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Archive for October, 2013

Garmin Approach S4 Watch

The Garmin golf GPS watch lineup continues to expand with the Garmin Approach S4, the latest announcement from Garmin and the new top-of-the-line watch in the family, improving on the Garmin Approach S3, with the addition of a dedicated green view button, additional stat tracking (fairways hit/left/right), improved battery life, and what will get the most press…the ability to receive email, texts and alerts (when paired with a compatible Apple iPhone).

In terms of distance features, the Garmin Approach S4 offers distances to front/middle/back of greens along with layup and doglegs. We still don’t quite get why pre-mapped hazards aren’t included, but we’ll keep hoping for this in the future. With the Garmin Approach S5, perhaps? The S4 does let you input custom points, so this can include bunkers or water hazards, but really, who are we kidding…we are so lazy that we will never map them ourselves, and would vastly prefer these were available out-of the-box. Once you are shooting for the green you can utilize the touchscreen to more accurately place the flagstick (or determine distances to contours).

The S4 can also measure shot distances, and in addition, track scores and stats that are reviewable on the watch after the round. Unfortunately, there is no online portal to save and track this information over time – surprising given the range of devices and portals that Garmin has available for other non-golf products.

The Garmin Approach S4 GPS golf watch is marketed as lasting up to 10 hours in GPS mode (don’t we wish that wasn’t about how long it takes to play 2 rounds at our local course) with its rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The watch is 1″ across, has a resolution of 128 x 128 pixels, and is waterproof to 10 meters so go ahead, reach on into that non-potable water to retrieve your ball!

The Garmin Approach S4 GPS golf watch comes with over 30,000 worldwide courses pre-loaded, and free lifetime updates to keep up with both new course and as well as existing course changes. It’s the highest priced golf GPS watch in our tests, but if it keeps you on the course instead of at the office, maybe it’s worth it. And that just leaves you with a 2 questions: which color Garmin Approach S4 do you purchase (white or black), and do you respond to you boss’ email?

Retail price: $249.99 (dropped from $349.99 at launch)
Three year total cost: $249.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


Samsonite Spinner

Made by Athalon Sports (who licenses the right to use the Samsonite name, and who also manufactures the Samsonite Hardside golf travel case that we like so much), the Samsonite Spinner soft-case golf travel bag features four spinner wheels on the base of the bag that pivot 360 degrees. The design is intended to let you use the spinner wheels to roll the Spinner while it is standing up, or use the two in-line skate wheels on the side of the bag for pulling it along behind you. But like the OGIO Mammoth, another soft-case with spinner wheels on the base, the Samsonite Spinner had a tough time staying balanced upright, which ultimately led us to give up and just drag it in tow.

Tipping the scales at a svelte 10 pounds, the Samsonite Spinner is the second-lightest golf travel bag we have tested, behind only the Bag Boy T-2000. The reduced weight means you can transport more of your stuff without running over the airlines’ 50 pound weight limit. The Spinner has quilted padding around most of the bag, although it strangely has none at all along the middle portion of the back panel. While this may have been driven by their assumption that your carry bag itself will provide protection for you clubs on that side, it seems like providing some cushioning in that spot wouldn’t have cost too much in terms of additional weight.

SCORE
80
GRADE
B-
Design/Construction
83
Travel Impressions
81
Value
78

There are no internal storage pockets, and the only external storage comes from the removable shoe bag that zips on and off. One nice innovation is the clip loop on the top panel through which a small bag can be attached to the Spinner, enabling you to roll everything together (assuming you can keep the smaller bag balanced on top).

The $360 suggested retail price is breathtakingly steep, but we found it listed at most retailers for just under $100. It doesn’t really deliver on the upright rolling, but at that price (which makes it the least expensive bag we have tested), the Samsonite Spinner is worth considering as an entry-level purchase.

Retail price: $360.00
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


83 / B

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

The Samsonite Spinner is made of a nylon weave. The bottom of the bag features a hard plastic backing that extends 15 inches up the back panel of the Spinner to provide additional protection and some stability. Note, however, that the OGIO Mammoth (31 inches) and the Club Glove Last Bag (28 inches) both provide significantly more hard plastic protection on the back panel.

The bag is contoured to be wider at the base and taper at the top, with about a 4-inch difference at the extreme ends. This is purportedly to enhance the balance, but as we’ll describe below, it doesn’t help enough.

Samsonite Spinner Golf Travel Bag

Click for images

There’s a reasonable amount of cushioning at the top of the Samsonite Spinner to protect the club heads. As we noted above, however, the absence of any cushioning at all at the middle of the back panel seems to be a misguided way to save on some weight. Dual two-way zippers run the length of the bag, providing easy access to the contents.

