archive page January, 2014 | Critical Golf

Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

More »

Archive for January, 2014

Bushnell NEO XS Watch

The NEO XS is Bushnell’s latest iteration on an entry-level golf GPS watch. Bushnell has improved the prior generation NEO-X watch by adding two additional hazards that can be listed for each hole (increasing the total to four per hole). Aesthetics are always subjective, but we found the sleek round design of the NEO XS to be vastly superior to the blocky look of the NEO-X.

It still doesn’t keep score or pair to a mobile device through Bluetooth, but what it does do it almost always does extremely well (the exception is the initial set-up for syncing courses, described in “Setup/Syncing” below). Bushnell has made a fine professional product, so if you’re looking for a low-priced alternative in the golf GPS watch field, the NEO XS is the one to get.

SCORE
90
GRADE
A-
Setup/Syncing
91
Course Availability
99
Ease of Use
98
Course Details
80
Features
80
Accuracy
90
Cost/Value
93

Pros:

  • Strong course coverage
  • Reasonable pricing

Cons:

  • Lack of scoring and statistics
  • Clunky process for initial course database update

Retail price: $199.99
Three year total cost: $199.99
Amazon.com: Check price now


91/ A-

SETUP/SYNCING

  • The charging clip is basically the same as the one for the previous generation Bushnell NEO-X watch – there are two little plastic “guide pins” that fit into corresponding holes on the watch that lock the clip into place. It still takes a little bit of wiggling around, but when everything is where it should be it’s pretty secure.
  • No wall charger is provided, so the only way to charge the Bushnell NEO XS is by plugging the USB cable into your computer. (This is not unique to the NEO XS – it seems to be the case with almost every watch we test.)
  • We followed the instructions for obtaining course updates, first registering with iGolf, Bushnell’s golf course database provider and then downloading the iGolf Sync browser plug-in to a desktop computer (in this case, a Mac). We had issues opening the installer because it wasn’t recognized as “safe” software – but after following the instructions given by the Mac on how to circumvent the security protocol we were eventually able to get iGolf Sync installed. We then headed back to the Bushnell/iGolf web site to download the device driver. Again, our Mac didn’t want to open the file, but our newfound familiarity with circumventing the security protocol let us open and install it. Next we were asked to restart the computer. When that was done we trudged back to the Bushnell/iGolf web site to the “Courses” page, connected the NEO XS…and then couldn’t figure out what to do next. Ah – the trick is that you actually have to select a course (literally any course). Then and only then does the page refresh and indicate that the device is connected and that you have the ability to download the latest GPS course file. This was neither intuitive nor well described in the instructions. Had we known what we were supposed to do, the process probably would’ve only taken about 15 minutes, but as it was we were wandering through the desert for what felt like 40 years (and was actually about 45 minutes).
  • Once you’ve gone through the setup process, just charge up the battery and you’re good to go.
  • The NEO XS comes with a small plastic soft-bristled brush for cleaning the charging contacts on the watch, which is a first among the products we’ve tested.


99 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

  • Critical Golf Test: The Bushnell NEO XS watch leverages the course database from Bushnell’s partner, iGolf. Course coverage is 99% in our course coverage test, where we select a random cross-section of courses across the country and evaluate whether those courses are available within a manufacturer’s database. Note that our test only counts a course as “covered” for the NEO XS if it has both front-center-back information and hazards.
  • Manufacturer’s Claims: Bushnell’s web site claims that more than 33,000 worldwide courses are available on the NEO XS, which places it near the bottom our course coverage comparison test. As always, we recommend a greater focus on the Critical Golf Test, as the Manufacturer’s Claims are based solely on what is listed on their web sites and in their marketing materials. As an example, the NEO XS manual only claims 32,500 courses. And TomTom, which uses the same iGolf course database for the TomTom Golfer Watch, claims more than 34,000 courses…It seems that the good folks at Bushnell need to update their press kit!


98 / A+

EASE OF USE

Bushnell NEO XS

Click for larger image
  • The screen does not take up the entire face of the watch – it only occupies a square area of about .8” x .8”, making for about 0.66” square inches of viewing area. This is one of the smaller screens we’ve tested, although given the simpler data presented by the NEO XS, it doesn’t adversely affect the user experience. The NEO XS screen has the same suboptimal backlighting as the prior generation NEO X – when any button is pushed, the LCD is illuminated in a way that isn’t obvious in bright lighting conditions, but if viewed in the dark will show the letters and numbers in green. The “backlight” remains on for approximately 10 seconds after a button is pushed. There is no ability to modify the default time the screen remains backlit. The backlighting works fine if it is extremely dark, but we found it less effective when lighting conditions were just dim. In addition, the backlight is only relevant to the watch features – it is disabled once you begin a round.
  • The Bushnell NEO XS weighs a mere 1.95 ounces (as tested), placing it among the lightest golf GPS watches we have tested. The watch is available in three color combinations – charcoal gray body /charcoal gray rubber band and orange trim, black body/black rubber band with neon yellow trim, and white body/white rubber band with blue trim. A “keeper” loop holds the excess length of the band in place.
  • Operation of the NEO XS requires the use of five fixed buttons on the watch – golf menu, menu, up, down (which also doubles as the power button), and select. There is no touch screen. With the simple feature set available on the NEO XS, there isn’t too much navigation that you need to do, and the user interface is relatively intuitive. This is one device for which you don’t need to read the manual.
  • Bushnell claims 12 hours of battery life while using GPS, which it translates into 3 rounds of golf. Clearly they are not playing on the same slow public courses that we are, where a 5 hour round is counted as lightning fast. We didn’t get a chance to test multiple rounds on a single charge, but we were able to make it through 3 rounds on the prior generation Bushnell NEO-X watch and would guess that one would have a similar experience with the NEO XS.

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


80 / B-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

Bushnell NEO XS

Click for larger image
  • The NEO XS “two-ups” the prior generation NEO-X, providing distances for up to four hazards per hole. Bushnell/iGolf has been relatively good about making use of the additional real estate as we frequently saw four mapped hazards on a hole.

