archive page December, 2012 | Critical Golf

Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

More »

Archive for December, 2012

IZZO Swami Watch

IZZO steps into the golf GPS watch game with the IZZO Swami Watch, providing much of what we have previously seen from IZZO in a new form factor. The IZZO Swami Watch features distances to fixed points at the front, center and back of the green, as well as auto hole advance, shot distance measurement and, somewhat surprisingly to us, a digital scorecard. It also has standard watch functions, including time, date and an alarm.

Though we weren’t taken with the styling of the watch, we can’t complain about just how easy it is to obtain distance via a watch as opposed to digging into your pockets for a handheld device. What we CAN complain about is a user interface that needs some work on a variety of fronts ranging from entering scores to modifying settings. Course coverage is fair (which we’ve come to expect at a minimum from any device that doesn’t provide hazard distance information), but we found significant mapping errors during play. All of the courses come pre-loaded, but the ability to sync to receive course updates (hopefully correcting some of the errors we saw) requires a Windows machine, so we do not recommend this device to Mac users.

The IZZO Swami Watch is the least expensive golf GPS watch on the market, comes pre-loaded with courses and carries no subscription fees – good stuff. If you are a Windows user that is watching your pennies and need only the most basic distance information and scoring for one round, it can’t hurt to take a look.

SCORE
81
GRADE
B-
Setup/Syncing
92
Course Availability
98
Ease of Use
80
Course Detail
70
Features
80
Accuracy
70
Cost/Value
90

Pros:

  • Lowest priced golf GPS watch at time of testing
  • Ability to keep score
  • No fees to update courses

Cons:

  • No hazard information
  • Course mapping errors
  • Poor interface for entering scores
  • No support for Macs – grrr

Retail price: $149.99
Three-year total price: $149.99
Availability: Discontinued. The IZZO Swami line of watches was in effect replaced by the Callaway GPSync watch (produced by IZZO, manufactured by Callaway).
Amazon.com: The model reviewed here was replaced by an updated IZZO Swami Watch.


92 / A-

SETUP/SYNCING

The Good: Courses come pre-loaded, so the only must before beginning play is to charge the battery.

The Bad: Very large charging/syncing cradle. No support for Macs, which is key given the IZZO mapping issues and the need to always have the latest course updates on your watch.

IZZO Swami Golf GPS Watch

Click to enlarge

Details:

  • Required steps. Courses are pre-loaded on the IZZO Swami Watch, so once you have a fully charged battery you can hit the course. But we highly recommending syncing for course updates the first time, and regularly thereafter. When the watch is plugged in a graphic will indicate that it is charging, and will display full battery bars when charging is complete.

    To make sure you have the latest course maps you’ll want to use the Swami Watch Update software:

    • Download the free IZZO Swami Watch Update software on a Windows machine,
    • Run Setup Tool and launch the “Golf Course Mate” software,
    • Clamp the IZZO Swami Watch in the charging/syncing station, attach it to the computer via a USB cable, and sync via the software.
  • Time required for setup. As mentioned above, you could hypothetically immediately start using the IZZO Swami Watch. We do recommend, however, syncing the IZZO Swami Watch immediately to make sure you have the latest course data. Our time to fully sync the device (this updates all courses worldwide, as there is no option to update only a subset of the courses for just one state or country) took 41 minutes. Curiously, this was much faster than the IZZO Swami 4000, which downloads the same course data – we tested the same course update across both devices, which were purchased at the same time. This time does not include an update of its operating system, and there are no course graphics to load nor ability to sync scores. At least we didn’t have the device driver issues that we did with past IZZO devices.

Some quick comments on the charging/syncing station – it is a dedicated base that is a rather large, making it a bit of a pain to bring along if you are traveling. The watch requires the charging station not just for syncing, but also for charging, so there isn’t an option to bring just a USB cord. To hook up the watch, you set the watch in a cradle in the center, then push part of the base sideways into the watch to lock it in place. It can require a bit of force, but it ensures that you have made a solid connection. We are still waiting for many golf GPS watch manufacturers to use a USB port instead of dedicated charging stations/clips/etc.

What’s in the Box: The IZZO Swami watch comes with:

  • Charging station with USB cord
  • AC adapter
  • Watch GPS Instruction Manual


98 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: The IZZO Swami Watch has continued to improve its course coverage, and now finishes near the top of the pack in our golf course coverage tests. With only fixed distances to the front, center and back of the green mapped, we expect this from the device.

Manufacturer’s Claims: IZZO claims that its course database covers just over 28,000 courses worldwide, which is about average among golf GPS devices tested.


80 / B-

EASE OF USE

The Good: Distances available at the twist of your wrist.

The Bad: Interface for entering scores needs work. Poor battery life.

IZZO Swami Golf GPS Watch

Click for images

Details:

  • Buttons. The IZZO Swami Watch has four buttons: power/backlight, OK/Menu, and up and down.
  • Screen. Though the rectangular black and white screen viewing area is currently the smallest golf GPS screen in our tests at under 0.8 square inches, its screen is easy to read, and features a backlight (adjustable to last up to 30 seconds) and the ability to invert screen colors between black and a “clear” background.
  • Form Factor. The IZZO Swami Watch has a black and yellow rubber and plastic exterior, and weighs 2.2 ounces. We aren’t fans of the spider-man like look, but hey, that’s us. The watch is a bit thick and can get caught on pocket edges when you’re pulling out extras tees, or snag on the sleeves of a long-sleeved jacket. The band is easily adjusted, though we found that the “keeper” loops that hold the excess strap in place didn’t work as well as we’d like.
  • Navigation. Advancing holes and making menu selections is quite simple once you learn that pressing and holding the OK/Menu button will take you “back” a screen. The biggest strike against the interface is in entering hole scores. When you’re on the green you will find that the watch has auto-advanced to the next hole. So to enter your score for the hole you have just finished, you will need to: press the down button to get to the previous hole, press the OK/Menu button twice to get to the scoring screen, hold the down button to get into editing mode (which will start defaulted to entering the par for the hole…wait what?), press OK/Menu to move to editing your score, press up/down to select your score for the hole, press and hold the up button to enter your score, press the OK/Menu to get back to the main distance screen, then press up to advance to get back to your hole. And try to figure that out without referencing the manual. Seriously guys, c’mon!
  •  IZZO Swami Golf GPS Watch

    Click for larger image
  • Starting a Round. Users will need to first select “Play Golf” from the main menu and then, once the satellite signal has been acquired, select from a list of nearby courses. If you don’t start on the 1st hole, the watch won’t automatically find the hole on which you begin, but advancing to the appropriate hole is simple.
  • Battery Life. We were disappointed with the battery life, which lasts under 7 hours, sadly not allowing us to get two rounds in without recharging.

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


70 / C-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: Um, allows you to focus? The IZZO Swami watch only provides mapping to fixed points at the front, center and back of the green.

The Bad: Unlike some competing golf GPS watches we have reviewed, no hazard information is available. Plus, the Swami Watch doesn’t have the ability to provide distances to the near and far points of the green based on player position, but rather only fixed front and back points of the green.

IZZO Swami Golf GPS Watch

Click for larger image

Details:

  • Views. The IZZO Swami watch provides a main “hole view,” which displays distance information for each hole, and secondary screens for distance measurement, scoring, odometer and a standard watch screen for time and date, which also includes a battery charge indicator.
    • Hole view – This view displays the hole number, par, and distances to the center of the green (in larger text in the center of the screen) and fixed points at the front and back of the green (in smaller text at the top and bottom of the screen). Would be nice if time and battery charge level were included in this screen – there seems to enough real estate.
    • Measurement view – This view displays only the measurement of a particular shot. While tracking the shot distance, you can toggle to other views and the watch will continue to measure that shot.
  • Hole Information. The hole number and par are always shown on the main Hole view screen. Hole handicap is not available.
  • Custom Mapping. Users cannot add custom points to the course data, though they can edit the fixed front, center and back green points.


80 / B-

FEATURES

The Good: Covers the bare minimum (shot distance measuring and auto hole advance), along with scoring capability. Don’t fear the showers…it’s waterproof.

The Bad: The IZZO Swami watch lacks more advanced features, such as additional statistics tracking and club distance averages. No online portal is available, so players can’t save their scores. Changing settings requires users to go through process of selecting to play golf all over again – waiting for the watch to acquire satellites, selecting the course again, and advancing back to the appropriate current hole.

IZZO Swami Golf GPS Watch

Click for larger image

Details:

  • Shot Tracking. The IZZO Swami watch can measure shot distances, though it does not have the ability to save this information or link the results of a specific shot to a club in order to calculate average shot distances.
  • Score and Statistics. The IZZO Swami Watch can keep score for one player, and provides a running total score for the round (though not the score relative to par). There is no online portal to save scores.
  • Auto-advance. Will auto-advance to the next hole automatically (or should, though we found some holes where it wouldn’t). Unfortunately, however, this happens on the green as opposed to the next tee box, so if you are scoring you will have to step back to the previous hole, enter your score, and then manually return to the current hole. Which, of course, defeats the entire purpose of auto hole advance.
  • Preferences. The IZZO Swami Watch has a limited number of adjustable settings, including unit of measurement (yards or meters), sound, backlight and time.

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


70 / C-

ACCURACY

IZZO Swami Golf GPS Watch

Click for larger image

We found the IZZO Swami Watch to be accurate in distance readings within 5-6 yards, though some holes had slightly greater errors. For whatever reason, we found the IZZO Swami Watch to pick up distances faster than the IZZO Swami 4000.

Aside from differences mentioned above, we had one disastrous experience during a test round. Everything was hunky dory getting starting and playing the first two holes, but we arrived at the 3rd hole to find distance readings of “999” to the each of the fixed front, center and back points of the green. Argh! Oh well, on to the 4th hole. Same problem. Grrr. These holes were somewhat recently redesigned so we wondered if this was the cause, but that still wouldn’t explain why the Swami Watch wouldn’t show distance readings based on the previous layout. The good news? When we advanced to the 5th tee the Swami Watch provided distance information once again. The bad news? When we arrived on the 10th tee there were no more holes available. Not even false distance readings. No hole information at all, distance or par, and no ability to continue scoring. Argh! And yes, this course was listed as mapped in the IZZO course database prior to play, which means serious issues with IZZO quality control. Unless of course this was the only course out of the nearly 29,000 courses mapped that had this issue. We’ll leave others to figure out the odds of that.

Thankfully a course map update resolved this issue. But it does mean that buyers should beware – just because they say that a course is mapped doesn’t mean that it actually is (or we should say, is correctly).


90 / A-

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: The IZZO Swami watch retails for a mere $149.99, the least expensive price of any golf GPS watch on the market.

Fees for Access to Course Database: You can update your course maps and use this device each year for the low, low price of $0. With no extras fees, you can spring for nachos and a Coke in the clubhouse after your round.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no additional fees for access to the course database, the IZZO Swami watch has a three-year total cost of only $149.99. This makes the IZZO Swami watch not just the lowest-priced golf GPS watch in terms of overall cost over three years, but also one of the least expensive golf GPS devices overall.

Value: Players looking for an affordable golf GPS watch will be drawn to the IZZO Swami Watch. It may be a great solution for those who want only fixed green points, though keep in mind that you better have a Windows machine available to update the sometimes erroneous course maps, and the interface of entering scores will get tiresome.

Reviewed: March 2013


IZZO Swami 4000

If you are looking for the most basic of GPS devices, you’ve come to the right place. The bare-bones IZZO Swami 4000 provides text distances to fixed points at the front, center and back of the green. There are a few improvements from the prior generation IZZO SWAMI 3000 including a 1.8″ color screen, auto-advance between holes and shot distance measurement. The IZZO Swami 4000 also provides the hole number, time, and battery level in the distance screen. Why mention these simple features in our summary? Well, because there isn’t much else to talk about. No graphics, no hole handicap information, no ability to keep score. Rats.

The device is thicker than we would like, and we found that when it was slipped into a pocket, the Swami 4000 had a propensity to lose the satellite signal (maybe that’s why a belt clip is provided). IZZO doesn’t support the Mac (c’mon now…in this day and age?), so Mac owners will be unable to update the courses on the device…which is problematic since we ran into some serious course mapping issues that can only be solved through syncing the device and receiving the latest course maps.

While the IZZO Swami 4000 is extremely limited in features, it is the lowest-priced golf GPS device in our current rankings, and could be suitable for those who are both looking to save some bucks and only require only the most basic of distances.

SCORE
80
GRADE
B-
Setup/Syncing
90
Course Availability
98
Ease of Use
92
Course Detail
70
Features
75
Accuracy
70
Cost/Value
84

Pros:

  • One of the lightest devices in our tests
  • Easy to read distances
  • Least expensive GPS device over three years

Cons:

  • Distances to fixed points at the front, center and back of green only
  • Significant course mapping errors during testing
  • Extremely long sync times
  • Not compatible with Macs

Retail price: $119.99
Three year total cost: $119.99
Amazon.com: Check price now


90 / A-

SETUP/SYNCING

The Good: The IZZO Swami 4000 has all courses pre-loaded onto the device. Charge it and go!

The Bad: The map updater software, required to ensure you have the latest course data, isn’t available for Macs.

Details:

  • Required steps. With courses already pre-loaded on the Swami 4000, you can hit the course as soon as the battery is charged.

    To make sure you have the latest course maps you’ll want to use the Swami 4000 Update software. This involves:

    • Downloading the free IZZO Swami 4000 Update software on a PC;
    • Running Setup Tool and launching the “Golf Course Link” software;
    • Plugging in the IZZO Swami 4000 via a USB cable, powering the device on and syncing via the software.
  • Time required for setup. Since the courses are already preloaded on the device, you technically don’t need to do anything before you use it (besides charging the battery, that is). We recommend, however, that you take the time to sync the IZZO Swami 4000 to make sure you have the latest course data. Our time to sync the device for course updates (which updates all courses worldwide) took a whopping 2 hours and 5 minutes. That’s right…over two hours to update a device that provides only the most basic distance information. We’re not sure what to say other than that is a really really really long time to update simple course data. The good news? We didn’t have the device driver issues that we did with past IZZO devices.

What’s in the Box: The IZZO Swami 4000 is packaged with:

  • AC Charger
  • USB Cable
  • Belt Clip
  • Protective soft bag

98 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: The IZZO Swami 4000 has made great strides and now finishes at the top the pack in our golf course coverage tests, covering 98% of the courses we sampled. As the Swami 4000 provides only fixed distances to the front, center and back of the green, we expect this level of coverage.

Manufacturer’s Claims: IZZO claims that its course database includes over 28,000 courses worldwide, putting it on par with other golf GPS devices tested.


92 / A-

EASE OF USE

The Good: Very light. Text distances are large and easy-to-read. Straightforward to use.

The Bad: Drops satellite lock faster and doesn’t lock on distances as quickly as other devices.

IZZO Swami 4000

Click to enlarge

Details:

  • Buttons. The IZZO Swami has four buttons: power/enter, up and down (to cycle through different holes or courses), and page (to toggle screens). Buttons are easy to depress.
  • Screen. The device has a basic color screen. Distances are large and easy to read.
  • Form Factor. The IZZO Swami 4000 is about average in size (though thicker than we would like), but is one of the lightest GPS devices on the market.
  • Starting a Round. After powering on, the Swami 4000 will take a few minutes to acquire satellites before displaying a list of nearby courses. Just select your course (though you may see some bizarre text errors such as those in the image at right) and tee it up.

For details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS ease of use across all devices tested.


70 / C-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: The IZZO Swami 4000 lets users focus on the distance to the green – no getting distracted by graphics or additional distance information to hole targets.

The Bad: We appreciate such a basic device, but it would be great to be able to flip through even a minimal amount of additional hole information, such as hazards.

IZZO Swami 4000

Click for views

Details:

  • Views. The Swami 4000’s single distance screen provides the distance to the center of the green in large text, with distances to fixed front and back points of the green positioned just above. The hole number and time are displayed at the bottom of the screen.
  • Hole Information. Par is included, though curiously (and unfortunately) not on the distance screen but rather on a separate screen that shows course name, hole, par and round time. No hole handicap is available.
  • Custom Mapping. The IZZO Swami 4000 allows users to edit existing front, center and back green points.

75 / C

FEATURES

IZZO Swami 4000

Click to enlarge

The IZZO Swami 4000 isn’t exactly feature-rich, but it includes auto-advance to the next hole, shot distance measurement, and a round timer. You can also adjust the settings for language (ten choices), unit of measurement, time adjustment, and power controls such as backlighting and power off settings.

Unfortunately, if you want to change settings during a round, you need to exit the round, make any modifications, then select to play again. This will then force the device to go through the process of re-acquiring satellites (though this will be faster than initial acquisition), you’ll have to select your course again, then forward to your current hole. Phew. Where is the “resume round” button?

For details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of feature sets across golf GPS devices.


70 / C-

ACCURACY

The IZZO Swami 4000 was fairly accurate, with distance readings within 5-6 yards of on-course markings, though we did occassonally find holes with greater discrepancies.

Aside from occasional smaller distance inaccuracies, we did have an extremely poor experience with one of our test rounds on a well-regarded course in the San Francisco Bay Area. The round started well enough through the first two holes, but when we arrived at the 3rd hole we found that the Swami 4000 provided no distance reading at all. When we got to the 4th hole, we encountered the same problem. This may be explained by the fact that the 3rd and 4th holes were recently renovated, and sure enough when we advanced to the 5th tee we found that hole information suddenly existed once again. But what sent us over the edge was when we rounded the turn and came to the 10th hole, we found that that the rest of the course wasn’t mapped at all. We couldn’t even advance to the holes – they simply didn’t exist. Given this course is listed as “mapped” in the IZZO course database, this spells trouble for IZZO quality control in a big way. And consumers are going to be none too happy if they go to the trouble to confirm that a particular course(s) is available before purchasing the Swami 4000, only to find that it actually isn’t fully (or correctly) mapped. Learn from our mistakes: only purchase the IZZO Swami 4000 if you have a Windows machine at your disposal, and make sure to update the device for any updated course information before playing your first round.


84 / B

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: IZZO retains their aggressive pricing with the IZZO 4000. And while it’s not quite as inexpensive as the prior generation SWAMI 3000, the retail price of $119.99 still makes the Swami 4000 one of the lowest priced golf GPS devices available.

Fees for Access to Course Database: Unlike earlier IZZO devices that had annual fees for course updates, the IZZO Swami 4000 has no annual fees. There’s a nice, and unexpected, change!

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no annual fees, the IZZO Swami 4000 keeps its low price of a mere $119.99, making it the least expensive device in our tests over a three-year period. Take THAT to the bank!

Value: There will always be a market for a simple device at a reasonable cost. And if you are looking for just the basics, this device is unmatched. If you do want to spend a bit more, you can move to the next level of GPS devices, which can provide more functionality and be even easier to use (including watches such as the IZZO Swami Watch).


OGIO X4 Synergy

OGIO, better known for its golf bags (currently offering 21, count ’em, 21 different models…what the-), has added a golf push cart to their lineup. But this is no ordinary cart – the OGIO X4 Synergy is designed to allow you to keep your golf bag mounted on the cart, even when folded. This can be a convenience, but prospective buyers should consider whether the larger footprint of the cart will work in their vehicle, and also if they want to lift an additional 20-plus pounds in addition to their bag full of clubs when loading and unloading their car.

Aside from this unique design (it is the only cart in our reviews that allows for a bag to stay on when folded), the push cart is straightforward. While the X4 Synergy has a special strap that secures selected OGIO bags to the cart, it is compatible with all standard carry and cart bags.

The X4 Synergy has a wide wheelbase that provides excellent stability. On the other hand, the long neck of the cart leading to the handle makes for loose steering, and the handle position is not adjustable. The cart has a drink holder and an umbrella holder (which clips to one of the legs when not in use). Unfortunately, the X4 Synergy offers limited storage space, which can be a real detriment to those of us who are used to stowing extra food, clothing, balls and other miscellaneous odds and ends on our push carts.

While you may benefit from the ability to keep your bag on the cart at all times and the excellent folding and unfolding mechanism, the threshold question really is whether you have the space to fit the combined cart and bag in your trunk. Those with Escalades need not worry, but we only had a 50% hit rate among the four vehicles we tested. If you can get over that hump, you still have to consider the lack of storage space, the weight of the cart itself, and the $240 suggested retail price (which makes it one of the most expensive golf push carts we’ve tested).

SCORE
85
GRADE
B
Size/Weight
83
Ease of Set-Up
96
On Course Impressions
86
Storage/Accessories
84
Style
84
Value
82

Pros:

  • No need to set up your bag on the cart each time – just leave it on!
  • A breeze to fold and unfold

Cons:

  • Total weight (bag and cart) and size will pose a limitation to many
  • Odd storage compartment design and lack of additional storage
  • Relatively high price

Retail price: $239.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


83 / B

SIZE/WEIGHT

The selling point of the OGIO X4 Synergy push cart is simple: you can leave your golf bag on the cart all the time – even when folding and unfolding the cart. Simple enough, and the marketing material promotes up to 30% savings in overall space usage versus a bag and cart that are stored separately. We won’t dispute that claim, but there are two important factors to consider. While the X4’s ability to keep the bag on the cart can be a benefit to some, this value will depend on whether you can accommodate the relatively wide and deep dimensions of the cart (overall 38.0″h x 19.5″w x 17.5″d), which is driven by the spacing of the cart’s rear wheels when folded. If you have a tight squeeze already, will the OGIO X4 Synergy fit in your trunk? If you travel with a partner to the course, can you fit two?

Aside from dimensions, another consideration is simply whether you want to lift not only your golf bag, but a push cart at the same time. The X4 Synergy is, at 20.2 pounds (as tested) all by itself, one of the heaviest push carts we have reviewed. Tack on another 25 pounds for a bag and clubs, and you’re up to 45 pounds in total (we did that math all by ourselves!). If you don’t want to hoist that amount of weight, you can probably stop reading our review right here (What? You think you’re better than me? It’s go time!).


96 / A

EASE OF SET-UP

The OGIO X4 Synergy is easy to put together, requiring only the attachment of the two front wheels to the cart, done by slipping the wheel assemblies over a spring-loaded pin on the right and left front legs (any minor adjustments to the front wheels can be easily done with an L wrench). Ta da.

Once the push cart is assembled, the unfolding process is one of the easiest around. A quick press of a release button allows the handles to swing outward and up (and the rear legs out), and you simply keep pulling these into position until you hear a “click”. To fold the cart, players need only make sure the brake is off (we were thrown by this the first time, as we usually have the brake on when loading and unloading the cart), then pull on a handle located between the top of the bag and the player and swing the cart handle down to lock it into place. When the cart is folded it doesn’t have the ability to roll, so when you remove the cart/bag combo from your car to store it in your garage, you’ll either need to unfold the cart to push it or leave it folded and carry/drag the cart to the desired location. The bottom cage that holds the base of the bag is well made, and provides a sturdy base to both cradle the bag while on the course, as well as to store it upright.

OGIO X4 Synergy

Click for images

While the bag attachment (aka strap on the cart to secure the top of the golf bag) was originally marketed as compatible with all current model OGIO bags, the OGIO website and the manual provide a more accurate story, which is that only select bags have the matching rectangular rings for strap attachment. As of Summer 2013, this included OGIO Recoil and Grom XX stand bags, and the Chamber, Taj, Itza and Giza cart bags. Truthfully, the special bag attachments really make little difference in securing your bag on the X4 Synergy (either for during play or when storing), as the adjustable straps can do an equally nice job of keeping the bag snugly in place. An additional elastic cord at the base of the X4 Synergy wraps around the bag to provide additional security (although the tightness of this cord cannot be adjusted).


86 / B

ON COURSE IMPRESSIONS

OGIO X4 Synergy

Click for images
  • The X4 Synergy has a much “looser” feel on the course, due to the length of both the handle/arm that attach to the frame and the length of the rear legs. OGIO apparently recognizes this, as they provide what they call a “Sport Mode tension lock” – an additional clip to stabilize the handle – to tighten the steering of the cart. The Sport Mode tension lock makes a bit of a difference, and we found ourselves always clipping it into place. Even with the Sport Mode tension lock engaged, the OGIO X4 Synergy had far less reactive steering than any other cart in our test.
  • The cart is quite stable over all types of terrain, owing to the spread of the rear wheels, with a width of 29.5″ (compare this to the Sun Mountain Micro Cart at 24.0″).
  • The X4 Synergy’s foam handle provides some comfort and grip. Neither the length nor the angle of the handle are adjustable, which may not win any fans amongst extremely tall or petite users.
  • The brake lever is located in the center of the handle, which is activated simply flipping the level downward with your thumb to release from the handle. When the brake is activated, a rubber pad will release and press against the left rear wheel to hold it in place (the other three wheels can still move).
  • The tri-spoke wheels have foam tires so, as with most current carts, you don’t have to worry about getting a flat.

84 / B

STORAGE/ACCESSORIES

OGIO X4 Synergy

Click for images

The storage and accessories available on the OGIO X4 Synergy include:

  • a reasonably sized (though curiously shaped) organization compartment made of thin plastic and with a magnetic closure. The compartment is divided into a ½-inch deep center section equipped with thin foam padding, making it useful for storing an iPhone or other thin portable device, flanked by two additional V-shaped areas on either side. While the compartment doesn’t feel particularly well-made and seems to have sacrificed capacity in favor of a high-tech looking shape, it was able to fit our “test case” of 2 golf balls, a phone, a GPS device, a set of keys, and a wallet.
  • a spot to hold one golf ball to keep it somewhat-at-the-ready. Why do we qualify this with “somewhat”? Because although the ball is visible and at the point of the compartment closest to the handle, you still have to open the compartment lid to get at it.
  • An elastic band running across the outside of the organization compartment that can secure a scorecard or course guide and a pencil. While there is an indentation in which the pencil will rest, a single elastic band holds both the card and pencil in place.
  • an umbrella mount, which is clipped onto the left rear leg of the cart, and when in use screws by hand into the center of the handle, just above the brake lever.
  • a bottle holder (aka “hydration holster”..we haven’t heard that one before!) on the right side of the handle that fits most bottles and cradles them in a flexible strap. The bottle moves around a bit in the holster, but still stays secure.
  • next to the bottle holder is an open slot for hanging sunglasses by their template – something we’ll never use, but maybe somebody else will..
  • a clip on the side of the handle to attach other accessories that are available for purchase separately, such as sand bottle holders or the like.

The OGIO X4 Synergy lacks a storage net or bag to hold other items, such as a jacket or your lunch – you’ll have to stuff all of that into the bag itself.


84 / B

STYLE

OGIO X4 Synergy

Click for images

The box says the OGIO X4 Synergy is “Built to drive 0-18 holes in style.” This struck us as a bit of an overstatement. The wheels aren’t too bad, but the cart is lanky and somewhat upright, a byproduct of the longer steering arm and rear “legs” that OGIO has designed to allow the cart to fold with a bag attached. The X4 Synergy comes in your choice of red, white, silver or black.


82 / B-

VALUE

The retail price of $240 for the OGIO X4 Synergy is at the upper end of the spectrum among the golf push carts we have tested. It has a small (oddly designed) storage compartment, there isn’t any additional storage outside of that compartment (it is the highest-priced cart tested without any extra storage), and it doesn’t handle as well as other carts. Arguably then the price premium is a result of the ability to keep the bag on the cart when folded and stored. The deal breaker for us, however, is that we didn’t value that feature because of the storage capacity of our vehicles, our need to stack multiple bags when we travel with others to the course, and our lack of desire to lift another 20 pounds at the same time as our bag.

Looking for a little marketing? Why not?


Bridgestone Golf Balls

Bridgestone is one of the few companies that is pushing the bounds of providing fitting tools and days. Heck, they even have online chat tools in case you need immediate help! They claim to be the “#1 Ball Fitter in Golf”, and the variety of tools they have available make this credible. For those who still think tires are all that Bridgestone makes, take note that Fred Couples, Matt Kuchar, DLIII, and Brandt Snedeker all play Bridgestone balls.

They offer their Bridgestone Golf Ball Fitting Challenge, which travels around the country (their Bridgestone Golf Ball Fitting Schedule is posted on their site)- and yes, it is free. Players hit a number of shots with their driver under the watchful eye of Bridgestone’s high-speed cameras and their Science Eye Launch Monitor system. Based on your ball flight characteristics, the Bridgestone fitter will select the right Bridgestone (or Precept) ball for your game, and then you’ll hit drivers with the recommended ball and be able to stack the data up against your current ball. We like data! We wish that clubs other than drivers could be used in the fitting challenge…we’ll leave it to our readers to see if they can twist the arm of the Bridgestone technicians to allow them to compare other clubs.

As with some of the competition, they provide an online tool, the Bridgestone Golf Ball Selection Guide, which walks players though a handful of questions and then provides a recommended ball.