The design of the Samsonite Spinner golf travel bag includes:

  • three handles – one at the top of the bag, one on the side, and one at the base of the bag – each of which is made of steel cable and surrounded with a padded grip
  • a detachable oversize shoe pocket (see image at right) on the front panel that quickly unzips from the bag, providing an elegant way to schlep your footwear into the locker room
  • a plastic window to hold a business card or other ID tag
  • two adjustable internal straps to secure your golf bag
  • two in-line skate wheels for pulling the bag behind you
  • four additional spinner wheels on the base for rolling the Spinner in an upright position
  • two color options- black and steel

81 /B-

TRAVEL IMPRESSIONS

The allure of the marketing for the Samsonite Spinner (and implied in its very name) is the ability to roll the Spinner upright on the four spinner wheels mounted on the base. The problem is that there isn’t enough structure to the bag to keep it balanced – trying to roll it upright is like trying to keep your drunk friend walking just long enough to not attract the attention of the cop on the corner. There’s a lot of leaning, a quiet exertion of extreme effort, and ultimately some cursing under your breath.

The Spinner only weights 10 pounds (as tested), making it the second lightest bag we tested. We used the Samsonite Spinner with a standard-sized golf carry bag. As noted above, there are two internal straps with adjustable buckles that enable you to secure your golf bag. An oddity is that the strap at the top portion of the bag is positioned in a way that it has to be angled down to pass through the handle on the carry bag, which creates a slouch in the Spinner when it is standing up. Like it needs any more obstacles to standing up straight…

There was enough room in the interior of the Spinner to pack clothing for a 4-day golf trip. There aren’t any pockets to help in organizing the contents, so don’t expect everything to be where you originally packed it – after all, TSA is always going to root through your bag (as they should, since it appears on the x-rays as a bunch of long metal rods).

The removable shoe bag (see image) mounted on the front panel of the Spinner made for easy storage of a pair of shoes, and had room for some socks as well.

The in-line skate wheels rolled nicely, but after having experienced the glories of four-wheeled golf travel bags, we found it difficult to transition back to a standard two-wheeler.


78 / C+

COST/VALUE

At a retail price of $360, the Samsonite Spinner is the second most expensive travel bag in our tests. Thankfully, it can be ordered from most online outlets for about $100, which is a much better approximation of its value. Unfortunately, since we can’t guarantee that you’ll get that kind of deal, we had to dock some points in our “cost/value” rating.

Retail price: $360.00
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


3BaysGSA PUTT

3BaysGSA is a part of not just the field of mobile golf full swing analysis tools, but also offers the 3BaysGSA PUTT, their golf putting analyzer, which is a small device that is designed to plug into the putting grip, and then capture putting stoke data and transmit the information via Bluetooth to your iOS or Android device so you can get instant feedback. The app calculates consistency, face angle, attack angle, temp, back swing time, down swing time, impact speed and swing path distance, all in real-time. There is also an audio-video recording feature, which provides a basic set of AV tools to record and trim video, slow-motion playback, and a line drawing tool.

There aren’t a great deal of putting analysis tools on the market (most devices full-swing focused, such as SkyCaddie SkyPro and Swingbyte), but one of the strongest competitors to the 3BaysGSA PUTT is the TOMI (there are consumer and professional versions available).

With the GSA PUTT mobile app (free) you’ll be able to watch an animated graphic of your swing from the side and top view, and review the swing metrics mentioned above. 3BaysGSA also offers a 3BaysCloud, which is a free service to allow users to sync their putting strokes across devices, and upload to the web where you can get additional statistical analysis (and hey, share on Facebook and Twitter if you like).

As a mobile tool, benefits are that you can practice not just on the putting green, but in your home or office. And if you are trying to select the right putter for your swing, the 3BaysGSA PUTT data can help you identify what putter best fits your stroke.

3BaysGSA PUTT Golf Putting Analyzer

Click for images

The 3BaysGSA PUTT unit is 29.3 x 18mm excluding the pin that screws into the grip, and 29.3 x 43mm including the pin. The device weighs 9.8 grams, is marketed as the “World’s Lightest Putting Analyzer”, and has a charge of up to 5 hours, and has a micro USB for charging purposes (Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR for its wireless connection). It is compatible with iPhone 3GS and later, iPod touch 4th gen on, and all iPad and iPad minis (with iOS 5.1 and later).

Keep in mind there are different 3BaysGSA PUTT units for iOS (Apple devices) versus Android, so be sure to select the correct unit when purchasing. Retail pricing is the same for both, and why there are two different types of hardware based on operating system we aren’t sure. That sure doesn’t seem like a way to keep things simple in manufacturing.

Retail price: $199.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Separately, there is also the 3BaysGSA PRO, designed for analysis of your putting stroke. The device is the same in size, weight and battery life as the 3BaysGSA PUTT, and we are guessing that the hardware is the same between devices. The bummer is that most likely the device could have offered one device for both full swing and putting. Then again, they wouldn’t have been able to charge $199.99 for each, would they? Bummer for us.

Retail price: $199.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

A video on the use of the 3BaysGSA PUTT: