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SkyCaddie SGXw

The SkyCaddie SGXw is an evolution of the SkyCaddie SGX, and adds Wi-Fi capability to download courses to the device and sync courses and statistics to the SkyCaddie online portal. It also adds a new feature – radiating yardage arcs that provide context on how far away different hazards and targets are from the player’s position on the hole.

The SGXw has the ability to offer more detailed course information than any other device, with its mapping of green contours really taking it to the next level. We found, however, that SkyCaddie is still in the early stages of mapping courses to this level of granularity, scoring extremely low in our golf course coverage test . The ability to determine any point on the course, pre-mapped targets, radiating yardage arcs, and mapping of the entire green, this is the most extensive mapping and distance information you can find in a golf GPS unit, but for some, this level of detail will be overwhelming.

The graphics are strong and make good use of the large screen, and there is a plethora of preference settings available (although we question whether we’ll ever explore most of them). The optical trackpad got mixed reviews from our review staff – its extreme sensitivity works well for placing the target cursor to obtain distance readings (though buggy at times), but navigating through more constrained menus such as scoring and statistics can be a challenge because it has a tendency to overcorrect.

Our overall perception of the SkyCaddie SGXw is that data aficionados are going to love all of the available information and features. But those who prefer a more streamlined approach in their golf GPS device might balk at the SGXw’s size (it’s big enough that it tends to get stuck when you’re trying to pull it out of your shorts pocket) and its hefty price tag ($400 plus yearly fees to access the SkyCaddie course database, bringing the total to nearly $550 over three years).

SCORE
86
GRADE
B
Setup/Syncing
85
Course Availability
59
Ease of Use
88
Course Details
96
Features
95
Accuracy
90
Cost/Value
82

Pros:

  • Bright and easy to read color screen
  • Full graphic hole views and unmatched green detail (when HoleVue and Intelligreen Pro are available)
  • Yardage arcs show provide additional distance information

Cons:

  • Highest 3-year total cost in our test
  • Course coverage extremely low for advanced green features
  • Optical trackpad has bugs

Retail price: $399.95
Three year total cost: $549.80
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the SkyCaddie TOUCH
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


85 / B

SETUP/SYNCING

The Good: We got up and running quickly with the SGXw, and we were able to use the Wi-Fi functionality to download courses to the device.

The Bad: The SGXw does not allow the user to quickly locate and download multiple courses at a time without use of a computer. Those who read our SkyCaddie SGX review remember our disappointment with the syncing and software update process. With the SGXw we experienced issues trying to download and install software updates, which ultimately resulted in us exchanging our original device for a new unit (with the latest OS installed). Using the replacement device we once again received error messages when trying to install an operating system update (which took a whopping hour to install!). Upon further syncs, the device appears to have updated the software, notwithstanding an error message. Sigh.

Details for Wi-Fi activation and syncing:

  • Required steps. We set up the SkyCaddie SGXw via Wi-Fi (Why? Because we can!). The process involved:
    • selecting the wireless network and entering a security password (if applicable) using the optical trackpad, which was much easier than we expected. Note that the SGXw can’t connect to networks that require browser-based interaction to get on the network (so don’t expect to be able to download courses at your local Starbucks);
    • using the provided activation code to register the device via browser on a computer (ok, so the Wi-Fi activation process isn’t completely done on the SGXw) and creating a SkyCaddie account;
    • selecting a membership plan (ranging in price from $29.95 to $59.95) and whether we wanted to extend the warranty ($19.95 for an additional 6 months);
    • selecting to sync the SGXw, at which point we were ready to go with basic course information (front, center and back of green distances) for all of the courses in the SkyCaddie database; and
    • to access advanced features such as full hole graphics (which is, after all the reason we forked out $400 for this device), we needed to download the “Advanced” version of the course(s). To do so we had to find the course, which was a pain, as the optical trackpad doesn’t scroll through long lists quickly. The subsequent downloading process of the course took about 30 seconds, and didn’t noticeably drain the battery. Note that the interface on the SGXw will only let you select one course for download at a time. If you want to select multiple courses to be downloaded all at once, you must log on to your SkyCaddie account through their web site, at which point you can do the actual download either via Wi-Fi or through the USB cable.

Details for wired syncing:

  • Required steps. You’ll need to sync your SGXw via cable for software updates, and can also download courses through the cable as well The required steps are as follows:
    • installing course management software (CaddieSync Express) on your computer;
    • to add courses to the SGXw, logging in to a SkyCaddie account through their web site, then searching for and selecting the courses to be sent to the SkyCaddie (this has a very nice interface); and
    • “syncing” the courses to the device through the USB cable.
  • Time required for setup. The initial setup to connect to a Wi-Fi network, activate and download courses took on the order of 15 minutes. You can download via cable or Wi-Fi, and both methods take about the same amount of time (approximately 30 seconds to download one course). If a software update is required (this can only be done when wired), the process takes slightly over an hour.

Overall, we found the wireless functionality to be most useful for syncing scores and statistics at the end of a round. When it came to downloading, our preferred method was a combination of selecting the courses for download through our SkyCaddie account on their web site, and then syncing via wireless (we didn’t have the patience to select and download courses one-by-one from the SGXw).

A note on charging: just because you have plugged your SkyCaddie SGXw into the wall (or computer) does not mean that it will automatically start charging. The player still needs to press the “Charge” soft key to start the charging process. We’re not really sure why this was put into place, but are pretty certain that a number of folks have walked away thinking their device was going to be charged and were sorely disappointed when they returned. Recharging the battery can take between 4-6 hours and the device will power off when the battery is fully charged.

What’s in the Box: The SkyCaddie SGXw comes with:

  • USB to Micro-USB cable
  • Wall charger
  • Belt clip
  • LCD protector and installation instructions
  • LCD cleaning cloth
  • Player’s Guide
  • Quick Start Guide
  • W-Fi Quick Start Guide
  • Optical Trackpad How-To Guide
  • Battery Charging Tips sheet

(Amusingly, the guides were all stuffed into a plain envelope in the box with no marketing on it, almost like an afterthought to keep them all together. It actually seems to be the same envelope we buy at the local Office Depot)

Downloads: :


59 / F

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: The SkyCaddie SGXw scores near the bottom of our course coverage test. As a reminder, we only count a course as “available” for any particular device if there are maps that cover all of the functions of which the device is capable. After all, that’s why you pay a premium for those devices – if you just wanted distances to the front, middle and back of the green, you could get them for much less. The low score for the SGXw was largely due to the lack of courses for which both HoleVue and IntelliGreen Pro are available (the vast number of courses that don’t have both available are only lacking IntelliGreen Pro). While up from the SGX’s initial score of 42% in 2010, SkyCaddie is making extremely slow progress in an area that is marketed as a differentiator, and one that we assume the annual fees support. If you are considering purchase of the SGXw, you will want to confirm that the courses you play have HoleVue and IntelliGreen Pro available.

