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SkyCaddie TOUCH

SkyGolf has begun to seriously pare down their lineup of golf GPS devices, now focusing their Tour series on the SkyCaddie TOUCH, which is the evolution of the SkyCaddie BREEZE, SkyCaddie SGX, and SkyCaddie SGXw. The TOUCH retails at a moderate entry price of $299.95, higher than the SkyCaddie BREEZE, but also requires an additional $49.95 a year (the price of a nationwide unlimited course upgrade membership). There are those who will tout the improved accuracy of having courses mapped by someone from SkyCaddie who actually walks each hole, and the annual fee does provide some additional benefits beyond course updates – access to the SkyCaddie portal and some product discounts. But $150 in annual fees over a few years sounds like an awful lot when compared to companies such as Garmin, GolfBuddy, and IZZO, who don’t charge yearly fees.

If you can get past the cost (and it’s something that we definitely struggled with), you may well be enamored with the TOUCH’s bright 3 inch glove-friendly touchscreen display that enables you to zoom in and still maintain clarity and readability. The TOUCH can hold 100 “HD” maps at a time, with full hole graphics, a display of the shape of the green and distances to the edges of the green, yardage arcs, scoring for multiple players, and simple statistic tracking. The TOUCH will also measure club distances, count the steps you take in a round, and track the elapsed time. We note that the SkyCaddie TOUCH marketing website does not mention a couple of features previously marketed by SkyCaddie: “IntelliGreen Pro” (which displays green contours) and “PinPoint” (which locates pin positions based on a pin sheet). We found PinPoint available on rare occasions with the TOUCH, but given the sparse availability, it appears SkyCaddie is no longer developing the capability or course coverage.

Given the feature set, you may think that the TOUCH is the perfect device, but while we wanted to have an exceptional experience, we found one far from it. From the start we had issues syncing, which has been a recurring problem with previous SkyCaddie products. But more importantly, we were disappointed with the user interface and performance of the TOUCH device itself – from the sensitivity of the screen, to the choice of yardages displayed, to the interaction necessary to obtain distances. We expected a step forward, but instead found instead found ourselves two steps back.

SCORE
83
GRADE
B
Setup/Syncing
70
Course Availability
99
Ease of Use
83
Course Details
96
Features
90
Accuracy
96
Cost/Value
82

Pros:

  • Bright and easy to read 3 inch color screen
  • Full graphic hole views and detail
  • Ability to customize a wide range of settings

Cons:

  • High annual fees
  • User interface issues
  • Poor responsiveness of touchscreen and response when rotating device

Retail price: $299.95
Three year total cost: $499.80
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


70 / C-

SETUP/SYNCING

As with all of the recent SkyCaddie devices that we have tested, the initial setup and syncing process flat-out stunk.

To start, we had to register the SkyCaddie TOUCH and create a free SkyGolf user account online. You can choose activation-only membership for the TOUCH for $0, which includes basic yardages, software updates and the ability to map your own course, but if you are spending the money to get a TOUCH with all of its capabilities, the free membership really won’t suffice. We selected an annual nationwide plan and downloaded the CaddieSync Express desktop software to start installing updates. The software will (try to) step you through the process of syncing your TOUCH with the latest updates. We first had issues installing the desktop software, and then experienced the pain of not knowing if updates were happening correctly. In the end it took a number of times plugging and unplugging the device to get it to work. At times the process seemed to hang, but if we left it alone, it would eventually updated a bunch of items (though the device was new): rounds, odometer data, pin location, etc. This was the smoothest part of the process, taking 30 minutes to get the device updated and the membership activated. However, upon syncing the device again, we found that our membership hadn’t activated the TOUCH, and the device required two more separate software updates. The desktop software failed to find the SkyCaddie multiple times when attempting each software update, and also crashed multiple times seemingly at the very end of the upgrade process. All of this tacked on another hour and 45 minutes of setup. One word: awful.

Assuming you are able to get everything up and running, you can then sync scores and courses via USB cable (you log in to the SkyCaddie portal and then sync from the browser) or through Bluetooth. The cable method worked smoothly, but the Bluetooth experience, via their free SkyGolf 360 app for mobile devices, was fair at best. We repeatedly received an “Unable to open Session for Device” error message from the device, and even when we didn’t, the courses just didn’t sync at all, which is a problem when you are already at the course and have forgotten to add it to the device.

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

  • Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery
  • Polishing cloth
  • Screen protector/prep cloth
  • Belt clip
  • USB cable
  • Power adapter
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Product Information Guide
  • Totally unprofessional-looking pink cropped piece of paper directing people to download the SkyGolf 360 mobile app
  • Totally unprofessional-looking random piece of paper detailing how to install the screen protector.

We only call out the instructions as “totally unprofessional” since they were totally inconsistent with the rest of the packaging. One would think that a company that has been around as long as SkyCaddie would make sure that what they deliver is relatively polished.


99 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: You may remember the pitifully low score for the SkyCaddie BREEZE in our course coverage test. So how did the TOUCH suddenly jump back to a strong score of 99?

