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GolfBuddy Voice

With the GolfBuddy Voice, GolfBuddy brings its marketing and distribution muscle into the new realm of voice-enabled golf GPS devices. The Voice is able to leverage GolfBuddy’s experience with dedicated handheld devices, including its exceptional course coverage and mapping of the edges of each green edge, which enables the device to provide distances to the near, center and far points on the green relative to player position.

The device is small and light, and comes with a clip to attach to brim of a cap, shirt, or belt. The Voice will speak the distance at a touch of a button – the default is the distance to the center of the green, but pressing and holding down the main button will cycle through distances to the near and far points of the green. It was nice to have the additional information available, but the awkward interface deterred our review staff from taking the time to find the near and far green distances unless it was absolutely necessary.

The GolfBuddy Voice not only speaks yardages, but also include a small screen where players can visually obtain distances and see a rough graphic of the shape of the green. While the display provides some advantages, such as providing access to the par score for the hole, our conclusion was that if we were going to take the time to bring the display into a position to see the information, we would likely prefer either a watch or a non-voice golf GPS device that had more features. The list of features for the Voice is pretty short, though it does include auto-hole advance and shot distance tracking.

The GolfBuddy Voice retails for $199.99, and while there are no additional fees for access to the course database, this price point puts it within striking distance of golf GPS watches and handheld golf GPS devices with more functionality. Voice-enabled devices may yet become significant in the market, but based on the units we’ve tested to date, no one has fully cracked the code yet.

SCORE
84
GRADE
B
Setup/Syncing
80
Course Availability
100
Ease of Use
89
Course Details
82
Features
84
Accuracy
86
Cost/Value
85

Pros:

  • Exceptional course coverage
  • Distances to near, center and far points of the green based on player position

Cons:

  • Very limited features
  • Unless you just want one distance, arguably not as quick and easy-to-use as a watch or dedicated device clipped to a belt or in a pocket
  • Green graphic images can be inaccurate

Retail price: $199.99
Three year total cost: $199.99
Availability: Replaced by the GolfBuddy VT3
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


75 / B

SETUP/SYNCING

The Good: The GolfBuddy Voice has courses pre-loaded on the device. The screen will flash while charging and turn off when finished.

The Bad: We still aren’t fans of the GolfBuddy registration process, which requires a barrage of information in order to set up your (free) account. The time to sync courses is longer than for most devices.

Details:

  • Required Steps. Courses come pre-loaded on the GolfBuddy Voice, but you’ll eventually want to download the free GolfBuddy Course Manager to keep updated with the latest course maps. Upon initial setup just select the language and you are good to go.
    • Download the GolfBuddy Course Manager software (see below) from the GolfBuddy web site. The download and installation takes but a minute or two.
    • Upon launching the Course Manager software, you’ll be prompted to login. If you don’t have an account yet, you will be taken to the registration page, on which GolfBuddy requires you to submit a number of pieces of information that no user should have to provide just to use a golf GPS device, including home address and phone and birthday. We’ll leave you to guess whether we answered any of those fields truthfully (wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more!).
  • Time Required for Setup. After walking through the GolfBuddy Course Manager registration process, we weren’t able to update the device. After getting in touch with GolfBuddy technical support, which took another 10 minutes or so, we were able to update the firmware, copy and load the necessary files, which took another 10 minutes.

What’s in the Box: The GolfBuddy Voice GPS (with hat/shirt clip attached) comes with:

  • Micro USB cable
  • AC adapter
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Protective silicon case
  • Warranty Card

Downloads (required):


100 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: GolfBuddy has rapidly improved their course database since our tests first began. Additional course coverage improvements in 2012 bring the GolfBuddy Voice to 100% in our course coverage test. Congrats, GolfBuddy!!

Manufacturer’s Claims: GolfBuddy claims a course database of approximately 17,900 courses in the United States (right at the top), and 34,500 Worldwide (tops). This places the GolfBuddy Voice at tops of the field in worldwide course coverage.


89 / B+

EASE OF USE

The Good: Small and light.

The Bad: We can’t cycle through distances as quickly as we would like, and when doing so, the order is center-near-far. We didn’t find having a small screen plus voice capability to be a useful combination.