Manufacturer’s Claims: SkyCaddie claims to have nearly 30,000 courses with standard distance information in its course database, placing it among the top devices tested. SkyCaddie doesn’t break out HoleVue and IntelliGreen Pro coverage separately, so this number doesn’t tell you much about coverage for the SGXw.


88 / B+

EASE OF USE

The Good: Exceptional display that is easily visible even in bright sunlight. Improved navigation with the ability to zoom both in AND out of the hole views at the press of a button (different from the original SkyCaddie SGX). It is easy to navigate screens quickly, and the optical trackpad allowed us to quickly and accurately place the target cursor within full hole and green views. One of the benefits of using a trackpad is that you can see the distances both to the target cursor as well as to the green – with a touchscreen we find one of these can often get obscured when placing the cursor with your fingertip.

The Bad: One of the heaviest devices we’ve tested. Both the buttons and the optical trackpad were finicky. There’s a bit of information overload at times on the device, with overlapping distances displayed. We found the “AutoView” function of changing views by rotating the device 90 degrees was more frustrating than helpful.

Details:

  • Buttons. The device features an optical trackpad (works with or without glove), two soft keys, and buttons for power/cursor lock, mark shot, menu, info/toggle yardage arcs, and hole selection, and also features SkyCaddie’s new AutoView technology, which advances to different views or the scorecard when the user rotates the device 90 degrees. The optical trackpad generally worked well for pinpointing targets, but its extreme sensitivity drove us bonkers when we were trying to navigate through menus, as it would shoot past the menu selection we wanted when swiping across the trackpad. We also had a number of occasions each round when the optical trackpad simply stopped working – this happened at times when entering scores, in full hole view, and within green view. In each case we would have to wait until the next hole before the trackpad resumed functioning (this happened with multiple SGXw units we tested). The buttons were temperamental – you need to be relatively deliberate when pressing them, as just seeing/hearing the button depress doesn’t mean you have successfully engaged the desired function. We weren’t fans of AutoView, as it frequently advanced us to different views when we didn’t want it to, and then wouldn’t advance when we DID want it to (even after adjusting preference settings).
  • Screen. The SkyCaddie SGXw has a bright 3” screen that works well in all lighting conditions and is one of our favorites.
  • Form Factor. The SkyCaddie SGXw weighs 5.3 ounces, making it one of the heaviest devices we tested. We keep hoping SkyCaddie will slim down these devices one day.
  • Starting a Round. At the outset of a round, the SGXw will use the device’s location to suggest the nearest golf course – the user can either go with that option, choose from among either the list of courses they have loaded onto the device, or a selection of “Preloaded Courses” that SkyCaddie loads on the device at the factory (which are displayed based on proximity to the player’s location). These preloaded course maps only contain basic distances to the front, center and back of the green, and do NOT include HoleVue, Intelligreen Pro, or distances to bunkers, creeks and other hazards (and are only available for 30 days before a membership plan is required). After selecting the course, the user selects the hole on which to start the round. Users can resume a round if they exit the course to modify user settings during play.

96 / A

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: While it’s not a satellite image, the hole views (HoleVue) provide exceptional detail, including reasonable mapping of tree cover. This device is the most comprehensive of all device tested in terms of mapping information provided – the ability to determine distance to any point on the hole, pre-mapped targets, radiating distance arcs, layup arcs, and full green mapping…whew! And lest we forget, the green graphic will rotate based on player position.

The Bad: Holes can sometimes get cropped, such as when the SGXw focuses on the “inside” of the dogleg.

Hole View

Click for views

For a closer look at the different views available per hole, check out the images at right.

Details:

  • Views. There are four different views available – a full hole view, a target listing view, a “safe route” view, a very basic center and targets view, and a green view. Users can cycle easily through the views, and can also customize settings to remove any views they don’t utilize. Each view shows battery level, signal strength, metric and current time. In graphic views, the user can use the optical trackpad to move the cursor anywhere on the hole to determine distances. The cursor movement is exceptionally smooth and placement is easy – well done! Within full hole and green views the player can also select to display yardage arcs (“RangeVue”) at the push of a button. It’s a quick way to provide additional information, and since distances to pre-mapped targets are not shown in the graphic views, this is a nice way to get approximate distance information to other targets/areas of interest without having to scroll the cursor to different areas. The yardage arcs will dynamically move and update as the cursor is moved. Our reviewers were torn on the yardage arcs – on the one hand, they are great for quickly getting context on how far away different hazards or targets are – on the other hand, they clutter up the screen a bit. Fortunately, users can quickly toggle on and off these arcs.
    • Full hole view (“HoleVue”) – HoleVue shows a graphic of the hole, including trees, hazards, and even cart paths, and the distance to the center of the green. A cursor is automatically placed in the center of the screen, and the user may use the optical trackpad to move the cursor and select any point on the hole. The distance to that targeted point is then displayed, as well as the distance from that point to the green. There are generally three levels of zoom available in HoleVue. SkyCaddie has responded to our suggestion (and probably that of thousands of its users), and in the SGXw now enables players to zoom out without having to cycle through all the screens. When zooming in, the device automatically decides where the view will zoom to, so there are cases where you might wish you could pan the screen a bit.

      One big negative is found on par-5s, when SkyCaddie places an additional target icon at the point where the device believes the player should lay up – players don’t get to move that layup point, so you’re stuck with wherever SkyCaddie puts it! You wouldn’t think that was such a big deal, except that the SGXw will display the distance from your position to the movable cursor, the distance from that cursor to the layup point (wherever SkyCaddie decided to put it), and from the layup point to the green. The layup point is supposed to drop off when the player reaches a certain distance from it, but we found that it didn’t drop off when we wanted it to and would prefer the option to turn it off entirely (which, oddly enough, given the myriad of preference settings available on the SGXw, isn’t available – c’mon SkyCaddie…).

    • Target list view – The target list view displays a scrollable list of distances to hazards, carries and layups. Up to five distances can be shown at a time, but for some odd reason, the SGXw will often display fewer than 5 target distances on a hole when 5 or more are actually available, requiring users to immediately scroll to see relevant targets. The distance to the center of the green from the target selected is shown, along with a graphic indicating the target. While this is a useful view, we wound up taking to the optical trackpad so quickly that we primarily used the hole view instead. Ideally we would like to be able to toggle the pre-mapped target distances on and off from within the hole view (maybe with the successor to the SGXw?)
    • Safe route (“QuickVue”) – Shows the route SkyCaddie has determined is the “safest” route of play, in a 3-D view, when HoleVue is not available. Users can also choose this view instead of HoleVue, although we can’t really see why one would ever want to do so.
    • Big Number View – Big Number View is the simplest of all of the available views, and shows only the distance to the center of the green or a specific target in, as you might surmise, a BIG NUMBER. The user can cycle through the available targets one at a time). We are a bit surprised that this even exists, since if a player wants this view, they can find it in other devices at amuch lower price.
    • Green view (“IntelliGreen” and “IntelliGreen Pro”) – IntelliGreen displays the true shape of the green, and will rotate to match the angle of the player’s approach. Distances to the front and back of the green from the player’s position are displayed, along with the distance to the target cursor, which can be moved with the optical trackpad to match the flagstick location (it will remain in that location when you switch screens, but the green view is the only view where you will see the distance to the selected point as opposed to the center of the green). IntelliGreen Pro, available on select courses, takes all of the functionality of IntelliGreen and adds major tiers, contours, false fronts and mounds. IntelliGreen and IntelliGreen Pro both show the depth of the green in line with wherever the target cursor is placed, and when the distance arcs are off, players will also see the distances to the edges of the green relative to the position of the cursor, which is great information to have at a glance (for a picture of IntelliGreen Pro, click on the image at right). The SGXw will default to IntelliGreen Pro if it is available for the course.
  • Hole Information. The hole number, par and hole handicap are all shown at the top of the view screens.
  • Custom Mapping. Users can’t add custom points for existing courses, but can create personal courses from scratch (though with distances to the front, center and back of the green only).

