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SkyCaddie Breeze

Those who know SkyCaddie products will recognize the SkyCaddie Breeze as a slight iteration of the previous generation Skycaddie SGX and SGXw devices. The Breeze uses virtually the same hefty hardware as the others, but the key difference is that the Breeze is feature-upgradable. The base SkyCaddie Breeze comes with distance information to the front, center and back of greens, and users then pay one-time fees to upgrade their device to access additional features (included by default with the Skycaddie SGX and SGXw). These user-upgradable features are available in three different “Feature Packs” (priced at $34.95 each), and include enhanced green detail, full hole views, and yardage arcs. If your purchase decision is based on specific features, be sure to check whether those features are available for the courses you play. For example, our course coverage test revealed that the SkyCaddie database provides advanced green detail on a paltry 59% of courses and pin sheet coverage on only 4%(!) of courses.

The SkyCaddie Breeze offers unmatched ability to customize your device for both features and preference settings. The display and graphics are quite good and the Breeze provides more detailed course information than any other device – assuming that those features are available for the course that you are playing. The Breeze will be a desirable option for players who want the full assortment of upgradable features and are willing to pay the considerable fees. Those who are die-hard SkyCaddie fans but don’t have a need for hole graphics or advanced settings will be better off considering the SkyCaddie Aire or SkyCaddie Gimme, both of which are available at correspondingly lower price points.

SCORE
87
GRADE
B+
Setup/Syncing
75
Course Availability
59
Ease of Use
86
Course Details
96
Features
95
Accuracy
90
Cost/Value
84

Pros:

  • Bright and easy to read color screen
  • Full graphic hole views and green contour detail (depending on course availability)
  • Variety of preference settings

Cons:

  • High 3-year total cost
  • Course coverage extremely low for advanced green features, and virtually non-existent for pin sheet positions
  • Largest and heaviest in our tests
  • Online ClubSG portal needs a lot of improvement

Retail price: $334.80
Three year total cost: $484.65
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the SkyCaddie TOUCH
Amazon.com: Check price now


75 / C

SETUP/SYNCING

We long for the day when we will be able to setup and sync a SkyCaddie device without issue. We’ve had problems in the past so we weren’t surprised by our experience, but a new SkyCaddie user can be in for a rude first impression. We haven’t yet determined a pattern for whether the SkyCaddie Breeze will successfully sync or not, so we just assume it won’t correctly sync on our first attempt to update the software or courses.

Details for syncing:

  • Required steps. You’ll need to sync the Breeze for both course and software updates, as well as to transfer scores and statistics to SkyCaddie’s online portal. The required steps (in addition to activating your Breeze at the SkyCaddie website) are as follows:
    • installing course management software (CaddieSync Express) to your computer;
    • to add courses to the Breeze, log in to your account via the SkyCaddie web site, then search for and select courses to sync to the Breeze (this has a nice interface, and indicates which advanced features are available for each course);
    • launch SkyCaddie Express; and
    • sync courses to the device through the USB cable.
  • Time required for setup. The initial setup included updating both the operating system and the course maps. The operating system update took just under 1.5 hours (this went smoothly, and the time is in line with past device operating system updates). The course map update, however, failed multiple times at the very end of its process, and by the time we finally succeeded we had invested over 1.5 hours. Making this a 3-hour process in total. Painful.
SkyCaddie Breeze Setup

Click for images

Once we were through the initial setup, we found that adding more courses or updating existing courses took a minimum of 20 minutes. We experienced additional errors, including one “Windows CE Networking” error on the device (see image), and others crashing our browser and requiring a restart. Setting aside the basic syncing errors, it’s still a mystery as to why it would take 20 minutes to update a single course and why you should have to select courses one-by-one to transfer to the Breeze as opposed to being able to select a state or region. There is also a limit of 50 courses with advanced feature maps (such as full hole views) on the Breeze at one time, which is puzzling in this age of cheap storage. Our suggestion to SkyCaddie – why not have information for all courses pre-loaded on the device, and then simply “activate” the courses that the user pays to access?

You can charge the Breeze by using the included AC adapter or by plugging it directly into your computer. Once it’s plugged in the Breeze will being charging automatically. A graphic will indicate the level of charge, and the device will power off when the battery is fully charged.

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

  • Rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery
  • USB to Micro-USB cable
  • A/C power adapter
  • Belt clip and cradle
  • LCD screen guards and installation instructions
  • LCD screen cleaning cloth
  • Player’s Guide
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Additional documentation (warranty, etc.)

The SkyCaddie Breeze User Manual is available only via download from the SkyCaddie website.


59 / F

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: We test devices based on their level of course coverage for the most advanced features available, as after all, that’s what the manufacturers market. Disappointingly, the SkyCaddie Breeze scores a mere 59 in our course coverage test, dragged down by its poor IntelliGreen Pro availability (see ‘Course Detail and Mapping’, below, for views and Feature Pack details). This score has been low since its introduction in 2010, and rightly should probably still be called a “beta” feature. It makes us wonder where the high annual fees are going… The slow addition of green detail does, however, imply to us that courses aren’t regularly revisited by SkyCaddie course mappers (the folks who walk the course with magic GPS backpacks).

We are going to give SkyCaddie a pass on the low ranking for its PinPoint Technology, which lets users enter pin sheet locations. We found this feature available on only 5% of courses tested. That’s not a typo. 5%. Five. Percent. It’s a nice marketing move on SkyCaddie’s part to promote this feature, but players should know that they will rarely be able to use this functionality, either due to courses not offering pin sheets, or SkyCaddie not having the feature enabled for the course.