The answer is that our course availability scores are based on the availability of maps for all marketed features for the device, under the theory that if your buying decision might be swayed by what the manufacturer claims its device can do, then they’d better provide course coverage for those features. SkyCaddie has stopped marketing two of the mapping features that it touted for the BREEZE – IntelliGreen Pro (which shows green contours) and PinPoint, which lets users enter pin sheet locations to more accurately place the pin within the hole. These features were available on only a small number of courses, which dragged down the score for the BREEZE, but no longer does so for the TOUCH.

Manufacturer’s Claims: SkyCaddie claims to have nearly 35,000 courses with standard distance information in its course database, placing it average among devices tested.


83 / B

EASE OF USE

While the TOUCH is reasonably sized and the screen is very good, it is the touchscreen experience that hold the device back.

We recommend glancing at the manual in order to better understand the behavior of some of the features and how to access some critical pieces of information, which isn’t intuitive.

SkyCaddie TOUCH

Click to enlarge

Details:

  • Screen. The SkyCaddie TOUCH has a nice 3” backlit color LCD screen (1.5” x 2.5”) that is bright enough to work well under sunny conditions.
  • Form Factor. At 4.0” x 2.3” x 0.7”, the TOUCH is reasonably small enough to keep in your pocket, although you could always use the belt clip that comes with the device. Curiously the tab to attach to the belt clip comes screwed into the back of the TOUCH, making it a bit thicker than advertised. The TOUCH weighed in at a reasonable 4.2 ounces (as tested), shedding a bit of weight from the previous SkyCaddie handhelds, perhaps as a result of eliminating the stubby antenna.
  • Buttons. The TOUCH comes with two buttons on either side of the device that require a firm press. The left button activates the menu, and the right the power/lock. The power button did not work on several occasions, forcing us to press a combination of buttons to power off the TOUCH.

    There are two additional “buttons” that are integrated into the face of the device just below the screen and enable the user to move between menu items and zoom in/out of holes. These buttons are not as responsive as we would like.

  • Touchscreen/Device Rotation. The touchscreen will display a number of softkeys to enable users to make selections, move up/down in menus, and mark points on the hole. The touchscreen was unpredictably sensitive – we would find it easy at times to tap green locations, enter our scores, and drag our finger on the screen to select target locations, then be stymied by the delay when selecting menus. One bug we experienced was that the touchscreen would sometimes highlight our menu selection, but not actually select it, so we would have to repeatedly press the same softkey to get it to respond.

    You can switch to your scorecard or an alternate green view by simply rotating the device to the left or the right. As with previous SkyCaddie devices, we found this way too easy to trigger, even in the lowest sensitivity setting – the TOUCH will frequently switch to a different screen simply when you pull it out of your pocket. This means you then have to twist the device back and forth and wait for it to revert back to the correct screen. In end we got fed up and just turned this feature off – the scorecard and green view are still easy to access through other means.

  • Navigation/User Experience. While the menus are relatively easy to navigate, there are still lots of small fixes throughout that could make for a much better user experience. There were user interface errors in selecting tee boxes, and at times the TOUCH would not display certain hole views, such as the list of targets. There are also curious design choices, such as why you need to go back a screen after entering your score – odds are pretty good that after you enter your score you’re done with the hole, so why doesn’t the TOUCH just advance to the next one?

If you are one for playing in the rain, you’ll be happy to know the device has an IPX 7 rating. In English, that means “Ingress of water in harmful quantity shall not be possible when the enclosure is immersed in water under defined conditions of pressure and time (up to 1 m of submersion and for 30 minutes).” You learn something new every day, huh?


96 / A

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

Some may recall the “Feature Packs” that were available for the SkyCaddie Breeze, which allowed the user to pick-and-choose specific packages of functionality that were available for an extra fee. SkyCaddie has reverted to the model of the Skycaddie SGXw, SkyCaddie SGX, and earlier devices, where the difference in the annual packages is based on the geographical region covered, and not the feature sets.

SkyCaddie TOUCH

Click for views

The “Basic View” on the SkyCaddie TOUCH requires no additional membership fees, and provides text distances to the near, center and far points on the green. The battery level, GPS signal strength, and time are always displayed on the TOUCH.

If you purchase one of the annual plans you will also have access to the following views:

  • HoleVue. One of SkyCaddie’s strengths is its hole view graphics, which provide exceptional detail of the hole, including hazards and tree coverage, a recommended line of play, and several yardage arcs that impart quick context on distances. Depending on the hole length, there can be up to two additional levels of zoom. You can move through these levels by pressing the keys below the screen, or wait for the TOUCH to automatically zoom in to the remaining portion of the hole as you advance toward the green, though we experienced some bugs with this capability.

    Some of the issues we encountered with HoleVue include:

    • Yardages would overlap: hole, to green, arcs, and distance to point/green.
    • We experienced a number of holes where we sometimes were able to zoom, but then other times were not.
    • In some cases holes images would be cropped or off-center, making target selections difficult.
    • When you select a target point on the screen with your finger, you will see the distance to that point, but the TOUCH will not simultaneously display the distance to the green to allow you plan a shot ahead. In order to get that information, you need to zoom in at least one level, and the distance to the green only appears once you are done selecting the point and let go.
    • Hazard distances are not shown in the initial view, which is a real bummer. To see distances to hazards you need to zoom in to least one level. And even after you have zoomed, there are still points that are shown on the screen (target points are shown as yellow dots), but for which distances were not provided, even though they were relevant and there was room to display them on the screen.
    • The screen does not display the par of the hole. To see the par for the hole you need to tap the softkey/box displaying the direct distance to green (not exactly intuitive), which then also shows also the hole handicap and distances to near and far green points.

    Overlapping the hole graphic are a number of softkeys – the current hole number (which will take you to a screen to choose the hole you want to see), the direct distance to the green (to get the data described in the last bullet point above), a golf ball icon (to track shot distances), a scorecard (to see and enter scores), and an eye icon (to change views). The TOUCH display doesn’t have the smarts we would like, with hole information (hole number, distance to center of green) sometimes overlapping more relevant distance information.

  • Target List. Displays a constantly-updating text list of hazards, carries and layups between the player and hole. While most of our time was spent in full hole view, the target list is helpful for quickly reviewing a few hazard distances without needing to touch each point on the screen.
  • IntelliGreen. SkyCaddie’s excellent IntelliGreen view provides an image of the green and its immediate surroundings that is rotated based on your actual position relative to the green. There are distances to near, center and far points of the green, and you can tap the screen to place the flagstick. Distances are also available to the edges of the green both horizontally and vertically. On a select few courses, SkyCaddie’s PinPoint feature is available, which enables you to enter the pin sheet position for that day and have the TOUCH automatically put the flagstick in the center of the appropriate section of the green. It is actually a nice feature, but sadly rarely available.

Curiously, when moving through screens, you always will advance in the same order: full hole, green view, target/hazard list, basic text view. On the tee box of a par-4 or 5, it seems premature to go to the green view after the full hole – seems to us like it would make more sense to go to the target/hazard list first.


90 / A-

FEATURES

The number of features is an asset of the SkyCaddie TOUCH. Now what is needed is a lot more polish.

Details:

  • Shot Tracking. You can easily mark their shots to measure distances. There is no ability to save shot distances. For that, you’ll want to consider devices such as the GAME Golf or the Arccos GPS golf shot tracking system.
  • Scores and Statistics. You can track your score, putts, and fairways hit (and if left/right). There is also the ability to quickly see stats for the round. Why the TOUCH will not auto-advance to the next hole after a score is entered we can’t explain.
  • Preferences. SkyCaddie has a wealth of customizable settings, including basics such as unit of distance (yards or meters), backlight, auto-off and auto-advance, and also handy preferences such as which hole views to display, and when to advance to green view.
  • Battery Life. Though you can extend your battery life by modifying the backlight and time to auto off, we found the TOUCH only lasted for about 8.5 hours, quite a bit less than the 12-14 hours marketed by the company. When the TOUCH is plugged in via USB cable to a computer or via AC adapter to an outlet it will charge automatically. A graphic will indicate the level of charge, and the device will power off when the battery is fully charged.
  • SkyGolf 360 Mobile App. SkyCaddie’s free SkyGolf 360 mobile app allows customers to upload their scores and stats, review past performance, and also download the latest course updates all via Bluetooth connection with their TOUCH. In theory this sounds great, but in practice we found the process tough-going, with syncing quite difficult overall, and cryptic error messages that we repeatedly “fixed” by quitting the app. We received messages that we last synced “-1 days ago” (it normally gives positive numbers), and we never were able to get the device to update course maps via Bluetooth. The app wasn’t very responsive, which at least makes it consistent with the device. Hmph. The stats shown on the app are fine, allowing you to review basic round information.
  • SkyGolf 360 Portal. After syncing via Bluetooth or USB cable, you can go to SkyCaddie’s online portal. About all this is good for is reviewing your past scorecards (with hole images, which we like) and round stats. Most of this portal continues to be largely useless bad data – other SkyGolf 360 users are displayed on a leaderboard with nonsense such as a best score of the week of -40.1, a golfer with a -63.3 handicap who is shown as the golfer with the lowest handicap (grr, insert multiple jokes here about +/- indices), and others who have hit 100.3% of fairways and 0.01 average putts. Now that is impressive. Impressively poor. Seriously SkyCaddie, just ditch the portal as it is.
    Though we have stopped caring at this point, in case you still do, it also links with SkyPro and SkyTrak.

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


96 / A

ACCURACY

We found the SkyCaddie TOUCH, which uses the same course database as all SkyCaddie devices, to be generally accurate within 4 yards of sprinkler head yardage readings. SkyCaddie also has a feature that many manufacturers don’t, which is the ability to show distances all the way to the green or hazards, instead of dropping off 30-50 yards in advance. It is useful to have these distances available to you, and we find that helps give players confidence in the distance readings as well.

If it hasn’t been beaten into you from all of SkyCaddie’s advertisements, we’ll say it again – SkyGolf is the only golf GPS device manufacturer that actually has someone walk the courses to get mapping data. The benefit is clear: more detail available throughout the course maps (though not always exposed in hole or target views). Other GPS companies will claim just as accurate maps through the use of satellite images, and for the most part these work well. We have found cases where satellite images are correct but the mapping is not, something we haven’t seen with SkyCaddie devices. There are always outliers with either method of mapping, however, when there are courses that need updating. And this is one of our pet peeves about SkyCaddie – high annual fees to us should support course updates shortly after course renovations, but we haven’t seen that to be the case.


82 / B-

COST/VALUE
Retail Price: The SkyCaddie TOUCH has an above-average price for the hardware only, checking in at $299.95 retail. If only that was the last you would pay for the device…

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: We wish we could say that $299.95 was the end of your cash outflow. Sadly that is not the case, as tacking on three years of an annual membership for updates to courses nationwide at $49.95 per year bumps the total up to $449.80, making it one of the most expensive golf GPS devices in terms total golf GPS cost. The annual memberships are not absolutely required, but you wouldn’t purchase a SkyCaddie if you didn’t want the features that require annual memberships.

Value: While the SkyCaddie TOUCH offers a lower entry point than some of the most full-featured handheld golf GPS devices, the recurring fees quickly ramp it up to its position as the highest priced GPS-only handheld over three years. The course coverage is excellent and mapping is extremely good, which ostensibly is the reason for the high membership fees, but an overall poor user experience and more aggressively priced competition makes us recommend that you look elsewhere first.

Retail price: $299.95
Three year total cost: $449.80
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


Bushnell Tour Z6 JOLT

The Bushnell Tour Z6 JOLT is just what the name implies…the latest iteration of the Bushnell Tour Z6, with the addition of JOLT technology, which provides vibrating bursts when the rangefinder has locked on to a target. Other than that, the device retains all the same specs as the prior generation device: vivid display technology (picture red crosshairs and distances in the display instead of black, but not an OLED display), readings from 5-125 yards with ½ yard accuracy and distances displayed to 1/10th of a yard, and 6x magnification. Well, to be fair, the company does claim that its “E.S.P.” (Extreme Speed Precision) technology has improved versus the prior generation, but if so we are talking about the edges – the original Z6 performed as well as any device in the group in our speed tests, so prospective buyers don’t need to have any fears in this regard.

It’s predecessor the Bushnell Tour Z6 scored a solid 90 in our tests, and we expect the same of the Bushnell Tour Z6 JOLT. The device retains the same introductory price point as is predecessor as well, retailing for $399. And while this price is slightly above the average price for USGA-compliant (non-slope) rangefinders, it isn’t surprising for a device featuring rubber and metal waterproof housing, 6x magnification, distances to ½ (when under 125 yards), and crosshairs and distances displayed in red.

Retail price: $399
Amazon.com: Check price now


PING 4 Series

The Ping 4 Series has been around a while, and the latest iteration introduces an attached rain hood that is snapped inside the hip pad. The legs swing out to 24 inches, a wider span that the previous 4 Series, the bracket from which the legs swing is reinforced for strength (though can’t say we have had any issues prior to this technology), and there is a leg strap to secure the legs during travel or when on a cart.

The bag features six pockets, including the industry standard velour-lined valuables pocket and structured water bottle pocket. With a slim profile and a 4-way top, the weight is kept to approximately 4.5 pounds, which makes it the lightest of the more full-featured carry bags from Ping. At that light weight if you want to use just a single strap, go ahead, or you can use the two adjustable straps (with strap slider to keep things in order) to carry backpack style. The bag also features the customary features such as umbrella holder and towel loop.

Retail price: $190
Amazon.com: Check price now

Note: Manufacturers often carry over the same name between years for carry bags, making larger changes to bag design every 2-3 years. This review is for the 2014 Ping 4 Series carry bag.


PING Hoofer

25 years after PING first introduced it as a revolutionary carry bag with legs that were activated when the bag was set down, the PING Hoofer continues on as a part of the company’s lineup. The Hoofer is the only bag in PING’s lineup offering a 5-way top (the others are 2, 4 or 14-way) with 2 full-length dividers separating the clubs. The bag weighs a somewhat portly five-and-a-half pounds, which is above average in our tests (of course we lean toward testing lighter bags that are still full-featured). The nylon and polyester bag features 8 pockets, including a water-resistant valuables pocket, a sunglasses pocket, and rangefinder and water-bottle pockets. You can never claim not to be organized with this bag!

SCORE
87
GRADE
B+
Club Storage
93
Pockets/Storage
86
Carrying Impressions
87
Rain Hood
98
Cost/Value
86

The attached rain hood snaps in a pouch underneath the cushioned hip pad. And as with the other “Enhanced Ergonomics” (E2) bags in the PING line, there are two sliding shoulder pads with a strap slider to allow for a backpack fit (though the bag can be carried using one strap as well). There is also a reinforced bracket for the legs, and a wider 24-inch leg span for this latest release. Overall, the Hoofer is a solid bag but its days of being revolutionary seem to be in the past. To add a little confusion into the mix, we have seen this bag alternately referred to as both the “Hoofer” and the “Hoofer II”.

Retail price: $189.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Note: To keep players on their toes, manufacturers often use the same model name across multiple years for carry bags, making larger changes to bag design every 2-3 years. This review is for the 2014 PING Hoofer carry bag. This Hoofer is not to be confused with the PING Hoofer 14, which has a 14-way top with 6 full-length dividers and weighs approximately ½ pound more than the PING Hoofer).


The PING Hoofer has a 9″ x 8″ reinforced 5-way top, which we think most players will be just fine with – it offers a balance between club storage and minimal sections, not too overboard as with a 14-way, and not so few that your clubs grips will get stuck together. Looking from the top of the bag, the opening is split roughly into thirds horizontally across the top by two full-length dividers, and the top two sections are then split vertically into two separate sections. This 2-2-1 split from the top of the bag works for us, and though the full-length divider might add some weight, it is minimal compared to the weight that comes from the extra features in the bag.

There are eight total pockets – seven zippered pockets and one open beverage sleeve. It’s a lot of different places to squirrel away your goods, and the tradeoff is the additional weight you’ll lug around.

  • One large garment pocket sits on the right side of the bag and is big enough for most of the gear you will need. The zipper runs the full length of the pocket, and there is a small amount of mesh at the bottom to keep smaller items from spilling out. One nice feature is the zipper on the inside of this pocket that, when open, allows you to access the “inside” of the bag, in case you accidentally drop something down the 5-way top. No more turning your bag upside-down in an attempt to retrieve a wallet or sunglasses!

    A smaller pocket sits on the outside of the garment pocket, which we use for assorted items (car keys, contacts, etc.).

    A Velour valuables pocket is accessible from the top outside of the garment pocket. For security reasons we generally prefer the valuables pocket to be accessed through the inside of the garment pocket.

  • On the lower left hand side of the bag is a medium sized pocket, which we generally used for gloves, scorecards and course guides. The zipper runs the length of the pocket, with some mesh at the bottom as well. Stacked on top of this pocket and sticking out from the bag is an open beverage sleeve. The design here will add a bit of weight to the bag, and even though it is taking up more space than most bag beverage sleeves, it isn’t insulated.
  • On the spine of the bag are three pockets stacked on top of each other. These add quite a bit of depth to the bag, and enough bulk to make for a tighter squeeze into the (albeit tiny space in the) trunk of our convertible. The largest pocket that sits on top is quite spacious, probably unnecessarily large, and was where we stored balls, tees and the like. Two other medium-sized pockets sit in between this largest pocket and the bag. We didn’t really have a need for all of these separate pockets, and eventually used the largest as storage for extra balls, then the other two for tees and balls markers, and a few balls to be readily accessible. While the pockets create a lot of options, we didn’t necessarily see the need for all of them, and would have traded them off in exchange for less weight.
  • GPS pouch. On the lower right side of the bag, sitting on the side of the pouches on the spine of the bag, is a small velour-lined pocket intended to be used as a GPS holder. The pocket has mesh at the bottom so you don’t lose your device, and holds all sizes of GPS devices, as well as smaller-sized laser rangefinders. Again, it’s nice that you can keep everything organized, but if we wanted to store our GPS device during the round, we would rather it be more conveniently located at the top of the bag. We found ourselves not using it, and it became another design element that only added more weight to the bag.
  • Not included in the pocket count is a pen/pencil holder set just off the spine on the top third of the bag.
PING Hoofer

Click for images

The Hoofer also features an adjustable cord and loop on the right side of the bag to secure an umbrella, and a plastic ring for attaching a towel, laser or GPS device of choice. There is no tee holder(s) on the bag, scorecard slot, or Velcro patch to secure a glove, available on some competing bags.

One twist (call it an innovation?) is that the PING Hoofer rain hood is stored in a zippable storage pocket underneath the hip pad. That means you are just that less likely to have left your rain hood at home. The hood includes a strap with an elastic snap to attach inside the storage pocket so the hood won’t go missing. Once you remove the hood, you have five buttons that snap to the top of the bag to secure the hood, and a portion of the base of the hood is elastic, allowing the hood to snugly fit the top of the bag without the fit issues that arise with competing bags and hoods. Well done all around.

While the PING Hoofer is a bit more bulky than we would ideally like, it is still a comfortable bag with a good amount of padding and adjustment capabilities:

  • Weight. At roughly 5 ½ pounds in a market that is increasingly moving toward lighter bags, the PING Hoofer is above average in weight among the bags we have tested. For reference, we start to see the lightest full-featured bags at just under 4 pounds.
  • Hip padding. The padded area is approximately 5″ x 10″ in size, and felt a bit more cushy than expected, perhaps due to the addition of the storage pouch for the rain hood underneath.
  • Straps. Somewhat surprisingly, there is no central back pad to which the shoulder straps attach, rather there are two separate intertwined straps. Given that weight wasn’t really a consideration in this design, we would have expected a different system, though the straps are well padded. The upside to the lack of a back pad, however, is that the bag is a bit easier to carry with just a single strap.
  • Legs. The legs hold tightly against the bag when you are carrying the bag, and easily release when set down. Note that the legs don’t have actual feet, just pegs, which can sink into wet ground. The Hoofer foot is, of course, integrated into the bag. Unfortunately, there is no strap to secure the legs when on a cart or while traveling.
  • Handles. The PING Hoofer has the three standard handles that are found on virtually every carry bag: a plastic handle that is integrated into the top rim, a nylon handle on the spoine, and a nylon trunk strap at the bottom of the bag.

From a design standpoint, if you are looking for something that will make you stand out in a crowd, it won’t be the PING Hoofer. The color options are relatively staid: black, charcoal/black/red, carbon/mach (huh?) blue, and carbon/steel/leaderboard (market THAT!) lime.