95 / A

FEATURES

The Good: The latest feature is the wireless capability introduced with the SGXw, the only golf GPS device to offer wireless syncing. The SkyCaddie SGXw provides virtually all of the features and adjustable settings you would expect in a premium-priced golf GPS device and then some.

The Bad: With so many options, you’ll actually have to read the manual to figure out how to adjust the various settings for the SGXw’s features. While it’s easy to track shot distances, you can’t track club averages without an additional yearly subscription to the “Premium” version of SkyCaddie’s online portal, ClubSG.

Scoring

Click for images

Details:

  • Wi-Fi Capability.The SGXw can connect to a Wi-Fi network to download course maps and upload scorecards and statistics to their ClubSG account (the basic version of ClubSG is free). The SGXw supports non-browser based public and private wireless networks, including those that require passwords, and can connect to smartphones using wireless tethering as well. Wireless networks that require entering a login or password on a web page are not supported, so you probably won’t be able to use the Wi-Fi capabilities in a hotel or airport. As mentioned before, we found the primary use of Wi-Fi to be ease of syncing scores and statistics, as opposed to downloading courses.
  • Shot Tracking. Users can easily mark their shots to measure distances. Users cannot calculate club distance averages.
  • Scores and Statistics. Users can track score, putts and fairways hit (or left/right). There is no option to record penalty shots or sand shots, both of which can be tracked on a number of other devices. After entering the score for a hole, players see a round summary that displays where they stand relative to par, total score and total putts. The SGXw can only store a maximum of 20 rounds before the user must sync with the computer to offload the scores and statistics data. This is improved from the SkyCaddie SGX, but we still don’t understand this limitation given how inexpensive memory is and what little space this information would take.
  • Auto-Advance. Users can choose between automatic or manual advancing between holes. We did find that when in auto-advance mode, the device didn’t always recognize we had moved to the next hole, requiring us to manually advance on occasion.
  • Preferences. The SkyCaddie SGXw provides an enormous number of user settings. The variety includes not just “standard” settings to adjust backlight and power, but also an extremely large number of options of when to display targets, and which views to display. We would bet that most users never use or modify the range of settings they have at their disposal, or even review the manual to see what’s available.
  • Battery Life. We like to keep the screen on as much as possible so we don’t have to wait for it to “wake up” again, and with heavy use we found that the SkyCaddie SGXw could last for one round before a recharge is required, certainly not two. You can extend your battery life by modifying the backlight and power save settings.
  • ClubSG. ClubSG is SkyCaddie’s online portal that stores user scores and statistics (note to SkyCaddie’s web team: please no more 3D charts…perhaps we should send you some of Edward Tufte’s books). In addition to aggregating scores and key stats, Club SG also lets users share information and connect with other players. There is a LOT going on with the ClubSG portal. There is also a “Premium” version of ClubSG that for $9.95/year allows users to track additional statistics, including alcoholic drinks consumed per round (no we aren’t kidding). Given that already SkyCaddie charges a pretty penny for the yearly membership plans to access their course database, we are a little surprised that they are milking their user base for even more to get this premium access. Bummer.

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


90 / A-

ACCURACY

Device Accuracy: We experienced no distance accuracy issues in our test of device accuracy, with all distances within our expected range of plus or minus 4 yards.

Mapping Accuracy: Distance readings are available all the way to the green, so you can have confidence in the accuracy of the SkyCaddie SGXw. While we were confident in the distances provided, we did find key targets missing from holes on resort and top-rated courses. This included missing bunkers (added approximately five years ago), and trees in fairways that are in play (that are decades old). These errors, considered in conjunction with the slow addition of green detail to their course database, make it pretty clear that courses aren’t regularly updated by SkyCaddie. We had expected our steep annual fees to go toward maintaining the course database, but clearly they don’t. Feel free to insert your own joke here about how the annual fees go to pay their marketing expenses and advisory board members, such as Natalie Gulbis, Fluff Cowan, Hank Haney and Jim Furyk.


82/ B-

COST/VALUE
Retail Price: With a retail price of $399.95, the SkyCaddie SGXw falls in the top end of the price spectrum, comparable with other full-featured golf GPS devices from competitors such as Garmin and GolfBuddy.

Fees for Access to Course Database: SkyCaddie is still holding on to yearly fees to access their database of advanced course maps, perhaps under the argument that some of the features they map, such as the detailed green contour information, are differentiators. SkyCaddie SGXw owners can choose one of three membership plans to access the course database with advanced information, which are priced at $29.95/year for unlimited courses in one state, $49.95/year for unlimited courses in the United States, and $59.95/year for unlimited courses worldwide.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: Call your credit card companies and up your limit! At $549.80 over three years, the SkyCaddie SGXw takes the prize for highest-priced device in our test of total golf GPS cost. We thought about naming our analysis of 3-year cost “PriceVue”, but got antsy about a LawsuitVue from SkyCaddie.

Value: The SkyCaddie SGXw includes a lavish collection of features and settings, and the graphics and display are strong. On the other hand, there is relatively poor course coverage for the advanced features, the optical trackpad still had kinks to work out, the user interface has its ups and downs, the recurring fees add up over time. While a decent device, at over $500 for three years, the SkyCaddie SGXw is going to have tough going against the competition.

Updated (course coverage): March 2013


Sonocaddie V300 Plus

With the V300 Plus, Sonocaddie is starting to rival SkyCaddie with the sheer number of devices they have available: 6 versus SkyCaddie’s whopping 7 devices. A marketer’s dream!

The Sonocaddie V300 Plus has a color screen and comes preloaded with basic distance information, including course hazards, targets and a graphic indication of whether they are on the left, center or right side of the hole. It does not, however, provide a map of the hole. Accessing hole maps, which include both color graphic layouts and satellite images, requires an additional membership fee of $29.95 per year.

Lastly, though you may expect the V300 and V300 Plus are the same physical device but with different features, they aren’t. The V300 Plus is slightly lighter and thinner, with a plastic exterior. The V300 has a rubberized exterior, and comes with graphic course maps included (and slightly more expensive), though not satellite images and has slightly different membership options.

Though we haven’t tested the V300 Plus, the device appears to be quite similar to the V500. The hardware is slightly different, but features and functionality appear to be the same.

Retail price: $229.95
Amazon.com price: Check price now

Callaway Hyper-Lite 4.0

SCORE
91
GRADE
A-
Club Storage
91
Legs/Base
91
Straps
96
Pockets/Storage
95
Rain Hood
87
Carrying Impressions
94
Style
90
Innovation
90
Cost/Value
92

The Callaway Hyper-Lite 4.0 is a solid performer – there’s nothing radical about it, but it delivers what you need in a carry bag. The features include a 6-way top for club storage, pockets for everything you need, and exceptional padding both on in the shoulder straps and on the bag itself. Note that while it is marketed as “Hyper-Lite”, the 4.9 lb. bag (as tested) was only slightly lighter than the average bag tested, and doesn’t really compete with some of the superlight bags on the market.

The design of the legs was a mixed bag. On the one hand, the Hyper-Lite 4.0 features a new leg mechanism that, somewhat akin to the Ping Hoofer, utilizes a collapsing base to trigger the extension of the legs, providing more stability and making it easy to use on push and driving carts. On the other hand, the legs didn’t collapse as much as we would have liked while the bag is being carried, and sometimes require some additional encouragement to fold completely back into the side of the bag.

It’s well-priced for what you get, and makes for a nice balance between functionality for those who usually walk the course and storage capacity for those who prefer to take a cart.

Retail price: $159.99
Amazon.com price: Check price now

Editor’s note: This review is for the 2011 version of the Callaway Hyper-Lite 4.0. Manufacturers generally make minor changes to bag models each 1-2 years. We have provided links to check prices for the latest version of the bag, which was originally updated to the Hyper-Lite 4.5, and now (2014) was replaced with the Hyper-Lite 4, and features largely the same feature set as the reviewed Hyper-Lite 4.0.


91 / A-

CLUB STORAGE

The Callaway Hyper-Lite 4.0 has a 6-way top that splits the club storage area into 6 sectors, with all dividers running the length of the bag. The number of sectors was sufficient, but we still aren’t sold on full-length dividers – it seems to us that in any setup you will still have situations where clubs will catch on each other when inserted or removed (unless you are going with a bag with 14 full-length dividers, which are generally much heavier bags).


91 / A-

LEGS/BASE

The legs are solid and, in combination with the “XTT® Flex Foot Base Technology with stable stand system,” provides a steady base. The base technology reminded us of that used in the Ping Hoofer – instead of having a large piece of plastic that extends from the base of the bag and triggers the extension of the legs, the base itself is collapsible and setting the bag down and leaning it in the right direction activates the legs. The benefit is that there isn’t anything sticking out at the bottom of the base – the leg triggers used on other bags tend to get snagged when you’re loading them on to a push cart or in the back of a golf cart.

The legs quickly and easily pop out when the bag is set down, but the retraction mechanism isn’t as reliable. We found that when we would pick up the bag, the legs often didn’t fully collapse, and on occasion would even dangle down from the bag. There is no Velcro or elastic to strap down the legs if using a cart.


96 / A

STRAPS

We are big fans of Callaway’s straps, in particular the thick padding throughout the shoulder area. The straps feel just a hair wider, but the comfort is exceptional. The Hyper-Lite’s 4-point double adjustable straps enable you to find the right fit. Good stuff!


95 / A

POCKETS/STORAGE

The Callaway Hyper-Lite 4.0 features 11 total pockets.

  • One large garment pocket runs along the right side of the bag, with a medium sized pocket, a small valuables pocket and a scorecard slot along the outside of the garment pocket. Inside the large garment pocket is a small velour-lined pocket for your valuables.
  • One medium-sized and one smaller pocket (we use these for golf ball and other odds and ends) are on the spine of the bag. The medium-sized pocket has a mesh pocket on the interior.
  • 1 medium sized pocket is on the left side of the bag, with a pouch for holding good-sized beverage bottles (marked “fluid storage”…which sounds high-tech to us!) and an additional mesh pouch on the outside of this pocket which is handy for anything from snacks to GPS devices. The mesh pouch can stretch to accept good sized items, even larger water bottles.
  • Not included in the pocket count are a pen holder on the left side of the medium-sized pocket on the spine, and slots for four tees on the right side of the same pocket.

The Callaway Hyper-Lite 4.0 includes traditional straps on the right side of the bag for holding an umbrella, a ring for attaching a towel or clipping a rangefinder, a Velcro patch to attach a glove, and a plastic ball marker so you can use a Sharpie to add lines, dots or a Callaway logo to your ball.


87 / B+

RAIN HOOD

When the rain comes, the Hyper-Lite rain hood can be quickly attached by snapping it to two snap buttons near the legs, and then securing it with Velcro around each of the shoulder strap attach points at the front of the bag.


94 / A

CARRYING IMPRESSIONS

Although the Callaway Hyper-Lite 4.0 weighs slightly more than some of its competitors (in part because of the extra padding on the straps), we found it to be excellent for walking the course.

  • Weight. The bag weighed 4.9 pounds as tested (including the rain hood), which places it as one of the lighter bags tested for the competition. Sure, it clearly says “4.0 pounds” on the bag, but we often find that marketing departments are liberal in the use of poetic license.
  • Balance. The bag is easy to adjust and is evenly balanced across the shoulders.
  • Padding. We are big fans of the top notch padding that Callaway has included for the lower back. Callaway markets this foam padding as having “better ventilation”, and though we can’t say we felt a difference in temperature, it certainly kept us comfortable.
  • Handles/Straps. The Callaway Hyper-Lite features a hand grip that is molded into the rim of the bag. This handle (which is becoming relatively standard on better bags) makes it easy to pick up the bag when moving it short distances during a round (such as around a green as your partners blade sand shots back and forth), transporting it in and out of the trunk of a car (there is a second handle at the bottom of the outside pocket on the spine that lets you use balance the weight across both hands), and also when setting it down after hoisting it off your shoulder.

As described above, the collapsible base means that Callaway didn’t need to include a protruding plastic piece at the bottom of the bag as part of the leg extension mechanism. As a result, there’s nothing to get snagged on a push cart or in the rear storage wells of a golf cart. Easier is definitely better!


90 / A-

STYLE

We like the looks of this bag – it looks current without screaming “check out this sweet bag that goes with my white belt and massive buckle.”

The Callaway Hyper-Lite comes in six different color combinations (7 if you include the option of a Callaway logo stamped on the side):

  • Black, with white trim
  • Black, with white and gray trim
  • Black, with red, white and gray trim
  • Forest, with black and white trim
  • Navy, with black and white trim (also available with the Callaway logo)
  • Yellow, with black and gray trim
  • White, with black and gray

90 / A-

INNOVATION

There is nothing too radical about that Callaway Hyper-Lite 4.0 It may not be revolutionary, but it does successfully continue the evolution of carry bags that we see in the industry: slightly lighter in overall weight (though this bag isn’t designed to compete with the lightest bags), an integrated handle at the top, and comfortable shoulder straps. We also appreciate the integration of the leg triggering mechanism into the collapsible base of the bag. Yes, we know we’ve mentioned it three times now…but we really like it!


92 / A-

COST/VALUE

At $159.99 retail, the Callaway Hyper-Lite 4.0 is priced below most of the competition, with all the features one would expect in a quality carry bag. The construction of the bag is very good, and we like the innovation elements described above. The Hyper-Lite 4.0 is a solid bag that provides all that you will need and is equally at home on a cart or your back.


Sun Mountain KG:2

We never had a chance to test the Sun Mountain KG:2 carry bag, but here’s what we know:
The KG:2 comes with a host of Sun Mountain’s premium stand bag features, including it’s light weight, the E-Z Fit Dual Strap System, and a cart-friendly bottom and new leg-lock system. The bag features a 9.5″ 4-way top, three integrated top handles, and 8 pockets (with a mobile phone specific pocket – just make sure you turn it off though, OK?).
The bag comes in eight color combinations: Yam(!)/Ink, Black, Black/Purple/Gold (go Tigers!), Black/Charcoal/Red, Gunmetal/Black/Lava, Navy/Lava/Ocean, Blue/Navy/Yellow, and White/Lime/Black.

Retail price: $299
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Sun Mountain Series One.


Bag Boy Quad

The Bag Boy Quad is Bag Boy’s entry into the four-wheeled golf push cart realm. Bag Boy carts are traditionally easy to unfold, and the Quad is no exception. In a welcome departure from previous Bag Boy products, the Quad features a supplemental storage pouch for stowing away the various odds and ends that golfers invariably schlep around the course.

Compared to its primary four-wheeled competitor, the Sun Mountain Micro Cart, the Quad is larger when folded – while the folded Quad is relatively compact from a length and width standpoint, it’s still relatively tall. Another quibble is that the shorter wheelbase and high center of gravity make the Quad less stable on severe side hills. On the plus side, the wheels of the Quad are larger than those of the Micro, which gave us the perception of easier rolling through thicker rough (although admittedly we don’t have any objective data to prove this).

Our impression is that the Bag Boy Quad is a nice product that will be pleasing to most users. The Quad is the “girl next door” of push carts – there isn’t any particular facet of it that drives you to a frenzy, but taken as a whole, it’s something you could see keeping around for a long time.

SCORE
89
GRADE
B+
Size/Weight
87
Ease of Set-Up
94
On Course Impressions
88
Storage/Accessories
91
Style
85
Value
88

Retail price: $199.95

Pros:

  • Easy to unfold
  • Adjustable Velcro strap firmly secures the bag
  • Smooth rolling wheels

Cons:

  • Short wheelbase and higher center of gravity make it easier to tip on side hills
  • Somewhat bulky when folded up

87 / B+

SIZE/WEIGHT

At 16.5 pounds (as tested), the Bag Boy Quad lands in the middle tier of push carts tested with respect to weight (compare this to the lightest cart, the Tour Trek Tahoe, at 10.5 lbs., and the heaviest cart, the Sun Mountain Speed Cart V2, at 20 lbs.). While the length and width of a folded Quad are reasonably compact, the folded cart is about 20 inches tall when folded – compare this to the Sun Mountain Micro Cart at 12 inches tall. This doesn’t impact your ability to toss the Quad into the trunk along with a set of clubs or two, but it does mean that you will probably need to keep the trunk tidy.


94 / A

EASE OF SET-UP

Bag Boy is known for making the unfolding process simple, and the Quad continues the tradition. All that is required are five easy steps – unlock the handle, extend the handle, re-lock the handle, pull on the handle until the entire cart is unfolded , then flip the bag holder braces into place (this is much more intuitive and easy than it sounds on paper). A Velcro strap provides extra security in holding the golf bag in place.


88 / B+

ON COURSE IMPRESSIONS

  • The Bag Boy Quad made for a smooth trip around the golf course. The wheels rolled easily, and the almost infinite adjustability of the handle (see below) made the cart comfortable for users of all heights. Our only real concern about stability was on steep side hill lies – the short wheelbase of the Quad (which is an advantage in keeping it compact), combined with a relatively high center of gravity, occasionally made us a nervous about the cart tipping over.
  • The brake lever is positioned to the left side of the push handle. Pull it all the way back to release the brake, or flip it forward to engage the brake.
  • The mechanism for the brake on the Quad is like that of the Bag Boy Automatic – there are twelve gear notches around the right rear wheel and the brake is a pin that inserts into the nearest notch to stop the wheel from rolling. Other carts we tested that used similar brake mechanisms could be fussy, requiring you to push the cart slightly forward or pull it slightly back to position the gear notches where the “brake pin” could be inserted. Not so the Bag Boy design – the sheer number of notches made it a cinch to engage.
  • The tires are made of solid foam, so there is no danger of winding up with a flat.
  • The handle is great in that it pivots up or down to fit the height of the user. Bag Boy markets it as “unlimited” adjustability – in truth the handle seems to have a limited number of gear teeth into which it will lock, but there are at least 100 of those teeth, which should satisfy almost any user. We’ll just write off the “unlimited” description as poetic license.

91 / A-

STORAGE/ACCESSORIES

The storage and accessories available on the Bag Boy Quad include:

  • an extremely small valuables tray with a magnetic lid. The tray is so small that it’s almost useless – by way of example, we were unable to fit a SkyCaddie SG5 in the tray by itself, and there was absolutely no WAY it was going to fit our “test case” of 2 golf balls, a GPS device, an iPhone, a set of keys, and a wallet.
  • ah, but Bag Boy must be listening to its users, because it has added a large zippered storage pouch underneath the push handle. The pouch looks to be big enough to slip in an NFL-sized football, and the contents are accessible through either of two zippers – one that runs the length of the left side of the pouch, and a narrower one directly under the push handle. The umbrella mount (see below) is stored inside the large pouch via a Velcro strap. Our only nit is that because the storage pouch is under the handle, it’s difficult to see into the pouch (notwithstanding a small netting window), so it can be a pain to try to locate something stored inside.
  • a metal clip attached to the lid of the valuables tray that is designed to hold down a scorecard and secure a pencil
  • 2 brackets on the underside of the push handle that will hold a single golf ball each
  • an umbrella mount that holds an umbrella upright to provide you with shelter when it’s raining. The design of the Bag Boy Quad requires the user to first unscrew a “nut” from the bottom of the holder, then pass the holder through the mount, then tighten the “nut” to secure the holder. We’re not huge fans of the way this was engineered, as other designs allow the user to just screw a holder directly into the cart. Not a big deal when it’s sunny, but the extra time might make a difference to you when a rain shower suddenly hits.
  • a small cup/bottle holder – we had problems fitting wider bottles into the holder.