The takeaway here is that if you are considering a purchase of a SkyCaddie Breeze and are interested in specific features, you’ll want to make sure they are included in the list of SkyCaddie courses mapped.

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 coverage separately for advanced features, so the 30,000 number doesn’t tell you about detailed coverage available for the Breeze.


86 / B

EASE OF USE

The Good: A very nice display and straightforward navigation makes it easy to access the variety of features on the SkyCaddie, though you’ll want to check out the manual to learn all the preferences available. The joystick allowed us to quickly select target points without obscuring the screen with our finger (a problem on some of the touchscreen devices).

The Bad: Size and weight are strikes against the Breeze. There is no ability to step “back” to a previous view – instead you have to cycle forward through all of the options. Target List view often initially displays only a subset of total available targets, forcing users to immediately start scrolling through the list.

SkyCaddie Breeze

Click for views

Details:

  • Buttons. The device features a small joystick, two soft keys, and buttons for power/cursor lock, mark ball, menu, info/toggle yardage arcs, and hole selection. The buttons are temperamental – you need to be relatively deliberate when pressing them, as seeing/hearing the button doesn’t necessarily mean you have successfully engaged the desired function. Under the default settings, using the joystick to scroll through menu items requires a deft touch, as you can unintentionally depress it and inadvertently select a function. This can, however, be remedied by turning off the ability of the joystick to select menu items (one of many preference settings available).
  • Screen. The SkyCaddie Breeze has a very nice 3” screen that works well under all lighting conditions.
  • Form Factor. The SkyCaddie Breeze unfortunately keeps the same bulky form factor as the Skycaddie SGX and SkyCaddie SGXw. At 5.4 ounces it is one of the heaviest devices we tested, and its size is the largest among GPS devices.
  • Navigation. The navigation through the Breeze is very good, and even allows users to exit to the main menu (to adjust settings, for example) and then resume the round. One negative is that in many scenarios when you would want to “back up” a screen, you have to instead cycle forward through a number of views first (i.e. if you want to simply zoom out a level when in full hole view). Switching between views often feels a bit sluggish – hopefully SkyCaddie will speed things up with their next version. We did experience some glitches in attempting to switch between hole views.
  • SkyCaddie Breeze

    Click to enlarge
  • Starting a Round. At the outset of a round, the Breeze will use the device’s location to determine the nearest golf course. The player can select that course, choose from among the courses they have loaded onto the device, or choose from the selection of “Preloaded Courses” that SkyCaddie loads on the device at the factory (which include basic distance information only). After selecting the course, the user selects the hole on which to start the round.

The errors we experienced weren’t limited to the syncing process. We were also forced to quit our round in progress when we received a “Program Memory is Low” error (see image to the right). C’mon SkyCaddie! Thankfully we were able to resume the round and found our previously entered scores and statistics were still intact. Phew.


96 / A

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: While it’s not a satellite image, the graphic hole views provide great detail, including rough mapping of tree cover. These graphics are the most comprehensive of all non-satellite image devices. The green graphic will rotate based on player position.

The Bad: Holes can sometimes get cropped, particularly doglegs and when you’re zooming on a hole and your position is far from the center of the fairway (simple solution – just hit your ball into the middle of the fairway!). Target List doesn’t drop targets from the list off after you pass them on the hole.

SkyCaddie Breeze

Click for views

Unless you purchase one of the Feature Pack upgrades, you will only have access to text distances to the front, center and back of the green. Once a Feature Pack is purchased, you can quickly cycle between the available views (see below), and can customize the display to remove any views you don’t want to use. In a business decision that isn’t very player-friendly, the Feature Packs all “build” on previous packs. For example, if you want Feature Pack 3, you have to first purchase Feature Packs 1 and 2. For a closer look at the different views available, check out the Feature Pack images at right.

Views:

  • Standard Views. Until you upgrade by purchasing one of the Feature Packs, you will only have access to distances to the near, center and far points of the green based on your position on the course. This basic screen, as well as the more advanced, also provide the hole, par, handicap, battery life, signal strength, time and distance metric (yards or meters).
  • Feature Pack 1. Feature Pack 1 adds SkyCaddie’s IntelliGreen and IntelliGreen Pro functionality, as well as a target list view. The IntelliGreen view provides a graphic of the shape of the green and the surrounding hazards, with distances to the front, back, and center of the green. Use the joystick to move the target crosshairs (which is placed by default in the center of the green), and the Breeze will then display distances from the target crosshairs to the front and back, as well as left and right sides of the green. Very handy for picking a strategic place to land the ball! IntelliGreen Pro is extremely useful, adding graphics contours and false fronts, and becomes even more advantageous when PinPoint is available to provide players a better sense for hole location (see ‘Feature Pack 3’, below).

    As previously mentioned, Feature Pack 1 also includes a Target List view, which provides a list of distances to hazards, carries and layups ahead of the player on the hole (up to 5 at a time), along with the distance from the selected target to the green. There is no graphic view associated with the Target List but if you want to save a few dollars, this Feature Pack may contain all the distance information you need. We found that even with a full hole view available, we still would refer to the Target List view on occasion to speed up play, particularly in cases where we wanted distances to a number of targets/hazards at one time and didn’t want to have to target them one by one of them using the joystick in full hole view.

  • Feature Pack 2. Feature Pack 2 provides SkyCaddie’s Interactive HoleVue and QuickVue functionality. HoleVue is our preferred view of the lot, and is one of SkyCaddie’s strongest selling points. HoleVue is an overhead graphic of the entire hole and, through positioning of the target crosshairs with the joystick, enables users to obtain distances to any point on the hole. When the user targets a position on the course, the display will provide both the distance to that point and the distance from that point to the green (and will continue to show the total distance to the center of the green). The overhead graphic will automatically zoom in to the remaining portion of the hole as the player advances. You can elect to zoom in and out on your own and the Breeze will step through 3 levels of zoom, each focusing more on the green. If you zoom when you are too close to the edge of the hole, however, you may not be able to see your location (the zoom doesn’t focus on your position, but rather on the fairway/green), and there is no ability to pan the screen.

    Also bundled into Feature Pack 2 is QuickVue, which provides a pseudo-3D view of the hole to provide the “safest route,” with surrounding hazards shown as little blocks. It also provides a graphic preview of the green above the 3D-ish image. This is the least useful of all views, and one we turn off – (80s arcade game Battlezone had better graphics).

  • Feature Pack 3. Feature Pack 3 offers Dynamic RangeVue and PinPoint. Dynamic RangeVue is an overlay of distance arcs on top of full hole and green views. Consider it a faster way to get distances to multiple points, for those times when you want to know distances both short of and past your targets (hey, sometimes things go awry). We weren’t fans of these arcs at first, but they have grown on us, and you can toggle the arcs on and off at the push of a button.

    PinPoint enables users to enter in pin sheet positions, allowing them to (perhaps) more accurately place hole location as opposed to having to try to estimate the position by eye and then position the crosshair on the green, or pulling out a laser rangefinder (though that will most often produce a more accurate reading to the flag). As mentioned, PinPoint is available for very few courses (see ‘Course Availability’, above).

Users have the ability to switch to viewing either their scorecard or an alternate green view that only displays the distance to the center of the green by simply rotating the device to the left or the right. We found these views too easy to trigger regardless of sensitivity setting, and ultimately elected to turn it off. Both the scorecard and green view are still easy to access.

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 SkyCaddie Breeze provides nearly all of the features and you would expect from a premium-priced golf GPS device.

The Bad: No ability to modify layup points that are shown in full hole view. Would prefer to enter additional statistics on the device (you can, however enter them manually on the online ClubSG portal).

SkyCaddie Breeze

Click for images

Details:

  • Shot Tracking. Users can easily mark their shots to measure distances.
  • Scores and Statistics. On the Breeze, users can track score, putts, fairways hit (or left/right) and tee shot distance, but unfortunately not penalty or sand shots. After entering the score for a hole, players have the options to see a round summary that displays where they stand relative to par, total score and total putts; up to 20 scores can be stored on the device. Players can also access their scorecard at any time, which provides the par and the score relative to par on each hole, along with total relative to par on the front 9, back 9, and for the entire round. Users can edit previous hole scoring from this screen as well.
  • Auto-Advance. Users can choose between automatic or manual advancement between holes. Though there were occasions where the Breeze didn’t recognize that we had moved to the next hole, and times when it would ask if we were done with the hole before we had reached the green, in general we preferred to leave the auto-advance option on. If needed, you can quickly jump to another hole at any time.
  • Preferences. SkyCaddie provides more user settings than any other device, which, depending on your comfort with their menus and navigation, can be either a boon or hopelessly overwhelming. These settings include common ones found on many devices, such adjustments to backlight and power, but also options of views to display (and when), and when to display targets. Good times.
  • Battery Life. With the screen left on and the Breeze at full brightness, the Breeze will last between 7 and 8 hours. You can extend your battery life by modifying the backlight and power save settings.
  • ClubSG. ClubSG is SkyCaddie’s online portal for storing user scores and statistics, and is automatically updated when users sync their Breeze. There are a large number of stats that can’t be entered on the Breeze itself, but rather can only be entered directly through ClubSG (though we were too lazy to do this). Players with active SkyCaddie memberships can also enter ClubSG Premium statistics, including the number of alcoholic drinks consumed per round and mulligans taken. The navigation and data presented still need a ton of work (why would I want to know the total of my average drive distances? Huh?). There is a lot of junk displayed throughout the portal that you don’t have the option to turn on/off. Personally, we don’t care about seeing leaderboards for stats, for example, which show tons of players with a 100% GIR percentage – liars! SkyCaddie has spent a lot of time enabling the inclusion of a lot of information, but not as much time in making navigation as crisp as it should be. Focus SkyCaddie, focus! Do your customers a favor and use some of the high annual fees to splurge for a top-notch UI designer and programmers to make ClubSG a polished portal that we would want to visit.

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


90 / A-

ACCURACY

In most instances, the distances provided by the SkyCaddie Breeze were within 4 yards of sprinkler head readings, though we have seen distances differences of up to 7 yards. Distance readings are available all the way to the green.

Our readers have asked about the benefits of having a device that has been mapped by SkyGolf (parent company of SkyCaddie) through having employees walking the course. This process enables SkyCaddie to provide more information than its competitors, with the edge coming in areas such as green contour and additional course detail which can’t be seen on satellite images (upon which most companies rely for their mapping). We have, however, run into a number of cases where SkyCaddie maps aren’t up-to-date. While SkyCaddie notes that they are reliant upon golf courses to tell them when changes are made, it is still disappointing to see that they haven’t known about, or made the effort to find out about, changes at major courses that have been in place for several years. It’s high time that SkyCaddie used more of our steep annual fees toward maintaining the course database!


84 / B

COST/VALUE
Retail Price: While the SkyCaddie Breeze starts with a retail price of $229.95, our reviews encompass the full capabilities of GPS units, which in this case includes the three Feature Packs. This raises the total SkyCaddie Breeze price to $334.80, putting it in the top quartile of retail golf GPS devices, comparable with full-featured golf GPS devices from Garmin and GolfBuddy.

Fees for Access to Course Database: Fewer and fewer companies charge annual fees for access to their course database, but SkyCaddie hasn’t changed its stance. SkyCaddie Breeze owners can choose one of three membership plans to access the course database with advanced information: $19.95/year for access to just front/center/back of the green course information and updates, or for full course maps (which most users of the Breeze will want), you can choose between $29.95/year for one state, $49.95/year for the entire United States, and $59.95/year for worldwide access. These memberships all include ClubSG access.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: At $484.85 over three years in our tests, the SkyCaddie Breeze is one of the highest-priced devices in our test of total golf GPS cost. $$$$$!

Value: While the SkyCaddie Breeze markets an aggressive starting price with a solid number of features and settings, our bet is that most customers will purchase all of the Feature Packs, as these really are the selling points of the device. There are a variety of features and settings available, and the graphics make the device a compelling purchase. The relatively large size and spotty course coverage for advanced features are negatives, and the recurring fees add up over time. The Breeze is a device worthy of consideration if your courses are covered and you have the bucks, but at nearly $500 for three years, the SkyCaddie Breeze is going to face tough sledding against the competition.

Reviewed: March 2013


CartTek GRX-900

The CartTek GRX-900 is one of Cart-Tek’s entry level electric golf push carts, though still captures all the components that most players will need, including scorecard, ball, drink and umbrella holders. The GRX-900 has one 180-watt motor (what we consider as the minimum power level), allowing it to climb 30 degree inclines, and variable speed settings. The cart also has an on/off button with memory to retain settings and a distance timer to send the cart ahead of you.

The weight is 39 pounds with battery, and folds to 23.75 x 37 x 12.5″ (further disassembly can get it to even smaller size for the optional carry (!) bag). The battery is rated to 20Ah, which you can assume will get you through 18 holes (though if you go more and the battery quits, the wheels can be set to “freewheel” mode). Players have the choice of a gloss or metallic black color, and the CartTek comes with a one-year warranty.

Retail price: $499
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the CartTek GRX-950Li.


CartTek GRX-1200-R

The GRX-1200-R is CarTek’s best selling remote control golf caddy. Featuring twin 180-watt motors and a 40 Ah battery, the range is longer than the 900R, up to 36 holes, though this will depend on course conditions. The remote will allow for a number of adjustments including speed settings, with a range up to 100 yards. Like to play in the rain (hey, it still beats a day at the office)? No worries…the waterproof housing will protect the electronics. The 1200-R weighs 59 pounds with battery, and can fold to 25 x 32 x 9.5″ (with quick-release wheels to boot).
The cart has a load capacity of up to 65 pounds, and includes the basic holders for scorecard, balls, drink and umbrella, and comes with a one-year warranty.

Retail price: $795
Golfsmith: Check price now





Hawk E-Z-Go

The Hawk E-Z-Go Powered Golf Caddy is one of the lowest priced electric carts on the market (you’ll see it for sale on Amazon for far below the retail price listed below). The cart is spec’ed as having all the basics: a 180-watt motor, scorecard and beverage holder, and 10-inch non-flat tires. The cart has a switched powered supply with cariable speeds and a cut-off system as well. Unfortunately, while design necessitates some disassembly for folding. It’s basic, but perhaps all you need.

Retail price: $599.99
Availability: Discontinued


Viewti

What to say about Viewti…
For starters, their marketing is a disaster. In the past, their name (and price) changes were frequent enough to drive us nuts. Please, please Viewti (if indeed that is the current spelling of either the company or product name)..in the future, stick to whatever naming convention you select to begin. Don’t switch upper for lowercase in the name. Don’t put the year of release in your product name (can anyone see Apple releasing the iPhone 2012?). Don’t have four different versions. Keep it simple.

The last review we completed was for Viewti 2010. We believe this is the same application that has now morphed into the current Viewti app available on iTunes. We are doing our best not to confuse it with the original Viewti, which went by a handful of different names before being discontinued (the last name being…Viewti…grrr!).

In any event, we are including the review of the Viewti 2010 app below as a baseline. Believe it or not, the current version is noted on iTunes as being “Viewti 2011 version”. Seriously. This is insane.

What we are going to do is simply call this Viewti. Whatever the version. And we hope it’s the only paid version they offer. We’ll update this review moving forward, and pretend that this marketing lunacy never happened.

Price: $29.99
iTunes: Download Viewti from iTunes


The makers of the original ViewTi kicked things into gear this year with the release of ViewTi 2010. The company has made significant improvements to satellite images and distances provided and also added the ability to pan, and one level of zoom. But at the same time they have taken a huge step backwards, requiring users to track every shot as it is hit on the course if they want to record any statistics other than hole score (a disaster!). Features unique to the ViewTi 2010 include satellite images of practice ranges, links to practice videos via YouTube, and the ability of the read the slope of the green.

While the initial cost of the application is average for the group, you may not get all the future upgrades for free. The company raised the ire of a number of purchasers of the original ViewTi, including ourselves, by charging those users for access to the new ViewTi 2010 ($8.99 at time of testing). So keep in mind that with the ViewTi family of applications, you may need to pay a yearly fee to get the latest features and functionality.