    • Hole View – Shows the hole number, the par for the hole, and the distances to the front, middle and back of the green.
    • Hazard View –Displays up to 2 hazards on the screen at once (if there are more plotted for that particular hole, they appear on a second hazard screen). The hazards are identified by text abbreviations, which are usually self-explanatory (LFB for Left Fairway Bunker). Of course there are more obscure abbreviations like MFW and MFWC. Any guesses? You’ll have to dig up the manual to learn that they stand for Middle Fairway Water (a layup distance) and Middle Fairway Water Carry. The second hazard screen will also display the distance to the center of the green – it’s a mystery why the center distance isn’t displayed on both hazard screens. After a few seconds of displaying either hazard screen, the watch will automatically revert to the Hole View.
    • Round Information – This view displays the current time, the elapsed time since the round began and an odometer reading of how far you’ve walked (which is nice for justifying an extra beer at the 19th hole). The NEO XS begins measuring both the elapsed time and the distance traveled when you first hit “Play Golf” on the watch. The device will automatically return to Hole View after a few seconds.
    • Shot Measurement View – Pressing the “Golf” button will begin the shot measurement feature. Going to any of the other screens will end the measurement, and thus you cannot determine the distance to the green or a hazard while continuing to measure shot distance.
    • Battery Level View – To see the battery charge level you will need to toggle to a different dedicated battery screen, which is accessed through the Menu button. You don’t have to exit your current round to check the battery level.
  • Hole handicap information is not available on the Bushnell NEO XS.


80 / B-

FEATURES

Bushnell NEO XS

Click for larger image
  • Auto-Advance. The Bushnell NEO XS will automatically advance to the next hole during play. Manually changing holes is easily done through the up/down buttons. There is no way to disable the auto-advance feature.
  • Scoring and Statistics. Scoring and statistics tracking are not available on the Bushnell NEO XS.
  • Shot Tracking. As mentioned above you can measure shot distances on the NEO XS., but cannot save the distances nor link them to a particular club.
  • Auto Round Start.The NEO XS has the same “tee time” function found in the earlier-generation NEO X to program in a start time (up to one week in advance). The watch will automatically initiate a search for satellites seven minutes before the programmed tee time. This is a useful feature that enables you to have your GPS watch ready to go when you’re on the 1st tee, instead of needing to frantically push buttons on your watch when you are hustling to the tee box.
  • Odometer. The odometer feature on the watch (which is separate from the odometer that appears on the “Round Information” view) will measure the distance you have moved, your speed (in miles per hour) and the elapsed time.
  • Watch Features. The NEO XS has traditional watch features, including an alarm, stopwatch and countdown timer.
  • Waterproof. It’s waterproof! So let the rain fall down! (This is admittedly a terrible song – but my how that Lizzy McGuire has grown up!)
  • Preferences. The Bushnell NEO XS has a number of adjustable settings. From the “Golf” menu, you can select the unit of measure for your distances (yards or meters) and the length of time (starting from commencement of the round) before the device automatically shuts off (which can range from 1.5 hours to 9 hours, or be shut off entirely). The “Menu” button provides access to a different group of settings, including time (whether you want to set time manually or have it determined by GPS, whether or not daylight savings time is in effect, and the format (12 or 24 hours) in which time is displayed), the unit of measurement for the odometer (miles or kilometers), language (choose from English, German, French, Spanish or Italian), sound (whether or not a tone sounds every time you press a button), and GPS status (which will display your precise latitude and longitude coordinates, the number of satellites locked on and the strength of the signal).

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


90 / A-

ACCURACY

The Bushnell NEO XS generally returned distances within our standard expected range of variance for GPS devices, usually plus or minus up to 4 yards from actual distances (based on marked sprinkler heads).


93 / A-

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: The Bushnell NEO XS golf GPS watch retails for $199.99, which puts it at the low end of the range among the golf GPS watches in our tests.

Fees for Access to Course Database: There are no additional fees for course map updates to the NEO XS.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no additional yearly fees to download the latest course information, the three-year total cost for the Bushell NEO XS remains $199.99. At this price point, it is among the least expensive golf GPS watches in our tests.

Value: Like the prior generation NEO-X, the Bushnell NEO XS provides solid functionality and stylish design at a reasonable price. It doesn’t track scores or statistics, but the addition of even more pre-mapped hazard information (with four hazards now available on a given hole) makes the NEO XS a good buy.


For more detail, check out the Bushnell NEO XS demo, or the marketing video below.


Garmin Approach G8

The Garmin Approach G8 retains the sleek design of the prior generation Garmin G6, providing distances to the front/center/back of the green, selected hazards and doglegs and the ability to pinpoint the distance to any target on the course. To help plan your attack, the G8 can display layup arcs at 100, 150, 200 and 250 yards.

The most novel feature on the Approach G8 (and its sibling, the Garmin Approach G7) is slope-adjusted distances (wow!). The Garmin G7 and G8 are the only golf GPS devices to provide this information – slope-adjusted distances were previously only available on selected rangefinders. The G8 also offers club recommendations and the ability to receive email, text and call alerts (we’ll pass – we’ve left the office for a reason). And that’s not all – features not found on the Garmin Approach G7 (and Garmin Approach G6) are the ability to point you to the center of the green if you have a blind shot, and the ability to download course updates via Wi-Fi.

The Approach G8 has the same battery life as the rest of the family (an estimated 15 hours), multiple scoring options for up to four players, and the ability to track statistics such as fairways hit and putts. Relatively new is the Garmin Connect online portal to upload scores and track progress over time. Oh, and it’s waterproof to boot.

At a retail price of $350, the Approach G8 is $100 more than the Garmin Approach G7, which is a hefty price for additional functionality that we don’t value all that much. To us the primary benefit of the G8 is the larger 3″ screen, but if you frequently get stuck behind trees with a blind shot or like the ease of Wi-Fi for updating courses, perhaps you’ll find the extra dollars worth it.

SCORE
91
GRADE
A-
Setup/Syncing
95
Course Availability
99
Ease of Use
93
Course Details
92
Features
95
Accuracy
92
Cost/Value
89
Pros:

  • Shows slope-adjusted distances for uphill and downhill shots
  • Ability to quickly target any point on the course via touchscreen
  • No annual fees for either device or online portal
  • Garmin Connect portal can save scores and track progress (though it needs some refinements…)

Cons:

  • Fewer mapped targets than competing devices
  • A sequence of seven buttons is required to view your scorecard
  • Have to back out of the scoring screen after each hole in order to auto-advance to the next hole
  • Connection via Bluetooth to mobile device (iPhone) was spotty

Retail price: $349.99
Three-year total cost: $349.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


95 / A

SETUP/SYNCING

At startup, you select the language and unit of distance (yards/meters) for the device, and can also enter estimates on how far you hit each club (which the device will then use to provide you with club recommendations). At a minimum you need to enter distances for three clubs – the G8 can extrapolate the rest if you like. Then, since all of the course maps are preloaded and there’s no need to make payment for an initial or yearly fee, you are ready to hit the course.

Though courses are pre-loaded on the device, you’ll want to check-in periodically to make sure you have the latest updates. Software and map updates repeatedly took less time than Garmin’s initial estimates, taking at most 25 minutes in total.