The addition of the large storage pouch makes a big difference, as the Bag Boy Quad otherwise has the same storage compartments as the Bag Boy Automatic.


85 / B

STYLE

The Quad has a unique style of its own –Bag Boy’s 3-spoke wheels still look “Scion-esque” to us, but the short wheel base gives the Quad somewhat of a dune buggy feel. Your friends probably won’t ooh and ahh over it, but the Bag Boy Quad is sporty enough that they’re unlikely to mock you either. It’s available in six different colors – black, white, silver, navy, red and yellow.


88 / B+

VALUE

The Bag Boy Quad’s retail price of $199.95 places it in the middle of the pack among the units we tested. The Bag Boy carts we have tested have been solid and durable, and small improvements to the Quad make it a stronger product offering than the earlier Bag Boy Automatic. While the Quad doesn’t quite crack into the very top echelon of our rankings, it’s worthy of your consideration.


Sun Mountain ClubGlider Meridian

What sets the Sun Mountain ClubGlider Meridian apart from all other travel bags is the integrated leg set that, when extended, supports the entire weight of the bag and its contents, making it incredibly easy to navigate through airports, hotels and parking lots. The unique design regularly elicited stares – but given how much easier the Meridian makes traveling with your clubs, we think you’ll be seeing far more of these in the future.

The wheels roll smoothly (no resistance here!) and the pivoting front wheels on the legs make it quite maneuverable. This bag saves you from tired arms, shoulders and backs from pulling it behind you, and you don’t have to deal with picking up and putting the bag down again over and over as you snake through the check-in line. Pop the retractable legs out and you’re ready to roll (pun intended). Our only minor quibble on the legs is that you have to snap them back into place when getting on an escalator, and then pop them back out when you’ve reached the top.

SCORE
94
GRADE
A
Design/Construction
93
Travel Impressions
93
Value
90

We had such a pleasant experience traveling with the Sun Mountain ClubGlider Meridian travel bag that our overall assessment is just, “Why the heck didn’t we think of that first?”

Retail price: $279
Amazon.com price: Check price now


93 / A

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

The Sun Mountain ClubGlider Meridian is primarily made of nylon, with a hard plastic tray covering the bottom back 2 feet of the case into which the legs retract. There are two in-line skate wheels at the base of the case that allow it to be pulled even when the legs aren’t extended, in the event you’re going over large curbs or using an escalator. The legs don’t extend past the molded plastic tray when they are folded in, and a relatively strong internal spring holds the legs firmly in place, so they aren’t likely to be accidentally extended out and damaged during travel.

Sun Mountain ClubGlider Meridian Travel Case

Click for more images

There is thin padding throughout the bag, with additional foam padding at the top to protect the clubheads where they extend from your golf carry bag. There is a two-way zipper that runs the length of the bag. With internal dimensions of 52″ x 14″ x 12″, the bag easily accommodated our set of clubs, including our longest woods.

We haven’t experienced damage to any parts of the Meridian from travel, though the exterior nylon material, along with the various handles, zippers and rivets, don’t seem to be quite as durable as some other bags featuring Cordura or hard plastic exteriors.

The design of the Sun Mountain ClubGlider Meridian also includes:

  • a covered slot with a snap button to hold a business card (in case your Meridian hops a flight in a different direction)
  • two internal straps to secure your golf bag (adjustable to accommodate any size bag), including one that fits around the top of the bag and one at the base
  • three handle positions: two straps that snap together at the top of the bag and form the primary handle used when pulling the bag, two straps that attach and form a handle at the middle, and one handle at the base of the bag that is helpful for lifting the bag into and out of vehicles
  • two in-line skate wheels that extend slightly beyond the base of the case, that can be used on their own when pulling the bag, or combined with the wheels on the legs for four-wheeled travel
  • a reasonable set of four color options: all black, or black with lava (aka orange), baltic (blue), or red.

Sun Mountain does not offer a stiff arm insert to further protect the clubs while traveling. The Club Glove Stiff Arm should fit, though we didn’t test it (nor was it designed for use in non-Club Glove bags).

We tested the Sun Mountain ClubGlider Meridian with a standard sized carry bag, tossing in some additional clothes and shoes, and were pleased with the interior capacity. For those looking for even smaller bags, or one that accommodates staff or multiple carry bags, there are other Sun Mountain ClubGlider versions to consider:


93 / A-

TRAVEL IMPRESSIONS

If you couldn’t tell from our introduction, we are huge fans of traveling with the Sun Mountain ClubGlider Meridian. While it isn’t the lightest travel bag we tested (the case weighed in at 14.6 pounds), the additional weight doesn’t matter much when you’re rolling it through the airport. On the other hand, your back might complain a bit more when you’re hoisting it into and out of the trunk of your car. The legs extend to support the weight of the case for easy rolling while traveling .The legs can be extended by pulling them down and then out away from the bag in one motion – it’s easy and quick, and can be done while holding the bag vertically with the other hand. As mentioned above, the legs have a spring-loaded system, so if they are not fully engaged they will retract back into their molded tray. To retract the legs you need to pull the legs out away from the bag, and then push them down back into the molded tray. You’ll generally need to use two hands for this, with one steadying the bag as the other pulls the legs away.

Sun Mountain ClubGlider Meridian Travel Case

Click for more images

The wheels rolled easily and smoothly…it required so little effort to guide the Sun Mountain ClubGlider Meridian through the airport that we wondered why all travel bags don’t have this feature. It is possible to push the bag, but the pivoting wheels on the legs make it much easier to pull the bag instead. And when we say “pull”…it really requires so little effort that you can’t compare it to pulling normal travel bags, where you must support a significant portion of the 40+ pound weight of the case and its contents.

The Meridian had ample capacity for our set of clubs and carry bag, with room left over for some additional clothing. There isn’t as much interior space as in some comparable bags (such as the Club Glove Last Bag), but there’s enough to fit the basics. The dual pockets on either side of the bag sit relatively flush and extend primarily to the interior of the case when filled, so you don’t really gain storage space by packing items here. The pockets are accessible either from the outside or inside of the bag, so if you need to grab something out of the pockets when you’re at the airport, you don’t need to unzip and open the entire bag.

Unlike the Club Glove Last Bag, which tapers at the top to be more snug around the clubheads and provide more packing space around the body, the Sun Mountain ClubGlider Meridian has a uniform shape. The bag is easy to stand on end (vertically) even though it lacks a plastic base. As a soft bag, it benefits from having some give to it when you’re trying to wedge it into the trunk of your car, and can be folded over for more compact storage when not in use.

The only suggestion we can think of would be for Sun Mountain to add clips or carabiners by the center handles to allow travelers to attach additional baggage to the ClubGlider and offload the weight of those bags on to the rolling case as well. It’s such a benefit to have the case support 100% of the weight that it would be great to be able to leverage this for anything else you might be carrying.


