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Bushnell Hybrid GPS Laser

The Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS combines basic GPS functionality (essentially a Bushnell neo+) with a laser rangefinder. This review analyzes the Hybrid from the perspective of a prospective GPS purchaser, while in our laser rangefinder section we separately analyze it from the perspective of a prospective laser rangefinder purchaser (see our Bushnell Hybird laser rangefinder review).

We wrestled with how to rate the Hybrid, and ultimately concluded that as a GPS device, it is merely very good. It is undoubtedly quite cool to have a laser rangefinder built in to your GPS device, but the thrill of that added feature is offset in large part by the low-end GPS capabilities (which are identical to that of the Bushnell neo+), large form factor and high-end price tag (the MSRP of $499 make the Hybrid the most expensive GPS device on the market). It’s a nice concept, but we look forward to future generations with greater integration between the GPS and rangefinder functions.

[Editor’s Note: We’ll admit that we borrowed liberally from our Bushnell neo+ review in putting together the text reviewing the GPS capabilities of the Hybrid. We’re just following the lead of Bushnell, which uses identical text in its respective user manuals.]

SCORE
89
GRADE
B+
Setup/Syncing
96
Course Availability
93
Ease of Use
92
Course Detail
94
Features
92
Accuracy
86
Cost/Value
86

Pros:

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Excellent built-in laser rangefinder!
  • No yearly fees
  • All courses come pre-loaded

Cons:

  • Large form factor – which is to be expected from what is essentially a Bushnell neo+ fused to the side of a Tour V2 rangefinder
  • High price for a GPS device
  • Basic GPS functionality

Retail price: $399 (down from $499 at introduction)
Three year total cost: $399
Availability: Though no longer manufactured, the Bushnell Hybrid GPS Laser is still widely available; replaced by the Bushnell NEO XS watch and the Bushnell Tour v3 JOLT
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


96 / A

SETUP/SYNCING

The Good: With all of the courses already pre-loaded onto the Hybrid, all that is required is to charge up the device (the battery provides 14-16 hours of use on a full charge) and head for the course.

The Bad: None. If only this was the case for all GPS devices!

Details:

  • Required Steps. While you can use the Hybrid right out of the box, you must register for a free account within 45 days at iGolf.com, Bushnell’s provider of course data, which will enable you to update the Hybrid for any course additions or changes. Setting up an account is reasonably straightforward. If you don’t register within 45 days, the GPS portion of the Hybrid will stop functioning until you do. The necessary steps include:
    • Going to iGolf.com to register (using the serial number of the device);
    • Plugging the Hybrid into your computer through the USB cable; and
    • Clicking “Sync Device” on the iGolf site – note that the first time you sync, you will receive a message on your computer asking if you want to allow an applet from L1 Technologies to access your computer. Click allow, and the sync will begin.
  • Time required for setup. The initial process is accomplished in minutes. The time required for subsequent syncs is dependent on how many courses need to be pushed to the device, but it never took more than a few minutes.

What’s in the Box: The Bushnell Hybrid comes packaged with:

  • Soft Case with clip
  • USB-mini cable
  • Wall charger
  • Manual
  • 1 page (2-sided) quick start guide
  • soft wipe cloth

Required Downloads: None for initial use. And just a small applet to sync latest course data.


93 / A-

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: iGolf (the company that provides course maps to Bushnell) has been hard at work, and the Bushnell Hybrid comes in with 93% coverage in our test of golf course availability across a representative group of 100 courses. Note that we only count a course as “covered” if mapping of hazards/targets is available – which excluded a few courses where only distances to the front/middle/back of the green were plotted, and custom targets are available. The Hybrid’s overall ranking was just a hair lower in the Best New course category than others.

Manufacturer’s Claims: iGolf claims to have more than 25,000 courses in the database worldwide, which puts it in the bottom half among the devices we’ve tested.

For greater detail, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS course availability.


92 / A-

EASE OF USE

The Good:

  • The GPS portion of the Hybrid is as intuitive as it gets – the buttons are clearly labeled and the menus are easy to navigate, and the one button operation of the laser rangefinder is even simpler.
  • Extremely long battery life (the advantage of having a bulky device is you can have a big battery!) means you can go multiple rounds without needing to recharge.

The Bad:

  • Smallest screen among the devices we tested.
  • Big and bulky – which is to be expected, since there’s an attached laser rangefinder.
  • Deciphering the three-to-four letter abbreviations for the marked targets can sometimes be a bit tricky (try and guess what “MFWC” means). Also, marked points are still displayed after you pass them on the hole – this can result in confusion (where you may pass a hazard but there is another similar hazard on the hole and you are equidistant from each) and also means that users will always have to cycle through screens with irrelevant hazards when toggling between the green view and target view screens (see below).
  • Details:

    • Buttons. There is a row of six rubber buttons on the bottom of the GPS portion of the Bushnell Hybrid: power/backlight, screen view, up, down, OK/mark shot and escape/menu. The buttons are a bit small but still reasonably easy to press with the tip of a finger.
    • Screen. Like the Bushnell neo+, the Hybrid has the smallest screen in our tests. The font size of the yardages was sufficient, but the font size for the menu options is a bit small. Brightness was never a problem, as the screen was clearly visible in all lighting conditions (there is the option to turn the backlight on/off as desired).
    • Form Factor. The Hybrid is, shall we say, “husky.” It essentially looks like a Bushnell Tour V2 with a neo+ fused to the side, so suffice it to say that you won’t be slipping it in and out of your front pocket. At 8.2 ounces (11.6 ounces including the case), it was by far the heaviest GPS device tested.
    • Starting a Round. Getting started on a round just requires turning the device on, waiting until the satellites are acquired (bars will appear in the top right of the screen – this can take up to 5 minutes), and then selecting “Play Golf” from the menu. Users can then select from a list of 10 courses ordered by proximity to their location, or choose to manually search for a course. If you select to “Play Golf” before satellites are acquired, you will only have the option to manually search. The device won’t prompt the user for a starting hole, but rather defaults to the 1st hole. Given how quickly you can advance between holes, this doesn’t cause any issues if you happen to be playing the back 9 or participating in a shotgun tournament.
    • Ease of Use of Rangefinder. The laser rangefinder function of the Hybrid is straightforward – just look through the viewfinder, point the aiming circle at the desired target and push the button at the top of the device. An LCD display at the bottom of the screen will show the yardage. The eyepiece can be rotated focus the viewfinder. On the down side, magnification is limited to 5x.
    • Battery Life. In our experience with the Hybrid, battery life was exceptional. Bushnell claims up to 14-16 hours of battery life, so you can expect to squeeze out multiple rounds in between charges.

    Check out the Critical Golf comparison of ease of use.


    94 / A

    COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

    The Good: The best thing about the Hybrid is that in addition to the information available on the GPS device (distances to the front, middle and back of the green, and pre-mapped distances for up to 4 hazards/targets), you can use the laser rangefinder to find the distance to anything you can see.

    The Bad: We wish that Bushnell would uniformly give us the distances to four pre-mapped targets (sometimes a lesser number is provided), but with the handy dandy laser rangefinder, this winds up being a non-issue.

    Suggestion Box: We hope that there is better integration of the GPS and rangefinder functions in future generations of the Hybrid. It would be ideal to see the GPS distances displayed within the rangefinder’s viewfinder, or conversely, the GPS screen could show the most recent laser reading. Either method would provide some context between the position of the pin and the front and back of the green.

    Details:

    • Views. The Bushnell Hybrid provides two different types of hole views. Both text-only hole views are accessible by pressing the “screen” button:
      • Green View: The green view (which only displays text) shows the distance to the front, middle and back of the green.
      • Target View: The target view is also text only, using three-to-four letter abbreviations such as “RFB” for “Right Fairway Bunker” and shows 2 hazard/target distances at a time, along with the distance to the center of the green (there are two of these screens per hole, providing the user with up to 4 hazard/target distances in total). There were often only 2-3 points mapped per hole, although users can custom map their own points to fill any empty slots in the allocated 4 points per hole, or write over pre-mapped points. Lastly, when there are multiple targets in one area, it can be difficult to discern which distances are provided – such as where there are multiple fairway bunkers on the right side of the hole and there is only one “RFB” distance provided.
    • Hole Information. All of the views display the current hole number, but do not provide par or hole handicap.
    • Custom Mapping. Additional hazards/targets can be added to an existing course map (up to the maximum of 4 hazards/targets), and the user can also delete pre-mapped hazard/targets and replace them with custom points of their choosing. A new course can also be created if yours isn’t mapped (for example, if you have your own private golf course), with up to 4 hazards/targets marked on each hole along with the front, middle and back of each green.
    • Laser Rangefinder. The beauty of the Hybrid, of course, is that the laser rangefinder can provide you with distances to anything within your line of sight. The rangefinder does not have a “panning” function, whereby one can get distances to different targets by holding the button down, so if you want to scope out a number of points, you will have to aim and shoot multiple times.

    92 / A-

    FEATURES

    The Good: Laser rangefinder lets you find the distance to anything you can see (of course if it’s a blind approach, you have to rely on the GPS).

    The Bad: No scoring or statistics tracking.

