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Expresso AG1

The Expresso AG1 (the “AG” standing for “Automotive” and “Golf”) provides a navigation system for while you are on the road, and a golf GPS device for when you are on the course. Not limited to just GPS use, the device also can acts as a portable media player, with the ability to show photos, and play both music and video. Whether users find these additional features a plus or a minus, however, we leave for others to debate. We do often see manufacturers struggle when they try to provide a device with wide range of features instead of having a laser-like focus on those that are core to the product. As point of comparison, see also the Golf Guru 4, which also provides road navigation software along with acting as a portable media player.

The Expresso AG1 runs iGolf 2.0 software. As such, though we didn’t test the AG1, we expect the same performance as the Bushnell Yardage Pro XGC+. The Expresso AG1 comes preloaded with front, center and back of green information along with custom points for mapped courses. In order to access interactive hole maps with multi-level zoom, which is one of the key selling points of the AG1, you’ll need to purchase a premium membership for $34.99 per year.

The Expresso AG1 has a 3.6″ color touchscreen, is 2.5 x 4.5 x 1 when folded, and is marketed with a weight of 6.2oz.

Retail price: $249.99
Three year total cost: $354.96
Amazon.com: Check price now

Expresso AG1 Demo: http://www.expressogps.com/expresso_demo.swf

Leica Pinmaster II

The Leica Pinmaster II. The supermodel of laser rangefinders. Slim and light, an exceptional form factor. Extremely expensive. You can impress your friends with it.

The Pinmaster II is one of the smallest and lightest laser rangefinders tested, sporting a carbon-reinforced body that is not only waterproof, but get this – submersible! The Pinmaster II offers an industry best 7x magnification (matching the < a href="http://www.criticalgolf.com/reviews/laser-rangefinders/bushnell-pro-1m-laser-rangefinder-review/">Bushnell Pro 1M series), with a collapsible eyepiece for glasses wearers. The LED display allows users to easily see distance readings in any light condition and with no artificial tints. The Leica Pinmaster II features just one crosshair option (a small square), and allows users to pan across targets and received distance readings that update at a consistent speed.

Sounds like a great set of features, doesn’t it? We were excited to have saved up enough money (and given the price tag, this took a while) to purchase the Pinmaster II and get it to the course for a full review. Our first device, however produced so many errors in readings that we sent it back to the retailer for an exchange. Our second Pinmaster II fared better, but still on occasion would inexplicably return distances shorter than the actual distance, and we constantly struggled to lock on to a target. Aside from those problems, we would also prefer both a slightly larger crosshair and larger font for the distance display.

So as we were saying, the Leica Pinmaster II is the supermodel of laser rangefinders. But like a supermodel, it’s blisteringly expensive to acquire, and once you get past the surface, you’ll find it has issues that you really don’t want to deal with on an ongoing basis.

SCORE
79
GRADE
C+
Ease of Use
88
Features
88
Obtaining Readings
80
Cost/Value
65

Pros:

  • Great form factor and looks
  • Smallest device with 7x magnification
  • Crisp clear display with natural colors

Cons:

  • Incredibly high price
  • Occasionally returns readings shorter than actual distance
  • Frustrating to try to acquire targets

Retail price: $699
Amazon.com: Check price now


88 / B+

EASE OF USE

The Pinmaster II is one of the smallest and lightest rangefinders tested. Vertically oriented, with a smooth but not slippery surface, the device is easy to hold. The included carrying case doesn’t add much to the overall weight, and has a slot through which a belt or bag strap can be threaded (which is already starting to detach after relatively little use) and a clip to close the case. We much prefer carrying cases that use clips to allow you to quickly attach the carrying case to your bag or push cart. While the device is actually small enough to keep in a pocket during play, it’s still a bit too bulky for that to be convenient.

The 7x magnification of the Leica Pinmaster II is the highest level of magnification offered by golf laser rangefinders, matching the < a href="http://www.criticalgolf.com/reviews/laser-rangefinders/bushnell-pro-1m-laser-rangefinder-review/">Bushnell Pro 1M, and in a much smaller form factor, weighing only 7.3 ounces and measuring 4.5″ x 2.25″ x 1.25″. The user can easily focus the display by twisting the eyecup, which can be compensated up to +/- 3.5 diopters.

Like most laser rangefinders, the Pinmaster II features two buttons to control the device. There is a raised button on the top of the device near the eyecup used to power on the device as well as fire the laser, and a secondary button just forward of it that is used to toggle units between yards and meters. The battery compartment is located just below the eyecup on the front of the unit.