90 / A-

COST/VALUE

The Sun Mountain ClubGlider Meridian retails for $339, placing it among the more expensive travel cases in our tests. At this price, what you are paying for beyond all else are the legs that support 100% of your clubs and case and allow you to easily wheel the case as you travel. The warranty covers any damage to the bag itself for one year – there isn’t any warranty covering damage to the clubs inside of the bag (of the bags we tested, the SKB Deluxe is the only one with that additional warranty). The Meridian doesn’t have a hard exterior shell or Cordura fabric to protect your clubs that other travel bags do, but then again, that isn’t the focus of this bag.

You can find other bags for much less than the Meridian, of course, but you just have to ask yourself…what is the value of a bag that supports 100% of its own weight? For us, quite a bit.

Retail price: $279
Amazon.com price: Check price now


Spikeless Golf Shoe Reviews: ECCO Street, ECCO Street Premiere and TRUE tour

As a spikeless golf shoe aficionado, I get so many questions from folks on the course about whether I slip when wearing them (I don’t), if they’re comfortable (they are), and which spikeless golf shoe is the best (read below) that I decided it was high time for an article. Read on!

It’s been the rare instance over the last 20 years that I have purchased the same golf shoe twice. I grew up wearing old school FootJoy shoes with metal spikes (translation = incredibly uncomfortable). Over time I branched out into other brands (Nike, Adidas, Oakley, ECCO) and models (both traditional styled shoes and sneaker-style), but still never quite found the right shoe.

Having heard how well spikeless shoes worked for Fred Couples’ back (and his game, leading the 1st round of the 2010 Masters in his ECCOs), I bit the bullet with a pair of ECCO Golf Street Premieres. If Freddy didn’t need spikes to play in a major, I was pretty sure that I didn’t either. The side benefits would be that if I liked these shoes, I could finally throw out the multiple spike wrenches and the pile of cleats sitting in my garage next to old shoes that I probably will never wear again. Not that I mind a garage with a lot of junk in it, but for some reason my wife considers it as an extension of the house and, as such, believes that it should remain clean and orderly. This to me seems somewhat emasculating. “Honey, the power tools don’t need to be in labeled plastic bins from the Container Store…”

But enough about my garage. I recently purchased the ECCO Golf Street and TRUE tour spikeless golf shoes to do a side-by-side evaluation with my existing ECCO Golf Street Premieres. I will try to refrain from comments on the all-capital-letters naming convention.



DESIGN

ECCO Golf Street Premiere ECCO Golf Street Premiere ECCO Golf Street Premiere ECCO Golf Street Premiere ECCO Golf Street Premiere ECCO Golf Street Premiere ECCO Golf Street Premiere

Click for images

The original ECCO Street Premiere was the first golf shoe I could legitimately wear to the bar after a round and not look (entirely) like I had just stepped off the course. Indeed, both ECCO shoes are described as “street inspired”. I chose the Licorice-Coffee-Fanta color scheme (for those who aren’t in ECCO marketing, this means brown with orange highlights). It has a distressed upper and looks much like any other street shoe, blending in quite nicely off the course. Detailing includes suede at the toe, center (with four Fanta dots) and heel tab. Would I try to wear it to the office and hope that my boss wouldn’t notice? Maybe, but only if he didn’t play – no reason to arouse suspicion that I might be prepping to leave work early to hit the golf course. There are six different color combinations, all of which have a white midsole with slight color accents, and soles ranging from yellow to a traditional brown. The Street Premiere (and for that matter, the Street) comes with two pairs of shoelaces in different colors…my Fanta-colored laces are still in the box.

ECCO Golf Street ECCO Golf Street ECCO Golf Street

Click for images

The ECCO Street is a step up from the Street Premiere (confusing, yes), and considered a “luxury” golf sneaker. The main design difference between the Street and Street Premiere is the Street features a camel leather upper – think of the leather that will scuff if you run a fingernail lightly across it. The ECCO Street looks the least like a golf shoe in this group – if it had a dark colored midsole (all three color options come with a white midsole and orange sole), one would never think it was a golf shoe. It’s a stylish shoe, and my wife declared it the “best looking of the bunch.” Having formerly worked in the men’s shoes section of a department store, she’s a tough critic. Remind me to tell you about her meltdown at REI when we tried to find her a hiking shoe and everything was deemed “too ugly to purchase.”

TRUE tourTRUE tourTRUE tourTRUE tourTRUE tourTRUE tourTRUE tour

Click for images

The TRUE tour shoe, my latest spikeless golf shoe purchase, has a shape that makes it look like the golf shoe Bozo the clown might wear, due to the combination of large toe box and the roll/post toe, which reminds me of my Keen hiking shoes (which, by the way, I find the most comfortable hiking shoe around). Adding to the craziness are some of the color combinations in which the shoe is offered – blue/white/red (I’m all for patriotism, but you’re kidding, right?) and white/red (click on the image to the right to see additional photos of the different color options). I chose white with brown side detail for my pair of TRUE tour shoes. Additional color combinations are white with either black or white accents, black with white accents, or all black. With the exception of the clown shoes, the sole matches the center color accents of the shoe.

Even though the shoe looks a bit goofy to me, if you have the game to wear a tie and vest while playing you can probably pull of wearing this shoe as a fashion statement (Ryan Moore most often wears the TRUE stealth model). But I don’t. The looks don’t stop me from wearing this shoe on the course, but it’s fairly unlikely I’m going to keep my TRUEs on when I hit the local bar on my way home. My wife said this shoe “looks horrible.” Much to her dismay my decision-making process when selecting shoes isn’t based on looks, but rather what I find comfortable. She also asked, after seeing “TRUE” stamped on the left shoe, if the right shoe said “FALSE.” Which, strangely enough, seemed like a logical question. As with the ECCOs, the TRUEs come with two pairs of laces – mine came with white and brown laces.



CONSTRUCTION AND DURABILITY

I have played with the Street Premiere for over a season now, and haven’t experienced any issues with their construction or durability. The shoe unfortunately isn’t waterproof, and as I haven’t spent excessive time in the rain with them (most of my golf is played in Northern California) I can’t attest to how it would wear under wet conditions on a regular basis. From frequent play at Shoreline Golf Links, I can attest that this shoe is goose-crap-proof, however. The insole of the Street Premiere is one the most basic you will find in a golf shoe, with no support or cushioning to speak of. For those who want additional support, the insole is removable and could be replaced by a 3rd party insole (such as one from Superfeet).

Like the Street Premiere, the ECCO Street isn’t waterproof, and while the camel leather doesn’t wear as well as my Street Premieres in the rain, I haven’t spent time in downpours. One of the selling points of the shoe is the insole, so I expect most purchasers will keep the original as opposed to swapping out for a 3rd party insole. The Street insole provides additional cushion toward the back of the foot through the heel, is perforated at the front of the foot (and around the edges toward the heel) to provide additional breathability, and has a lining underneath that is moisture absorbing and anti-bacterial. My ECCO Street Premieres aren’t allowed in the house anymore due to their “aroma,” and I’m hopeful that the lining of the Streets will keep this in check. So far, so good.