    Details:

    • Laser Rangefinder. The differentiating factor of the Hybrid is, of course, the built-in laser rangefinder, which can be used to target anything for which there is direct line of sight. The Hybrid’s PinSeeker mode is meant to make life easy for the user in those situations where the target has other objects close behind it, like a flagstick with trees behind it (note that despite its name, PinSeeker mode can be used to determine distances to targets other than a flagstick). PinSeeker mode identifies when there are multiple objects being picked up within the crosshairs and ignores the background targets even though they may be larger and thus more reflective. The Hybrid displays a small icon of a flagstick in the lower left of the display when PinSeeker is has locked on to the closest of multiple objects (the user doesn’t have to activate this functionality, it is always “on”). Once the device has located the closest of the targets in the area of the aiming circle, it will display a circle around the flagstick icon and show the distance to the closest object. For more on the specific features of the laser rangefinder portion of the Hybrid, see our Bushnell Hybrid laser rangefinder review.
    • Shot Tracking. The Bushnell Hybrid enables users to measure the distance of their shots by pressing the “Shot” button to activate that feature, then simply pressing ESC to stop measuring. When measuring shot distances, both the shot distance and the distance to the center of the green will be displayed on the screen. Shot distance data is not saved by the Hybrid for later review.
    • Score and Statistics. The Bushnell Hybrid does not track any scores or statistics.
    • Clock. There is no clock on the Hybrid.
    • Auto-Advance. The Hybrid can be set to auto-advance to the next hole, or users can choose to manually advance between holes. While the auto-advance does work the majority of the time, we found a number of occasions where the Hybrid didn’t recognize that we were on the next hole and we needed to manually advance by pushing the “up” arrow.
    • Preferences. Hybrid users can adjust the screen contrast, the basic unit of distance (yards or meters), auto-off (at 45 minutes of no activity) and the rate at which the device refreshes GPS distances (you can elect to have the device stop refreshing distances once you stop moving, so distances won’t fluctuate when you’re basically standing still).

    Check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.


    86 / B

    ACCURACY
    We experienced no issues in our test of GPS device accuracy, with all distances within the acceptable range of plus or minus 4 yards.
    Course maps were accurate with the exception of one course that was remodeled approximately 5 years ago (a popular resort course), where the Bushnell Hybrid displayed distances to bunkers that no longer exist, and lacked distances to new bunkers. One green that has been modified in the past year did not have updated distances.


    86 / B
    COST/VALUE

    Retail Price: The retail price of the Bushnell Hybrid is $399.99, making it a relatively expensive golf GPS device.

    Fees for Access to Course Database: There are no annual or per course fees. Bushnell (via iGolf) provides course updates at no additional cost through the iGolf.com site (which requires a free registration).

    Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no yearly fees, the Bushnell Hybrid stays at a three-year total cost of ownership of $399.99, which makes it one of the more expensive GPS devices tested.

    Value: It’s tough to say that a nearly $400 device is a good value, but it all depends on how much you cherish the convenience of having a laser rangefinder and a golf GPS device blended into a single unit. While we think the idea of a combination device is great (and these devices will probably support premium pricing), the lack of any real integration between the GPS and rangefinder functions and the absence of features such as score tracking and statistics make the value of the Hybrid only moderately compelling.

    For full cost details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device price and cost of ownership.


    Celestron CoursePro Elite

    Celestron is a company best known for its telescopes, binoculars and microscopes. We’re not sure what led it into the golf GPS world, but they’ve entered the market with the Celestron CoursePro Elite and its less fully-featured sister product, the CoursePro.

    The CoursePro Elite is a relatively basic device that provides distances to the front, middle and back of the green. Celestron’s course maps do not come with yardages to hazards and layup targets. Users have the option of customizing the course maps on their own and adding up to six additional hazards or targets per hole. Basic shot tracking and keeping score (but not statistics) for a single player are available on the device, which would have been pretty fancy about three or four years ago, but is now almost obligatory on all but the simplest devices.

    What left us scratching our collective heads was why such simple functionality had to come in such a large package. The CoursePro Elite is as bulky as some of the most full featured devices on the market (although it is not particularly heavy).

    One shining light of the Celestron CoursePro Elite is that it can display twelve different languages (English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Swedish and Czech), so it may be quite useful to players for whom English is not their first language.

    We were left with the impression that the CoursePro Elite is a bit of a “tweener” – not cheap or compact enough to impress as a downmarket device, and while it has some helpful features, it doesn’t have enough of them to join the big boys at higher price points.

    SCORE
    83
    GRADE
    B-
    Setup/Syncing
    85
    Course Availability
    79
    Ease of Use
    82
    Course Details
    75
    Features
    80
    Accuracy
    79
    Cost/Value
    82

    Pros:

    • Large bright screen
    • Automatically starts and displays a round timer on how long you’ve been playing
    • Able to display twelve different languages

    Cons:

    • Big and bulky
    • Course availability trails the competition
    • Short battery life
    • We encountered an unfortunate course mapping error

    Retail price: $149.95
    Three year price: $182.84
    Availability: Discontinued. No replacement product.


    85 / B

    SETUP/SYNCING

    The Good:

    • The full user’s manual is detailed and helpful.

    The Bad:

    • The full user’s manual is not included in the box. The “manual” included in the box is only a quick start guide (we had to do our own web search to discover that the full user’s manual is available from Celestron’s web site).
    • We encountered a software glitch that made the course download process puzzling (see below).
    • Not supported for the Mac.

    Details:

    • Required Steps: The CoursePro Elite requires a setup process similar to those for most other devices, involving:
      • going to Celestron’s web site from a PC (there is no support for Macs…kiss that 10% of the market good-bye…why a golf GPS manufacturer would choose to do this in such a competitive market we simply can’t explain) to download the Course Map Manager software and drivers for the device;
      • registering on Celestron’s web site to create an account;
      • searching for desired golf courses through the web site and downloading them to your PC; and
      • using the Course Map Manager software to transfer the courses from the PC to the device.
    • Time Required for Setup: The entire process took about 20 minutes to download the first batch of courses (the device comes with five free course downloads). It shouldn’t have taken that long, but after downloading the course maps to the PC, we couldn’t determine how to move them to the device. The “manual” included in the box is more of a quick start guide, and didn’t explain how to do it. We then went online to Celestron’s web site, where their instructions told us that “[a]fter downloading the courses, return to CoursePro Map Manager Software to install them on your CoursePro device.” We looked at the software, but there wasn’t any intuitive process. We finally searched on the web and found a more complete manual (we highly recommend that everyone go here to download this manual), which told us to select “ADD COURSE”, then “OPEN” on the CoursePro Map Manager software. Interestingly, we couldn’t find an OPEN button where it was pictured in the manual, but there was a partial outline of a box where the button was supposed to be. We clicked on the “box” and everything fell in to place from there on. We’re not sure if it was just a glitch with our PC (a standard Dell laptop), but it was somewhat disconcerting.

    Suggestion Box: The input jack on the CoursePro Elite for the USB/mini cable is on the back of device – so when the cable is connected, you cannot lay the device flat on its back. We would prefer to see the input jack on the bottom of the device, similar to the way that smartphones and other golf GPS devices are designed.

    What’s in the Box: The Celestron CoursePro Elite comes with the accessories listed below. Five (5) free course downloads from the Celestron web site are also included. Consumers should note that the device requires Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7 and is not supported on the Mac.

    • USB cable (USB to mini)
    • Rechargeable lithium ion battery (installed in the device and not removable)
    • Wall charger
    • Quick Start Guide
    • Belt clip
    • Soft case

    79 / C+

    COURSE AVAILABILITY

    Critical Golf Test: The Celestron CoursePro Elite fell toward the back of the pack in our test of availability of golf courses, with 79% coverage, which was particularly disappointing since the device only provides basic front/middle/back data – competing devices that are limited to front/middle/back data generally scored in the mid-90s and above. Coverage both by type of course and geography was generally evenly dispersed, although the course database was particularly weak in the “Best New” course category.

    Manufacturer’s Claims: Celestron claims to have 22,000 courses in its database. A sizeable number, but it still leaves the CoursePro Elite trailing the bulk of the competition.


    82 / B-

    EASE OF USE

    The Good:

    • Mostly intuitive user interface
    • Color screen is bright and clear in all lighting conditions

    The Bad:

    • It’s monstrously large for a device that comes with only basic yardages (users do have the ability to mark hazards or layup distances on their own)
    • The left and right buttons on the five-way navigational joystick are tough to push down, occasionally necessitating some frantic poking and prodding before they will register
    • Battery life was short – we weren’t able to make it through two full rounds
    Celestron CoursePro Elite - Buttons

    Click for more images

    Details:

    • Buttons. The Celestron CoursePro Elite features a five-way navigational button flanked by two dedicated buttons – one for power/menu, and the other, which has a picture of a book on it, for “page.” We have no idea why it’s called a “page” button – it doesn’t really page down in menus so far as we could tell.
    • Screen. The color screen is bright, and we had no problem viewing it in bright conditions. At 2.2″ diagonal, the screen is relatively large – truthfully, considering that it only needs to show 3 textual distances, it’s bigger than it needs to be.
    • Form Factor. The dimensions of the CoursePro Elite, a whopping 2.30 x 4.6 x 1, also make it one of the largest devices we’ve encountered. On a positive note, it only weighs 3.5 ounces, making it one of the lighter devices that we’ve tested. Strangely, Celestron actually lists the device at 6 ounces in its manual. Perhaps someone’s thumb was on the scale…
    • Starting a Round. Powering up the CoursePro Elite requires holding the “power/menu” button for at least three seconds. The device will try to acquire satellite coverage, after which it will bring up the main menu. If the user selects “Play Golf,” the CoursePro Elite will try to automatically locate a nearby course. If the device can’t find one, the user can manually select a course. Once a course is selected, the CoursePro Elite defaults to displaying the first hole of the course – if you are playing just the back nine or in a shotgun start, you have to manually press the directional key buttons to advance to the relevant starting hole.
    • Battery Life. Battery life wasn’t the CoursePro Elite’s strong suit – Celestron estimates 8-10 hours of usage per charge, and our experience was that it was on the shorter side of the range, as we didn’t make it through our second round. The battery meter seemed to be a bit quirky, as in the span of just 30 minutes it went from showing two out of the three bars of battery life still available to completely running out of juice. The device enables power conservation through adjustable times before the backlighting goes off and before the unit automatically powers down.

    Suggestion Box: The hook for the belt clip protrudes from the back of the device, making it a bit bulkier if you keep it in your pocket. It looks like it can be removed with a Phillips-head screwdriver, but that seems like unnecessary work. We would prefer if the hook was not attached by default.

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


    75 / C

    COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

    The Good: Users can customize course maps, adding up to six of their own hazards/layup targets per hole. Heck, users can actually map a course on their own (and relatively easily at that).

    The Bad: If you want hazard or layup yardages, you HAVE to mark them yourself – the course maps only come with distances to the front/middle/back of the green.

    Celestron CousePro Elite - Green View

    Click for more views

    Details:

    • Views. The Celestron CoursePro Elite comes with two views – the default “green view” that shows distances to the front/middle/back of the green, and a “hole view” that shows distances to custom-marked hazards as well as the front/middle/back of the green.
      • Green view – Shows the distance to the front/middle/back of the green. There’s also a drawing of a green, but it’s just for decoration, as the identical image is presented on every hole. The green view indicates the hole number, par for the hole, has a clock, and in our favorite innovation on this device, also displays a round timer that shows the elapsed time since you started the round.
      • Hole view – Shows the distance to the front/middle/back of the green, as well as the yardage to up to six hazards that the user has custom mapped. There’s also a drawing of a green, but as with the green view, you’ll see the exact same image for every hole. The hole view displays the hole number and the par for the hole.
    • Hole Information. As mentioned above, the hole number and par are visible on the “green view” screen. Hole handicap is not available.
    • Custom Mapping. Users can add up to six custom hazards or layup points on each hole. Custom mapping isn’t rocket science, but it can only be done while on the course. The user walks to the point that he/she wants to mark, then goes to the “hole view” screen and hits the “page” button to select “edit.” The device then overlays 18 quadrants on the hole view. The user uses the five-way navigation button to move to whichever of the 18 quadrants suits the relative position of the hazard or layup point. Clicking on the quadrant brings up a screen showing 15 different hazard icons (bunker back, bunker front, water back, water front, layup point, rock, dogleg right, dogleg left, second green front, second green back, stream, OB, hill, trap, and tree) – click on the appropriate icon, and voila, you’re done. The same process can be used to create a course from scratch.

    80 / B-

    FEATURES

    The Good:

    • We love the round timer! Now you can know EXACTLY how slow those wahoos in front of you are playing without even having to do any math in your head!
    • Basic score keeping and shot distance functionality is available
    • The device will display 12 different languages

    The Bad: Missing lots of simple things, such as auto-advancing between holes.

    Celestron CousePro Elite - Scorecard

    Click for more views

    Details:

    • Shot Tracking. The Celestron CoursePro Elite has a simple interface for tracking the distance of a shot. Unfortunately, the device does not save these distances for analysis after the round – it will only keep one distance saved at a time.
    • Score and Statistics. The CoursePro Elite will keep score for a single player, but does not track any statistics. The device will calculate the total score as well as score relative to par, both for a particular hole and overall. When the user clicks to enter the score for a hole, a screen comes up that allows entering the score for the hole and for changing the par for the hole (in the event that there’s an error). Two strange design choices had us puzzled. First, although the device defaults to the score-entering option on that screen, it actually displays the par-changing option more prominently on the screen, above where scores are entered. Second, the score defaults to zero, forcing the user to hit the button multiple times to increase to the appropriate score. Why not default to whatever the par for that hole is, thus minimizing the number of times the buttons must be pressed?
    • Auto-advance. The device will not automatically advance to the next hole – the user must press a button to manually advance.
    • Course Storage. The Celestron CoursePro Elite can store up to 100 courses.
    • Preferences. The CoursePro Elite has a broad range of adjustable preferences: measurement unit (yards vs. meters); time before the backlight shuts off to save power (ranging from 1 minute to the backlight always staying on); time before the unit automatically shuts off if it’s been inactive (ranging from 30 minutes to always staying on); time zone (set by entering plus or minus hours from Greenwich Mean Time – so, for example, you have to know that the Pacific Time Zone is -8 hours, unless it’s during Daylight Savings Time, in which case it’s -7); and time format (12 hours or 24 hours). In addition, one of the strengths of the Celestron CoursePro Elite is the number of languages it is capable of displaying. There are actually 12, count ’em, TWELVE, different options – English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Swedish and Czech – making the CoursePro Elite a truly global device.

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


    79 / C+

    ACCURACY

    Our tests of the Celestron on a variety of courses produced accuracy readings within 3-4 yards of sprinkler head markings and our laser readings. Where the Celestron failed us was that for one course, the map was missing both the third and fourth holes. Ummm…that’s not gonna help our score very much. Because the holes are missing entirely, we couldn’t even go back and customize the distances ourselves for those two holes. If Celestron is going to charge for access to their course database, they will need to focus a bit more on quality control.


    82 / B-

    COST/VALUE

    Retail Price: At a retail price of $149.95, the Celestron CoursePro Elite is in the low end of the price range of GPS devices. The devices with which it is most competitive from a feature set standpoint are priced from $99.95 (the Izzo SWAMI) to $149.99 (the Bushnell neo+) to $249.99 (the Garmin S1, where much of the premium is for the convenience of having a GPS device in a wrist watch form factor).

    Fees for Access to Course Database: The CoursePro Elite comes with five free course downloads. After that, the user must choose between either paying for courses a la carte at a price of $2.99 per course, or paying a one-time fee of $34.99 for access to unlimited course downloads.

    Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: Our analysis of the three-year total cost of ownership of the Garmin Approach G3 is $182.84 (the cost of the device plus eight course downloads in year 1 (five downloads of which are free), four course downloads in year two, and four course downloads in year three), which places it at a premium to the IZZO and Bushnell devices, but still less expensive than the Garmin S1. For details, please see our cost comparison of golf GPS devices.

    Value: Our definition of “value” is getting the most for your money, and while the Celestron CoursePro Elite is relatively inexpensive, the combination of its relatively spartan features, unwieldy size and the scary course map inaccuracy we experienced prevented us from embracing it wholeheartedly. We note that those who are buying the CoursePro Elite because it can display another language would derive greater value from the device.


    GolfBuddy World

    GolfBuddy continues to improve its lineup with the GolfBuddy World (not to be confused with the GolfBuddy World Platinum – the only major differences between the devices aside from the form factor are the World Platinum’s ability to score for four players versus the World’s ability to score for only one player). All courses come pre-installed, there are no yearly subscription fees to update the course list, and course coverage is extremely strong.

    The hole and green graphic images are crisp, but we do note that the screen isn’t as bright as we’d like, and can get washed out in the bright sun. Users can use the touchscreen to target any point on the hole and receive distances both to that point and to the green, as well as select the flagstick location. The touchscreen sensitivity fell short of our expectations, often requiring some patience to accurately select targets and menu options.

    Overall, we were fans of the GolfBuddy World, as it presents a nice combination of an intuitive user interface, quality graphics, a full set of features, pre-loaded courses (with exceptional course coverage to boot) and no annual or per-course fees. GolfBuddy may not be as well-known as companies like Garmin and SkyCaddie, but putting out products like the GolfBuddy World will certainly raise their profile.

    SCORE
    89
    GRADE
    B+
    Setup/Syncing
    92
    Course Availability
    100
    Ease of Use
    88
    Course Details
    92
    Features
    92
    Accuracy
    92
    Cost/Value
    92

    Pros:

    • Full hole graphics
    • Great course coverage
    • Pre-mapped targets and ability to add more points
    • No yearly membership or course download fees

    Cons:

    • Touchscreen sensitivity needs improvement
    • Screen graphics can appear washed out in bright sunlight
    • Some mapping errors and lack of key hazard pre-mapping

    Retail price: $299
    Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the GolfBuddy PT4
    Amazon.com: Check price now


    92 / A-

    SETUP/SYNCING
    The Good: With courses pre-installed, no software installation or initial downloading is required – just charge the device (which takes approximately 4 hours from a drained battery) and head to the course. At initial startup, the World will ask you to select your language, distance units (yards or meters) and time zone (all of which can be subsequently modified).