The ViewTi 2010 has potential, but the company needs to work out the bugs that still exist in the application and reconsider the method of tracking statistics. Until that time, we can’t whole-heartedly recommend ViewTi 2010.

Editor’s note: ViewTi 2010 has announced 3D flyovers and multishot camera features, but we have been unable to access these additions.)

SCORE
83
GRADE
B-
Course Availability
84
Starting a Round
98
Ease of Use
85
Course Details
86
Features
78
Accuracy
90
Cost/Value
75

Pros:

  • Satellite hole view images with ability to pan and zoom
  • Ability to determine distance to any point on the hole, and distance from targeted point to the center of the green
  • Practice range distances to boot!

Cons:

  • Statistics only available if user tracks every shot
  • Bugs in the application
  • Upgrade fees

Price: $29.99
Download Viewti from iTunes


84 / B

Course Availability
Critical Golf Test: ViewTi 2010 scored a reasonable 84 out of 100 in our course coverage analysis. Coverage of “Top 100” courses was excellent (a perfect 20 of 20), though it took a beating in “Best New” courses (9 out of 20). Coverage across regions was strongest in the West, Southeast and Northeast, but trailed in the Southwest and Midwest (both 15 out of 20).
Manufacturer’s Claims: ViewTi 2010 claims to have 23,000 courses in its database, which places it at about average for iPhone golf GPS applications.


98 / A+

Starting a Round
The Good: There is no registration process. Users can elect to either load images for the entire course prior to play by saving a selected course to a list of favorites, or they can immediately start play and allow the images for each hole to load as they advance between holes.
The Bad: Very little – this is the kind of flexibility in starting a round that we wish was on other devices. The only downside is when you are only playing the back nine of a course or in a shotgun start – in these situations, the ViewTi 2010 still requires you to load all images of holes beginning from hole #1.
Details: From the main menu, you have the choice to either Play Golf, View Statistics or Practice. When you choose to Play Golf from the main menu, you can view a list of nearby courses listed by distance from your current location, or sort those courses in alphabetical order. You can also search for any course by typing its name into the search bar at the top, or select a course from a previously saved list of courses.
When the user selects a new course to play, ViewTi 2010 will download the images for hole #1, and then load subsequent hole images as the user advances to the next hole. The downside to this is if there is a poor network connection while on-course, the user may get stuck waiting for the appropriate images to download, or find that they won’t download at all. We recommend users save the course they plan to play to their list of favorites in advance of heading out, which tells ViewTi 2010 to download all images in advance.


85 / B

Ease of Use
The Good: A clean interface that’s easy to navigate. With the exception of…
The Bad: Users may be confused while trying to enter statistics (see details under ‘Features’, below). In addition, if you rotate your iPhone, the ViewTi 2010 scorecard will automatically launch (there is no option to turn this off, as there is with the Golfshot app). This gets annoying since it means that the scorecard will frequently launch unintentionally, like every time you take the iPhone out of your pocket.
Details:

  • Buttons. As with other iPhone golf GPS applications, menus are accessed through on-screen buttons. Upon launching the application, users are presented with a screen with buttons allowing users to:
    • Play Golf (or resume your round),
    • View historical statistics (though not scorecards),
    • Practice, or
    • Adjust account information/user settings, including entering the clubs in your bag and other basic settings.
  • Battery Life. Every iPhone golf GPS application that we tested was a battery hog unless managed tightly. Users can select to dim the screen to reduce battery life. See our intro to iPhone golf GPS applications for additional ways to conserve battery life during play.

86 / B

Course Detail and Mapping
The Good: ViewTi 2010 allows users to the ability to select any point on the course and receive the distance to the point and from the point to the center of the green.
The Bad: Although users can select any point on the course and receive distances, the application would be stronger if it included either a text listing of distances to pre-mapped targets, or mapped the distances to certain points within the satellite views.
Details:

Review of ViewTi iPhone Golf GPS Application

Click image for views
  • Views. ViewTi 2010 has a clean interface, with views of the hole (or portions of the hole) and a view of the green and approach area.
    • Hole view – The distance to the center of the green is displayed at the top of the screen to start the hole. When users select a point on the hole, the distance to that point will appear below the crosshair along with the distance from the target to the center of the green above the crosshair. The distance to the selected point will also be displayed at the top of the screen for easy viewing in case the user’s finger blocks the distance to the point, shown below the crosshair. Once the user has selected a point, the crosshair remains on screen, and the distance to the crosshair remains displayed at the top of the screen, as opposed to the total distance to the center of the green.
      This satellite image of the entire hole usually does not include the tee box to begin, but rather is focused more on the landing area and forward. The user may pan to move the area displayed, though generally not all the way back to the tee box (not a large issue).
      Users can simply double-tap the screen to zoom in or out (there are two levels of zoom) on wherever the crosshair is located.
    • Green view – Once within 190 yards of the center of the green, the user is moved to a view of the green and surrounding area, along with some of the approach. Within this view there is no additional level of zoom, and the player cannot return to full hole view. When the user selects a point on the green or surrounding area in this view, only the distance to that point will be displayed – the ViewTi 2010 does NOT show the distance to the center of the green, so it won’t help you determine the optimal lay-up position if you are within 190 yards of the green and trapped behind a tree.
  • Hole Information. The hole number and par are available in all hole views. Hole handicap is not available.
  • Custom Mapping. No iPhone golf GPS applications, including ViewTi 2010, allow users to add custom hazards and targets to the course map.

Suggestion Box: We would prefer if ViewTi 2010 displayed some distances on the top of the screen in addition to the distance to the center of the green, such as to the front or back of the green or additional hazards.
Also, a simple way to “clear” the crosshairs if you have tapped on a target and then want a quick way to get the distance to the center of the green would be useful. We did experience different responses when double-tapping the screen to zoom in/out. In some cases this action cleared the targeted point and reverted the crosshair to the center of the green, but this did not happen on every hole. It would be nice to have a simple way to clear a targeted point, and have the crosshair move to the center of the green.


78 / C+

Features
The Good: A variety of statistics are (kind of) available, along with a section of the application to assist with practicing.
The Bad: You can only track statistics if you enter the location of each of your shot, club used, and shot result for every hole. And with no way to edit or modify previous shots using this method of capturing statistics, if you make a mistake or forget to enter the location of a shot, all of your statistics will be incorrect moving forward. We could go into greater detail, but let’s just say that this was an awful decision from a user’s perspective.
Lastly, we did experience some bugs within the application, including the application spontaneously quitting while we were accessing features, an inability to access the scorecard on several occasions, and erroneous statistics (GIR and club distances) calculations. Yikes!
Details:

Review of ViewTi 2010 iPhone Golf GPS Application

Click image for features
  • Shot Tracking. Surprisingly, ViewTi 2010 does not have the ability to track the distance of specific shots. You can track the location of each shot and in theory this should calculate average distances (which will display by club when selecting the club for each shot, and also at any time for the Driver via the statistics menu).
  • Score and Statistics. ViewTi 2010 allows the user to enter scores for themselves and their partners. Disastrously, users cannot manually enter any statistics detail such as chips, penalty strokes, or sand shots. In order to track any information other than their score, users will need to mark the location of every one of their shots, the club used and shot result. ViewTi 2010 then calculates hole score, fairways hit, GIR, sand saves and penalty strokes for the player (users cannot track statistics for partners). You can later modify the result of the shot, but not the club used.In our opinion this method of tracking statistics is simply a pain, and ViewTi 2010 would be better served to let users enter the information manually. If the user forgets to record all of this information while at the spot of the ball, the result will be incorrect statistics that continue to carry forward through that round and beyond.While the user can select to manually enter the score if desired, once they start to track the location of a shot on any hole, they need to continue to track the rest of the shots. There is no ability to stop tracking every shot during play of the hole and enter a score at the end of the hole. If you forget to record one or more shots during play, the only way to keep your correct score will be to later on that hole enter some “fake” shots. Suboptimal!

    Players can manually enter scores for some holes and track shots on others, but in this situation ViewTi 2010 will display those holes as having 0 putts on your scorecard.

    • ViewTi 2010 can display statistics (see images at right) for either the most recent round, the previous 5 rounds, or all rounds. Users can navigate between driving statistics (average and longest drive, along with the percentage of times the fairway was missed), GIR (and the percentage of missed greens) and GIR with long, mid and short clubs (though they don’t mention which clubs these refer to), putting information, scrambling and sand saves, and scoring details such as average score per par.
    • The scorecard, accessible only by rotating the iPhone screen sideways, displays scores and score relative to par. If you are tracking statistics, it will also display fairways hit, GIR, putts, sand saves, and penalties for each hole as well as for the round. The scorecard will show score and score relative to par if you are scoring for your playing partners. You can also send the scorecard to your Facebook page or email it.
  • Review of ViewTi 2010 iPhone Golf GPS Application

    Click image for more
  • Auto-Advance. ViewTi 2010 does not auto-advance from hole to hole, so the user needs to manually advance to each hole.
  • Review of ViewTi 2010 iPhone Golf GPS Application


    Click image for practice
  • Practice. ViewTi 2010 has a “Practice” menu (see images at right). Within this portion of the application, the user can obtain satellite images and calculate distances for driving ranges, access their camera to record multiple pictures or video without leaving the application, read the slope of the green, and access YouTube videos of golf lessons on different parts of their game (not created by ViewTi).
  • Preferences. Users can modify three settings: clubs in their bag (covering virtually all common clubs), yards/meters, and screen dimming.

Suggestion Box: We’ve said it before and need to again: ViewTi 2010 needs to allow for entering statistics manually – the current interface for statistics is unbearable.


90 / A-

Mapping Accuracy
Mapping Accuracy: ViewTi 2010 showed reasonable mapping accuracy. Most holes were in a range of 4-5 yards of the marked distance, though we did experience a number of holes that were off by up to 10 yards. We did notice that ViewTi 2010 took longer to update distance readings that most other iPhone golf GPS applications.


75 / C

Cost/Value
Retail Price: ViewTi 2010’s retail price is average among applications tested at $29.99. We should note that we have seen the price for ViewTi products change over time (the company likes to keep us on our toes!), so be sure to confirm prior to purchase.
Fees for Access to Course Database: All courses are included within the cost of the application.
Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: We list the ViewTi 2010 in the middle of the pack in our in our three-year cost comparison. Given the company’s history of charging for an upgrade to the latest application (from the original ViewTi to ViewTi 2010), we have to assume that if users want the latest features and functionality in the future, they will be paying upgrade fees for ViewTi 2011, ViewTi 2012, etc. Other iPhone golf GPS applications, notably Golfshot and AirVue, have provided new features and functionality at no additional cost to buyers of earlier versions.
Value: If you have already invested in the original ViewTi, the upgrade fee may well be worth it (or at least something to consider versus AirVue). But it’s hard for us to feel good about the value of the application when the statistics interface drives us nuts and when it seems that ViewTi sees us as an annual recurring revenue stream.


Tested: v2.48

The Pebble E-Paper Watch: The First Golf GPS Device of 2013?

Golf watches took the market by storm in 2012, and we quickly fell for their ease of use. There has already been an announcement of one device, the Pebble, which might prove to be the first watch with golf GPS functionality to be released in 2013.

For those of you that don’t know Pebble, a bit of background is in order. And it starts with Kickstarter, an online funding platform that allows individuals to invest in independent projects across a variety of areas. In April 2012, Pebble started their Kickstarter campaign to fund development and production of their watch, and became Kickstarter’s biggest success to date. The Pebble team had a goal to raise $100,000, but wound up raising $1 million in the first 28 hours of funding and a whopping $10.2 million by the time the campaign ended in May 2012. Truly incredible.

Pebble E-Paper Watch

Click to enlarge

Pebble is pitched as a customizable e-paper watch for iPhone and Android, with the ability to download new watchfaces and internet-connected apps, and get notifications from your phone via Bluetooth. It’s not specifically a golf GPS watch, but rather is much along the lines of the Motorola MOTOACTV, which requires a separate golf GPS app download. To gain this golf GPS functionality, Pebble is partnering with Freecaddie to leverage their database to provide distances on the watch itself. What this means is that you’ll need Freecaddie installed and running on your phone with Bluetooth enabled (the Bluetooth will use an anticipated 5-10% more battery life per day). As the Pebble is linked to your phone, this means that the Pebble likely won’t be USGA-approved for tournament use.

The free FreeCaddie app (I can’t believe we had to write that…can all you marketers out there quit using the word “Free” in your company or product name if you have a paid version?) provides distances to the front, center and back of the green, so at the least this is what we would expect at release. The Pebble has four buttons, which could provide the ability to easily toggle screens to show green and hazard distances, measure shot distances, and record scores and statistics for players who buy the paid FreeCaddie (sigh…) app, which has these additional features. FreeCaddie does not have green (or any course) graphics, so expect text distances only on your Pebble.

The expected ship date of the Pebble was originally September 2012, though the team provided an update in July that they will be missing that date. While Pebble said they will provide updates every few weeks, this has been spotty. Their pre-order page currently indicates the Pebble will ship in “early 2013”. Note to Pebble: don’t announce ship dates unless you are sure you can meet them. But before we chide them too much for missing an announced date, we should keep in mind that large companies alike often miss their dates. The best example being Callaway, which pushed out the release of their Callaway upro mx+ a full year (ouch!).

Interested in specs? Currently the Pebble is marketed as having a 144 x 168 pixel display, a backlight, and battery that lasts for over 7 days (we are assuming this in watch mode only). The Pebble is water-resistant, and has a scratch and shatter resistant cover. All software updates are wirelessly transmitted to the Pebble.

The Pebble is slated to come in five different color options: jet black, arctic white, cherry red, orange and grey. The pre-order price direct from the Pebble is $150 is any color. Don’t ask us when it will ship, though. You can talk about that on the Pebble Forums.

Retail price: $150
Pebble: Pre-order the Pebble (expected to ship in “early 2013”)

A Pebble marketing video to give some more detail:


Best Golf Gifts of 2012

Our editors present a guide on the best golf gift ideas for Father’s Day, graduation, birthdays and holidays – cool golf gadgets and equipment that will appeal to golfers at a range of skill levels, and that are available at a variety of different price points. Our list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” provide our thoughts on which gifts will elicit an enthusiastic “SWEET!! YOU ARE THE BEST EVER!!!” and which will trigger an “ummmm…is there a gift receipt in the box?”

DO’S

  1. Gift Cards. Not much to say – cash (or a close facsimile) is king!
    • Pros
      • The gift recipient gets to choose whatever they want.
      • Instead of spending your time driving around town or surfing the internet to find the “perfect gift”, you can spend that valuable time on the course instead!
    • Cons
      • Some circles may consider this an impersonal gift compared to a item you specifically choose (we sure don’t, however!).
    • What to Watch Out For
      • The best gift cards come from companies that have a wide selection of products. Two that we commonly use are Amazon Gift Cards and Golfsmith Gift Cards.
    • Pricing
      • Gift cards generally are found in denominations of $25, $50 and $100. And the total price can be whatever your relative/friend/coworker is worth!
    SkyCaddie SGX Golf GPS Device

    Click image to enlarge
  2. Golf GPS Units. These nifty devices show golfers how far they are from the hole. The advanced units provide overhead satellite maps, aerial videos that show the hole layout, touchscreens, and electronic scoring and statistics.
    • Pros
      • These are cool, and the high-end units can definitely impress your friends.
      • Golf GPS devices are easy to use – just walk to the ball, and the unit will recalculate and display the distance to the green and, in the case of most devices, the distance to various hazards and targets as well.
    • Cons
      • Some units require an annual subscription or charge per-course fees to access golf courses. So watch out – you may be giving the gift that keeps on giving! Be sure to check the “Cost/Value” section in each of our reviews to see what sort of ongoing commitment is required.
    • What to Watch Out For
      • The devices range in terms of the amount of tech savvy necessary to get up and running. Some are ready to go out of the box, while others require downloading software to a computer and connecting the GPS device to the computer to add the desired golf courses. See the Setup/Syncing section within our How We Test overview, where we rate each unit on how much effort it takes to get started with the device.
    • Pricing
      • Low end – $150 (basic units such as the Bushnell neo+ and IZZO SWAMI 1500)
      • High end – $400-$500 Garmin G5 Approach and GolfBuddy Platinum)
    Leupold GX-4 Laser Rangefinder