The desktop software is user-friendly, with the ability to get additional device info, help and manuals, and to reinstall maps. Connecting to a Wi-Fi network to download course maps and software is an easy process. We didn’t experience any of the software crashes that we have in the past – well done, Garmin!

Syncs of statistics and scoring from a round went smoothly when we connected through the USB cord. One hiccup is that we were often prompted to update map information on the device, which rerouted us to another Garmin page to download map information for hiking, etc. that was ultimately a dead end. We were unable, however, to get the Approach G8 to sync statistics and scoring data either via Wi-Fi or via Bluetooth through the use of our iPhone and the Garmin Connect mobile app. Ah who cares, this wireless technology will never catch on anyway, right?

What’s in the Box: The Garmin Approach G8 comes with:

  • USB cable
  • AC adapter
  • Belt Clip
  • Quick Start Manual
  • Safety and Product Information

Downloads:


99 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

The Garmin Approach G8, like the rest of the Garmin golf GPS device family, comes pre-loaded with courses. For Garmin, that’s a claimed 39,000 courses worldwide. As far as our course coverage comparison test goes, Garmin comes in at an exceptional 99%. What more is there to say?


93 / A-

EASE OF USE

The Approach G8 is nice and slim, 2.1″ x 4.4″ x 0.6″, and at under 4 ounces is one of the lightest handheld golf GPS devices. The 3″ and 240 x 400 pixel color touchscreen is fine in sunlight and under clouds, though we generally kept it at the highest brightness settings to make it easier to read, even at the expense of some battery life. The device is so small, that we actually wouldn’t mind if the body, and screen, was a bit larger.

Using the device is straightforward, including utilizing the touchscreen to target points and enter scores. There are a number of user interface elements, however, that drove us batty, including an inability to easily access your scorecard, the need to manually exit the scoring screen and return to the hole view in order for the device to auto-advance to the next hole, and the requirement to type in a new player name if you (accidentally) select the player on a certain screen. These aren’t deal breakers, but they make the device a bit more annoying to use than it needs to be.

Garmin Approach G8 Golf GPS Device

Click for more images

Details:

  • Buttons. The Garmin Approach G8 has three physical buttons: a power/menu button on the left side of the device, and, just below the screen, a Score/Measure button and a Green/Pin Pointer button. All other controls are accessed through soft buttons on the touchscreen. The interface on the touchscreen is intuitive, and the ways to access different functions are clearly labeled. In addition to the soft buttons that appear on screen, certain views also enable scrolling between menus, something we didn’t expect but were glad to have. We had some issues with the device freezing when we were scrolling through menus, but overall the device worked very well.
  • Touchscreen Sensitivity. We found the Garmin G8 is extremely touch-sensitive, for better or for worse. This sensitivity is helpful when you’re targeting points, placing the flagstick, entering scores, and otherwise interacting with the screen. All too often, however, we found ourselves on a screen we didn’t expect when we pulled the device out of a pocket – whether it was another hole, a different view, on a screen to rename a player, or once, in a different language. If you keep the device attached to your belt or on a cart, you won’t have these issues. You can also lock the screen to minimize these issues, but the additional effort required to lock and unlock the screen with each shot didn’t seem worth it.
  • Starting a Round. After powering up, you simply select the desired course from a scrollable list based on proximity to your current location. The G8 will then default to starting on the 1st Hole, from which you can manually advance if needed, such as when you’re playing the back 9 or in a shotgun start.
  • Battery Life. The internal rechargeable lithium polymer battery is marketed as providing up to 15 hours of life, although our usage was generally around 9-10 hours. The backlight setting and time to sleep will certainly impact the battery life, though you can expect to make it through at least one round even on full brightness and with the device always on.

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


92 / A-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Garmin Approach G8 uses bright graphic maps for course image details. With the ability to touch any point to receive distance information, selected hazards and doglegs, and layup arcs, you’ll have most of what you need to create a game plan for the hole. “PlaysLike” distances, the slope-adjusted yardages, are also displayed next to all distances unless otherwise indicated, but you can turn these off at any time.

One key item we would change is the somewhat random nature of when distances to mapped targets are displayed, and where distances are positioned relative to the point where you are touching the screen (these should be moved a bit to make them easier to read and not be obscured by your finger). We also wouldn’t mind a text-only view of hazard and layup information – hey, there is a text view of green information, why not take advantage of other Garmin data?

Garmin Approach G8 Golf GPS Device

Click for more views

Details:

  • Views. The Garmin Approach G8 provides a “Hole View” with an image of the hole, and a “Green View” that displays the green and immediate surrounding area. The device allows smooth placement of target points and the flagstick.
    • Hole View. This view shows a graphic of the hole, and on par 4s and 5s, will display colored layup arcs at 100, 150, 200 and, for par 5s only, 250 yards from the pin. Any user modification to the flagstick position in Green View (see below) will be reflected in the Hole View screen as well. Select hazard distances will be shown, though they will not include “PlaysLike” distances. Distances, with the exception of to the flagstick, will start to drop off the screen when you either pass that point on the hole or are within 10-15 yards of a particular point.

      The top right of the view will display the distance to the flagstick and, after selecting another point, the total distance to that point and then to the flagstick. A tap on the distance indicated on the top right will toggle the view to a simple text-only (“Big Numbers”) view showing near-center-far points on the green. Depending on the hole, there ,may be distances shown to selected hazards and doglegs.

      When starting the hole we had usability issues in targeting a point, with the device rarely recognizing our initial press. Regardless of whether you have selected a point, as you advance closer to the hole, the view will continue to zoom in on the remaining hole until you are at the green. In order to manually zoom, you need to select a point and then touch a “zoom” button. There is only one level of manual zoom available, and in this view distances to mapped targets will not be shown (though yardage arcs will). If you want to zoom in to a different point, you need to step back to the full hole view, pick a new point, and then zoom again. The hole view will rotate based on player position so you are always advancing from the bottom of the screen to the top.

      When targeting a point on the course, the point and distance may both be obscured by your finger. However, when you lift your finger from the screen both the cross-hair and distance will remain displayed until you push the “back” button to return to the original hole view. Ideally, the yardages while targeting would appear farther below where you are touching the screen, as well as to the left (for those using the device with their right hand) so you could actually see them.

      As you touch to select a point, in addition to receiving updated distances to that point and from the point to the hole, club advice at the bottom of the screen will continuously update to provide the suggested club and distance, along with a distance arc. Having club recommendations readily available and the associated distance arc seemed pretty cool to us!

      Unfortunately, while there may be pre-mapped or user mapped points for a hole, those distances aren’t shown consistently, either when starting the hole or in a zoomed in view. There is no way to toggle these distances to remain on or off, and they may not appear when you would like to know the distance and not have to use the touchscreen.