    The Bad: Syncing courses can take quite some time, ranging up to 10-15 minutes.

    Details: Though all courses come pre-loaded on the device, it still makes sense to sync the GolfBuddy World when you take it out of the box to ensure that you benefit from any courses that have been recently added and receive any updates to the company’s maps and firmware. To sync you will need to install GolfBuddy software on your computer, register for a free account, and sync your World via the included USB cable. GolfBuddy World Course Manager desktop software took but a minute to download and was painless to install.

    We weren’t big fans of the scope of the GolfBuddy registration process, which required the entry of a barrage of information, including full address, date of birth, phone number, where the unit was purchased, monthly playing time and occupation! Probably the only person who would be honest in answering all of those personal questions is my grandmother, who also responds to email requesting her passwords and credit card information.

    GolfBuddy World Course Manager

    Click for more images

    Upon launch, the GolfBuddy World Course Manager will first check to make sure you have the latest version of both the Course Manager and device firmware. Firmware download and installation takes a few minutes. Curiously, firmware updates have been quite frequent (3 times over approximately a month recently), and the changes made to the latest version are not indicated. In addition, even immediately after syncing, the Manager will still indicate that new score records are found, and prompts us to save them to the server…whatever that means. The interface isn’t beautiful (nor is it without misspellings…”Wait monentarily while booting” and “Have been removed” notices after deleting scorecards), but it is straightforward to use and, importantly, never crashed or produced errors.

    After checking for software and firmware updates, the Course Manager will look to see if there are course updates based on user-selected regions. An update of all golf courses in the United States took close to fifteen minutes. To speed things up, we would recommend selecting just your home state, and making a mental note to select the additional states in advance of any golf vacations.

    After each update we followed the directions to eject the World from the computer, and each time we received an error that the device was not properly removed – we tried multiple different ways, and each time resulting in one or more error messages on the computer. Rebooting the device took another minute and then we were ready to go.

    What’s in the Box: The GolfBuddy World comes with the following:

    • Rechargeable battery
    • USB-to-micro-USB data cable (note not to mini-USB
    • Power adaptor
    • Plastic holster/belt clip
    • GolfBuddy World Quick Guide

    Additional downloads (not required)


    100 /A+

    COURSE AVAILABILITY

    Critical Golf Test: Our course coverage analysis ranked the GolfBuddy at the top of our list, with perfect 100% coverage of our sampling of golf courses. Our scoring is based on the number of golf courses tested that offer full hole maps and green information. Impressive!

    Manufacturer’s Claims: GolfBuddy boasts of having 34,500 courses available worldwide in its course database, the largest number for any golf GPS device tested. This claim is for courses for which GolfBuddy provides basic hole information – the company does not break out the total number of courses which have overhead hole maps and green maps.


    88 / B+

    EASE OF USE

    The Good: GolfBuddy continues to deliver intuitive products with the World. The device automatically recognizes the course based on your location, and starts play when you arrive at the 1st tee (you can select the hole in advance manually as well).

    The Bad: The touchscreen isn’t as smooth as we would like, and we often weren’t able to quickly and accurately place the target cursor where we wanted. It became obvious that there’s actually a hidden grid underlying the screen, so don’t expect iPhone sensitivity and accuracy. Even the smallest movements can change significantly (sometimes more than ten yards) when in Hole View (see below for details). Your finger may obscure the distance reading to that point while selecting an appropriate target. In addition, the outer thin protective layer of film on the body of the device began to peel after just one round. It didn’t, however, impact use of the device.

    A small icon of a box with three horizontal lines appears on the bottom left corner of many screens, and doesn’t provide any functionality. GolfBuddy support indicated that this icon was used in an old version of the software, though it still appears on our device with the latest firmware installed…not good.

    GolfBuddy World Device Views

    Click for more images

    Details:

    • Buttons. There are two buttons on the right side of the device: a Power button that turns the device on/off and will lock/unlock the screen, and a “ProPlay” button to enter scores and statistics. On the front of the GolfBuddy are a menu button, back button, and three function buttons just below the screen that greatly ease navigating the device. The buttons, which slightly depress, require a somewhat deliberate motion. Just feeling them depress and click isn’t enough to ensure that the button has actually been engaged.
    • Screen. While the brightness is adjustable, the screen isn’t as vivid as some GPS devices. Curiously, you can only adjust the brightness or power settings prior to starting play, though GolfBuddy will let you adjust other less important settings during play, such as switching between yards and meters.

      The touchscreen sensitivity at times can be extremely challenging to use. When attempting to zoom the overhead view, for example, we would often find that we hadn’t accurately touched the zoom button on the screen, and instead we selected a target location on the lower right hand side of the screen. We also had difficulty when attempting to enter scores (often inadvertently selecting a player name, which results in their scorecard being displayed, as opposed to accessing the page to enter the player’s score for a given hole), typing on the small keyboard, searching for courses, scrolling lists or selecting soft buttons. We found it best to use a tee or a fingernail to touch the screen.

    • Form Factor. The unit is easy to hold and use, and fits comfortably in the pocket during play at 2.2″ x 4.1″ x 0.7″ and 4.2 oz with battery (reasonably smaller than the GolfBuddy World Platinum). The GolfBuddy World also comes with a belt clip.
    • Starting a Round. The GolfBuddy World acquires satellites within minutes, and then recognizes both the course and the current tee box. Users can also elect to manually search for a course (by history, country, name or custom courses).

    Suggestion Box: If you are warming up on the range and want to keep track of the time, you’ll need to force the device to start play – on its own the GolfBuddy World won’t display the time until you reach a tee box to begin play.

    Check out our chart comparing ease of use across different GPS devices.


    92 / A-

    COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

    The Good: In addition to providing the ability to touch any point on the hole and receive target distances, the GolfBuddy World provides a number of pre-mapped targets and hazards, shown both on the overhead hole graphics as well as within a text listing of targets. Players have the ability to quickly toggle between the Hole View and the Target View.

    The Bad: A few course maps missed some key hazards that should be mapped. The map of a course that we frequently play featured a bunker that hasn’t to our knowledge ever existed, as well as a bunker that was removed a couple of years ago. It’s great you can quickly add new hazard points to holes, but as golf GPS devices evolve, the number and type of hazards pre-mapped will become a differentiator, particularly if it is difficult to accurately select a target to receive distance readings.

    Details:

    • Views. The GolfBuddy World provides an overhead map of the hole, a green view, and a “target view” that is a textual list of targets and distances. Accessing the different views is straightforward. Regardless of the view, the GolfBuddy continues to display the hole number, distance to the flagstick (which can be moved), GPS signal strength, hole par, yards/meters, time and battery life remaining.
      GolfBuddy World - Hole View

      Click for larger image
      • Hole view –The GolfBuddy World provides an overhead graphic of the hole and the location of various hazards (as a computer illustration, and not a satellite photograph), with the current position indicated by a red dot. The World will automatically progressively zoom in to show more detailed views as the user advances within the hole (exactly when the View will zoom to the next level varies by hole), although you can also manually zoom. We generally found that we wanted to see at least one more level of zoom (or move more quickly to the Green View) than the device automatically provided, and often we found that the Hole View never moved into Green view during the hole.

        The GolfBuddy World doesn’t allow users to zoom in one or more levels, and then zoom back a level – you have to zoom all the way in and then circle around to the highest level again (there can be up to 5 levels of zoom for any hole, including the Green View). We’re a bit surprised that the designers of the user interface didn’t capitalize on the touchscreen interface to provide a “zoom out” button.

        Users can tap on any point on the hole to see the both the distance to that point (highlighted in yellow with an arrow indicating the target point), and from that point to the green (noted in red). While selecting the target location there will be a line from the user position to the target (handy to keep a reference of the direction of play and hazards), and this line will then disappear once the user is done selecting the target position. A line from the target position to the flagstick will continue to be displayed (there is no option to “clear” that line or the target position) for an additional 25 seconds.

        The overhead hole view also displays radiating circles at distances of 100, 150 and 200 yards to the center of the green. Because the touchscreen can be used to determine distances, the radiating circles were a little used afterthought for us. While selecting a point on the touchscreen, the radiating circles will disappear from view, then reappear once you have selected a target location.

      • GolfBuddy World - Green View

        Green View
      • Green View – The Green View is a detailed illustration of the green and surrounding area. The GolfBuddy World provides the distances to the near and far points of the green relative to player position as well as flagstick position, which defaults to the center of the green. Users can then move the flagstick to more accurately represent its actual location, or place it elsewhere to receive distances to other green points. Once the flagstick is set for the hole, it will remain in that position as you toggle between screens (and will even be updated in Hole View). We appreciated the fact that the graphic of the green will rotate as the user’s position relative to the green changes, and will continue to show near and far points from the player’s position in line with the location of the flagstick – this is much preferred to devices that provide distances only to fixed front, center and back points on the green. Green View is accessible by selecting the “Green” soft key when in Hole View, or by touching the displayed distance to the center of the green in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

        We also found that on some holes, but not all, the GolfBuddy would display the width and depth of the green. We weren’t sure how the device determined whether to display this information.