GolfBuddy Voice Golf GPS Device

Click for more images

Details:

  • Buttons. The GolfBuddy Voice has five buttons: one main button on the front, power and position mark buttons on the left side, and volume/selection buttons on the right side.
  • Screen. Though tiny in size, the GolfBuddy Voice still has a display to provide information – the only voice golf GPS device to do so.
  • Form Factor. With the clip on the device, you can attach the GolfBuddy Voice to the brim of a cap, a shirt collar, or a belt. As with the Matrix SHOTMATE, the thickness of the Voice makes it pretty noticeable when it’s clipped to a cap – we wound up clipping it on our belt. There is USB cable access on the top right corner of the device for charging, updating courses and upgrading device firmware. The clip and speaker are on the back of the device.
  • Starting a Round. To start a round users need only to turn on the Voice, and the device will begin acquiring satellites and locating the nearest course. The Voice will only allow you to start play if you are at a course (the course name will not be provided), so there isn’t the ability to test the device when there is no signal or you aren’t at a golf course. Compared side-by-side with the full-featured GolfBuddy Platinum, the GolfBuddy Voice was able to start a round just a bit faster. The Voice will notify you when it has located the course, and if you are not on the tee box, it will instruct you to proceed there. Hole and distance information will be displayed only once you have arrived at the tee box.
  • Battery Life. GolfBuddy claims 9 hours of life from the internal rechargeable battery. Based on our tests this is fairly accurate, so you may be able to get in a couple of rounds without recharging. Sadly on the public courses where we frequently play, 9 hours often doesn’t get you through two rounds.

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


82 / B-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: In addition to the distance to the center of the green, the GolfBuddy Voice also provides the yardages to the near and far edges of the green. Note that the latter two aren’t the front and back of the green relative to the tee box; rather, the far and near edges change based on exactly where on the hole you are standing. It may seem a small detail, but it is a big advantage to have the entire green edge mapped.

The Bad: The green images shown on the green view screen were often not accurate enough to be useful. And as with all devices that are limited to green information, we found ourselves craving distances to hazards.

GolfBuddy Voice Golf GPS Device

Click for larger image

Details:

  • Views. The GolfBuddy Voice has two main screens: Hole View and Green View. Distances will be provided until the player is within approximately 10 yards of the edge of the green.
    • Hole View –The Hole View is the default screen at the beginning of each hole, and provides a small graphic of a generic green (this is NOT intended to accurately depict the shape of the actual green) with a point at the bottom, center or top of the graphic. The location of the point indicates the distance that is being shown on this screen – if it’s at the top, then the indicated distance is to the far edge of the green, if at the bottom, then the indicated
      GolfBuddy Voice Golf GPS Device

      Click for more images

      distance is to the near edge of the green, and if in the middle, it’s to the center of the green. Pressing and holding the main button for a couple of seconds will cycle the device, moving from the default distance to the center to the near edge and then the far edge of the green. Also included on this screen is the battery life remaining, and the symbol “M” will appear if the player has selected meters instead of yards as the unit of distance.

      GolfBuddy Voice Golf GPS Device

      Click for more images
    • Green View – The Green View provides a rough graphic of the actual shape of the green, which will rotate based on player position. Also included on this screen are the par score for the hole, the satellite strength, and, if playing a hole with multiple greens, an indicator of whether the information displayed is for the left or right green (users can toggle between the two). The Green View is displayed after pressing the “main” button.
  • Hole Information. The hole number is announced each time a distance is given so you can be confident that you are receiving distances to the correct green without needing to refer to the display. On both the Hole and Green View screens the hole number is displayed on the left of the display. Par information is included on the Green View screen only.

84 / B

FEATURES

The Good: It speaks! And it also has a display, although it’s pretty small (1 inch x 0.5 inches).

The Bad: No ability to track scores or statistics.

Details:

  • Voice. If you’re reading this review we probably don’t even need to mention this feature. The device can announce the hole being played, distances to the center, near and far edges of the green, shot distances (see below) and the time.
  • GolfBuddy Voice Golf GPS Device

    Click for larger image
  • Shot Distances. Shot distances are tracked by first pressing the “P” button on the side of the device, then the main button. You can watch the measured distance change as you walk well past your buddies’ drives, mocking them as you go, but for whatever reason, the distance will only increase in increments of 6 yards at a time. You can switch back to either the Hole or Green View, but once you do so, you won’t be able to switch back to the screen that displays the shot distance without ending the measurement. Once you arrive at your ball, pressing the “P” button again will complete the measurement, announce the distance, and freeze the distance on the screen – in calculating the final distance, the GolfBuddy Voice will give the actual distance with no limitation on 6 yard increments.
  • Score and Statistics. The GolfBuddy Voice doesn’t have the ability to track scores or statistics.
  • Auto-advance. The Voice will automatically advance to the next hole once the user arrives at the tee box, and will announce when it has advanced.
  • Course Storage. All courses in the GolfBuddy Voice database come pre-loaded, and GolfBuddy claims up be able to store up to 40,000 in total.
  • Preferences. In addition to the language selected at startup, the Voice has three settings: yards/meters, volume control, and left/right green (for holes with multiple greens).

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


86 / B

ACCURACY

The GolfBuddy Voice generally provided distances accurate to within 4 yards, although we had difficulty verifying distances to the near and far points of the green as the device no longer provides distances, either by voice or on the display, once the player has reached the green edge (defined as approximately 10 yards from the edge of the green).

We did notice that there was often a yardage difference between the GolfBuddy Voice and the GolfBuddy Platinum, which we were testing during the same round. We found the GolfBuddy Voice to both be slightly less accurate, and often take more time to lock on to a correct reading (on one occasion we saw the GolfBuddy Voice take up to a full minute longer to lock into an accurate reading). GolfBuddy must be using the same course maps for both devices, so we presume that the disparity is caused by differences in the hardware.


85 / B

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: With a retail price of $199.99, the GolfBuddy Voice is one of the least expensive GPS devices tested, though there are a number of dedicated devices with displays and hazard information that are available for less. Of the voice golf GPS units on the market, it is the least expensive.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no additional cost for access to the database for new courses or updates, the three-year total cost of ownership of the GolfBuddy Voice GPS remains at $199.99, placing it in the least expensive third of devices in our comparison of golf GPS device total costs.

Value: While the device has one of the lower prices for a golf GPS device, it is a “tweener” in the market – it doesn’t provide the hazard data available in less expensive devices (such as the Bushnell neo+ or IZZO 3000 devices), and it lacks the functionality of the more feature-rich devices that we have come to appreciate. The primary differentiator is voice, and whether you value that feature will exclusively determine whether you like this device.

Although the display will provide the hole, par, and green graphic, we didn’t find much value in it. The whole point of a voice-enabled golf GPS device seems to be avoiding looking at a display. If we are going to look at a display at all, we would just as well turn to a different device such as a watch, which has a more accessible form factor and display, and can provide additional hazard information and other functionality that that the GolfBuddy Voice doesn’t possess.


Matrix SHOTMATE Voice

Matrix, best known for its golf shafts, shouted its entry into the golf GPS market at the 2012 PGA show with the Matrix SHOTMATE Voice GPS. We aren’t sure whether there was a sudden technological leap that enabled the development of voice golf GPS, but it will be interesting to see how consumers take to this new category of devices.

Relying upon sound as the sole method of communicating with the user is a bold gamble. We found it pretty simple to get accustomed to this new interface mode. One thing we didn’t miss was staring at a screen during our round – we get more than enough time staring at computers from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.

The SHOTMATE stands out with the pleasant voice of a woman with a British accent that announces distances to the center of the green as well as shot distances. (Click the play button below to hear a sample.)
[powerpress url=”http://www.criticalgolf.com/wp-content/audio/gps/matrix-shotmate-enjoy-your-round.mp3″]There is no screen on the device, so all interactions takes place through one main button and two arrow buttons. We found it easiest to use the SHOTMATE when it was clipped to the bill of a cap, though it can just as easily be attached to a bag, belt or shirt collar. Note that while the SHOTMATE is only about the size of a matchbook, it’s still pretty noticeable and nerdy looking attached to your cap (as would a matchbook), so you might want to slip it into your pocket when you head over to hit on the cart girl. You might expect the sound to be distracting to other players, but the volume is adjustable, and we found other players couldn’t even hear the distance readings when the SHOTMATE was clipped to our cap.

The SHOTMATE comes preloaded with 22,000 courses in the United States and Canada and does not charge annual or per course fees for maps updates. Matrix claims up to 9 hours of battery life.