    • Green View. Shows the green and surrounding hazards if appropriate, and enables you to touch any point on the green to modify the flagstick position. Distances are shown to the flagstick position, plus the near and far points in line with the flagstick. Once you change the flagstick position the G8 will continue to keep the new position regardless of view, and distances in other views will be to this updated flagstick position. After you select the Green View, the view to the hole will not continue to rotate based on player position.
  • Hole Information. The hole number and par are visible on the Hole View screen. Par is shown as a portion of a row of dots, but the number of dots wasn’t always easy to read.
  • Custom Mapping. You can save additional target points to an existing course map, which will be shown in Hole View as small red squares. These points can be set either using your current position or using touch targeting on the screen.

    As with Garmin’s pre-mapped targets, these custom distances will not always be displayed – rather the G8 will only show them when it thinks you need to know them. As you might suspect, this doesn’t always jibe with what you actually want.

The main menu screen has the time, GPS signal strength, Bluetooth indicator, battery life, and adjustable brightness bar. You can also access notifications, save a new target point, lock the device or access other preferences.


95 / A

FEATURES
The main feature that separates the G8 from other golf GPS devices (the exception being the Garmin Approach G7), is the new “PlaysLike Distance”, which provides the slope-adjusted distance. Combine this with most of the features that you could ever need, and you have a useful device.

Most of the main features listed below can be turned on and off through the main screen.

Details:

  • “PlaysLike” Distance. The Garmin Approach G8 features slope-adjusted distance information to assist when you’re playing uphill or downhill. PlaysLike distances are shown just below or to the side of the line-of-sight distance, depending on the screen view. Even though you can turn this feature off, this makes the G8 a non-conforming device in the USGA’s eyes, so if you’re going to be playing tournaments, this isn’t the golf GPS device for you. We found this feature to be interesting, though we can’t tell you that it is completely accurate. The device often told us we were slightly up or downhill when the opposite was true. Our best guess is this because the device knows the elevations for a somewhat limited number of points on the course – if you’re on a particularly hilly course, these inaccuracies may become more apparent. We found the feature more helpful on shots between defined tiers or where there were significant elevation changes.
  • Club Advice.. By entering your club distances, or tracking them over time using the Shot Measurement feature (see below), you enable the G8 to recommend clubs. This may be handy, but again, is non-conforming for the USGA. We didn’t really take advantage of this feature, but you may find it helpful as a quick way to know what club to pull. And if it keeps round times down, we are all for it!
  • PinPointer. Lost in the woods? This is for you. Well, it also applies to those courses that have blind shots (our least favorite course design feature). With a press of one of the physical buttons below the screen, a compass is displayed showing the direction of the center of the green. Well, at least that’s the intention. It provides a reasonable direction indication, though we have seen it off by up to approximately 20 degrees. As a result, we only used this feature when we really had no idea where the green was.
  • Shot Measurement. A press of another physical button allows you to begin tracking shot distances. You can then assign the distance to a club in order to calculate club averages.
  • Auto Hole Recognition/Auto Advance. The G8 will automatically recognize the course you’re on and start you on the 1st Hole. You can select whether there are automatic or manual hole transitions, though note that if you also want to track your score during the round, you’ll need to manually exit the scoring screens in order to have auto-advance work. It’s not perfect – it didn’t advance on all holes, got lost on one course repeatedly, and sometimes asked us if we were ready to quit our round when we were on the 18th tee (maybe it could tell that our round was going so poorly that we had no interest in playing the last hole).
  • Score and Statistics. The Garmin Approach G8 continues along the line of previous Garmin devices in enabling the tracking of relatively basic stats for each hole: score, putts, and fairways hit for you, and score only for up to three other players. No sand saves or penalty strokes. One of our pet peeves is that if you want to see your scorecard (or stats) while playing, you need to press a sequence of 7…yes SEVEN…buttons in order to get to it. Bad, bad, bad.

    You can view round history from the device itself or through one of two different ways on a computer: either through a very simple “Scorecard Viewer” app that is launched from the GARMIN drive when it is plugged in, or via the online Garmin Connect portal. You have the option to select what type of scoring and also whether to track stats.

    And while we were able to get the Garmin G8 to pair with our iPhone to provide messages (see below), we were unable to get the Garmin G8 to pass data to the Garmin Connect Mobile App on our iPhone to then be uploaded to Garmin Connect. Not ideal, but minor enough that we don’t mind.

  • Garmin Connect online portal. The Garmin Connect portal is okay, but not great. You can see device settings, history, and stats easily. The charts, however, were lacking in things such as a labeled x-axis (the latest stats are at the left and older at right). The charts also include 18 and 9 hole scores relative to par (or stats such as GIR), which renders the charts useless if you are a regular 9-hole player. Oh, and it asks us every time we log in if we want a tour. We don’t.
  • Notifications. Connecting via Bluethooth worked some of the time, and not others. When it was working it was fairly easy to access the notifications – though note that you won’t be able to read the full text of your emails.
  • Preferences. The Garmin Approach G8 has a wide range of adjustable preferences: player names, measurement unit (yards vs. meters), clubs in the bag and average yardages, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, calibrate Pinpointer, backlight timeout, and brightness. Preferences can be modified during the round.

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


92 / A-

ACCURACY

The Garmin G8 conforms to the standard GPS accuracy of being within a few yards of sprinkler heads and other distance markers. We did see some issues with hazards in particular – for example, the G8 would show us in a bunker when we were still a good 10 yards to the side. We also saw some courses with key points missing, such as cart paths and a number of trees, including those that were well in play, and in some cases, located in the fairway. We didn’t find any accuracy issues in terms of GPS location, but rather only in terms of mapping.

The only significant issue we found was with one out-of-date map for a course in a small town in the Midwest that was updated a number of years ago. So even through the device may indicate a course is “Updated”, keep in mind this refers to the device having Garmin’s latest maps, even if those maps are out-of-date.


89 / B+

COST/VALUE

The Garmin Approach G8 retails for $349.99 and has no additional fees, putting it on par with other golf GPS handhelds that offer solid feature sets in our cost comparison of golf GPS devices.

The device that players will most often compare to the Garmin G8 is its little brother, the Garmin Approach G7, which retails for $100 less. The key benefits of the G8 over the G7 are, in order of importance to us, a larger screen (3.0″ v 2.6″ diagonal), higher display resolution (240×400 v 160×240), Wi-Fi and PinPointer. The other differences are a slightly larger body and a bit more weight with the Approach G8, though we consider these to be minor.