      • GolfBuddy World - Target View

        Click for larger image
      • Target View – The GolfBuddy World not only pre-maps distances to selected targets in the overhead hole view, but also allows users at the touch of a button to pop up a list of additional pre-mapped target locations (identified with text such as “RtBkr2” for the second bunker on the right) and the distances to those targets, which then remain visible for approximately four seconds. Touching any pre-mapped target on the list will usually add that point and distance to the Hole View, and generally the last target added will be highlighted in yellow. We say “usually” because it doesn’t happen all of the time, and we weren’t able to discern any pattern for when the device would or wouldn’t add a point to the Hole View or highlight the target in yellow.
    • Custom Mapping. Each hole holds up to 11 targets. So for example, if there are 3 pre-mapped targets on one hole, the user can add up to 8 additional targets.

    Suggestion Box: It would be nice if the World had the intelligence to display additional target distances on Hole Views (see below) based on the level of zoom, as well as distances that are key for most players. As an example, when on the tee box there often are distances only to hazards, but not to clear the hazard. -The way around this is to try to quickly pick the back edge of the hazard using the touchscreen (which can take a while to accurately place), or, as we prefer, toggle to Target View.


    92 / A-

    FEATURES
    The Good: The GolfBuddy World provides a varied feature set that should cover the requirements of most golfers, including supporting six different languages. Merci!

    The Bad: It would be nice to be able to adjust some of settings, such as screen brightness, without needing to exit your round (which results in erasing all scores and statistics for the round).

    Details:

    Course Manager Score Review

    Click for more images
    • Score and Statistics. The GolfBuddy World will keep score for a single player, along with fairways hit (or left/right), putts, and sand saves. A minor quibble is that the World will allow the user to enter fairways hit on par-3s (this seems like such an easy fix). The World will also generate a scorecard image for the round, with different colors indicating their score relative to par on a given hole.
      Scores and statistics from previous rounds can only be reviewed on the GolfBuddy World Course Manager after the device has been synced. Unfortunately, when you launch the Course Manager it will search for the GolfBuddy World, even though you are only accessing the application to view your scores. There is no way to access your scores and statistics via the web, which would be a big plus.
    • Shot Tracking. The World can be used to track the distances of shots. There is no ability to enter the club used for a particular shot.
    • Auto-Advance. The GolfBuddy World will prompt users to see if they are ready to advance to the next hole, and if it receives no response, will automatically advance after a short period of time. It will also automatically advance when you enter the vicinity of a tee box, even if that tee box is merely for an adjacent hole. As a result, on occasion we needed to use the touchscreen to select the correct hole.
    • Preferences. The GolfBuddy World enables the adjustment of a wide range of settings: unit of distance, language, time zone, button sound, and a variety of power management settings including screen timeout (aka backlight), auto-power off, and screen brightness. Note that once the round begins, the only way to change most preference settings is to completely exit the round (losing any scores and statistics that you might have already entered) – the exceptions are units (yards or meters) and some scoring information.

    92 / A-

    ACCURACY
    Device Accuracy: As is the case for most units tested, the device accuracy of the GolfBuddy World generally operated within the standard margin of error for GPS devices. Distances on holes stopped displaying at 10 yards to the near point of the green, at which point the device would only indicate “At Green.”
    Mapping Accuracy: The illustrated maps for the most part accurately portrayed the holes and the greens, though we did experience multiple occasions missing (or added) bunkers, as well as some inaccuracy with a water hazard.


    92 / A-

    COST/VALUE
    Retail Price: GolfBuddy has reduced the retail price of the World Platinum from the launch price of $349.99 down to $299.99, which places it in the middle of the pack of golf GPS retail prices.

    Fees for Access to Course Database: GolfBuddy keeps up with the trend of golf GPS devices moving away from any additional annual or course download fees. Fabulous!

    Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no additional annual fees or course download fees, the GolfBuddy World’s three-year total cost of ownership of $299.99 is about average compared to other devices we tested.

    Value: The lack of annual or per-course fees, combined with great course coverage and good form factor (much improved versus the GolfBuddy Platinum) make the GolfBuddy World worth considering. The device doesn’t top our list yet, but overall we consider it a strong device with good value.


    Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS

    This review focuses on the laser rangefinder capability of the Bushnell Hybrid Laser-GPS as its primary use, and treats GPS purely as an additional feature.

    Considered as a laser rangefinder, the Bushnell Hybrid Laser-GPS fell a bit short. The 5x magnification is lower than most of the competition, though the device picks up readings at a variety of distances very well. Our more advanced laser users bemoaned the lack of a “panning”mode –to quickly obtain distances to multiple points on the course, such as bunkers, trees, or visible points at the front or back of greens.

    It is certainly a benefit to have both laser and GPS features available in the same device. We found it quite natural to refer to distances on the GPS screen when we wanted additional information that we couldn’t obtain from the laser. But at a steep retail price, this becomes a difficult product to recommend. Strange as it may sound, we would consider a dedicated laser device and a small GPS unit to be a reasonable alternative (such as a GPS watch, which would keep the pace of play moving and not force the user to constantly rummage around for different devices). While some laser rangefinders can now reasonably fit into a pocket, the size of the Bushnell Hybrid is roughly the same as if you duct-taped a Bushnell Tour V2 to a neo+, which is really what the Hybrid is.

    We think this device is going to have a tough time competing successfully with the best in either category of devices – it’s a jack of all trades, but master of none.

    SCORE
    88
    GRADE
    B+
    Ease of Use
    90
    Features
    92
    Obtaining Readings
    86
    Cost/Value
    86

    Retail price: $499.99 (down from $499 at introduction)
    Availability: Though no longer manufactured, the Bushnell Hybrid GPS Laser is still widely available; replaced by the Bushnell NEO XS watch and the Bushnell Tour v3 JOLT
    Amazon.com: Check price now
    Golfsmith: Check price now

    Pros:

    • The only device to combine both laser and GPS technology in one
    • Less expensive (though not necessarily by a great amount) versus purchase of laser and GPS devices separately

    Cons:

    • Inability to pan across targets for multiple distance readings
    • One of the largest devices we tested
    • Only 5x magnification
    • High cost

    90 / A-

    EASE OF USE

    The vertically-oriented Bushnell Hybrid is easy to hold, though its size (2.1 x 2.6 x 4.3″) and weight (over 8 ounces) preclude keeping it in your pants pocket during play. With the carrying case, which has a clip to attach to a bag, the Hybrid tips the scales at nearly 12 ounces.

    The Hybrid uses a crisp LCD display that places the distance reading below and in close proximity to the target cursor, generally making it easier to read than in some competing laser rangefinders that place the distance above the cursor. The Hybrid’s 5x magnification (identical to the Bushnell Tour V2), left us missing the 6x and 7x magnification found in some of its competitors. There is no ability to change the style of the aiming circle, but we find it just fine in both size and shape.

    Bushnell Hybrid Laser-GPS

    Click for images

    The laser functionality of the device couldn’t be much simpler to use. The device features just one button, which powers on as well as fires the laser. The laser and GPS functionalities are completely independent, so laser distances are not displayed on the external GPS display, and GPS distance information isn’t available on the laser display (which would be nice).

    The Hybrid has an adjustable eyepiece (+/- 2 diopter) to allow users to adjust the focus of the display. The eyepiece rotates smoothly and easily.

    The Bushnell Hybrid uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that will last 14-16 hours on a single charge (this with GPS use). The device will indicate when the battery is low on the laser rangefinder display.

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


    92 / A-

    FEATURES

    The Bushnell Hybrid Laser-GPS has a “Pinseeker” mode that makes it easier to pick a flagstick out against a background of trees or other objects, but is missing a panning mode to enable scanning across multiple targets with continuously updated distance readings. .

    PinSeeker-Only Mode
    Bushnell’s PinSeeker mode is meant to make life easy for the user in those situations where the target has other objects close behind it, like a flagstick in front of some trees (note that despite its name, PinSeeker mode can be used to determine distances to targets other than a pin). PinSeeker mode identifies when there are multiple objects being picked up within the crosshairs and ignores the background targets even though they may be larger and thus more reflective. The Hybrid displays a small icon of a flagstick in the lower left of the display when PinSeeker has locked on to the closest of multiple objects (the user doesn’t have to activate this functionality, it is always “on”). Once the device has located the closest of the targets in the area of the aiming circle, it will display a circle around the flagstick icon and show the distance to the closest object.

    Bushnell Hybrid Laser-GPS

    Click for image

    While the manual notes that you can move from object to object to force the laser to hit multiple objects, you will need to do this by repeatedly firing the laser, as opposed to holding down the fire button and panning across targets while receiving continuously updated distances. We had little success in targeting one object, then moving to another while continuing to depress the firing button – the distances generally would not update for the next object, even if the secondary object targeted was a pin and the device indicated it had locked onto that target with the flagstick icon.

    The maximum amount of time the Hybrid laser can be fired is approximately 7 seconds, and the distance reading will continue to be displayed for 30 seconds after targeting (if a target is acquired, the laser may automatically stop firing in PinSeeker mode after only a few seconds, even if the circle is not displayed around the flagstick icon). The device can display yards or meters.

    GPS Functionality

    The most notable feature of this laser rangefinder is, of course, the GPS capability. See our review of the GPS capabilities of the Bushnell Hybrid for full details.