Leica Pinmaster II

Click image to enlarge

To obtain a distance reading, the user needs to tap the firing button once to display the square LED crosshair, pause a moment, and then tap again to get a distance reading – though sometimes it took us multiple attempts to be able to start obtaining distances. After the initial tap of the fire button, if you hold down the firing button the second time you press, after a split-second, the targeting square and distance readings will appear and provide continuously updated distance readings, blinking as the player pans across targets.

While the LED display makes the small square crosshair easy to see against all backgrounds, we would prefer a crosshair that is larger with thicker lines, and/or the option of a different crosshair style. The viewfinder provides a clear view with accurate color, as one would expect from Leica – the optics don’t provide an artificially darker view or tint, noticeable on some other laser rangefinders.

The Leica Pinmaster II takes one 3 volt CR-2 Lithium battery, good for up to approximately 2,000 measurements. There is no battery meter that is displayed – when the battery gets low, the distance display and crosshair will start to blink, at which time the device should have about one hundred measurements remaining (that number will be smaller if you use the panning function).

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


88 / B+

FEATURES

The Leica claims to have “first target logic”, which in theory should allow the device to just show the distance to the closest target when there are multiple objects in the crosshairs, such as a flagstick against a background of trees behind the green (ostensibly similar to the Bushnell’s “Pinseeker” and Leupold “Pinhunter” technologies). In reality we found Leica’s technology to be disappointing – see ‘Obtaining Distance Readings’ below.

Features that are a plus for the device include the red LED and exceptional Leica optics, with a coating that helps shed dirt and water from the lens (we haven’t had any issues). The one negative to the optics is the faint image of a computer chip as well as some small red lines that you can sometimes see by the targeting square, depending on the background and lighting, almost as if you are seeing the “guts” of the laser components.

The Pinmaster II is waterproof, though only to 3 feet, so if you toss it into the pond in a fit of range, you are going to have a very short amount of time to retrieve it as it sinks. Both yards and meters are available, which can easily be toggled by use of the secondary button on the top of the device.

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


80 / B-

OBTAINING DISTANCE READINGS

Leica Pinmaster II

Click image to enlarge

The Leica Pinmaster II is marketed as providing exact distance readings up to 820 yards, which is quite a bit further than our drives, even if we’re going downhill. With a really really stiff breeze at our backs.

Distance readings will continue to be displayed on the LED display for approximately 8 seconds after the firing button is released. The Pinmaster II will allow users to continue to fire the laser for over a minute without shutting down (if you need to fire for longer than that, perhaps you should consider a golf GPS device instead!).

Inexplicably, on occasion the Leica Pinmaster II will return a distance reading shorter than the actual distance. Talk about “first target logic”! Kidding aside, this is a pretty disturbing glitch in the device. We experienced this in situations such as targeting flagsticks from a short distance (<100 yards) and tree trunks at longer distances (~145 yards). Before anyone gets the idea that we might have had a defective device, we should mention that the device reviewed was actually our second Pinmaster II – the first device quite regularly provided distances readings shorter than actual distances, and had enough problems targeting simple targets that we returned the unit. That the second device we received still has issues doesn’t bode well at all.

The device in particular would struggle with targets that have background objects relatively close, such as in the situation where targeting a flagstick with green edge or mounding behind. In cases where an object was only 15-20 yards behind the flagstick, for example, quite often it will lock on the object in the back. We did find that when we adjusted the line of sight to aim higher on the flagstick, and create a wider gap to the object behind (say 50+ yards), it was much easier to lock on the flagstick.

At shorter distances to flagsticks or tree trunks, we found when the flagstick or other targets took up half of the target square, the device would still frequently lock onto targets in the background – as far as we’re concerned, the “first target logic” needs to have higher sensitivity. As with all devices, the Leica Pinmaster II was better able to lock on to the flag, as opposed to the flagstick. Even when the square crosshair surrounds the flagstick, the Pinmaster II will struggle, unlike other laser rangefinders that will give some leeway and lock on even if the entire cursor does not surround the flagstick.

Ease of Locking on a Flagstick:

When targeting the flagstick at a distance (focusing on the flag, not just the pin), the Leica performed well at a range of distances.

  • The Pinmaster II can target flags with relative ease from the shortest distances up to 200 yards. The Pinmaster II seems to have more difficulty in targeting flagsticks than other devices, but at most any distance we recommend targeting the flag, or the ground at the hole, for the quickest and most accurate reading.
  • From 200 to 300 yards, the Pinmaster II remains consistent in returning distances throughout at roughly 80-90%% of the time, we believe assisted by the 7x magnification. At beyond 300 yards the magnification continues to assist, though becomes more difficult and drops below 80%.