We are fans of the Garmin Approach G8’s form factor, lack of additional fees, and ability to easily determine distances, though have some concern around ease of use and the relatively small number of pre-mapped hazards displayed. The device and Garmin Connect online portal could both use some polish, but all in all, it is a good device. The additional cost for features such as PlaysLike or Wi-Fi aren’t really worth the price to us, but the value of these will undoubtedly depend on the player.

Retail price: $349.99
Three-year total cost: $349.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now



Garmin Approach G7

In 2014 Garmin becomes the first golf GPS device manufacturer to provide slope-adjusted distances (wow!), the biggest change with the Garmin Approach G7 (and sibling Garmin Approach G8). Prior to now this, slope adjusted information was only available via (some) laser rangefinders. The G7 also offers club recommendations (based on tracking of prior shot distances), big numbers mode (um, it shows numbers…big), and the ability to receive email, text and call alerts if you have an iPhone 4S or later (we’ll pass – we’ve left the office for a reason). For those deciding between the G7 and the Garmin Approach G8: the G7 has a slightly smaller screen (2.6″ diagonal, 160 x 240 pixels), lacks the ability to point in the direction of the center of the green for blind shots, and no ability to download course updates via Wi-Fi. But then again, it’s $100 cheaper. The G7 and G8 both retain the sleek design of the prior generation Garmin G6, provide distances to front/center/back and doglegs, and the ability to pinpoint any target on the course. To plan their attack, users can display layup arcs at 100, 150, 200 and 250 yards on either of these devices.

Though it has a host of features, keep in mind that given the Garmin Approach G7 (and G8) can provide slope-adjusted distances and can recommend clubs, it runs afoul of Rule 14-3 and is therefore illegal for tournament play (even with a Local Rule permitting devices that can measure distance).

The Approach G7 has the same battery life as the rest of the family (estimated 15 hours), multiple scoring options for up to four players, and can track fairways hit, GIR and putts. New is also an online portal to upload scores and track progress over time (hello Garmin Connect! At last!). Oh, and it’s waterproof to boot.

The Approach G7 keeps the same price as the Garmin Approach G6 had at its introduction, and is $100 less than the Garmin Approach G8. Lacking only the ability to provide direction, a slightly larger screen and Wi-Fi in comparison to the G8, the G7 is certainly worth consideration.

As with other Garmin Approach devices, there are no annual fees for course updates.

Three-year total cost: $249.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


SkyCaddie LINX Watch

SkyCaddie enhances its line of golf GPS watch offerings with the SkyCaddie LINX, which finally brings SkyCaddie’s mapped hazards, doglegs, layup points and greens to your wrist, along with scoring and statistics. The previous generation of watches on the market, including the SkyCaddie WATCH, only provided distances to the front, center and back of the green. The LINX jumped to the head of the class among golf GPS watches with its new wealth of data (although it was leapfrogged shortly thereafter by the Garmin S6 watch, which brings hole maps and a touchscreen to determine the distance to any point on the map). The LINX is also Bluetooth enabled and can thus pair with your mobile phone, enabling you to receive notifications on the watch when you receive a call or a text message, and to sync your round to your SkyGolf 360 account (the new name of SkyGolf’s ClubSG) through the SkyCaddie mobile app (SkyGolf 360 synching is not available on the previous generation SkyCaddie WATCH).

The LINX performs well on the golf course, with the thickness of the watch being our only real quibble. The bells and whistles on the device are nice, but they come at a price – the LINX itself retails for $224.95, but only comes with the “Go Play” package, which provides distances to the front, center and back of the green. For $19.95/year (or $49.95 for three years), you can upgrade to the “Par” package, which adds synching to SkyGolf 360. To really exploit the capabilities of the watch, however, you must splurge $49.95/year (or $129.95 for three years) for the “Pro” package, which, in addition to the “Par” enhancements, also adds IntelliGreen (shapes of the actual green) and distances to hazards, layup points, et al.

Our other complaint centers around glitches during the process of purchasing the “Pro” package and setting up the LINX for use (this wouldn’t be necessary for the “Go Play” package, which is ready to go out of the box), which we detail below. This has been a recurring theme for us with SkyCaddie products – we’re surprised that the technical support folks don’t recognize our voices by now.

The SkyCaddie LINX is a fine device, and is a leader among golf GPS watches in terms of the distances it provides. The subscription costs to access those distances make the LINX expensive, but if you’re a data junkie on the course (“How far is it to the bunker? How about to clear it? How about to the dogleg?”), then the LINX is the watch for you.

SCORE
93
GRADE
A-
Setup/Syncing
76
Course Availability
99
Ease of Use
95
Course Details
88
Features
96
Accuracy
96
Cost/Value
91

Pros:

  • At long last – distances to hazards and layup points on a watch!
  • Strong course coverage
  • Statistics tracking

Cons:

  • Thickness of the watch means it will occasionally catch on long sleeves or your pants pocket
  • Annual fees
  • Setup woes

Retail price: $224.95
Three year total cost: $354.90
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


76 / C

SETUP/SYNCING

  • Charging clip is easy to attach (which is not the case with most other golf GPS watches).
  • No wall charger is provided, so the only way to charge the LINX is by plugging the USB cable into your computer.
  • Courses with front/center/back of the green distances (the GoPlay package) are preloaded on the LINX, so charge up the battery and you’re good to go. If you want the features available in the Par or Pro packages, or if you want to keep up with course updates to the GoPlay package, you need to register and create a SkyCaddie account online (as far as we could determine, there’s no way to do this on the mobile app), pick your package (GoPlay, Par or Pro) and then sync the LINX, either through the CaddieSync Express software on your PC/Mac, or through the SkyCaddie 360 mobile app on your phone.
  • We had issues in setting up the LINX. We started off registering online and selecting the Pro package. There was a glitch in the checkout process – we had an existing account, and the site wouldn’t let us update the billing and shipping address – we had to go out of the SkyCaddie Store and update the information from the main SkyCaddie page. It then crashed twice in final step of requesting the order…25 minutes and nothing was accomplished. We gave up for the night, and tried it again the next morning. Lo and behold we were able to complete the purchase. Maybe the SkyCaddie servers needed a good night’s sleep. Oh, but the saga doesn’t end there. We only received one e-mail confirming the purchase, but a couple of weeks later, in checking the credit card bill, noticed that we had been charged THREE times (apparently for the two times it crashed in addition to the instance where it worked). Off we went to the SkyCaddie site in search for a customer service number to call…and couldn’t find one. We thus resorted to using the online chat for help – a somewhat disjointed experience as you’re never quite certain if they dropped off, or simply haven’t responded to your message. They promised to review the billing records and send an e-mail with their determination, and while we never received the promised e-mail, the incorrect charges were finally reversed two weeks later.
  • There are two ways you can sync the LINX – either by downloading the CaddieSync Express software or downloading the SkyGolf 360 mobile app. We started by downloading CaddieSync Express software to a Mac, and then clicked Sync. Oops – the Mac wouldn’t open it because it’s an “unidentified developer” that hasn’t been registered with Apple. They suggested that we go into Finder to override this security setting. Ah, forget it, we’re just gonna do this by downloading the mobile app and syncing through Bluetooth. But the instructions given within the mobile app need some cleanup. The manual indicates that after you turn on Bluetooth on your watch, it’s supposed to pair with your phone, and when it does the Bluetooth logo on the watch should stop blinking. But the Bluetooth logo never stopped blinking. Through trial and error we learned that if you ignore that and just go ahead and advance to the next screen on the mobile app and request a sync, it will THEN ask to pair with the watch and you can sync. Ugh…another 30 minutes out of our lives that we will never get back.
  • We do note, however, that once we had everything set up, syncing was actually simple. Now whether you have the patience to get that far is another matter.