    We quickly found use for the GPS capabilities of the device, firing our opening tee shot behind a group of trees from where we were unable to use the laser to target distances. We appreciated that the GPS functionality didn’t just include distances to the front, center and back of the green, but pre-mapped targets as well. In addition, the Bushnell Hybrid enables the tracking of shot distances.

    Bushnell Hybrid Laser-GPS

    Click for image

    The device is generally simpler to use than if you have two independent devices, such as if you are targeting the flagstick via laser (for the most accurate reading), and then looking for distances to the front and back of the green to provide boundaries. One negative, however, is that Bushnell only provides distances to the front, center and back of the green, as opposed to the near and far points (which companies that map the exterior contour of the greens have) that vary based on your position. If you’re looking to have your cake and eat it too, you would be best served to consider combining a laser with a device that you don’t need to pull out of your pocket, such as one of the new golf GPS watches or voice GPS devices.

    One key note: you’ll likely want to make sure that you have not changed the settings to keep the GPS on at all times, even during a period of inactivity. Best to leave Auto-Off set to “On” so the GPS will power off after 45 minutes. If you leave this set to “Off”, you run the risk of forgetting power off at the end of the round and can be left with a dead (rechargeable) battery and unable to use either the laser or GPS for your next round of golf.

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


    86 / B

    OBTAINING DISTANCE READINGS

    The Bushnell Hybrid laser is marketed as allowing distance readings from 10 to 1,000 yards, with a maximum distance for most targets of 600 yards. Highly reflective objects may be targeted at up to 1,000 yards.

    Ease of Locking on a Target:

    • At up to 150 yards, the Bushnell Hybrid was able to quickly and accurately lock onto the flagstick.
    • Above 200 yards we would start to pick up background objects behind the flagstick more regularly. The Hybrid started to take a bit more time to lock onto distances as we pushed toward the high 200s, but still could successfully pick up the flagstick most of the time.
    • As with virtually all devices, the Bushnell Hybrid struggles beyond 300 yards. We did find, however, that we could lock onto targets and receive accurate readings nearly half of the time.

    Speed Test:
    Even needing to repeatedly re-fire the laser, the Bushnell Hybrid still finished in the middle of the pack in our speed test for obtaining distance readings.

    • Panning Mode: Although the Bushnell Hybrid doesn’t have a panning mode, the time of the device to run through the targets in our test was about average compared to devices that offer this automatic scanning mode (though slower than other devices in the Bushnell family that feature this mode).
    • Pin-locating Mode: When tested against other devices with “pin-locating” mode, the Hybrid was the one of the fastest devices, and remained in the top half of devices when tested across all devices. This test was not against devices that have Pin-locating functionality included with their panning mode.

    86 / B

    COST/VALUE

    The Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS retails for $399.99 (down from $499.99 at introduction), which makes it one of the most expensive laser rangefinders tested, not surprising given the additional GPS capabilities. One piece of good news is that it comes with a lifetime course update and syncing membership through their partner, iGolf, so there are no additional course fees. Phew!

    Spending the additional dollars beyond a top-quality laser-only device gets you additional GPS capabilities, though the cost savings as compared to two separate devices may be negligible. For reference, a Bushnell Tour v3 JOLT retails at $299, and the Bushnell NEO XS retails for $200. So comparing straight-up against some of Bushnell’s other options, you can save a bit of your hard-earned cash.

    The Bushnell Hybrid Laser-GPS will wind up being compared against not just Bushnell laser and GPS offerings, but against top-performing laser and GPS devices from other manufacturers as well – both separately and as multiple purchases. In terms of ease of use, the Bushnell Hybrid is probably best compared against a laser used in conjunction with the GPS devices that are easiest to access, such as the golf GPS watches which provides distances at a twist of the wrist.

    The Bushnell Hybrid provides an average laser, and an average GPS device, so the
    question is: will a device with two sets of features be more attractive to players based on either price or ease of use? We have already seen a small set of players (including readers here) who play with separate laser and GPS devices and like the option of choosing each of the laser and GPS that suits them best, not necessarily from the same manufacturer.

    We appreciate the ease of use of the device, but at a $400 price point, we would be more satisfied purchasing either a top-rated laser or GPS device, or perhaps even spending a bit more for both.


    Callaway Diablo Octane

    The Callaway Diablo Octane laser rangefinder is marketed as Callaway’s new entry-level rangefinder, replacing the Callaway LR550, and despite the re-branding, seems to deliver the same specifications as the earlier generation device. The Diablo Octane, which is manufactured by Nikon, provides distance readings at increments of 0.5 yards below 100 yards, and at increments of a yard from 100 yards up to its maximum 550 yard distance. We love the value, as it is one of the least expensive laser rangefinder in our tests, and yet still provides 6x magnification and “First Target Priority” mode (the equivalent of “Pinseeker” or “Pinhunter”), and is waterproof. The LCD display is clear, and the distances are prominently displayed within the viewfinder. The device is easy to hold, weighs just 6.8 ounces, and comes with a sleeve for the device and a carabiner clip to attach the device to a bag or cart.

    The device is capable, though we found that it struggles in picking up skinny objects (such as the stick portion of the flagstick) compared to our top-ranked devices. Aiming the laser on the largest target possible, such as the flag itself, solves the problem.

    The Callaway Diablo Octane is a very simple device – no whizbang slope-adjusted readings or LED display here, and no preference settings other than yards or meters. What you get, however, is a solid value for the relatively inexpensive price.

    SCORE
    89
    GRADE
    B+
    Ease of Use
    95
    Features
    84
    Obtaining Readings
    85
    Cost/Value
    92

    Pros:

    • Lowest priced rangefinder in our tests
    • Distance readings to 0.5 yards at <100 yards

    Cons:

    • Harder to pick up the pin (but not the flag) versus the competition
    • No settings beyond yards v meters

    Retail: $299.99
    Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by Callaway idTECH.


    95 / A

    EASE OF USE

    Callaway Diablo Octane Laser Rangefinder

    Click for more images

    The device is a standard vertically-held device – it isn’t the smallest in size, but it is one of the lightest. The Octane Diablo has a plastic and rubber exterior that is easy to hold. It comes with a sleeve that wraps around the device and connects to a carabiner through a quick-release pin. The pin is a bit on the small side and thus requires a little bit of extra attention to ensure that the pin locks back in when you’re re-attaching the device to the carabiner.

    The Callaway’s 6x magnification is about average for golf laser rangefinders (the Bushnell Tour V2 is at 5x, and the Bushnell Pro 1M line and Leica Pinmaster 2 are at 7x). The user focuses the display by twisting the eyepiece – the adjustment mechanism is smooth and requires little effort.

    Callaway Diablo Octane Laser Rangefinder

    Click for more images

    The Diablo Octane features two buttons, both located on the top of the device. The power button both turns the device on and fires the laser, and the mode button allows the player to toggle between yards and meters.

    The LCD is generally easy to read, but is more challenging when you’re focusing against dark backgrounds (the more expensive OLED devices display distances and cursors in red, which is much easier to see). Distances are displayed in an easy-to-read large font and appear above the target crosshair, so there’s no need to scan around within the viewfinder looking for the magic number. As with many rangefinders, there is a slight tint to the display that makes the display slightly darker, though not enough to significantly impact visibility.

    Callaway Diablo Octane Laser Rangefinder

    Click for more images

    The Callaway Diablo Octane requires a tap of the power button to turn it on, and then a second tap of the same button to activate the laser. The laser will continue to fire for eight seconds, allowing the player to pan across multiple targets and receive updated distance readings (distance readings are solid when displayed and update at approximately the same rate regardless of distance). When the laser is done firing, the last distance will continue to be displayed in the viewfinder for an additional eight seconds until the device powers off.

    The Callaway Diablo Octane takes one 3-volt CR-2 Lithium battery. A battery meter positioned in the lower center of the viewfinder below the crosshairs indicates the remaining charge level.

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


    84 / B

    FEATURES

    The Callaway Diablo Octane features “First Target Priority” mode, which is always on. First Target Priority (similar to “Pinseeker” and “Pinhunter” modes from other manufacturers) will return the distance to the closest target within the crosshairs and ignore larger targets that are farther away, and thus is helpful in targeting a flagstick against a backdrop of trees. As noted above, the device allows the user to pan across targets to receive updated distance readings.

    There is no option to change the crosshair style or adjust timeout preferences.

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


    85 / B

    OBTAINING DISTANCE READINGS

    Callaway markets the Diablo Octane as providing distances up to 550 yards. Distance readings will continue to update and be displayed on the LCD for eight seconds after the power button is released. This is also the maximum time the laser will continue to be fired, regardless of how long you actually hold the fire button down. At under 100 yards the Diablo will provide distances in 0.5 yard increments. We note, however, that we would regularly see distance readings vacillating back and forth by a full yard, rather than at 0.5 yard increments, so we’re not really sure if the device provides a differentiable level of precision.

    Ease of Locking on a Target:

    While the Diablo Octane can pick out flags and larger targets well in excess of 200 yards, the device doesn’t lock on to the pin (as opposed to flag) as easily as other devices. The Diablo Octane began to struggle with pins in excess of 100 yards, and beyond 200 yards it became truly troublesome. We could pick up pins in the range of 70% of the time at 150 yards, declining to under 50% at over 200 yards. There is no question that users should be targeting either the flag, or, if visible, the ground at the hole, when firing the laser.

    We also observed the Diablo Octane lagging other devices in more challenging situations, such as light fog, as well as targeting points on the ground under difficult lighting conditions.

    Speed Test:

    The Callaway Diablo Octane updates distance readings quickly, and was one of the fastest devices in our speed tests (65 seconds), even with the requirement to re-fire the laser every eight seconds. The Diablo Octane combines its First Priority Mode with a “panning mode”, and retains its position as one of the fastest when tested against other devices in their “pin-locating” modes, as well as when other devices switch modes during the speed test.

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


    92 / A-

    COST/VALUE

    At $299.99 retail, the Callaway Diablo Octane is the least expensive laser rangefinder that can acquire distances to any target in our cost comparison of laser rangefinders, though only by a penny. Curiously, the Diablo’s price is a bit higher than the Callaway LR550, the rangefinder it ostensibly replaces, even though the specifications are the same (even more curious, we have found the Diablo for less than the LR550 on Amazon at the time of this article).

    The Diablo Octane provides pretty good bang for the buck, and we wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to those looking for a reasonably priced entry level rangefinder . The stiffest competition for the Diablo Octane rangefinder comes from the Leupold GX-1, which features the same 6x magnification as the Diablo Octane in a smaller package, and also possesses additional features such as a variety of crosshair styles, fog mode, and longer panning before timeout. The GX-1, however, comes at a higher price ($375).


    Bag Boy Navigator 2

    Bag Boy, well known for their push and pull golf carts, also offers a remote controlled electric cart, the Navigator 2. The Navigator 2 has two rear wheels, a 360-degree swiveling front wheel (with suspension), and the common rear wheel stabilizer. Dual 140-watt motors power the cart, which has controls for front/reverse and left/right. The Bag Boy Navigator 2 also comes with a removable seat with storage, in case there aren’t any benches on the tee to take a load off.

    Weight with battery is approximately 55 pounds. Unfolded the cart is 42” tall x 67” long x 22” wide and folded is 17” tall x 36” long x 22” wide. Unlike other competing units, the Navigator 2 comes with a 2-year warranty on the frame, motor, and gear box.

    Bag Boy Navigator 2 Retail Price: $1,995.95
    Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Bag Boy Navigator Elite


    Bat-Caddy X4R

    One of the best values in electronic carts, and one of the top selling on the market, the Bat-Caddy X4R makes large leaps from the Bat-Caddy X3R. The cart has a silver aluminum alloy frame with stainless steel components and two independently powered 200-watt electric motors. The remote can move the X4R forward/reverse and left/right, controlling it up to 120 yards (though 10-20 years is recommended), and features a timed advance function to keep the cart advancing in front of the player. The cart has two rear wheels, one front wheel, plus a retractable rear stabilizer wheel. There are a large number of optional accessories, ranging from seat to sand dispenser.

    The X4R measures 35” tall x 42” long x 21” wide when open (with an adjustable handle which slightly increases height and length), and 10” tall x 33” long x 21” wide when folded. At 49 pounds with battery, the X4R has shed a whopping 15 pounds from the X3R! The Bat-Caddy X4R comes with a 1-year warranty.

    Bat-Caddy X4R Retail Price: $995
    Golfsmith: Check price now


    Bat-Caddy X3R

    One of the best values in electronic carts, and one of the top selling on the market, the Bat-Caddy X3R can be controlled up to 120 yards (though 10-20 yards is recommended). The cart has a silver aluminum alloy frame with stainless steel components and a single 200-watt electric motor. The remote can move the X3R forward/reverse and left/right, and features a timed advance function to keep the cart advancing in front of the player. The cart has two rear wheels, one front wheel, plus a retractable rear stabilizer wheel. There are a large number of optional accessories, ranging from seat to sand dispenser.

    The X3R measures 37” tall x 42” long x 24” wide when open, and 12” tall x 35” long x 24” wide when folded. It’s the heaviest cart in this list at 64 pounds with battery, so remember to lift from your knees, not your back! The Bat-Caddy X3R comes with a 1-year warranty.

    Bat-Caddy X3R Retail Price: $645
    Amazon.com: Check price now
    Golfsmith: Check price now


    Stewart Golf X5

    The Stewart X5 Remote is marketed as a “luxury” electric cart, and with the quality, level of design and specifications, it certainly meets this description. Designed from the ground up as a remote controlled cart, the X5 is far different than some of the competition that are based on existing push carts, with battery and/or remote control systems tacked on without a change in cart design. Controllable up to 50 yards away, the X5 is the current evolution of the first X-series, produced in 2003.

    The X5 has a low and central center of gravity to provide stability, two 140-watt motors, a built-in stabilizer, 4 wheels and wider rear wheelbase than other carts, and is programmable for up to 4 walking speeds. The remote handset allows players to move the cart forwards/reverse, faster/slower and left/right. Available in silver, black and green, the X5 has a sleek design that is one of the most attractive on the market.

    When open, the cart measures approximately 36” tall x 44” long x 28” wide. It folds down to 12” tall x 32” long x 28” wide. Weight is just over 56 pounds. The Stewart X5 comes with a 1-year warranty.

    If you have the dollars to spend, this is absolutely a cart you should consider.

    Stewart Golf X5 Retail Price: $2,495
    Amazon.com: Check price now


    The Kingdom at TaylorMade

    Continuing our series on golf fitting and performance centers, we sent two of our editors to Carlsbad, California to soak up a day at The Kingdom, TaylorMade’s top-of-the-line clubfitting experience that was, until 2005, reserved for their Tour Professionals only. With a name like The Kingdom, the expectations are lofty – and as you will see from the review by our editors below, TaylorMade truly delivers a remarkable experience.

    Prior to Our Visit

    There are two ways for mere mortals to visit The Kingdom. One is by working with your local TaylorMade golf professional, who can arrange for access to the facility. Sessions made through TaylorMade teaching professionals cost $500, with the proviso that if you purchase 10 or more clubs following the visit, you will receive a $250 credit back toward that purchase. If you aren’t able to track down a TaylorMade professional, you can contact The Kingdom directly, but in that case, the price of admission is $5,500, which is cost-prohibitive to all but a select few. The experience when working directly with The Kingdom is the same as for those who gain access through a teaching professional, but the premium covers the purchase of a full set of custom-built clubs with all the trimmings, and a lesson with Jim Flick, a well-known teacher of the game and TaylorMade’s in-house Tour Professional. This sizable difference in cost also indicates TaylorMade’s commitment to their Green Grass Initiative, which supports their local teaching professionals.

    TaylorMade recommends that visitors have a handicap index of 15 or better in order to get the most out of the experience. Prior to the trip TaylorMade asked us to fill out a brief form outlining our level of play, details of our current equipment, and shot patterns. They recommend bringing your current clubs to the session in order to compare the difference in performance to the custom-fit set. Oh, due to the technology involved in their MATT Fitting process (see below), don’t forget to wear a shirt that is any color other than white.

    Arriving at Headquarters

    Entering the lobby at TaylorMade’s corporate headquarters in Carlsbad, we were surrounded by staff bags, clubs, and other golf gear, arranged almost like museum pieces. The receptionists greeted us by name as we arrived (was it that obvious that we were the Kingdom’s clients? Perhaps wearing golf shoes into an office lobby is a bit of a tip-off) and provided us with name badges, and then we were met by Jamie, TaylorMade’s Player Relations Specialist, who transported us and our clubs in a stylish golf cart (translation: leather seats with Kingdom logos) just across the road to the Kingdom’s facility.

    Inside the Center

    The Kingdom at TaylorMade

    Click for more images

    Upon arrival at The Kingdom, our clubs were quickly whisked away and we were met by Greg Cesario, the Manager of The Kingdom. Our names were displayed on the flat-screen TV above the front desk to welcome us, and Greg showed us into a luxurious conference room to get us situated. The room is designed with a high-end locker room feel: wood paneling, TVs, leather seats, snacks, and a conference table to chat. Hey, even some bottles of wine. It feels much like the clubhouse at a high-end course…I’ll have a Bloody Mary and a steak sandwich…and a steak sandwich.

    Greg took us on a tour through the facility, beginning in a dedicated room for building clubs. This small room has all the equipment the team needs to build clubs and make adjustments on-site, and is separated from the front desk area by a wall of windows so visitors can get a look at the process. We then passed through one of their three indoor fitting bays out to the outdoor range, where our clubs were lined up with name placards beside them (hey, its just like when the pros hit before a tourney…except that they strategically draped towels over our (ahem) non-TaylorMade clubs). The outdoor range is a fantastic advantage for The Kingdom – very few manufacturers make fittings with grass ranges available to the public. In retrospect, it seems almost bizarre to us that most people will purchase clubs without ever having the opportunity to test them on actual grass.

