distance readings, however, affected our value perception, particularly when excellent devices such as the Leupold GX-1 and Bushnell 1600 are available at similar price points. It’s a cool gadget, but not the first one we would pick if our lives depended on obtaining a quick and accurate distance to a target lacking a reflective prism.


Laser Link QuickShot

The Laser Link QuickShot has a pistol-shape design, with users holding the unit at a distance from their eye (like a radar gun) and aligning the red dot in the viewfinder with the flagstick to obtain yardages… if the flagstick is equipped with a reflective prism, that is. That’s right readers…this laser rangefinder, for better or worse, differs from all others tested in that it can only read distances to flagsticks equipped with reflective prisms. Nothing else. If you’re interested in determining yardages to trees, bunkers or other hazards or targets, and you love the design of the QuickShot, we would have to point you to the Laser Link Red Hot.

The QuickShot’s “target specific” design obviously limits the potential buying audience to those players who play primarily at courses with properly equipped flagsticks. For those who play these courses, feel free to read on!

All others can stop reading here and return to our laser rangefinder rankings.

SCORE
80
GRADE
B-
Ease of Use
92
Features
78
Obtaining Readings
96
Cost/Value
72

Pros

  • Cool design that doesn’t require holding the device up to the eyes

Cons

  • Will only work in targeting flagsticks equipped with reflective prisms
  • Pricey given its limitations

Retail price: $289
Amazon.com: Check price now


92 / A-

EASE OF USE

The QuickShot is designed to be held like a pistol, using the red alignment dot in the viewfinder to target the flagstick, with distance readings displayed on an LCD screen on the body of the device rather than within the viewfinder. The Laser Link QuickShot is one of the few laser rangefinders that lack viewfinder magnification (the others being the Laser Link Red Hot and the Opti-Logic family of devices). While we noted this as a major limitation for the Laser Link Red Hot, it really isn’t a problem here since the QuickShot will only be used to target reflective prisms. The viewfinder is slightly darker than the view with the naked eye, so on cloudy day or against dark backgrounds, dark flags (blue or red) can be difficult to see. Assuming the sound is on, the QuickShot will beep twice to indicate it has locked onto its target.

Keep in mind that since the QuickShot can only read distances to a reflective prism, once the group in front of you pulls the flagstick, you won’t be able to get a distance reading until they replace it. We found this often created a slight delay in play as we were left waiting to evaluate our next shot.

The device is average in size and weight versus the competition, and comes with a carry case with clip to attach to a bag or cart. The device is easy to grip, with a hard silver plastic exterior. The Laser Link QuickShot takes one 9-volt alkaline battery. When the battery runs low on power, a low battery indicator icon appears on the LCD display.

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


78 / C+

FEATURES

The Laser Link QuickShot is a basic device (not necessarily a bad thing), with a limited feature set. The device has just one button that, when pressed with the trigger finger, fires the laser and displays the red aiming dot in the viewfinder. The same button can be used to change the preference settings, which requires holding down the trigger button for about a minute – this struck us as unnecessarily long (if you are scanning for a reflective prism on a flagstick for more than 10 seconds, something has gone wrong). Players can modify the LCD readings between yards and meters, and can also choose whether to hear an audible beep to confirm a target lock. A shame that there isn’t a vibrate mode for confirmation, as there is with the Red Hot.

The QuickShot will continue to fire the laser and display the firing dot as long as the trigger button is held, but will stop displaying an acquired distance on the LCD (and turn off the red aiming dot) after approximately four seconds. If the QuickShot hasn’t acquired the prism, the laser will continue to fire for up to 10 seconds after the user releases the trigger.

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


96 / A

OBTAINING DISTANCE READINGS

The QuickShot manual claims the ability to obtain measurements to flagsticks equipped with a Laser Link prism at up to 375 yards, a shorter total distance than the maximum claims of other rangefinders. In our testing, the Laser Link easily obtained readings to prism-equipped flagsticks at this distance, and we appreciate their conservative estimate. As users will only be targeting prism-equipped flagsticks, it is almost by definition extremely easy to obtain distance readings.

Ease of Locking on a (non-reflective) Flagstick: Due to its “target specific” design, we are not able to compare the QuickShot against other devices. And while we have not done a comparative test of all devices to reflective targets/prisms, our on-course testing found that the Laser Link QuickShot, like all rangefinders tested, locks onto flagstick reflectors easily at distances well in excess of 300 yards.

Speed Test:
As the Laser Link QuickShot is unable to lock onto any targets other than laser rangefinders with reflective prisms, it is unable to compete in our speed test for obtaining distance readings.


72 / C-

COST/VALUE

At a retail price of $289, the Laser Link QuickShot is one of the least expensive laser rangefinders in our cost comparison. While we recognize the device was created with a “target specific” purpose in mind, aka prism-equipped flagsticks only, we believe that users who are purchasing a Laser Link device because they want a pistol-shaped rangefinder will be more satisfied with the versatility of the Laser Link Red Hot, even at the slightly higher price point. For users who don’t have a strong preference for the pistol-grip form factor, we believe that there are better values in other rangefinders.

Retail price: $289
Amazon.com: Check price now


Leupold GX-1

OVERALL RATING: 91. GRADE: A-. Although the Leupold name has been around for over 100 years, the brand may be new to many golfers. The prior generation GX-I device finished at the top of our rankings last year, and the GX-1 brings subtle changes to the GX-I (yes, the model names are confusing to us) with improved performance in the fog and the ability to lock onto flagsticks with reflective prisms.

SCORE
91
GRADE
A-
Ease of Use
95
Features
92
Obtaining Readings
94
Cost/Value
94

The new GX-1 is an exceptional device, just as its predecessor was. In addition to being both the smallest and lightest rangefinder tested, the Leupold GX-1 picks up flagsticks at a distance as well as any of the portable vertically-oriented rangefinders (and nearly as well as the largest units), 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 at a reasonable price make the Leupold GX-1 a device we can wholeheartedly recommend.

Pros:

  • Small and lightweight
  • Nice performance for the price

Cons:

  • Narrower feature set

Retail price: $375.00
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now
Discontinued. Replaced by Leupold GX-1i.

For those who like the look of the Leupold GX-1 but are looking for additional features such as slope-adjusted distance, check out our review of the Leupold GX-2. And if you really want to take it up a notch, check out our review of the Leupold GX-3, which offers much the same functionality as the GX-1, but in a body made of solid aluminum and with the addition of an OLED display that allows for distances to be seen more easily against dark backgrounds.


95 / A

EASE OF USE

Our testers liked the extremely compact size of the Leupold GX-1, 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-1’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-1 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-1, the only “mode” to be selected is yards versus meters as the standard unit of distance. The new “Fog Mode” is an always-on feature of the Leupold.

The Leupold GX-1’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-1 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-1 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. Depending on how troubling this it to you, you may want to check out the OLED featured in the Leupold GX-3.

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


92 / A-

FEATURES

Leupold GX-1 Laser Rangefinder

Click image to enlarge

The Leupold GX-1 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 GX-1 also features “Prism Lock” to make distance readings even easier to obtain when playing on a course that have reflective prisms on their flagsticks. When the GX-1 identifies a flagstick with a prism, it will “beep” and then freeze the display (showing a lock icon as well) at the measured distance. Very nice!

The GX-1 also features always-on “Fog Mode” that is activated in fog and rain to screen out false readings (for better or worse, we are located in a sunny part of the country and haven’t had the opportunity to test this 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.

Lastly, some devices power off if they are left in “panning” mode for an extended period of time. The Leupold GX-1 allows users to pan across the course for well over a minute before timing out

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


94 / A

OBTAINING DISTANCE READINGS

Leupold’s website states that the GX-1 is rated to accurately provide distances to flagsticks and reflective objects at up to 350/750 yards under optimal conditions. While these numbers were the lowest among the devices we tested, in our tests we found the Leupold able to compete with the very best of devices at picking up targets at any distance.