99 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

  • Critical Golf Test: The SkyCaddie LINX gets nearly a perfect score in our course coverage test. The only course it’s missing is Bandon Dunes, which leads to an interesting debate about SkyGolf. SkyCaddie aficionados often highlight the fact that the company has someone actually walk the course to create its maps – this ostensibly helps eliminate some of the errors that you see from companies that use satellite maps to generate their course maps. Which is great…except when the course doesn’t want to be mapped (which is apparently the case with Bandon Dunes – when you search for that course, you see a message stating “This golf facility has opted not to be mapped at this time”)…or when courses change and it takes SkyGolf a while to get somebody back out there to map the re-routed holes. We aren’t taking sides in the debate – just highlighting the issues.
  • Manufacturer’s Claims: The SkyCaddie LINX comes with 35,000 worldwide courses pre-loaded, placing it about in the middle of our course coverage comparison test.


95 / A

EASE OF USE

SkyCaddie LINX Watch

Click for larger image
  • The SkyCaddie LINX provides a viewing area of about 0.8 square inches, which is typical for a golf GPS watch.
  • The LINX weighs about 2.1 ounces (as tested). The rubber and plastic body is available in either black or white. If you want to add a little pizazz, SkyCaddie offers replacement band and bezel (the ring surrounding the face of the watch) combinations – an individual pink band and bezel, as well as a “Patriot Pack” (3 bands/bezels in red, white and blue) and a “Fashion Pack” (3 bands/bezels in purple, neon green and orange). Note that those aren’t really screws drilled into the bezel – it’s just a plastic facing that rotates off if you want to switch it out.
  • The thickness of the watch (it differed from the Garmin S6 by approximately the additional height of the bezel) sometimes led to it getting snagged on the sleeves of a golf jacket or sweater. It would also occasionally get hung up when withdrawing a hand out of pants or shorts pockets.
  • Getting to some functions required a lot of button presses.
  • SkyCaddie markets up to 8 hours of battery life while using GPS (either playing golf or using the watch as an odometer). We found it lasted just fine through a single round of golf, and since 8 hours is unlikely to last through a second round, we didn’t bother testing exactly how far it would go in a second round before conking out. SkyCaddie actually recommends that you recharge the LINX after each round.

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


88 / B+

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

SkyCaddie LINX Watch

Click for larger image
  • The LINX provides a number of views, through which you can scroll by pressing the “OK” button to advance and the “Back” button to go back. Unfortunately, SkyGolf still doesn’t have overhead hole maps on its watches.
    • Hole View – Shows the hole number, the par of the hole, the distance to the center of the green, and, in smaller font, the distances to the near and far points on the green.
    • Target View – Shows the distance to a specific target or layup point. The targets are identified with abbreviations such as “BNK LC”, which means “Bunker Left Carry”. Up to 40 targets/layups are identified on any given hole. In smaller font at the bottom is supplemental information, which is usually yardage indicating the distance from that target to the flag.
    • IntelliGreen View – This screen displays a graphic of the shape of the green with a “flag” that can be positioned by using the up and down buttons – the distance to the “flag” is given in this view. Note that the method of moving the flag is pretty clunky – there is a limited grid on the green, and you have to maneuver the flag on the grid by pushing the “up” button to move UP on the grid and the “down” button to move RIGHT on the grid. If you go farther than you wanted (either up or to the right), you have to keep going in that direction until it cycles back around on the other side. Which does raise the question – there are a zillion buttons on this watch (okay, maybe six), and yet they somehow decided they didn’t want to use a couple of those to let you go down or left?
    • Scoring View – Holding the “OK” button will put you into scoring mode. After you enter your score and statistics for the current hole, the LINX will display a Scoring View with the hole number, the number of strokes taken on that hole, the number of putts on that hole, whether the fairway was hit or not, the total score through that hole, and the score relative to par through that hole.
    • Time View – Displays the time as well as the elapsed time for the round, which begins once a course is selected.
    • Measurement View – Activated when you press the “Mark Ball” button and then the “OK” button, this view displays the distance away from where you were when the “OK” button was pressed. You can switch to other views, and even change settings, while continuing to measure your shot, but shot distances cannot be saved.
  • Hole handicap information is not available on the SkyCaddie LINX.
  • Users cannot add custom points to the course data, nor can they modify any existing map information.


96 / A

FEATURES

  • Shot Tracking. The LINX can measure shot distances, and will continue to do so even if you toggle to different screens or even change menu settings. There is no ability to save the shot distance information or link the distances to clubs in order to calculate average shot distances.
  • Auto-advance. The SkyCaddie LINX can be set to automatically advance to the next hole during play. Manually changing holes is easily done through the up/down buttons. Note that you can exit an ongoing round to access the Settings menu to turn auto-advance on or off and then return to the round with your scoring and statistics intact.
  • Scoring. You can track your score (but only your own score, as there’s no ability to score for others) throughout the round. There is no ability to turn on/off scoring, so you will always need to manually enter the scoring view.
  • Statistics.The SkyCaddie LINX enables the tracking of a number of statistics, including the number of putts, the number of greens in regulation (which is automatically determined by the LINX based on the par for the hole, your score on the hole and the number of putts), whether the fairway was hit or missed, and whether it was missed left or right, as well as the time of the round.
  • Scoring and Statistics Evaluation.You can save your rounds to the SkyCaddie LINX and view the scores and statistics on the watch itself. You can sync the LINX to the SkyGolf 360 mobile app, where there are a wealth of analysis tools, including your fairway percentage, GIR percentage and putting average. You can also see reports comparing your averages against other SkyGolf 360 members. Our primary beef with SkyGolf 360 is that the app is as slow as molasses – prepare yourself to wait for a few seconds every time you push a button. It also occasionally freezes entirely.
  • Notifications. The LINX will automatically synch with your phone calendar, chime to notify you of any upcoming events and display a slow scroll of text with the title of the event. It will also notify you of any incoming phone calls or text messages (but not show the content of the text).
  • Miscellaneous. Want an odometer? The LINX has got you covered, tracking the time you began and ended your workout, your average pace, maximum pace, average speed, maximum speed and calories burned. Within the settings menu you can set your gender, age, height and weight, which presumably factor into the calories burned calculation. Each “workout” session can be saved to the watch and reviewed later.
  • Preferences. The SkyCaddie LINX offers a broad range of adjustable settings, including how the time is displayed, unit of measurement (yards or meters), the distance from the tee at which the LINX will anticipate displaying targets (from 50 to 500 yards), whether you receive alerts from your phone, the chimes provided by the watch, backlight time, language (English or French), the appearance of the display (black on white or white on black), and whether the watch goes into “sleep” mode at certain times of the day.

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


96 / A

ACCURACY

The LINX returned distances within our standard expected range of variance for GPS devices, usually plus or minus up to 4 yards from actual distances (based on marked sprinkler heads).


91 / A-

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: The SkyCaddie LINX golf GPS watch retails for $224.95, which is right at the average among golf watches.

Fees for Access to Course Database: The LINX only comes with the “Go Play” package, which provides distances to the front, center and back of the green. For $19.95/year (or $49.95 for three years), you can upgrade to the “Par” package, which adds synching to SkyGolf 360. To really exploit the capabilities of the watch, however, you have to fork out $49.95/year (or $129.95 for three years) for the “Pro” package, which, in addition to the “Par” enhancements, also adds IntelliGreen (shapes of the actual green) and distances to hazards, layup points, et al.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: Including the fees for access to the full richness of the course database, the three-year total cost for the SkyCaddie LINX rises to $354.90 (based on purchase of the 3-year Pro Plan). This moves the SkyCaddie LINX up into the stratosphere of golf GPS watches, within spitting distance of the $399.99 Garmin S6 watch.

Value: There are a number of valuable features on the LINX, and the addition of all of the targets in SkyCaddie’s course mapping database makes it much more useful. The yearly subscription fee still irritates us, but loyal SkyCaddie users probably won’t blink about it.


Bushnell Pro X7 JOLT

The Bushnell Pro X7 JOLT Slope rolls out in 2014 as the top-of-the-line tournament-legal laser rangefinder from Bushnell, replacing the Bushnell Pro 1M. The Bushnell Pro X7 retains the horizontally held form factor (and much the exact design) as well as the capabilities of the Pro 1M, and adds Bushnell’s “JOLT” feature (originally released in the Bushnell Pro V3 Slope) that provides vibrating bursts to indicate that the X7 has locked onto a target. The Pro X7 offers the next generation E.S.P. (“Extreme. Speed. Precision.”), that purports to provide yardages faster and more accurately than before. It remains the largest and heaviest laser rangefinder, with a steep price tag. But if you are looking for 7x magnification, this is the (only) way to go.

The majority of the features of the Pro X7 will be familiar to those who know the Bushnell Pro 1M, including Bushnell’s Vivid Display Technology (think red text and crosshair in the display), distances to ½ yard, range from 5 to 550+ yards, waterproof and with a 2 year warranty.

Retail price: $499.00
Amazon.com: Check price now

Ed. note: scoring based on our review of the Bushnell Pro 1M


A marketing video for your viewing delight:


Laser Link XL1000

What on earth?! Laser Link gets crazy with their announcement of a golf laser rangefinder that breaks with their traditional and well-known pistol shaped design. As with most laser rangefinders on the market, the XL1000 is held vertically up to the eye and can target objects other than flagsticks with reflective prisms. The XL1000 introduces magnification (6x) for the first time into the Laser Link family, and the ability to scan across multiple objects for distance readings.

Years ago Laser Link first started to see the limitations in focusing entirely on reflective flagstick prisms (their Smarty and SmartStick), and a rangefinder that can only pick up distances to these reflective prisms, the Laser Link Quick Shot. This led to their introduction of lasers that can target any feature on the golf course: the Laser Link Red Hot, Switch, and White Magic starting a few years ago. The vertically held XL1000 with internal LCD and 6x magnification is the next step in competing with the rest of the laser rangefinder market. Other XL1000 specs include a body size of 4″ x 3″ x 1.5″, a marketed weight of 7.5 ounces with battery, ability to measure in yards or meters, and a waterproof design. But will the Laser Link be able to keep up when stepping in to this new (to them) market? Stay tuned.

Retail price: $359.00
Amazon.com: Check price now


Bushnell Pro X7 JOLT Slope

The Bushnell Pro X7 JOLT Slope takes its place in 2014 as the top-of-the-line laser rangefinder from Bushnell, replacing the Bushnell Pro 1M Slope. The Bushnell Pro X7 retains the horizontally held form factor (and much the exact design) as well as the capabilities of the Pro 1M, and adds Bushnell’s “JOLT” feature (originally released in the Bushnell Pro V3 Slope) that provides vibrating bursts to indicate that the X7 has locked onto a target. The Pro X7 Slope, of course, returns slope-adjusted distances, and offers the next generation E.S.P. (“Extreme. Speed. Precision.”), that purports to provide yardages faster and more accurately than before. It still is the largest and heaviest laser rangefinder, with a price tag that will make some reconsider. But if you are looking for 7x magnification, this is the (only) way to go.

The majority of the features of the X7 will be familiar to those who know the Bushnell Pro 1M Slope, including Bushnell’s Vivid Display Technology (think red text and crosshair in the display), distances to ½ yard, range from 5 to 550+ yards, waterproof and with a 2 year warranty.

Retail price: $599.00
Amazon.com: Check price now

Ed note: score based on our review of the Bushnell Pro 1M Slope


A marketing video for your viewing delight:


The Lodge at Erin Hills

Erin Hills is nestled in the rolling hills of Wisconsin, about a 45-60 minute drive northwest of Milwaukee and just over 2 hours from Chicago. The golf course, first opened in 2006, will be the site of the 2017 U.S. Open, has already hosted the 2011 U.S. Amateur and 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, and is ranked #10 by Golf Digest in its list of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses. An 11 room lodge and four villas provide quaint, if not spartan, accommodations, while the on-site culinary options are restricted to a full menu at the restaurant in the Clubhouse and a bar menu at the Irish Pub.

We chose to utilize GoRiteway, the transportation service recommended on the Erin Hills web site, to provide van service from the Milwaukee airport. Given the surly desk attendant at the airport and the one hour wait for a shuttle after our arrival (even though we provided our arrival time as part of the reservation), we would probably just rent a car next time. We do note that the drivers were quite pleasant, and the trip back from the resort was fine.

After pulling into the resort you arrive at the Clubhouse, which, like the other buildings on site, features exteriors of weathered wood and stone that blend smoothly into the surroundings. You proceed through the lobby of the Clubhouse to the desk at the Pro Shop, which serves double duty for checking in and out of the resort and for your tee times.

Erin Hills

Click for views
SCORE
86
GRADE
B
Service
94
Accommodations
80
Fitness Center
N/A
Spa
N/A
Pro Shop
84
Food
85
Integration
89
Value
90

The Lodge is a short walk down a few sets of stairs from the Clubhouse, and is situated between the practice facility and the first tee. The Irish Pub on the first floor has one main bar room, which extends into a back lounge with televisions and poker tables, and a separate conference room (we understand that Erin Hills hosts many Corporate events…time for a Critical Golf off-site!). The pub leads outdoors to a porch with rocking chairs where you can smoke your cigar and tell tall tales about your shots of the day. You can also enjoy the sunset on the outside patio, which has tables and three fire pits overlooking the first hole. The other buildings on site are two large “barns” that operate as shacks for caddies and equipment, as well as for events.

The most endearing aspect of the Lodge at Erin Hills is the service – the staff, particularly within the restaurant, are all unfailingly welcoming, friendly, and willing to please. Perhaps it’s just the personality of the Midwest, but it’s terrifically refreshing for those of us coming from other parts of the country. It’s hard to understate the goodwill engendered by the genuine and engaging interactions we had with a variety of staff members.

Some of that goodwill, however, was eroded by our experience in the rooms. We booked single rooms within the Lodge, which is designed to resemble an inn one might stumble upon in the Irish countryside, complete with “antique furnishings” and “simple elegance.” The motif was fine, but the inferior finishes, cramped quarters, noise level and failures with modern technology in the room (see “Accommodations” below) led to a subpar experience. There are 11 rooms located on three floors of the Lodge, a combination of singles, one double, and one two-bedroom suite. The ground floor is predominantly occupied by the Irish Pub, with the bulk of the rooms on the second and third floors.

The Lodge at Erin Hills takes pride in the purity of its focus on golf, and we appreciate some aspects of that experience, such as the rules on walking-only and the convenience of being literally steps away from the first tee and the driving range/practice area. The lack of a fitness center, hot tub and massage facility…not so much.

We enjoyed our stay at Erin Hills – the grounds are picturesque, the people are fantastic, and the golf is spectacular. These factors, combined with relatively low price points both for the lodging and food, helped offset some hiccups with the rooms. On a future trip, we would probably opt for staying in one of the free-standing villas, which should alleviate the noise problems and provide a bit more space with a central common room that includes a fireplace and wet bar.

Another option if you have a bit more time and would like to play some additional golf is to stay at Whistling Straits, which is about an hour and a half drive from Erin Hills. There are multiple accommodation options near Whistling Straits and four spectacular courses, including the Straits course, the site of the 2004, 2010 and 2015 PGA Championships, the 2007 U.S. Senior Open and the 2020 Ryder Cup.


94 / A

SERVICE

  • Some of the brightest smiles and friendliest voices you’ll ever encounter.
  • Occasionally lacking in precision, but a solution is always sought and eventually obtained.

80 / B-

ACCOMMODATIONS

  • Rooms are small and somewhat cramped. Room layouts vary even for the singles, with some featuring closets and others making do with an armoire. The two singles to which we were assigned each had a small desk and chair.
  • Erin Hills Accommodations

    Click for views
  • Attempt to make things feel “rustic” not quite successful, and instead imbues of a sense of being run-down (i.e. plasticky shower door glass, fake plastic “candles” as light fixtures).
  • The air conditioner went out in the Lodge on one of the days of our stay – not ideal given the humidity. To the staff’s credit, they did come to one of our rooms to offer the use of a portable air conditioner for the evening…but strangely did not make the same offer to the other room, which left one of our editors a bit steamed (both literally and figuratively).
  • No minibar…so no pouring a little something out for the Pro V1s left behind in the fescue. There was coffee, tea and hot chocolate. Four complimentary bottles of water were in the room on arrival and replaced each day – no attempt to fleece you with $8 bottles of H2O…
  • Insufficient sound insulation, and the bathroom pipes made a loud knocking sound for a period of time each evening, which was not conducive to getting up for an early tee time the next morning.
  • Satellite television and a flat-screen TV (28″ LG) are nice – but there was a problem in one of the rooms where the remote worked fine on the satellite receiver, but didn’t seem paired with the TV. So we were able to change channels, but couldn’t power the TV on/off or adjust the volume.
  • Free wi-fi! But it isn’t very fast… Then again, you are on vacation, right?

N/A

FITNESS CENTER

  • No gym at all.

N/A

SPA

  • No spa or massage services available.

84 / B

PRO SHOP

  • A reasonably sized pro shop (comparable to what you would find at a typical golf course at around 1,000 square feet) with a range of brand offerings, including Peter Millar, Bobby Jones, and Polo. They carry Sunice rain gear and umbrellas for when the weather turns, as well as a handful of shoe options when your first pair gets waterlogged. There is a separate section for women in one corner of the shop.

85 / B

FOOD

Erin Hills Dining

Click for views
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner offered in the Clubhouse restaurant, while a bar menu is available in the Irish Pub only from 2:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. Drinks are available in the pub until 11:30 P.M.
  • Hearty fare – sizeable portions.
  • Reasonable pricing.
  • Entrées were well executed (with the exception of an overcooked piece of trout), but not particularly sophisticated – the duck quesadilla with a cherry salsa and the smoked trout pate appetizers were exceptionally good.
  • Menu lacking in lighter options – and no, the wedge salad with bacon doesn’t count as “light”.

89 / B+

INTEGRATION WITH GOLF COURSE

  • Rooms are just steps from the golf course and practice facility.
  • No attendant after you finish a round, so if you want clubs stored overnight, you have to seek someone out (presumably if you use a caddie they will take care of that for you).

90 / A-

VALUE

  • At $210/night for a single room with a queen sized bed, this was the least expensive rate per person among the resorts we’ve reviewed.
  • Lack of a fitness center and some sort of hot tub and/or massage option count are detriments – the idea of an intensely golf-focused resort is attractive, but a way to work out the kinks in the muscles after a long round is almost a necessity.