    Walking along their range we passed an assortment of clubheads, shafts and equipment, a second fitting bay, and lastly a third fitting bay with an Iron Byron used by the TaylorMade Research and Development (R&D) team. Each fitting bay has a large door that can be opened so clients can hit from their mats directly into the outdoor range. The outdoor setup included a TrackMan for measuring spin rate, club speed, carry, launch angle and more (now that’s cool – we’ve seen that on TV!). It’s an impressive introduction to the site, and something that few manufacturers can match.

    We walked back to the first bay and closed the door to the range as we began the initial indoor portion of the fitting. Mounted within the room are 6 cameras, a ball-launch monitor, and two plasma screen monitors that displayed computer-generated video of our swings and a variety of swing data. We took seats next to Perry, our fitter for the day, who sat behind a desk at a computer to monitor and control the fitting software.

    Time to Get Hooked Up

    We decided that it would be cruel and unusual punishment to subject Perry to analyzing two swings that are “works-in-progress,” so Norm was chosen as the lucky victim. Perry walked through a series of questions on Norm’s wood, iron and wedge games, any club preferences, his usual flight patterns (um, if there is one on a given day), and what he was looking for…workability? forgiveness? both! This information was then combined with the data that he had provided to TaylorMade in advance.

    Perry then gave an overview of the Motion Analysis Technology (MATT) System, a system licensed exclusively to TaylorMade, which gathers swing information to build a three-dimensional computer-animated version of your swing (viewable from any angle) and a personal club recommendation. The club-fitters have a wealth of data at their disposal, and determine the most appropriate clubs for you by combining the system’s recommendation, their own expertise, and your feedback.

    In order to capture swing information, Norm was fitted with a vest, cap, elbow, wrist, knee and shoe “sleeves”. Each of these sleeves is outfitted with one or more reflective balls that the cameras use to build a 3-D image. If there had been a green-screen behind Norm, you might have thought that he was preparing to perform in the next ”Matrix” sequel. Thankfully there is no waist sleeve, so Norm’s computer generated image wasn’t exactly drawn to scale around the midsection…much appreciated!

    Norm warmed up with his own 6-iron (most fittings involve at least a 6-iron and driver), and then moved on to a TaylorMade 6-iron with reflective markers on the clubhead and shaft for capturing additional information. He worked out the kinks as best as he could (yes, Perry needed to “delete” a few shots along the way) to generate repeatable swing data that Perry could use as the basis for club recommendations.

    With each swing, the MATT system generated a 3D model of Norm’s swing on one plasma monitor and a variety of data on the other, including impact location, swing speed, swing path (in/out and up/down) and face angle (target and path). The fitter can then rotate the 3D image to display the swing from different angles (including from below your feet), overlay graphics to illustrate how the actual swing plane and swing path deviate from the ideal, show how your center of gravity shifts during the swing, and even overlay your image on to a graphic of a tour professional to highlight how the swings differ.

    The process is repeated with both a driver and a wedge. The only difference in process among the three clubs is that a flight monitor is also used for basic ball launch information for the driver (more in-depth information would be collected at the outdoor range using the TrackMan, see below) but not for the 6-iron or wedge. All of this swing information is then used to pare down the selection of clubs and shafts to a recommended club(s). The next step was to open up the bay door and step out on to the driving range, where the club-fitting team worked more qualitatively with Norm to refine the club recommendations.

    Out to the Range

    Kingdom Satellite View

    Click for larger image

    As Norm took some practice swings on the grass, Perry began preparing a number of irons for him to test. They moved over to the TrackMan and swung with both Norm’s own club and the MATT-recommended TP irons. Perry supplied irons with a 2-degree up lie (confirming what Norm has heard at other club fittings) that allowed for much cleaner ball-striking closer to the center of the clubface. While Norm thought that this club had a very nice feel, Perry also recommended (and here is where you have to remember that a computer doesn’t have all the answers, but can provide a starting point) trying out the Burner 2.0, which provided nearly a club of additional distance with a more forgiving feel. The MATT’s initial recommendation of the TP irons was driven in part by Norm’s initial discussion with Perry, where Norm expressed a strong preference for clubs with a “thinner” profile to match his current irons. In retrospect, we would recommend not constraining the MATT system and your fitter with a desired “look” in a club, but rather let them provide the initial recommendation driven by your swing. If you find that you absolutely can’t stand the way the club looks, your fitter can help refine the suggestion out on the range.

    With the significant amount of time that The Kingdom allocates for its fittings, you can test not only a driver and 6-iron, but also a full range of clubs – fairway woods, rescue clubs, and wedges. This can be an advantage over many other fittings, which base their overall club recommendations solely on fitting the driver and 6-iron.

    In the end, Norm’s final custom fitting recommendations changed little from what the MATT system prescribed, with the only change being a slightly less lofted driver (9.5 degrees versus 10.5 degrees) after swinging on the range with the benefit of TrackMan analysis.

    Rolling Some Putts

    There is no dedicated area at The Kingdom’s facility for putting analysis, though this is something that they hope to add in the near future. So Perry took us on a short cart ride back to the main TaylorMade building across the street, where their old 8-camera full-swing fitting room has been repurposed for putting analysis. We rolled a number of putts with our current putters as well as some of the new TaylorMade designs. As the system picked up the ball images and processed the data, most striking thing was seeing the change in spin with the switch from our own putters to the Rossa Ghost (with grooved insert) allowing one of our editors (let’s just call him “Shnorm”) to move from his customary backspin (and associated skid and bounce…for shame!) to forward spin, and increasing forward spin rates for our other editor. We’ll leave it to others to discuss whether these grooves are all hype or not. Either way, the data was abundantly clear.

    Time to Go Home – It’s Closing Time

    In the relaxed setting of The Kingdom and with such individualized attention, time passes far too quickly. With a range and clubhouse to ourselves, along with a veritable cornucopia of TaylorMade product to test, we were in equipment testing heaven. For these fittings, however, it’s just a half-day that you get to enjoy, and our time was soon at an end.

    As we changed back into street shoes, Perry put together a packet of information to summarize the morning. This included:

    • A MATT Custom Fit profile, which provided details of the custom-fit clubs (driver, fairway wood and hybrids, irons, wedges and ball),
    • An order form 😉
    • A Player Performance Profile for each club analyzed (driver, 6-iron and 56-degree wedge) that provides a summary on paper with both graphic and data for each, and
    • A CD with 10 swings captured by the Motion Reality Viewer. Players can rotate the video to view their swing from any angle, and review data on each swing for club speed, hand speed, in/out path, face angle, up path, loft, lie and swing time (no ball data – that was only captured via the TrackMan). Mac users will be bummed to know that the CD is only PC-compatible.

    We also left with a sleeve of the latest Titleist Penta golf balls and a Kingdom logo golf cap (we can virtually guarantee that you’ll be the only one on the block with one of these).

    Unlike some manufacturers, The Kingdom retains player information in case you decide to return for additional fittings (given the low cost of hard drive space, why don’t all manufacturers do this?). Critical Golf readers have inquired whether visitors to TaylorMade (or other centers) could simply take the club specifications to a different manufacturer or knock-off club producer. Of course this can be done, but it seems to us that if you are visiting The Kingdom, getting clubs anywhere else completely defeats the purpose of your visit. You would be hard pressed to find an exact match for the feel of the recommended clubs and shaft, and given the cost you’ve already incurred, you would have to be a bit off your rocker to do such a thing. Most Kingdom visitors already play TaylorMade clubs, but by no means is that a reason for players of other brands not to consider making the trip. You’ll certainly find the expertise to help fit you correctly, and based on the results you may just find yourself changing brands.

    To cap off the morning, the good folks at The Kingdom were kind enough to drop us off at the new TaylorMade-adidas building on campus that houses conference rooms for different company brands, a hallway full of golf memorabilia from the company (hey, the original Ashworth logo sketch!), and the company store, which stocks a number of items that we wouldn’t find in our local retail stores. And yes, of course we purchased a souvenir. How could we not?

    Overview

    The Kingdom at TaylorMade provides an expert team at your disposal in a very comfortable setting that includes all of the latest technology and a private range. (As we were the only clients at The Kingdom that morning, it couldn’t have been any more personalized.) With its dedicated facility, the latest 3-D technology, TrackMan, a grass range, and the ability to quickly test and build any TaylorMade clubs desired, The Kingdom is, to be sure, an “experience” as well as a fitting, and one that we thoroughly enjoyed. If you can get there, no doubt you will too.

    Contact information (tell ’em you saw them on Critical Golf):
    TaylorMade Golf- The Kingdom (Carlsbad, CA)
    Please contact Trisa Mills
    1-760-918-6358
    1-800-785-8942
    trisa.mills@tmag.com

    TaylorMade also offers The Kingdom at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Georgia, an experience that is even more extensive than at TaylorMade Headquarters in Carlsbad. Base packages start at $395 for a putter fitting (and that does include a putter) and run all the way to $4,000, which includes a night at the Ritz-Carlton, a full set of clubs built on-site within 24 hours, a round at Reynolds Plantation and more. For those with money to burn (or as we prefer to say, simply have their priorities straight), there are multi-day options. These 2 and 3-day packages will (take a deep breath) set you back $6,500 and $8,500, respectively. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your friends – these packages require 3 or 4 guests at a minimum. With nights at the Ritz-Carlton, a full set of custom-built clubs, and even dinner with a TaylorMade Tour Professional, how can you go wrong?