At a retail price of nearly $190, the Ping Hoofer is one of the more expensive bags in our reviews, though the price isn’t much higher than other full-featured bags. The Hoofer will have everything you want, but you’ll wind up with a bag both heavier and more bulky than others. We won’t scoff at you for buying the PING Hoofer, but there are other attractive options if you are looking to save a few bucks or want a lighter bag.

Retail price: $189.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


TaylorMade MicroLite

TaylorMade offers up its Microlite carry bag to compete in the burgeoning featherweight/superlight/sub-4 category. Despite weighing in at under 4 pounds, the Microliteoffers a reasonable set of carry bag features, including five zippered pockets, an insulated drink pouch, towel clip and pen holder. There is a 4-way top with two full-length dividers. The bag offers good but not great padding, and has a foot that slightly protrudes from the base to extend the legs.

SCORE
92
GRADE
A-
Club Storage
93
Legs/Base
91
Straps
92
Pockets/Storage
91
Rain Hood
85
Carrying Impressions
93
Style
91
Innovation
91
Cost/Value
93

The Microlite offers a good blend of a reasonable price and the functionality that most players will want. If you are okay with a bit less pocket space and fewer accessories, add the TaylorMade Microlite to the list of bags to seriously consider.

Retail price: $149.95
Amazon.com: Check price now
Model year: 2013


93 / A-

CLUB STORAGE

The TaylorMade Microlite has a 7″ x 8″ 4-way top, which is the least number of storage sections we’ve seen among carry bags with legs, but which makes sense in a bag that is looking to shed weight. Somewhat surprising, however, is that there are two full-length dividers to keep clubs sorted. Looking from the top of the bag, the opening is split into thirds horizontally across the top by two main dividers, each of which runs the full length of the bag. The middle section is further split vertically into two sections, though it does not have a full-length divider. If there are some clubs you like to put in a full-length section, and some you don’t, you’ve got a choice with this bag.


91 / A-

LEGS/BASE

The legs draw in and remain tight against the bag when it’s being carried, and release well when set down on the course. The mechanism to release the feet is outside of the base, slightly protruding from the back. We prefer carry bags with this mechanism “inside” the base so the “foot” can’t get caught on a cart, but so it is. The legs swing out far enough to provide a nice wide base.

The Microlite does not have a system to strap down the legs when traveling on a cart. Aw c’mon…would a velcro or elastic strap have added that much weight?


92 / A-

STRAPS

The Microlite shoulder straps don’t have the plethora of padding found on some of the larger and heavier bags, but they are reasonably comfortable. A main strap pad sits on the middle back and attaches to separate adjustable shoulder straps on each side of the bag. The straps are easy to fine-tune to reach the optimal balance for carrying.


91 / A-

POCKETS/STORAGE

The TaylorMade Microlite features 6 total pockets, each of which is zippered other than the beverage sleeve.

  • One good-sized garment pocket runs along the right side of the bag, with a smaller Velour (ahh, Velour!) valuables pocket along the outside of the garment pocket. The garment pocket isn’t as large as some of the biggest bags, so those who like to bring the kitchen sink may find it to be on the smaller size, but it’s certainly large enough to fit the minimum amount of foul weather gear you might bring along. From a security standpoint, we consider it a curious choice to make the valuables pocket accessible from the outside of the bag, rather than nesting it inside the main garment pocket. The valuables pocket is on the larger side among the bags we’ve tested.
  • One medium-sized and one fairly small pocket on the spine of the bag. The medium-sized pocket has netting at the bottom edges to prevent golf balls or other items from spilling out of the sides. The smaller pocket located just above the opening for the larger pouch is likely intended primarily for balls and tees, and can hold more than we can lose in a round (read: a lot).
  • One medium sized pocket on the lower left side of the bag, with an insulated sleeve for holding beverage bottles that sits on top of it. The pocket is roughly the standard size found on competing bags, a nd has netting on the side to keep everything corralled – we used it for gloves, scorecards, course guides, and so forth.
  • Not included in the pocket count is a pen holder set just off the spine on the top third of the bag.

The TaylorMade Microlite also features an adjustable cord and loop on the right side of the bag to secure an umbrella and a plastic ring for attaching a towel, laser rangefinder and/or GPS device. There is no tee holder(s), scorecard slot or Velcro patch to secure a glove.


85 / B

RAIN HOOD

The Microlite comes with a rain hood that is attached via four snap buttons – two on the top of the bag above the handle on the spine, and one on each side of the legs on the back of the bag. We would have appreciated a bit more space on the rain hood at the back of the bag.


93 / A-

CARRYING IMPRESSIONS

Although the TaylorMade Microlite pares down to keep the weight off, we didn’t notice a marked detriment in our carrying impressions. The amount of padding for both the lower back and shoulders were reasonable, if not over-the-top, and the ability to adjust the straps all made for a positive experience.

  • Weight. At only 3.9 pounds, the Microlite does indeed compete with the lightest bags we tested, and as of the time of this review was the second lightest bag tested, with only the simple Original Jones Bag weighing less. Our shoulders and back thank you, TaylorMade!
  • Padding. To keep the weight down there isn’t quite as much padding as on some other carry bags, but we still found the amount was just fine. There are three separate pieces of padding stitched onto the bag for the lower back, presumably separate pieces to both save weight and allow for ventilation. The padding on the shoulder straps was reasonable as well.
  • Handles/Straps. The Microlite features a plastic grip molded into the rim of the bag. This handle makes it easy to pick up the bag for short distances, or when stowing or removing it from a car or cart. There is also a standard handle on the spine of the bag made of nylon, with a surrounding rubber grip. Lastly, there is also a nylon trunk strap at the bottom of the bag, which again makes things easier when pulling it out of or placing it into a car trunk.

91 / A-

STYLE

TaylorMade Micro-Lite

Click for images

The design is up-to-date without being flashy (though you can sport bright orange or lime green), and features solid trim color choices on the bag as well as the straps. We withhold comment only on the royal blue/white/green color combination.

The TaylorMade Microlite comes in seven different color combinations:

  • White with black trim
  • Lime green with black trim
  • Black, with red, white and gray trim
  • Orange with black trim
  • Royal blue with white trim and green highlight
  • Black with black trim
  • Navy with white trim

91 / A-

INNOVATION

The features list in TaylorMade marketing materials for the bag doesn’t exclaim anything cutting edge about the Microlite, though there are more references to the benefits of the removable bottom pocket, to help with customization of the bag, than we might have thought necessary. Other than this, the bag provides the latest features in a lightweight bag: low weight, integrated carry handle, and comfortable and easy-to-use shoulder straps.


93 / A-

COST/VALUE

The TaylorMade Microlite is, at $149.95 retail, priced in line with its feature set. It’s priced below most of the carry bag competition, with slightly fewer features than some, but still including what the majority of what customers will likely need. If you are looking for a something on the lighter side, give the Microlite a look.

Model year: 2013


Rovic RV3F

SCORE
90
GRADE
A-
Size/Weight
82
Ease of Set-Up
93
On Course Impressions
85
Storage/Accessories
94
Style
86
Value
87

Clicgear has rebranded its lines of carts as “Rovic by Clicgear”. Not sure why the change in branding but with the new line comes new lower prices so hey, let’s roll (pun intended) with it. The RV3F is Rovic’s “full featured” cart. At 36″ tall x 16″ x 13.5″ when folded isn’t exactly compact (for that, consider the Rovic RV1C…”C for” “Compact” versus “F” for “Full Featured”) but in exchange you get a host of features. Key components include a hand brake, 3-ball clip, adjustable cup holder, accessory mount, umbrella clip and holder, 4 accessory tabs near the console, handle adjustment knob for handle height, and a storage bag.

The Rovic RV3F is a well-made cart though there are design elements that will make our eyes wander to other push carts. This includes aside from the size when folded (a serious consideration for us) and the placement of the front wheel, which sits below and slightly back of the bottom of the bag, as opposed to all other carts which have the wheel placed more forward. If you spend the day on smooth cartpaths and fairways you might not notice a difference, but once you decide to tackle a curb or rough terrain (we admit it, our golf balls wind up in the strangest places), the placement results in the cart nose-diving when hitting an object or a gopher hole, and can bring your cart to a standstill or topple over. It’s clear to us why all other carts on the market have a different design, including all other Rovic and Clicgear carts released to date. Then again, if you want a cart that offers a cigar holder as an optional accessory, perhaps this is the price you have to pay.

Retail price: $180
Amazon.com: Check price now
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Pros:

  • Solid brake lever
  • More accessories than you can imagine

Cons:

  • Lack of stability due to front wheel location
  • Still bulky when folded

82 / B-

SIZE/WEIGHT

Tested at just a hair under 19 pounds the Rovic RV3F remains in line with the rest of the Rovic/Clicgear family, leaning to the heavier end of the spectrum of golf push carts tested (compare this to the lightest cart, the Tour Trek Tahoe, at 10.5 lbs.). For those familiar with our reviews of earlier Clicgear push carts, keep in mind that the new RV3F breaks from the Clicgear tradition and doesn’t collapse into a block (as does the Rovic RV1C, but rather primarily folds in half, which results in a much larger footprint. For comparison, the RV1F collapses into 13.5″ x 16″ x 36″ (more similar to the Sun Mountain Speed Cart V1), and the RV1C into 13″ x 15″ x 24″. We find ourselves more and more enamored with the carts that collapse into smaller sizes – even with our wagon (and admittedly other junk stored in our car), piling the RV3F takes up a lot of room. More than we like.


93 / A

EASE OF SET-UP

Initial setup was quite simple. Though the manual suggested that we would need to install the front wheel and adjust the brake, our Rovic RV3F came shipped fully assembled with the exception of the front wheels. It took only a handful of minutes to slip these on, throw the washers and nuts on and tighten. Good to go. Other pieces that come with the cart were the water bottle holder and the umbrella holder, both easy to attach. A 3-ball holder was attached to the cart already.

Unfolding the Rovic is simple; just make sure the center knob is loose, then grab the handle and swing upwards. This in turn will draw the rear wheels back into position and also open up the mesh bag that is attached under the cart. No adjustments need to be made to the front wheel or brake. From there you just open the “arms” that cradle the bag. Couldn’t be easier, really.