ECCO Street and Street Premiere Sole

Click to expand

Both ECCO models have a standard width throughout and feature the same rubber sole (including the same pattern with rows of circular “spikes” that have additional rubber extending from them at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock to provide additional traction). While I assume that wearing these shoes on pavement or other hard surfaces will result in faster wear, I have kept these on for a reasonable amount of time off the course (although I don’t go so far as to use these as a replacement street shoe or sneaker) and haven’t noticed any troublesome wear to the soles. Both models are well-made and pass ECCO and Critical Golf quality controls.

TRUE tour Product Detail

Click to expand

My pair of TRUEs aren’t up to par in construction, with the left shoe featuring some serious puckering of the leather uppers at the toe of the shoe due to very poor stitching. I actually found it somewhat surprising that they had made it through TRUE quality control. It doesn’t impact the feel of the shoe, and hasn’t seemed to affect wear, but aesthetically the shoe isn’t at the level it should be. I returned to the store to swap them for another pair, but unfortunately there weren’t any more in stock in my size – bummer.

As with the ECCOs, the rubber on the TRUE tour shoe soles will undoubtedly wear faster if you keep them on while off the course, but I don’t expect to see many players doing so. The rubber soles feel slightly softer than the ECCOs so I would think that they would wear faster, but I haven’t noticed this to date. As opposed to the ECCOs, the TRUE sole pattern isn’t a simple grid-like pattern, but rather features square “spikes” at the front of the sole, bars at the edges of the sole and running across the base of the boot, and smaller bars toward the heel of the shoe. On the course both the TRUEs and ECCOs seem to pick up the same quantity of cut grass and mud.

TRUE tour Sole

Click to expand

The TRUE tours, unlike the ECOOs, come with a 1-year waterproof guarantee. Nice! In addition, the shoe has “temperature control lining,” though I can say my feet didn’t feel any difference, temperature-wise, versus the ECCOs. The tongue is attached to the shoe underneath the insole of the shoe (okay, technically it’s attached to the insole, since what everybody calls an insole is technically called a sockliner…but what are we…shoe nerds?), so it in effect creates a sleeve that you slip your foot into. Comfy!

The TRUEs feel as if they are much more shaped to the foot through the heel and middle of the foot, but with a much wider (and also taller) toe box than the ECCOs, or likely any other shoe you will wear.



COMFORT AND ON-COURSE USE

I was initially hesitant about purchasing a pair of spikeless golf shoes, worrying that I would slip while playing (on both dry and wet days). I can honestly say that over the course of the entire season I can’t recall any shot where I slipped as a result of wearing my ECCOs. I’m going to throw in the caveat that I play primarily in Northern California and don’t venture out in the pouring rain. I do, however, play on mornings with dew or frost on the ground, and more than one of my local courses overwaters to the point of having extremely soggy sections of turf. I do try to be mindful of keeping the soles clean, just as I would spiked shoes.

Both ECCO models are “street inspired”, and having a standard width throughout results in a bit more pressure across the width in the toe box late in the day. While the overall shape of the shoe doesn’t fit my feet quite as well as the TRUEs, I’ve never regretted my purchase of the ECCO Street Premiere (I had owned a pair of spiked ECCO golf shoes previously that I found initially comfortable, but did not find them to be as comfortable over time as the Street Premieres). Both the Street and Street Premiere are very stable, and I never found myself missing spiked shoes. I find the ECCO Street to be a bit more comfortable than the Street Premieres, which I attribute mostly to the improved insole providing a softer and more comfortable fit, though perhaps the uppers do make a difference as well. The bottom of my feet slightly prefer the ECCOs to the TRUEs at the end of the round, which I think is the result of having the additional midsole support.

You can tell the TRUE tours are a completely different golf shoe from the get-go, and this holds true throughout the round. As the only golf shoe with no midsole, the TRUE tour puts the player’s feet just a bit closer to the ground. More importantly, the sole becomes extremely flexible – you can pick up a pair and easily twist and bend the shoe in half at the mid-point of the sole (as opposed to only near the toe, which is the case with other golf shoes). Without the midsole, you’ll feel the course like you never have before. It’s somewhat an unusual feeling initially…and one I really enjoy. I’m not going to go so far as to say it feels like you are playing barefoot, but it is clear that there is the least amount of material between your foot and the ground of any golf shoe on the market.

I don’t know if I was influenced by TRUE marketing propaganda, er, material, that claims that the TRUE tour is the lightest golf shoe worn on the PGA tour, but as soon as I put them on I could tell they were light. The scale backed that up…TRUE tour shoes weigh 8% less than the ECCO Street Premiere, and 5% less than the ECCO Street.

The TRUE tour curls slightly upwards at the toe. This creates a slightly different sensation from most shoes that have a flat insole at the front of the foot, but I found that I didn’t notice this once I started play. I find that the wider toe box keeps my feet more comfortable throughout the round than shoes with standard widths throughout. And while I expected my foot to be exhausted after the round without a midsole to provide support (I don’t spend much time barefoot or in flip-flops), my feet felt fine. They generally are a bit more tired than when I play in the ECCOs, but I haven’t played with the TRUEs for a full season yet, so perhaps over time my feet will adjust to playing without a midsole. There is a lot of me that is out of shape…and perhaps I need to add the bottom of my feet to the list as well.



VALUE
The ECCO Golf Street Premiere retails for $150 and the Street retails for $170, with the extra $20 buying you an upgraded insole, camel leather uppers, and a more breathable lining. I couldn’t feel any difference in midsoles between the ECCO models, nor could I see a benefit of the lining, though I haven’t played in them in 90+ degree conditions. For my money, if you aren’t one to swap out standard golf insoles and play primarily in dry climates, the ECCO Golf Street is a great option. The insole and good looks alone make it work the extra $20. If your feet need a certain level of support, you will likely be happier with the ECCOs than the TRUE tour.

The retail price for the TRUE tour is the lowest of the bunch at $129 (down from $159). It’s a great buy, and unlike the ECCOs, is waterproof to boot. While I much prefer the street-inspired looks of the ECCO shoes, I found the TRUE tours to be more comfortable throughout, both due to the wider toe box and lack of midsole. In TRUE tour shoes, you’ll feel the course unlike in any other golf shoe.

ECCO Golf Street Premiere
Retail price: $150
Amazon.com: Check price now
Zappos: Check price now

ECCO Golf Street:
Retail price: $170
Amazon.com: Check price now
Zappos: Check price now

TRUE tour
Retail price: $129
Amazon.com: Check price now

Tested:
TRUE tour 9.5 (white-brown)
ECCO Golf Street 43 (sepia-coffee)
ECCO Street Premiere 43 (licorice-coffee-fanta)

Tried other spikeless shoes? Be it other ECCO or TRUE models, Adidas or Nike? Let us know your impressions!