At only $150 retail and with no additional fees, the Matrix SHOTMATE is one of the least expensive golf GPS devices in our tests. The device is incredibly small and light, and is a breeze to use. The primary decision factors will likely be whether you like getting data through sound, as opposed to sight, and whether you feel you need more information than just the distance to the center of the green. While we love the simplicity of the device, we found ourselves longing for additional distance information (beginners may actually prefer just one distance, however).

A video that gives a bit more detail:

SCORE
83
GRADE
B-
Setup/Syncing
85
Course Availability
94
Ease of Use
97
Course Details
65
Features
80
Accuracy
86
Cost/Value
87

Pros:

  • No need to even look at the device – it announces distances at the press of a button
  • One of the smallest and lightest devices tested
  • Easy to use
  • One of the lowest priced golf GPS units available

Cons:

  • Only distance provided is to the center of the green
  • No functionality beyond shot distance tracking

Retail price: $149.99
Three year total cost: $149.99
Availability: Discontinued. No replacement product. We don’t expect the company to reintroduce another GPS unit.


85 / B

SETUP/SYNCING

The Good: The Matrix SHOTMATE comes with all courses pre-loaded on the device. A light will illuminate when the device is charging and turn off when finished.

The Bad: Instructions could use some additional clarity (and the manual some polish – it is unfortunately has a number of grammatical and spelling errors that don’t make the best first impression). You don’t have the ability to select individual courses for updates. No support for Macs.

Details:

  • Required Steps. Though courses come pre-loaded on the Matrix SHOTMATE, you’ll want to download the Matrix SHOTMATE Update Program (free) to keep updated with the latest course maps. Unfortunately there isn’t a good set of instructions for this in either the User Manual or on the web site. We blundered our way through, and determined that the required steps include:
    • Downloading the SHOTMATE Update Program from the SHOTMATE web site. You might think that you want to click on the link labeled “Update Guide Download”, but you would be wrong! Instead, for some odd reason you need to click on “Course Data Download” to get the zip file that includes the Update Program. If you stumble around a bit and click on a bunch of the unzipped files, you eventually realize that you want to click on the “Shotmate” exe file to install and launch the Update Program (Windows only).
    • Downloading drivers so your PC will recognize the SHOTMATE. This time your instincts should lead you to the correct link – just click on “Driver (PC) Download.” Again, you’ll get a zipped file, and have to guess which of the files to eventually launch (the one labeled “Driver Package Installer” did the trick).
    • Going back to the Update Program and clicking on “Run to Update.” It only took a couple of minutes to update the program. Curiously, upon its conclusion, the “Progress Message” will read “It’s ready to voice upgrade mode” (whatever that means) – and then up popped a warning box that said “USB is not connect.” Huh? In any event, we seemed to be done at that point. Of course since there’s no way to see what courses are available on the device, we don’t really know whether any were updated or not, but at least we know that we have the latest version.
    • Time Required for Setup. It took about 20 minutes to run through the entire setup/sync process the first time, although most of that was just trying to figure out what was necessary. The actual download and reinstallation was accomplished in about 5-10 minutes.

What’s in the Box: The Matrix SHOTMATE voice GPS (which has a built-in clip) comes with:

  • USB to micro-USB cable
  • AC adapter
  • User Manual
  • Quick Pocket Guide

Matrix SHOTMATE Software Downloads (required):

  • Matrix SHOTMATE firmware
  • Matrix SHOTMATE drivers

94 / A

COURSE AVAILABILITY
Critical Golf Test: Up from an abysmal 43% in our initial tests, the Matrix SHOTMATE now has climbed to the middle of the pack in our course coverage test. We initially recommended that players wait until additional courses are added before making a purchase, and at this point we can say this is no longer a main concern.
Manufacturer’s Claims: The company claims the Matrix comes pre-loaded with approximately 22,000 courses. This places the SHOTMATE at the back of the field in our course coverage comparison test of course availability.


97 / A

EASE OF USE

The Good: Incredibly small and light, with an easy-to-use interface. While very basic, the features provided all work well with a device that is based entirely on voice.

The Bad: Although it has only the most basic of features, one of the benefits is that the SHOTMATE has no real negatives in terms of ease of use.

Matrix SHOTMATE Voice Golf GPS Device

Click for more images

Details:

  • Buttons. The Matrix SHOTMATE has three buttons: one main button on the front and two small arrow buttons on the base. The arrow buttons are used for changing the volume, unit of measure, hole, and green (if multiple greens are available).
  • Screen. This is a first in our tests…not applicable!
  • Form Factor. Amazingly small and light. With the clip, you can attach the SHOTMATE to the brim of your cap or shirt collar. There is USB cable access on the top of the device for charging, upgrading software and downloading course updates. The belt clip, speaker and power button are on the back of the device.
  • Starting a Round. After powering up the SHOTMATE, a green light will blink until the GPS satellites are acquired, and the device will announce that it is locating a country club (yes, it literally says “country club” – insert your own joke about your local muni here). [powerpress url=”http://www.criticalgolf.com/wp-content/audio/gps/matrix-shotmate-locating-country-club.mp3″]After satellites are acquired, it figures out what course you are on, and announces that is has “found a country club.” From there, you need merely proceed to the tee box, where the device should recognize the hole. Note that you actually have to be at a golf course for any of this to work – so you can’t really play around with the device while you’re at home.
  • Battery Life. The rechargeable battery is marketed at up to 9 hours of life. We haven’t found the use of the device (whether we frequently requested distances or not) to noticeably impact the hours we get out of a charge, and are able to get one but generally not two rounds on a single charge (averaging 4.5-5 hour rounds).

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


65 / F

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: With only the distance to the center of the green provided, course detail is not the SHOTMATE’s strong suit, so there isn’t much to tout here.

The Bad: The lack of distances to the front and back of the green made our rounds a bit more challenging. And given our penchant for hitting the ball into those pesky bunkers and lakes, it would be nice to know how far away they are.

Details:

  • Hole Information. The hole number is provided each time the distance is announced, in this format “First hole to the green, one hundred seventeen yards”. No par information is provided; however, given that there isn’t the ability to track scores, most players will likely have a scorecard with them.

80 / B-

FEATURES

The Good: Voice is the draw here. Shot distance measuring is a bonus.

The Bad: The SHOTMATE obviously doesn’t have the features that most golf GPS devices have, but without a screen, there really aren’t many additional features that the device could offer.

Details:

  • Voice. Not much more to add here…with no screen, all distances and settings are provided via voice and tones. We like the mild British accent, which is good, since there is no choice of different voices (such as you might find in your car’s GPS system). We were able to understand virtually all distances announced, with the exception of differentiating between distances ending in “-teen” and those ending in “-ty”, such as one hundred seventeen versus one hundred seventy. [powerpress url=”http://www.criticalgolf.com/wp-content/audio/gps/matrix-shotmate-teen-or-ty.mp3″] Maybe we need to watch more “Masterpiece Theater” or something…
  • Shot Distances. The SHOTMATE will track shot distances with a two-second press of the main button, and the device can continue to provide distances to the center of the green while still tracking the shot distance. When the player presses the button for two seconds again, the shot distance will be announced and the SHOTMATE will both stop measuring and reset (so you can’t provide measurements for multiple shots from the tee, for example). [powerpress url=”http://www.criticalgolf.com/wp-content/audio/gps/matrix-shotmate-driving-distance-is.mp3″]
  • Score and Statistics. The SHOTMATE doesn’t have the ability to track scores or statistics (and without a screen or embedded Siri, this would likely be a challenge to implement in a useful manner).
  • Auto-advance. The SHOTMATE will automatically advance to the next hole, though no indication will be given when this occurs. The auto-advance is triggered when the player is on a tee box, so it is best to clip the SHOTMATE on something that will always be with you. The player will only know if the SHOTMATE has advanced to the next hole by pressing the main button to obtain the distance, and hearing the hole number as it is announced along with the distance. If the user needs to manually change the hole (we did find cases where the SHOTMATE jumped to the wrong hole when we passed adjacent tee boxes, and also when the device didn’t advance to the next hole when we stood in the middle of the tee box), they can easily do so with the arrow buttons on the bottom of the device.
  • Course Storage. All courses in the SHOTMATE database come pre-loaded (approximately 22,000). As mentioned under Setup/Syncing, users should still sync the device on occasion to ensure they have the latest course maps.
  • Preferences. The SHOTMATE has just three settings: the ability to select yards/meters, volume control, and left/right green (for situations with multiple greens).

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


86 / B

ACCURACY

The Matrix SHOTMATE generally provided accurate distances, though we have found several holes that were off by up to 8-10 yards during our testing, which always shakes our confidence. We did find, that as with most devices, players should wait a few seconds after arriving at their ball before pressing the main button to obtain the distance. There were a number of cases where we received an initial (accurate) distance reading, but if we quickly moved 10-20 yards and hit the button for a new reading, the SHOTMATE seemed to be “stuck” on the earlier distance reading and wouldn’t update to our new position. We found this type of error to be mostly dependent upon how quickly we requested a new reading, rather than how far away we moved. As a result, we recommend pausing for a handful of seconds before obtaining a reading. Without a screen it is extremely tempting to press the main button to receive the distance as soon as you arrive at your ball, but don’t think this is any different than other GPS devices – you still need to wait a moment to ensure an accurate reading.

When you reach 30 yards from the center of the green, the device no longer provides distances and will instead announce that you are on the green edge. The SHOTMATE doesn’t provide distances beyond 500 yards (it will just say “…more than 500 yards”). [powerpress url=”http://www.criticalgolf.com/wp-content/audio/gps/matrix-shotmate-more-than-500-yards.mp3″]

Unlike most golf GPS manufacturers, Matrix provides a claim as to accuracy – to 9 feet (2 meters).


87 / B+

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: The Matrix SHOTMATE has a retail price of $149.99, which makes it one of the least expensive GPS devices tested, though there are handheld devices with displays available for less. Of the voice golf GPS units on the market, it is the least expensive.

Fees for Access to Course Database: Even at this low retail price, there are no additional fees to receive course updates. Dig it.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no additional cost for access to the database for new courses or updates, the three-year total cost of ownership of the Matrix SHOTMATE Voice GPS stays at a very low $150, making it one of the least expensive devices in our comparison of golf GPS device total costs.

Value: While the Matrix SHOTMATE sports one of the lowest prices for any golf GPS device, its functionality is, of course, far more limited than most all other devices. For the player that is looking for the ultimate bare-bones device, this could be right up their alley – there’s no need to even glance at a screen, just tap a button.

But while we liked the form factor and actually found it less distracting to use than using other GPS devices (since you don’t even have to be looking at the device to get the distance), we much prefer to have distances at least to the front and back of the green, and preferably to the near and far points of the green along with selected additional targets. Beginning golfers, however, may be more drawn to the simplicity of having just one distance to focus upon.

Prospective buyers who buy into the idea of a voice golf GPS can stack the Matrix SHOTMATE up against the GolfBuddy Voice (which has a small screen), Voice Caddie VC100 (the most direct competitor), and SkyKap (it’s unclear to us if this product is actually available). For reference, the GolfBuddy Voice provides distances to the front, center and back of the green; the Voice Caddie to the center only, and the SkyKap to front, center and back of green as well as other targets.


Samsonite Hardside

With the Samsonite Hardside golf travel case (also marketed as the Samsonite Golf Life Rigid Cover II), the innovation and design that have made Samsonite one of the world’s leading luggage companies is applied to transporting a set of golf clubs. We were impressed with not only the protection afforded by the lightweight ABS shell (a form of rigid plastic used in newer luggage designs), but also the ease with which we were able to roll the case through the airport and parking garages, due in no small part to the four 360 degree “spinner” wheels on the bottom of the bag. On hard floors and concrete we were able to keep the Samsonite Hardside happily cruising along by just nudging it every once in awhile.

Our primary gripes (and we always have some!) were that we would’ve liked some interior pockets, and we noticed that when we tilted the case on its side to use the two in-line skate wheels and pull the case over a curb, at certain angles, the design resulted in the sides of the spinner wheels rubbing against the ground.

SCORE
94
GRADE
A
Design/Construction
95
Travel Impressions
92
Value
90

But make no mistake – the Samsonite Hardside golf travel case is a revolutionary product that makes traveling with your golf clubs infinitely more pleasant. Our belief is that given the quantum shift in the ease with which these bags can be rolled, four-wheeled designs are much more than a passing fad, and will proliferate in golf travel bags much as they already dominate in the realm of traditional roller suitcases.