You may wish to adjust the bottom cart arm, which can easily be pulled out to provide a deeper platform for the base of the bag, depending on your bag size. We haven’t found a need for this on most other carts, but a nice option nonetheless. In addition you will want to adjust the elastic cords that wrap around the bag and then loop together to secure. Rovic has a creative design that is easy to adjust – there are plastic loops that are designed to pinch the elastic bands that allow you to adjust the length in order to secure the bag. You just pull the cords out of their secured position, adjust as needed, and push them back into position. Easy to do and they hold quite well.

Fold the cart is just as easy, it requires only collapsing in the arms that wrap around the outside of the cart, loosening the center knob, a folding down the handle. No additional steps are required for the front or back wheels. One side note – if there are any accessories that are attached when folding, such as the included water bottle holder, you may find them popping off if they get caught on the frame. We found this relatively common if you aren’t paying attention (and who is? I’m still trying to count up my total score…).


85 / B

ON COURSE IMPRESSIONS

As with the related Clicgear 3.5+, we found the cart both well constructed and sturdy. We like the design of carts such as the Rovic that don’t have a “base”, or indeed, any significant portions of frame that are located just a few inches off the ground as with some push carts, the advantage being that you can hop over cart path curbs without fear of the cart bottoming out. Our biggest issue was with the location of the front wheel. It is quite different from the design of most carts on the market that have the front wheel aligned with the base of the bag. The RV3F instead places the front wheel “behind” the front of the bag in direction of the player, which results in a great deal of instability if you are off-roading over gopher holes and uneven ground, as we all too often find ourselves doing. This actually meant some nose-diving while on shaky ground. If you are always on nice smooth ground, then no worries.

The brake level is located between the handles and the accessory tray. It clamped down a plastic piece onto the foam like nobody’s business with a solid CLICK when raised to engage. The brake worked well when adjusted properly (even on wet mornings), and is a bit simpler than the design that engages gear notches around the wheel as in earlier Clicgear designs.


93 / A

STORAGE/ACCESSORIES

The center storage tray is quite large and easily handled all of our standard goods. We aren’t fans of the storage compartment design, however, which comes to a peak in the middle of the tray running from the player toward the bag. The result is that if a scorecard or pencil is held in place via the elastic bands on either side of the storage tray, they won’t sit entirely flush against the tray since they will extend over the raised peak. On the center storage tray are 3 holes for tee storage. The lid does not say in place with a magnetic latch as with many golf push carts, rather just clips into place securely.

Rovic RV3F Golf Push Cart

Click image to enlarge

Off the center storage tray/mount, you can clip to the accessory tabs, of which we counted 3. One was in use by the ball holder, and we attached the water bottle holder (which is designed to expand to accommodate different sized bottles – quite nice) to another. The marketing material claims 4 tabs, one of which seems to be the umbrella stand holder, which can’t be used for anything else. Not a tab, but at the bottom of the accessory tray wrapped around the frame is Velcro tab (perhaps for a glove when not in use?) plus a plastic clip for attaching a GPS, laser rangefinder, or towel.

The accessory tabs are all “universal”, so you can move the accessories to whichever tab desired to make the setup most convenient for you. And a feature that we always appreciate on push carts, a mesh storage net is easily accessible. If needed, you can remove this net.


86 / B+

STYLE

The Rovic RV3F also comes in 5 different colors: a limited edition Metallic Alien Green (you know what color aliens are, right? Sad for all of us, this color has already been discontinued), Arctic/Green, Arctic/Yellow, Charcoal/Blue and Charcoal/Black. The straight lines of the frame aren’t anything cutting edge, and the peaked storage tray isn’t for us. The curve of the handle, bottom arm, and cords to secure your bag all keep the look up-to-date.


87 / B

VALUE

Clicgear has traditionally had prices at the high end of push carts tested, but the new Rovic line brings down costs a significant amount. We expected the Rovic RV3F to be priced closer to $200, and at $180, the Rovic RV3F becomes less expensive in most cases versus well-known carts such as those from Sun Mountain.

We like the price given the looks and build quality of the product. But even if we were rollin’ in your Escalade with enough space in the trunk that we are willing to overlook the size, the location of the front wheel gives us pause, and makes us lean toward other models (such as the Rovic RV1C). But if you are always straight down the fairway on nice smooth grass, go ahead and check it out.

2014 model year


Note that Clicgear has additional push carts available in the line, including the Rovic RV1C, the more compact cart, and the Rovic RV3J (a cart for juniors that is smaller and features a foot instead of hand brake).


Rovic RV1C

The Rovic RV1C is the “compact” cart in the new series of Rovic push carts by Clicgear, and is a slight iteration to the Clicgear 3.5+. The RV1C, at 24″ tall x 15″ x 13″ is just a hair taller when folded than the Clicgear 3.5+, but otherwise offers a nearly identical feature set, though lacks a storage net under the console. The RV1C has a hand brake, console with cup holder, accessory mounts, umbrella clip and holder, and comes in 3 different colors: Charcoal/Black, Charcoal/Lime and Arctic/White.

Rovic RV1C Golf Push Cart

Click image to enlarge

Retail price: $180
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Note that Clicgear has additional push carts available in the line, including the full-featured Rovic RV3F, which adds 2 more accessory tabs, a ball clip, and storage bag, though it is much larger, and the Rovic RV3J (a cart for juniors that is smaller and features a foot instead of hand brake).