Ease of Locking on a Target:

  • At up to 200 yards, the Leupold GX-1 provided easy locking on a flagstick, as did all of its competitors.
  • At up to 250 yards, the Leupold GX-1 started to drop off in ease of locking on to a target, but was still competing with the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition as the best device for locking on to a flagstick.
  • At yardages in the high 200s, Leupold could still pick up distances against a background of trees on over 50% of the readings. 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 drop off, and lagged the Callaway LR1200 and the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition in picking up a flag – although, none of the devices were exceptional at these distances.

For all rangefinders, the ease of locking onto reflective targets/prisms found in flagsticks is significantly easier. While we have not done a comparative test of all devices on reflective targets/prisms, our on-course testing found that the GX-1 can easily lock onto prisms at distances well in excess of 300 yards.

Speed Test:
The Leupold GX-1 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 $375, the cost of the Leupold GX-1 is in the middle of the pack. And the Leupold GX-1 does lots of little things well, with its portable size, 6x magnification, ability to pick out targets, and the ability for users to select from a number of different styles of crosshairs. With improved performance in fog and the ability to lock onto flagsticks with prisms, the result is a good bang for the buck.


Leupold GX-2

OVERALL RATING: 91. GRADE: A-. Like its sister device, the GX-1, the Leupold GX-2 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 nearly as well as the largest and heaviest), 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. New for this model year is improved performance in fog and rain, and the ability to lock onto flagsticks with prisms.

SCORE
91
GRADE
A-
Ease of Use
89
Features
96
Obtaining Readings
94
Cost/Value
92

The Leupold GX-2 also has a number of features not included in the GX-1, including slope-adjusted distances, temperature-adjusted distances, altitude-adjusted distances and club recommendations. Like the GX-1 the GX-2 packs all of this into an extremely lightweight and 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-2 is not USGA-compliant) should look no further.

Pros:

  • Great set of features
  • Extremely compact and lightweight

Cons:

  • Distance display can be difficult to see against dark backgrounds
  • Extremely compact and lightweight

Retail price: $400.00
Amazon.com price: Check price and buy now
Discontinued. Replaced by Leupold GX-2.


90 / A-

EASE OF USE

Our testers liked the extremely compact size of the Leupold GX-2, 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-2 form factor is the same as the GX-1, with the difference being that the GX-2’s body is black and gray as opposed to the all black body of the GX-1. 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 magnification of the Callaway LR1200. The user can focus the display by twisting the eyepiece, though the Leupold GX-2 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-1, the GX-2 allows the user to select either yards versus meters as the standard unit of distance. In addition, the GX-2 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-2’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-2 does not update its readings quite as rapidly as some competitors, and will “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-2 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 (for those who want to splurge, check out the OLED display of the Leupold GX-4). In addition to that contrast issue, 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.


96 / A

FEATURES

Leupold GX-2 Laser Rangefinder

Click image for views

The Leupold GX-2 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). In addition, 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 GX-2 also features a new “Fog Mode” that improves performance in fog and rain to screen out false.

The GX-2 also features “Prism Lock” to make distance readings even easier to obtain when playing on a course with reflective prisms on its flagsticks. When the GX-2 identifies a flagstick with prism, it will “beep” and then freeze the display (showing a lock icon as well) at the measured distance.

All of this is available on the lower-priced GX-1. What sets the GX-2 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.

In conjunction with “TGR” mode, if the user provides the Leupold GX-2 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 club recommendations based on the actual altitude and temperature. 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? 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.

Our reviewers liked that the display of the Leupold GX-2 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 when left in “panning” mode for an extended period of time. The Leupold GX-2 instead maintains power for well over a minute before shutting down to conserve battery life.

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-2 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 200 yards, the Leupold GX-2 provided easy locking on a flagstick, as most of its competitors.
  • At up to 250 yards, the Leupold GX-2 started to have some challenges picking up the flagsticks, but still competes with the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition as the best device for locking on to a flagstick.
  • At yardages in the high 200s, the GX-2 can still pick up distances against a background of trees on over 50% of the readings. 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 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.

All rangefinders have an easier time locking on to flagsticks with reflective targets/prisms. We have not done a comparative test across all devices on reflective targets/prisms, but our on-course experience revealed that the GX-2 can easily lock onto prisms at distances well in excess of 300 yards.

Speed Test:

The Leupold GX-2 finished at the back of the pack in our speed test for obtaining distance readings, likely due to the additional processing required (we left on TGR mode as well as the option to receive club selection recommendation).

  • 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-2 retails for $400, making it one of the lowest priced slope-adjusting laser rangefinder tested. We think the GX-2 provides plenty of value with its portable size, reasonable 6x magnification, ability to pick out flagsticks at a distance, and improved fog and rain performance – throw in calculations based on elevation and temperature, and you’ve got a great deal.


iGolf

We’ve tried and tried, and when done trying we tried some more. We will never know about the performance of the iGolf app, as we simply couldn’t get it running. We’ve deleted and reinstalled, tried creating new trial accounts, but all with no luck. We continue to receive error messages of either “server timed out” or “This membership has been registered to a different device and can only be used on one registered device at a time” when it hasn’t been registered on any other iPhone. This app comes from iGolf, the company that provides Bushnell and others with yardage information for their GPS devices, so we know the company has thorough mapping and hole views available, as well as course information. If you successfully register and get the application running, this application includes full hole graphics, a scorecard, handicap tracker and course information.

While iGolf shows this app on iTunes as “FREE” alongside screenshots of its GPS functionality, this is rather misleading. Players have a limited 24-hour trial with hole graphics and the ability to select any point to receive the distance both to the target and from the target to the hole. An iGolf “Premium” membership is then required to keep these features past the brief trial period, and that will set you back a whopping $50 a year…ouch!

Maybe you will have better luck than we did, but given we can’t even get the app launched, we certainly can’t recommend it for purchase. If you have success in launching the app, you’ll want to think twice about the cost – the highest of any iPhone golf GPS app tested.

Price: Free for the basics, $50 per year for GPS functionality

Download iGolf Golf GPS from iTunes

Version: 1.0


oGolf

oGolf (formerly Orrie Golf) suffers from a common downfall of many of the free iPhone golf GPS apps (it formerly was a paid app) – very sparse coverage, often due to the fact that the developer relies on users to do the mapping on their own, and mapping is then shared across the entire user base. The good news is that oGolf’s course mapping tool is the easiest to use of the iPhone apps, with limited hiccups and a straightforward web interface on their website. Mapping a new course took us a mere 20 minutes. However, users are restricted to only mapping only 5 points per hole: font and back of tee boxes, the mid-point of the hole, and the front and back of the green, so you won’t find detailed mapping of hazards or targets.

User generated course maps are available immediately for use, and we were able to quickly search for and download our recently mapped course. Unfortunately upon starting play we were presented with a blank screen indicating that oGolf didn’t recognize us as actually being on the course (though all other iPhone golf GPS apps did, and we had strong signal strength for both cell coverage and data). With no other courses mapped in our local area, we aren’t in the mood to go through the mapping process on yet another course to try this all over again.

As an app with sparse course coverage, and an interface that can’t keep up with the latest, this app is likely going to struggle against the competition.

Download oGolf from iTunes

Version: 1.1


Sonocaddie

Having reviewed the Sonocaddie V300, we figured we knew what we were going to get with the Sonocaddie app for the iPhone. We went through the process of registering for an account on the iPhone, and then downloaded a trial course. Unfortunately, upon re-launching the app when we arrived at the clubhouse, the course was no longer displayed as an option to play. We attempted to download again with no luck, with the app now displaying that we had already downloaded our one free trial course. Later we realized that the software is only available for iPhones running operating systems prior to iPhone OS4.0. This doesn’t apply to us, and likely won’t apply to most other iPhone users as well. With most other golf GPS apps making a quick transition to the latest operating system, this does raise questions as to how the Sonocaddie iPhone app was developed.

When running, the app supposedly stores up to 20 courses (an odd limitation that other apps don’t have) and includes the ability to track scoring, though only for one player – your friends are on their own!

Maybe we will pay for this app in the future, and hopefully it will work when we do.

Price: $34.99

Download the Sonocaddie iPhone GPS App from iTunes

Version: i_0.5.24.0


TeeDroid

We should have realized that an app with a name and logo based on a different operating system might struggle on the iPhone. And so it does. This app is consistently one of the least stable we use – sometimes refusing to launch, quitting when it likes, no courses showing as available, and often not letting us get a round started after login. Just don’t exit the app during play or let it crash (no, you don’t have control over that), or all of your scores to that point in the round will be lost.

If you can get the app running successfully, you will be rewarded with the hole number, par, handicap and cumulative round score, along with distances to the front, center and back of the green next to a graphic image of a green (not the actual green) and additional landmarks (none shown on the courses we played). There are no satellite images or other hole views, so users can not determine the distance to any point they want on the course. TeeDroid features a scorecard, statistics tracking, and the ability to log your shots (which we didn’t find particularly useful, particularly without the ability to calculate club averages. Two final comments – the screen will shut off immediately in your pocket to conserve battery life, and there is no auto-advance between holes.

Though TeeDroid is advertised as a free app on the iTunes App Store, it isn’t. The app has a free 45-day trial, which then times out until the player purchases a yearly subscription. The combination of this yearly subscription, no hole views, and more bugs than we want to deal with, makes TeeDroid pale in comparison to the other apps on our list. Not recommended.

Price: $19.95 per year

Download TeeDroid from iTunes

Version: 1.0.4.2


FreeCaddie

FreeCaddie is one of the few apps on our list that does not include either satellite or graphic hole images. This app features just the basics – distance readings to the front, middle and back of the green. Hole handicap and par information are available, and users can easily manually advance between holes. There is no scorecard or statistics tracking (you’ll have to upgrade to FreeCaddie Pro for that, which will also provide satellite images). Unlike any other app, FreeCaddie provides a yardage estimate of the accuracy of the reading. “High accuracy” is up to 19 yards, which for us is 1-2 clubs worth of distance and makes us a little nervous about counting on our iPhone for accurate distance information.

FreeCaddie stores the courses that the user has downloaded, which enables quick access in future rounds. We did experience a number of bugs during use, including the inability to download certain courses or even get a listing of available courses, as well as the app quitting when starting play. Given the bugs in the app, and the lack of hole views, a scorecard and statistics tracking, we would point users elsewhere.

Download FreeCaddie from iTunes

Version tested: 1.3


Golf GPS

Golf GPS is the most basic GPS app available with satellite images, for better or for worse. Supported by the iPhone’s iAds, Golf GPS isn’t so much a golf GPS app as it is simply an app that hones in on your location and then displays radiating circles at distances of 50-300 yards in 50 yards increments. With no further detail, players will still have to figure out the location of the green and flagstick, as well as estimate their yardage based on the yardage lines. Just as with the Maps app on your iPhone, you can pan and zoom in or out as desired.

Since Golf GPS has no knowledge of the course or any particular hole, the player will be advancing from tee to green in a variety of directions on the screen depending on the hole, which can be disorienting for those not familiar with the course layout. Users can tap on the location button and activate the compass functionality to see which direction they are heading, if that’s helpful. Golf GPS does have the ability to drop a pin on a target, and then the pin will display the distance from the player to it in future rounds.

The app has limited preference settings, and does not have the ability to record scores or statistics. It’s a start, but it has a long, long way to go.

Download Golf GPS from iTunes

Version: 1.2


GolfGPS Pro

Don’t be misled here…while the app store images show otherwise, the free version of Golf GPS Pro is simply a scorecard with detailed statistics tracking and accompanying charts and graphs. The free version additionally includes the ability to save shot results and has an indicator to determine the slope of the green. The app does a fine job of recording statistics and presenting them with a more polished look then a lot of other apps. You could ostensibly use another free app for GPS information and then use this app for scoring…but that seems to be a lot of work to save a few bucks.

Players downloading Golf GPS Pro receive a 30-day trial of the “full” subscription version that includes satellite images and marked hazards. We will be reviewing that version and appropriately stacking it against the paid iPhone golf GPS apps shortly.

Click for images

Download Golf GPS Pro from iTunes

Version 1.0.4


myCaddie Pro

myCaddie Pro provides users with satellite images and the ability to both pinpoint targets to receive distance information and pick the next target (not required to be the green) to plan the distance one shot ahead. There are up to three levels of zoom available, though the entire hole may not be shown (like some other GPS apps, the tee boxes may not be displayed). The scoring view shows the distance to the center of the green, along with scorecard and statistics to record score, putts, GIR, fairways, up and down and sand saves. Scores, but not statistics, can be tracked for up to four players. myCaddie Pro can also track shot distances. The interface is easy to navigate, but it lacks the polish of some of our top-rated paid golf GPS apps.

myCaddie Pro courses are all mapped by users, not the company. Courses may have been mapped by just one user (so your only option is to use their mapping), or by a number of users (you have the option to select the user whose mapping you want to use, although without any feedback from other users on which user-mapped course is “the best”). Mapping a course on a computer takes approximately 30 minutes – this to enter the par and handicap for each hole, along with six target points for each hole (tee and center of green required). The interface to map the course is web-based and quite straightforward, and the course was immediately available on myCaddie Pro for play (there is no wait while the mapping goes through an approval process).

Note that myCaddie Pro has struggled with the app on pre-iPhone OS 4.0, and the company notes that users “may be required ” to upgrade to OS 4.0 for myCaddie to function.

Overall myCaddie Pro is at the tops of the free iPhone golf GPS apps available and certainly worth the time to check out. We hope they keep working on the look and feel – this app is one to watch.

Download myCaddie Pro from iTunes

Version: 2.1.3


iYardage

iYardage has most of the features users will want in an iPhone app: graphic hole images, ability to zoom in on the green and adjust the flagstick position, display of hole number and par, distances to any target and the distance to the center of the green, radiating circles around the green at 50 yard intervals, shot tracking, and a scorecard with statistics tracking. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are few courses mapped (under 100 worldwide, many in Australia, and most of those simply with only scorecard but no additional features). If you want your favorite course mapped you will either have to request it from iYardage, or map it on your own.

The app is advertising-supported, so you’ll see a full-screen ad between holes – but hey, the app is free! iYardage’s graphics aren’t quite as polished as paid apps, but they aren’t too terrible. The process of mapping a course on the computer, which requires use of Google Earth and bit of practice, takes over an hour (this to map the tee, center of green, 30 and 50 yard markers, and trace the tee box and green). And even after doing this, we were unable to to find an email address to send the mapped file. We contacted iYardage through their contact form, but never received a response. So after mapping one course, and never being able to use it, frankly we don’t have a desire to map any more.

Click for images

If your courses are already mapped (and thus most likely live in Australia), this app is worth checking out. If not, we would recommend submitting requests to the iYardage site to map the courses for you or giving another app a try.

Download iYardage from iTunes

Version: 2.1.0


Plum Caddy

Plum Caddy features extremely rudimentary hole graphics, along with scoring (but only if you mark each shot location) and statistics. The app has limited course coverage (and when a course is available, there is often mapping of only one or just a few holes) and is riddled with bugs. And without a tool to map a course, players can’t even add to the sparse course coverage. Plum Caddy has been sold to a new owner by the developer (we know who got the short end of the stick in this deal!), and until our review of the next release, we recommend that players look elsewhere.

Availability: No longer available. The Plum Caddy app was sold to Ubermind


Swing by Swing

Swing by Swing is a solid free rangefinder with satellite images. Better yet, it’s one of the few free apps with a user interface that doesn’t make us cringe. A tap on the screen brings up the distance to the selected point and, if you are greater than 50 yards out, the distance from that point to the center of the green. Total hole distance and par is always displayed. Swing by Swing will auto-advance between holes, and users can start or jump to any hole they like – there is even golf trivia for you to read while the satellite images load.

Unfortunately, users can’t zoom in on a selected area nor can they pan around the hole, and the free version of Swing by Swing doesn’t have a scorecard or statistics tracking (those features can be purchased for an additional fee). Yes, you could use this app for free GPS and satellite images, and then use another free app for scoring, but we are simply too lazy to hop between two when one can do the job.

Price: Free for GPS use, an additional $11.99 for scorecard functionality

Download Swing by Swing from iTunes

Version: 0.9.36


TeeToGreen Lite

TeeToGreen Golf Lite provides satellite images, distances to the green and certain targets, scoring for up to four players, and statistics tracking for one player…but for only the first five holes of the round. So this app has no use except as a demo of the paid TeeToGreen Pro. Importantly, the app does not have the ability to determine distances to any point on the course, and then from that targeted point to the green.

There are currently very few courses available for TeeToGreen, and users will need to either map courses themselves during play, or map in advance of play on the company’s website. Mapping a course took us just under 30 minutes, which included mapping the center of the green plus four other targets (TeeToGreen unfortunately limits this to just four targets, which makes it less useful than other apps). The course is immediately available upon uploading the mapping. The satellite hole views can be cluttered as well, as the app lacks the intelligence to keep target markers from overlapping.

The graphics, as well as a bizarre interface that makes it confusing to start a round, could use some help, and this app needs the ability to determine any point on the hole to keep up with the competition. If you are considering TeeToGreen Pro you’ll definitely want to try this free version first to make sure you like it. But as a standalone free app, it fails.

Download TeeToGreen Golf Lite from iTunes

Version: 4.1


How to Cure an Aching Back Instantly: Golf Push Carts

We once were nonbelievers…carrying our bags regardless of the length of the course, elevation changes, and temperature. But as our shoulders and back gradually feel the effects of time, and common sense starts to override whether we will take flack from our buddies, we have become push cart converts.
Carts these days aren’t what they used to be. Current push carts are lighter, use solid tires (no more flats or slow leaks), provide more storage capacity, and can fold to compact sizes that allow them to fit in even the smallest of trunks. They come in a variety of colors, and you know what? They don’t even look half bad.
In addition to our favorites (the Sun Mountain Micro Cart and Clicgear 3.0), we’ve tested the best golf push carts available and compare them across a number of categories. We break down size and weight, how easy they are to set up (one requires some background in origami), our on course impressions, storage capacity, style and overall value. In the end, there is a cart that fits every need and budget, and we wholeheartedly recommend their use as great back and shoulder savers. And with a little more rest for the body during the round, you’ll have that much more energy to focus on your shots and drop a few strokes from your score.
For all the details, check out Critical Golf’s golf push cart reviews.

The Best Free iPhone Golf GPS Apps: Do You Get What You Pay For?

I don’t know about you, but the last time I paid for some software for my computer or for an iPhone app was….well, I can’t remember when. We all expect to get free information from the web. For a while we were even conditioned to expect to be able to download music for free (yes, we have reformed). And as part of the growing masses that own an iPhone, we expect to download free apps. At the very least, we consider it payback for the crappy AT&T wireless service that we have to deal with on a daily basis. So for those that won’t spend one thin dime on an iPhone app, we downloaded all the free iPhone golf apps we could find and headed to the course to see how they would perform.

Read the rest of this entry »