Speed Test:

The Pinmaster II only has one mode available – scan. The Pinmaster II updates distance readings while panning at the same speed regardless of distance (nice and steady in 1/2 second increments), though it takes a shade longer than other devices in providing the initial distance reading.

  • Scanning Mode: When we compared the Leica Pinmaster II in its one mode against other devices in their “scanning” modes, we found it to be one of the slowest in our tests.
  • Pin-Locating Mode: Compared in its one mode against other devices in their “pin-locating” modes, it finished in the middle of the group. This is expected, as a device in panning mode will be able to pick up multiple targets more rapidly than one in pin-locating mode.
  • Using Both Modes: The Pinmaster II finished as one of the faster devices compared to the group that allows the user to switch between panning and pin-locating modes, not surprising given that the Pinmaster II doesn’t require switching modes.

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


65 / D

COST/VALUE

At a brutal $699 retail, the Leica Pinmaster II runs away as the most expensive laser rangefinder on the market. This won’t surprise those that already own other Leica products (notably their cameras) – you pay for the quality optics you get. The high price tag alone likely explains why we have never seen another unit in person besides the one we purchased (and this price is actually $100 less than the original Leica Pinmaster!).

We don’t give the Pinmaster II a low Cost/Value rating just for its price, however. The inability to quickly lock on to flagsticks and problems with erroneous readings lead to a poor user experience that its form factor and crisp optics simply can’t make up for.


Premium Golf Glove Reviews: Bionic, FootJoy, Hirzl and Titleist

The Paradox of Choice indeed. With so many gloves to choose from, where does one begin? Options are wide, ranging from inexpensive multi-packs to gloves made from the finest Corinthian – er, Premium Cabretta leather. And just what is this Cabretta leather? Well, it’s produced from the skins of sheep that have hair instead of wool (straight-haired sheepskins). And what makes them Premium? Marketing.

It would be one expensive proposition for a player to purchase a handful of the finest (read: $$$$) gloves, so I’ve made it less expensive (read: free) for you. At retail prices hitting $30, some may wonder if gloves matter at all, and if so, does the brand and model? Heck, there are professionals that compete without gloves, including Fred Couples and Lucas Glover. As for me, I need to keep these babies nice and soft for my other job as a hand model.

Read on for my impressions of four of the top premium golf gloves on the market from Bionic, FootJoy, Hirzl, and Titleist.

Bionic PerformanceGrip
Retail price: $29.95
Amazon.com: Check price now

Bionic PerformanceGrip Golf Glove

Click for larger image

The Bionic family of gloves stands out in its looks – if you’ve spent time browsing the aisles at your local golf retailer, this one likely caught your eye. It’s not just the green and blue packaging, it’s the glove that looks most like one you might find at batting practice. I wasn’t surprised, then, to find out that Bionic is a part of the Louisville Slugger family of products. It also might have stood out to you with the nearly $30 retail price, the first golf glove to approach this barrier (the FootJoy Pure Touch, below, was more recently the first to hit it).

The glove is designed by an orthopedic hand surgeon, and the feature most heavily promoted and quickly noticed is its “Triple-Row Finger Grip System”. Or as I like to call it at cocktail parties, TRFGS. This, simply put, is additional padding at certain points in the fingers of the glove (yes, this conforms to USGA Rules) to even out the “valleys” in your fingers opposite your knuckles. The theory behind this design is that the additional padding will distribute the pressure across your full finger, instead of just certain points, resulting in better grip of the club without needing to grip harder and, consequently, fewer blisters and callouses. Combine this padding with the 15 mini-Terrycloth towels that are sewn into the glove throughout the front of the hand that help absorb perspiration, and I could definitely sense additional material between my hand and grip as soon as I put it on.

Beyond the padding and Terrycloth, the Bionic PerformanceGrip also has more flexible fabric than any other golf glove with lycra in between the fingers, on all knuckles, the back of the hand, and the palm – a whopping 26 different areas! As with some other premium gloves, the glove is cut to follow your fingers as they rotate inward toward the center of your hand when gripping. In addition, there are four pieces of elastic (plus another around the wrist) on the back of the hand. This all results in a glove that has exceptional fit and flexibility, but with so many components that have been stitched together, feels decidedly non-traditional. I found myself gradually getting used to the Bionic, although every time I slipped it on I could still tell I was putting on a glove of a different breed. I can’t say that it helped or hindered my ability to feel the club or the ball, but neither did I notice any difference in how fatigued my hand would be after a round or any real reduction in blisters and callouses (I have a few small seemingly permanent callouses, so it was somewhat tough to tell in this regard). Despite the significant amount of both stitching and material, the glove is still machine-washable.