If that isn’t enough for you, they actually have live (!) fitting assistance through their B-FIT support service, which is available by phone, via mobile chat/text, or web-based online chat. We’ve tested this chat service and were impressed. The rep was available in about 10 seconds, and recommended another ball that we wouldn’t have selected to test from using the online tool, and provided a link with some additional information. Pretty amazing they have reps standing by to handle these questions. We spent a good 10 minutes answering (and asking) questions. The rep explained how the online tool was fitting me and why, along with an additional ball recommendation. And get this…Bridgestone is starting to roll out their B-FIT Video Chat system, available in in-store kiosks at select locations. Aggressive indeed!!

Bridgestone Golf Ball Performance Lineup

Bridgestone lineup

Breaking down the balls, Bridgestone offers four different balls in their TOUR family (these are their top of the line balls that are marketed most heavily), the B330, B330-S, B330-RX and B330-RXS. These balls have an MSRP of $58 and a street price of around $45. To break these up, the B330 and B330-S are for swing speeds above 105mph (not us!), and the B330-RX and B330-RXS for swing speeds under. The “S” designator in the name (B330-S and B330-RXS) then indicates that the ball is optimized for maximum spin, and provide higher iron spin and softer feel. TOUR balls without the “S” (B330 and B330-RX) are balls that are for those who prefer additional distance, and have correspondingly less iron spin and are not as soft. If you need Optic Yellow to find your ball in the rough, the only TOUR option is the B330-RX.

The “e” Series of balls, the e5, e6 and e7 are offered at lower price points (MSRP $38; street prices around $25) and are either 2 or 3-piece in construction. The e5 (the only 2-piece urethane cover ball on the market, though we aren’t sure what that buys you) claims distance and control, the e6 (3-piece) is focused on less spin (and claims to be the “softest multi-layer golf ball on the market”), and the e7 (3-piece) on maximizing spin. Lastly is the xFIXx, which is their 2-piece “value” ball (aka street prices under $20). Less heavily marketed, this ball is targeted toward players who have slower swing speeds are looking for a less expensive ball. And try as we might, the online tool never recommended the xFIXx ball, regardless of answers provided. This ball is likely provided to target buyers at a specific price point more than anything.

Bridgestone B330
MSRP: $58
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Bridgestone B330-S
MSRP: $58
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Bridgestone B330-RX
MSRP: $58
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Bridgestone B330-RXS
MSRP: $58
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Bridgestone e5
MSRP: $38
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Bridgestone e6
MSRP: $38
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Bridgestone e7
MSRP: $38
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Bridgestone xFIXx
MSRP: $30
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


Callaway Golf Balls

Though perhaps not as many wins each year as Titleist, there are dozens of PGA and European PGA Tour playing Callaway balls. Callaway offers six different golf balls: The HEX Black Tour, HEX Chrome, HX Diablo Tour, HX Diablo, Solaire, and the Warbird Plus. Most professionals are playing the HEX Black Tour ball, though others including Mickelson, Jacobson, and Janzen, are still using older models (the Tour i(s) for Phil, Tour i(x) for Jacobson and Janzen).

The HEX Black Tour ball is marketed as Callaway’s “Tour performance” ball. What does that mean? None other than low spin off the tee (with a soft feel), plus high spin on approach shots and around the green for stopping power. Did you expect something else? And you know this ball has to be good – it makes the Golf Digest Gold Hot List! You know the List…the one that doesn’t actually rank the different balls in order, and doesn’t provide quantitative data to show the differences in balls. C’mon guys…help us all out…publish your testing data from the range!

Callaway Golf Ball Performance Lineup

Callaway performance lineup

HEX Chrome is targeted at players with more “moderate” swing speeds (which we are guessing, though it doesn’t say on the Callaway site, probably equates to a ball speed of around 130+ MPH). Of course, if you don’t know what your swing speed or what they consider moderate, then the Chrome is really targeted to those who know they don’t swing at less than Tour or high-amateur swing speeds. Did you guess that its benefits include high spin around the greens and penetrating distance on long shots? We bet you did. The HX Diablo Tour ball, the other Callaway performance ball, offers, and you’re never going to believe this…exemplary distance off the tee, alone with more spin and pinpoint control on approach shots! As we’ve mentioned before, really the only way to start differentiating between balls is to get a sleeve of a few different that suit your game (or you are simply interesting in trying, regardless), and head to a short-game practice area to spend some serious time. Following that, take ’em to the course and start alternating between them on the course.

Callaway Remaining Golf Ball Lineup

Callaway remaining lineup

The last three Callaway balls in the lineup, the HX Diablo, Solaire and Warbird Plus, are the least expensive available. Not surprisingly, Callaway doesn’t provide pricing on their website, nor do they sell them on their online store, instead letting the retailers fulfill this role. Callaway actually compares the HX Diablo to the rest of their offerings in one respect, noting that it promotes the lowest driver spin in their ball lineup. Yes, more distance! The Solaire, though targeted largely toward women, is the ball that performs best at slow swing speeds. If you’re a guy with a slow swing speed though, don’t worry…there is a Solaire in white. Hey, get over it the naming – it’s all about finding the ball that provides the best performance for your swing. Lastly, the Warbird Plus. It’s the longest Warbird Callaway has made. This doesn’t mean anything to us, however. Callaway doesn’t compare the Warbird distance to other balls in the current lineup or to past Warbird balls. Alas.

Callaway HEX Black Tour
MSRP: $45.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Callaway HEX Chrome
MSRP: $35.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Callaway HX Diablo Tour. “We’re the Devils! The Devils!!”
MSRP: $25.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Callaway HX Diablo.
MSRP: $19.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Callaway Solaire.
MSRP: $19.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Callaway Warbird Plus.
MSRP: $19.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


Nike Golf Balls

Surprised to hear that Nike offers more golf balls than any other brand? We sure were, though I guess if you are pushing to grow in a market still relatively new to your company and have the dollars to spend, why not throw a bunch of balls against the wall and see what sticks? Also, pay massive sums to Rory. It’s all about the branding…

With so many ball choices things can get a little confusing, so it’s a good thing there is a Nike golf ball fitting and comparison tool available. The tool walks visitors through a series of questions, and then provides the “best golf ball” for them, as well as recommended alternatives (a good way to help decide which two or three balls to take to the course to test).

Nike Golf Ball Comparison

Nike ball comparison

Nike has “Tour” offerings, such as the 20XI-S and 20XI-X, as well as a ball marketed toward women, and a model that is pitched to “young golfers”. Now I’m not 100% sure, but I don’t have reason to believe that golf balls have knowledge of our gender or our age. Of course, marketing teams do, which is why Nike probably won’t ever have a ball such as the “Power Distance Mid-80mph Swing Speed For The Slicer”. That won’t stop us from wishing they did, however. As an aside, we would like to advise companies against putting a date, even in roman number form, in the model name. It looks a little silly when it’s still marketed in a later year.

At a high level, the 20XI-X and the 20XI-S are Nike’s “tour level performance” balls, designed for players with swing speeds in excess of 90mph. Both balls have Nike’s resin core, which replaces the rubber core on the prior One Tour and One Tour D balls. Comparing the two, the 20XI-X has a slightly lower flight and harder cover, and will provide slightly less spin than the 20XI-S.

The Nike One Vapor Black is designed for swing speeds 80+ mph and is slightly softer than the Crush, which is designed for players with roughly the same swing speeds (80-95mph). The Power Distance Long is for higher swing speeds versus both the Power Distance Soft and Power Distance Women (the Women’s ball also has a higher trajectory). And lastly, the EZ Distance ball is for low swing speeds (well below 80mph), and provides higher ball flight.

Nike 20XI-S
MSRP: $58
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Nike 20XI-X
MSRP: $58
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Nike One Vapor Black
MSRP: $32
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Nike Crush
MSRP: $30
Amazon.com: Check price now

Nike Power Distance Long
MSRP: $20
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Nike Power Distance Soft
MSRP: $20
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Nike Power Distance Women
MSRP: $20
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Nike EZ Distance
MSRP: $10 for a 6-pack

Not marketed on Nike’s website or included in ball fitting comparison
Nike ONE Vapor Speed
MSRP: $32
Amazon.com: Check price now

Nike Crush Red
MSRP: $26
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


Pinnacle Golf Balls

Pinnacle, part of the Acushnet Company with Titleist (and FootJoy), allows Acushnet to have a ball line of more aggressively-priced balls (translate: inexpensive) that Titleist balls don’t address. Don’t want to sully the Titleist name!

There are just three ball options under this brand: the BLING (c’mon! All caps?! Don’t do it!), the Gold, and the Gold Ribbon. Pinnacle does not offer any way to compare the three balls online, like Titleist does with their online golf ball fitting tool. The BLING, not surprisingly, comes in four “high optix colors”: orange, yellow, pink and violet, ensuring you’ll be able to find them in the woods. Like seemingly every other golf ball on the market, its advantages are listed as long distance, soft feel, consistent ball flight, and short game control. The Gold and Golf Ribbon are also marketed as having those same characteristics. We seriously need to go work in marketing for a golf ball company.
Step 1: write copy that new ball is long, soft, consistent and has short game control to improve scoring.
Step 2: spend the rest of the afternoon on the course.

Pinnacle Golf Ball Lineup

Click for lineup

Pinnacle BLING
MSRP: $24.00

Pinnacle Gold
MSRP: $24.00
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Pinnacle Gold Ribbon
MSRP: $20.00 per 15-ball pack
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


TaylorMade Golf Balls

We haven’t quite figured out the marketing plan behind the TaylorMade line of balls. Maybe its all pinned to Sergio breaking through. And what’s with the naming, anyway? The Burner? RocketBallz? The Noodle? They have a bit of work to do. TaylorMade also doesn’t have as advanced marketing material as some of the other manufacturers, lacking the online golf ball fitting tools or other information to help customers make a selection between the different models.

We’ve played with a number of TaylorMade balls (including the Noodle), and made our purchase decision the same way that others likely will who are considering a TaylorMade ball: based on price. In the absence of any useful information from the company to compare the different models, we’ll select those that are in our desired price range. And TaylorMade appears to be catering to this decision-making process, offering balls with retail prices spread across the teens to the mid-$40.

TaylorMade Golf Ball Lineup

Click to enlarge

Some brief descriptions: The TP5 is TaylorMade’s 5-layer ball, the first 5-layer ball in golf. The TP3 is, of course, TaylorMade’s 3-piece ball, which offers higher spin for amateurs. The RocketBallz offers “insane” distance, but they fail to provide any quantitative (or qualitative) information comparing to their other models (like Titleist does, for example). We are guessing the RocketBallz ball providez at mozt a few more yardz on drivez than their other ballz. The Burner? Soft plus reasonable distance. The Noodle? Inexpensive.

TaylorMade Penta TP5
MSRP: $45.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

TaylorMade Penta TP3
MSRP: $34.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

TaylorMade RocketBallz
MSRP: $26.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

TaylorMade Burner
MSRP: $21.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Noodle
MSRP: $15.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


Titleist Golf Balls

They’re heee-eeere…the 2013 Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x.

Titleist is the brand played by most of the Critical Golf staff (specifically the Pro V1). It’s also the brand played by most professionals on Tour and has the most worldwide golf ball wins. Coincidence? Certainly. While we can (will) always dream that the Pro V1 will help us play like the pros, we like it for its feel, durability, and spin characteristics.

Titleist Driving Distance Comparison

Driving Distance Comparison

Titleist offers a number of tools to help with Titleist golf ball fitting, including on-course evaluation scorecards, as well as their online golf ball fitting tool. Their site provides a nice range of information for the user to help wade through their options. The tools aren’t overly specific (what is the “average” driver swing speed Titleist uses in their calculations?), though it is nice to see less marketing BS than in the past. Even Titleist will tell you that their ball fitting prioritizes the short game, and driving distances between their different balls is just 4-5 yards regardless of swing speed, an amount small enough not to change club selection for your approach shot, so best to select a ball that performs best for your scoring shots.

Ball Spin Comparison

Titleist Ball Spin Comparison

At the highest level, Titlest breaks their golf balls into three different tier: Best, Excellent, and Good. The “Best Scoring Performance” balls include their flagship (and most expensive balls) Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x. For 2013 the Pro V1 has a softer feel due to a lower compression and improved cover for both aerodynamics and durability. Additional changes in the 2013 Pro V1 produce lower driver and long game spin, and a shallower angle of descent that produces more roll. The 2013 Pro V1x has changed it’s core (a dual core) also, providing increased spin with shorter clubs. The dual-core construction of the Pro V1x provides less spin and thus more distance off the tee than the Pro V1. The Pro V1x also has an improved cover, like the Pro V1, as well as different sound profile. Overall the Pro V1 has a softer feel than the Pro V1x, with more long game spin and lower flight, with the Pro V1x providing more distance.

Titleist Golf Balls

Performance differences

Titleist will also tell you that their fitting tool will recommend the Pro V1 and Pro V1x most often, because these balls offer the best performance for all golfers. So why the rest of the line? Since some player’s preferences for feel, color, durability, and price all play a role in what purchasers select (we bet price is at the top of the list).

Titleist Pro V1
MSRP: $62.00
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Titleist Pro V1x
MSRP: $62.00
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

The “Excellent Scoring Performance” balls, are the NXT Tour and NXT Tour S. The NXT Tour S has a softer feel than the NXT Tour, and comes in bright yellow. These balls have lower spin than the Pro V1 and Pro V1x.

NXT Tour
MSRP: $42.00
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

NXT Tour S
MSRP: $42.00
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Titleist’s “Good Scoring Performance” balls are the DT SoLo and the Velocity. The DT SoLo has very soft compression, and the velocity has the lowest ball spin and fast ball speed.

Velocity
MSRP: $35.00
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

DT SoLo
MSRP: $28.00
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

You want bright yellow golf balls? Custom numbers? Titleist custom imprinting? They’ve got that too.


Golf Pet Peeves

I’m feeling a little grumpy. So therefore, in no particular order, are some of my golf-related pet peeves for the day:

Fees for spouses/friends to walk along. Seriously? You are going to charge me a fee to have my spouse walk alongside while I play for a round ($30 just to have my wife join me while I play…not that I’m not worth it, of course)? Mahalo to you too, Poipu Bay!

Cart paths. We prefer to walk (with push carts), but realize there are some players who aren’t able to walk a full round or simply like to ride, and lots of ’em. That doesn’t mean, however, that cart paths need to extend from tee to green (and be visible and in play) on every hole. Someone needs to invent a substance for cart paths that doesn’t result in our drives ricocheting an additional 30 yards OB. ASAP!

Blind shots. They just don’t add excitement or anticipation to the game. It’s silly. And it sure doesn’t help those who will only be playing the course once, or infrequently enough to not get to know the course well.

Railroad ties. On a railroad, yes. On a golf course, no.

Reinstating former golf pros as amateurs. This one I just don’t get. There has only been one player who has ever applied for reinstatement (out of an estimated 600-1,000 that apply each year) who was not approved (appeals included). How does the USGA justify a former PGA tour winner getting his amateur status back (with a total of 12 Top-10 finishes and $1.2M in career earnings!)? In the 2012 Mid-Am, 36% of the players were reinstated amateurs. Former pros regularly play in the Walker Cup. The USGA Senior Amateur has become a battlefield for former professionals, where 15 of the 32 players to win a first-round match play match in 2012 were former professionals. Doesn’t quite seem quite right to me. Maybe it’s time to create another set of amateur tournaments for players that have always been amateurs (an Amateur Mid-Am? USGA Senior Amateur-Am? Walker-Am?). Or just leave amateur tournaments for the real (lifelong) amateurs.

Required carts at walkable courses. Why require a cart, either for a portion of the day or just on weekends (or at the really nutty ones…all the time)? The golf shops always claim the reason is to speed up play, but this is rarely the case, with the exception of the first handful of times of the day. Even worse, these courses often don’t allow carts off carts paths, nor do they have a 90-degree rule…the result is that this creates for even longer rounds, and is more of a PITA for players who have to trek across the fairway with a selection of clubs when going to find their ball.

Marshalls who don’t do their job. Marshalls that drive by in their carts and wave, and couldn’t care any less about getting slow groups to pick up the pace or skip a hole.

All-aerial golf. How boring. Zzzzzz. Architects and greens keepers, how about letting us play some bump and run shots for kicks, putt some balls from off the green, develop a ground game. Give us some lines to play, and cut back on the overwatering.

Over-manicured courses. We know The Donald demands this at his courses (which reminds me, Man-Made Waterfalls should also be on this list). Not good for the greens fees or the environment. Oh, and nothing in the rule book says we are entitled to a perfect lie every time.

Slow play (or Why I Will Never Play The Santa Clara Golf Course again). It’s fantastic what clubs like Angel Park Golf Club in Las Vegas are doing…creating an “Express Lane” to let the fastest players tee off first. It only applies to the “first 5 to 10” tee times on Saturday mornings at one of the two courses at the facility (alternates each week) so far. Here’s hoping they continue to expand the program, and that other courses nationwide take note.

Ben Sherman T-Shirt

Click for holes

My Ben Sherman golf t-shirt (see image at right). After wearing just a few times, holes everywhere…just like on a golf course. How amusing. Well, not really. These t-shirt aren’t cheap! Looks like a bad dye/fabric combination. Shame on you, Ben Sherman! I like most of your clothing, but not this shirt!

Now it’s your turn – go ahead and vent…it’s cathartic.