Retail price: $400 (but MUCH lower online via Amazon or others)

Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


95 / A

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

The Samsonite Hardside golf travel case is designed and manufactured by Athalon Sportgear under license from Samsonite. As mentioned above, the exterior shell of the Samsonite Hardside golf travel case is made of ABS, a lightweight plastic that also has a tiny bit of give to it (in case you’re trying to stuff just a few more t-shirts into the case). It emerged from our flights with a few cosmetic scuffs and scratches, but we suppose it’s better that the case gets roughed up than the precious cargo inside. It’s not clear whether the exterior shell has a propensity for being nicked up, or whether we just encountered particularly unmotivated baggage handlers in our testing.

A two-way zipper runs the length of the bag with a ring that enables the zippers to be locked together (note that no lock was included). The dimensions of the case are 54″ x 16″ x 12″, and it had no problems accommodating a golf carry bag loaded with a full set of clubs, including an oversize driver.

The design of the Samsonite Hardside also includes:

  • four 360-degree “spinner” wheels on the bottom of the case that pivot in any direction, making for a smooth rolling experience and the ability to pivot quickly and easily,
  • two additional in-line skate wheels positioned on one side that can be used to pull the case over curbs or uneven surfaces,
  • a thin layer of padding throughout the bag, with thicker foam padding at the top to protect the heads of your clubs as they extend out of your regular golf carry bag,
  • two internal straps to secure your golf bag (adjustable to accommodate any size bag) – one that fits around the top of the bag and one at the base,
  • two rubber-gripped handles – one at the top of the case, and one on the side,
  • four color options: black, red, titanium (silver) and champagne (gold).
Samsonite Sportlab Hardside Travel Case

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We tested the Samsonite Hardside with a standard sized carry bag, and were easily able to fit a pair of golf shoes and one of those plastic hotel laundry bags chock full of dirty clothes (please note this was for the trip home only, the clothes were clean to begin with). There was additional interior room to cram in some more stuff, but we refrained because of fears of running afoul of airline restrictions on weight.

As a minor nit, both Athalon’s web site and the site of the retailer from which we purchased the case claim that the Samsonite Hardside comes with a luggage tag, but none was to be found when we opened the box. We weren’t sure whether this was a manufacturer or retailer issue.


92 / A-

TRAVEL IMPRESSIONS

Traveling with the Samsonite Hardside golf travel case was a pleasure. The case is designed to almost always stand on its base, so it doesn’t take up much room when you’re standing in line. The four “spinner” wheels made it effortless to push the case along, requiring you to merely nudge it every now and then just to keep it heading in the right direction. The two in-line skate wheels give you the option of pulling when you need to roll over curbs. During our trip, we almost always pushed the case, particularly since we had to pull another rolling suitcase. The only time this tactic made us worry about the case tipping over was when we were getting on to and off of people movers and escalators, at which time we switched things around and pushed the other suitcase and pulled the Samsonite Hardside.

The Samsonite Hardside clocks in at 15 pounds, tying it with the SKB Deluxe as the heaviest travel case we tested (the Sun Mountain Club Glider Meridian is at 14.6 pounds, and the Club Glove Last Bag is the lightweight of the bunch at 10.6 pounds), but because it is fully wheeled, the additional weight doesn’t matter much. The only time you might notice the weight is when you are stowing the case. Speaking of stowing the case, it would be nice if Samsonite added an additional handle at the bottom of the bag the make it easier to lift into and out of car trunks.


90 / A-

COST/VALUE

The Samsonite Hardside golf travel case retails for $400, making it the highest priced travel case in our tests, although our price comparison research showed that it is generally available from retailers at a much lower price point (to the point that the actual price you will have to pay is less than for the other travel bags we reviewed). The ABS shell gives comfort that your clubs are well-protected, and the four wheels take most of the heavy lifting out of getting the clubs through the airport, saving your back for hacking your way out of the rough when you arrive at your destination.

The warranty for the Samsonite Hardside is either three years or five years, depending on whether you believe the tag that was attached to the case (three years) or the manufacturer’s web site (five years). In either case, the warranty only covers the case itself, and does not extend to the contents.

The Samsonite Hardside golf travel case really does make taking your golf clubs on a trip significantly easier. It not only reduces the stress of worrying about whether your clubs will be adequately protected, but also eliminates the stress on your arms, shoulders and back from hauling the clubs through the airport. In our estimation, this is well worth the price of the case.

Retail price: $400 (but MUCH lower online via Amazon or others)
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now