    Click image to enlarge
  3. Golf Laser Rangefinders. Another gadget for getting the distance to the hole is a laser rangefinder. These devices look like binoculars, and just require the golfer to aim and push a button to fire a laser and receive an extremely precise reading on how far it is to the target.
    • Pros
      • Laser rangefinders are more accurate than GPS devices, and as a result, are generally preferred by professional caddies (who use them during practice rounds – they are not allowed in professional tournaments).
    • Cons
      • Acquiring targets that are a long distance away requires a steady hand and some practice.
      • If your view of a target is obscured (you are blocked by a line of trees, or you are at the bottom of a steep hill and can’t see the flag), you cannot obtain a distance.
    • What to Watch Out For
      • Some of the advanced devices also provide distances that adjust for the slope (uphill or downhill) between the user and the target. While this is pretty cool, it is also prohibited by the USGA, the official arbiter of the rules of golf in the United States. Thus a golfer cannot use a slope-adjusting laser rangefinder in any round that is submitted for official handicap-keeping purposes, nor can it be used in most amateur tournaments.
    • Pricing
      • Low end – $330 (a basic unit like the Opti-Logic Insight GL)
      • High end – $500+ (top of the line products such as the Leupold GX-4 or Bushnell Pinseeker 1600)
  4. Putters. The putter is the club that players actually use most often during a round, and is also the club that many players don’t splurge on for themselves, making it a great gift idea. The caveat on putters is that the choice of a putter is a very personal decision, dependent on the intangible “feel” that a putter provides and the “look” as the player looks down on the ball. High-end putters from Scotty Cameron, Bettinardi, and Rife are spoken of in hushed whispers and regarded as works of art.
    • Pros
      • Most golfers will never hit the ball 300 yards, but they can learn to get down in two putts. So it’s the one area in which an amateur can actually use the exact same equipment as a pro!
    • Cons
      • Since it’s such a touchy feely decision, it may be tough to select just the right one as a gift. Still, we think any golfer will appreciate the gift of a well-made putter, some of which qualify as works of art. And if they really like to be unique, consider a custom putter! Custom putters range from those that provide the ability to slightly modify paint-fill colors and add some limited custom stamps, such as from Never Compromise, to fully customized putters from smaller shops such as Kevin Burns, T.P. Mills, Byron Morgan, and Slighter Golf.
    • What to Watch Out For
      • Note that we’ve been careful to qualify our statements by saying that golfers will appreciate the gift of a quality putter. No one wants a lame putter that comes out of the bargain rack from Wal-Mart. You can’t go wrong with a top-of-the-line Scotty Cameron putter…but it will set you back at least $300.
    • Pricing
      • Low end – used putters on eBay can be a great deal…consider an old school Ping Anser or a rusted-out Newport. If you want to take it to the next step, you can ship old Camerons back to the Scotty Cameron Custom Shop to be restored (and trust us, they will make the putter look llike new – we’ve done this multiple times and it is an incredible service).
      • High end – from $150 (Rife Barbados) to $300 (Bettinardi BB Series) to $300-$500 (various Scotty Cameron models).
    Sun Mountain Micro Cart

    Click image to enlarge
  5. Golf Push Carts. Most manly men will refuse to rent a push cart for $5 at their local course, even if it would save significant wear and tear on their achy back. But if someone GAVE them a push cart, they might actually use it.
    • Pros
      • Even the fanciest models top out at $200, so you can give the best on the market without breaking the bank.
    • Cons
      • Someone who always rides in an electric cart may not use a push carts very much (even though it would be much better for their health to get out and walk).
    • What to Watch Out For
      • The newer models are getting more compact, but some of the older versions are pretty big, even when folded up. It’s worth giving some consideration to the size of the trunk in the gift recipient’s car when you choose which push cart to buy.
    • Pricing
  6. Books / DVDs. Everyone can use a little help with their swing, putting or mental game. Critical Golf provides a list of some of the most popular books and instructional DVDs available, like Dave Pelz’s Putting Bible or Phil Mickelson’s Secrets of the Short Game DVD.
  7. Training Aids. From putting to full swing, for those who are snowbound in winter, or simply can’t get to the course as much as they would like, there are endless numbers of training devices to get your game in top form.

DON’TS

  1. Golf Clubs. Most golfers are extremely persnickety about their golf clubs. Some folks always stick with a particular brand, like Callaway or TaylorMade. Others mix and match, always striving for a particular look and feel. Our recommendation on giving the gift of a pricey new set of golf clubs is that unless you know EXACTLY what someone wants, it’s best to let them find clubs on their own.
  2. Socks. No one ever wants to get socks as a gift. Enough said.
  3. Golf Practice Nets. Hitting into a net just doesn’t feel right. If a trip to the driving range isn’t feasible, most folks are likely to just turn on the TV and watch the pros play instead of going to the trouble of setting up a practice net out in the yard.
  4. Golf-Related Clocks or Bookends. A pair of socks would sound good in comparison.
  5. Ball Retrievers. Please do not put anyone else through the pain of waiting for someone in the group in front of them to fish some “free” balls out of a toxic pond.