While the glove is undeniably flexible and fit the contours of my hand arguably better than any other glove on the market while gripping a club, I am simply too conditioned to want only the thinnest and softest leather between my hand and the club. This glove will work best for players that could stand to grip their clubs more lightly, and also should be considered by those who haven’t been able to find gloves with quite the right fit – the lycra portions of the club may well help. The Terrycloth interior towels and breathable lycra also make this a glove that players in the warmest climates may wish to consider (we haven’t played in extreme heat with the Bionic). Although the Bionic PerformanceGrip has “top-grade” Cabretta leather, it isn’t as soft as the other high-end gloves tested. Then again, that isn’t the goal or selling point of this glove.

At $29.95 retail, the Bionic PerformanceGrip is the second-highest priced glove we reviewed (just a nickel behind the FootJoy Pure Touch Limited). This is a serious price for a glove I consider more of a curiosity than anything else. Is it worth trying? Possibly, but my guess is that this glove is going to appeal to only a fraction of the players out there, and adoption will likely be hindered by a combination of the different feel as well as the high price tag.

FootJoy Pure Touch Limited
Retail price: $30
Amazon.com: Check price now

FootJoy Pure Touch Limited Golf Glove

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What I primarily look for in a glove is comfort and feel. Secondary in my search is a glove that is extremely durable and breathable – I don’t wear through gloves fast enough to place a premium on durability nor do I play in extreme heat. For my wants, the FootJoy Pure Touch Limited tops my list.

In terms of design, it is one of the simplest. The glove is made early entirely of “Exclusive Select Cabretta leather” (makes you wonder why it isn’t Premium or Top-Grade, doesn’t it?) with a soft feel that they is achieved through “proprietary leather preparation techniques” (how mysterious!). It’s very traditional, with no lycra sewn into the back (or front) of the glove or between the fingers, and certainly not a hint of Terrycloth to be found. There are three bands of elastic that runs across the back of the hand, and some elastic around the wrist to provide a snug fit.

The FootJoy Pure Touch Limited is, as the name implies, not available widely. I was able to find them at my local retail store, though very few were available. My best guess is that FootJoy is testing the waters with the Limited to see what demand there is for a glove that, hold on to your hats, has an MSRP of $30. Though I like playing with this glove, at $30 it starts to make me consider whether another glove in the FootJoy line is “good enough” (such as the FootJoy StaSof, which retails for $24). Is it worth the extra $6? In terms of softness and fit, it was the softest glove in the group (though yes, we are operating at the margins now). And though it is “Limited”, your friends aren’t going to give you credit for playing this glove unless you make a spectacle of pulling it from its all-black packaging (hey, the black separates the elite credit cards from the rest, so maybe it can apply to golf glove packaging as well). They might even make fun of you when you try to store it in its packaging, which requires stuffing the glove down the top of its envelope (imagine an envelope that opens at the “end”, instead of opening on the side, which is much simpler to access).

Lacking any additional materials that detract from the supple leather, and without perforation on the front of the fingers, the glove is perceptibly soft. The downside is, of course, that you may not achieve the level of fit that comes with gloves that have sections of lycra, and you won’t have the breathability that comes with either lycra or additional perforations. But my bet is that people who purchase this glove will treat it nicely to maintain it (no stuffing it into the bottom of your golf bag after sweating through 18 holes on a hot day) and likely not mind rotating gloves more quickly than they would with a different glove. When the time comes though, this glove is machine washable.

The sheer softness of the glove make the FootJoy Pure Touch Limited my favorite of the group, but I still struggle to process the price tag. If I go through four gloves in a season (I’m not noticing any more wear to this glove than the competition), we are talking about $24 more dollars versus other premium gloves for the year. Am I trying to rationalize my decision to buy them in the future? Absolutely. It’s not going to break my bank account, but a penny saved…

Hirzl Soffft Flex
Retail price: $28.99
Amazon.com: Check price now

Hirzl Soffft Flex Golf Glove

Click for larger image

The newest glove company to enter the game is Hirzl, manufacturers of golf and cycling gloves out of…Switzerland! The company has bypassed the crowded market of lower-priced gloves and jumped into the high-end market. From the Hirzl line I selected their Soffft Flex to stack up in our review. And yes, that’s “Soffft” with 3 f’s. Out of the gate I’m going to make a personal plea for all marketing teams to stop branding their products in either all-caps or made-up words. Seriously how many people will differentiate between Soft Flex, Sofft Flex and Soffft Flex. Of course, the joke will be on me when next year’s model is called the Sofffft Flex.

The Hirzl Soffft Flex is made of the “highest quality Platinum” (Platinum? Huh?) “new generation cabretta” (Does that mean it is made from younger sheep in the same family of sheep that have produced other gloves?), with perforations on the front and back of the fingers, and one piece of lycra that runs across the knuckles on the back of the hand along with four pieces of elastic just below the lycra strip as well as at the wrist. The combination of lycra and elastic make for a glove that fits better than gloves with elastic bands only (the lycra removing much of the tension in the glove that occurs when gripping a club). Not a huge difference, but it is discernable. The Hirzl Soffft, as with the competition, features a pre-curved finger design.

Backing up the name, the glove is indeed soft. In the Critical Golf Double-Blind Glove-Feeling test, the Soffft rated just behind the FootJoy Players glove in overall softness. Want to know why it’s so soft? I’ll tell you the secret: it is their production formula based upon a tetra tanning process (sshhh, don’t tell!). I haven’t been able to tell any difference in wear of this glove versus the others tested, nor can I tell any difference in durability. While I haven’t played in extreme heat in this glove, I would expect the lycra and perforations will keep perspiration down slightly compared to the FootJoy Pure Touch glove (though if you get too sweaty or dirty, the glove can be machine washed).

Hirzl Soffft Flex Golf Glove Technology

Click for larger image

But hey, maybe you don’t believe me and want some charts and graphs. “Show me the data!” Hirzl is happy to oblige (see images at right). Clearly these gloves show both unsurpassed dimensional stability (though only tested using artificial perspiration, natch), and unsurpassed tear strength as tested by the Baumann Tear Strength Method. Our Critical Golf Tear Strength Method (which involved the glove and our dog) was inconclusive.

At $28.99 retail, the Hirzl Soffft Flex straddles the line between the high-end gloves of the recent past, and the latest ones that push the $30 barrier. The restrained use of lycra makes for a glove that provides a great fit while maintaining a reasonably traditional look. If players don’t have any qualms with using a new brand on the market, I think they could fall for this glove.

Titleist Players
Retail price: $24
Amazon.com: Check price now

Titleist Players GloveTitleist Players GloveTitleist Players Glove

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The Titleist Players Glove is the least expensive in this bunch, at a reasonable sounding $24 that is, yes, still probably 8 times more than my grandfather would have found acceptable to pay for a golf glove. While the price is low, Titleist keeps up with the competition in marketing, with the “thinnest leather specification” due to “premium selected, soft, thin skins” which phrasing, truthfully, makes me feel somewhat guilty about not using a synthetic glove.

The glove is a traditional Titleist cabretta glove – extremely soft, perforated at the front and back of the fingers, with three elastic bands at the back of the hand plus one around the wrist to provide a good fit. Unlike the competition, and maybe to Titleist’s detriment, it comes in the same style packaging as the rest of the line, which very well make players pass on this glove due to the relative price versus others in the Titleist family.

There isn’t too much to say about this glove. It’s one of the best around, and absolutely worthy of consideration. It lacks the lycra of some gloves, but still provides decent breathability and a fit that will satisfy most players. The stitching at the base of the thumb is different than the other gloves (who notices THAT?), with the stitches on the inside of the glove, as opposed to the other gloves where you can see the stitching on the outside (I am sure there is some technical term for this style of stitching, but I don’t know what it is). This results in a seam you can feel a bit more than other gloves, though it’s barely discernible. Why the difference in construction, I have not a clue. And no, this isn’t a big deal, just a difference.

At up to 20% less expensive than others in this group, The Titleist Players glove is a logical choice for players that are looking for a premium glove that doesn’t break the bank (as much as another $6 can break the bank). It’s all about what you get for your money, however, and at $24 it does fall into the next “class of glove”, with a gap between it and the $18 Titleist Prema Soft Glove. It is an exceptional glove however, and if you are looking to spring for one of the best golf gloves on the market, give it a look.


Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but when I spend $18 I still think I should get an exceptionally soft glove that fits well. And truth be told, I can. What you get for the additional $6-12 is, depending on the glove, one that perhaps fits better, is that much softer, or performs better in the heat than others. The difference in these gloves is absolutely at the margins, however, so we’ll leave it to others to determine the incremental benefits from these top-tier gloves.

Whatever you choose, no benzene-based detergents when washing these gloves, ok?

Have thoughts on these gloves or your favorites? Let us know.