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Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

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Bushnell NEO Ghost

Want simple? The Bushnell NEO Ghost is it. The Ghost provides front, center, and back of green distances in its 1.4″ x 1.4″ LCD display, with up to four hazard distances per hole – this in addition to the part and hole number. The NEO Ghost comes preloaded with 33,000 courses, with no downloads or annual fees. There are 6 buttons on the device that allow you to move through menus, make selections, and track (but not save) shot distances. With a claimed 14 hours of battery life, you shouldn’t have a problem getting through 2 slow rounds.

Bushnell NEO Ghost

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The functionality is essentially the same as the Bushnell NEO XS watch. The deciding factor for Bushnell fans will likely be simply if they want to spend a bit more for the convenience of a watch instead of pulling the Ghost from their pocket or the attached belt clip. And while the device is quite small, with the body only 2.2″ x 2.2″ x 0.6″ in size, we are still going to give the nod to watches such as the Bushnell NEO XS, which are just that might simpler.

The waterproof NEO Ghost comes in four colors: black, white, ghost, and neon green, and has a 1 year warranty.

Retail price: $129.99
Three year total cost: $129.99
Amazon.com: Check price now

For more detail, check out the the marketing video below.


Callaway ECLIPSE

The Callaway ECLIPSE (manufactured and supported by IZZO) offers yet another new form factor to the range available for golf GPS devices. We are struggling, however, to figure out the target market for the Callaway ECLIPSE. You can clip the device to your belt or bag, and then quickly detach it and carry it in your pocket. Um, or you could simply get a dedicated handheld or a watch and call it a day.

Callaway ECLIPSE

Click for images

If you do require this versatility, well…please leave a comment below letting us know why you like it so much. After that, head out and enjoy the 30,000+ preloaded courses, and (fixed, unfortunately) front, center and back or green distances, as well as distances to hazards and doglegs. The ECLIPSE also includes scoring features, putts and GIR tracking. It’s straightforward and may be all that many need, but the the price is on the high side for what it offers, and we think the ECLISPE is going to have tough sledding against comparatively priced dedicated handheld units as well as the increasing number of golf watches available.

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


ScoreBand Golf Watch

While we had high hopes for the ScoreBand Golf Watch as an extremely reasonably priced golf GPS watch, it ultimately failed to deliver on its promise. Having hazard information and scoring on the watch is a great start, but flawed execution, in terms of the user interface, a software bug that we discovered, and no way to update course maps, left us with the impression that ScoreBand still has work to do in polishing its products.

We weren’t wowed by the look of the ScoreBand Golf either. The watch is bulky to begin with, and the amount of plastic used on the body of the ScoreBand Golf made it look cheap.

We’re still optimistic that someone will bring a great low-priced watch to the market, and will certainly follow ScoreBand as they develop, but at this point we would probably steer bargain-seeking buyers toward entry-level products from the more established brands.

SCORE
84
GRADE
B
Setup/Syncing
81
Course Availability
96
Ease of Use
80
Course Details
82
Features
80
Accuracy
86
Cost/Value
84

Pros:

  • Lowest priced golf GPS watch in our tests
  • Hazard information
  • Scoring (but not statistics)

Cons:

  • Raw product – we found a software bug and it’s not clear whether course updates are available
  • Big and bulky

Retail price: $149.95
Three year total cost: $149.95
Amazon.com: Check price now


81/ B-

SETUP/SYNCING

ScoreBand GPS Watch

Click to enlarge
  • The charging clip is not one of our favorites – it never solidly clips on to the watch, so you’re frequently unsure of whether it’s properly connected or not.
  • Kudos to ScoreBand for providing a wall charger to go along with the charging cable! (None of the other watches we’ve tested come with a wall charger.) ScoreBand claims that you can completely recharge the watch in 2 hours.
  • There is no readily evident way to update the course database on the ScoreBand Golf. There are links on the web site to download courses in North America or outside of North America, but neither the instruction manual nor the web site shed any light on how you actually get that file on to the watch.
  • Firmware updates can be downloaded to the device, but there is no user-friendly interface for doing so. We had to look up the instructions in the manual in order to download the file to a desktop computer, connect the device, open it as if it were an external drive, and drag the update file into a specific folder. We were able to muddle our way through it, but this is not something that you want to introduce to your technophobe mom. The firmware update did not fix the scoring bug that we identify in “Features” below.


96 / A

COURSE AVAILABILITY

  • Critical Golf Test: The ScoreBand Golf scored a respectable 96% 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 the only way to check course availability on the ScoreBand web site is to download a PDF listing all of their courses in North America. It would nice if somebody at ScoreBand would fix the pagination of the PDF, since the last column of text rolls over on to its own page!
  • Manufacturer’s Claims: ScoreBand’s web site claims more than 27,000 worldwide courses are available on the ScoreBand Golf, and while that sounds like an awful lot, it places it last in 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.


80 / B-

EASE OF USE

  • While the ScoreBand Golf is a relatively large watch, the screen does not take advantage of the available space– it only occupies a square area of about .875” x .875”, making for about 0.77” square inches of viewing area.
  • The ScoreBand Golf is a hefty 2.2 ounces (as tested), making it one of the heaviest golf GPS watches we have tested. The watch is available in only one color scheme – a gray and black body with a black band made of rubber. A “keeper” loop holds the excess length of the band in place.
  • Navigating through the functions of the ScoreBand Golf is done through the use of four fixed buttons on the watch, each of which has two functions – power/escape, OK/shot, up/score, and mode/down. There is no touch screen. Utilizing the features of the watch required some research in the manual and a bit of practice – there was a lot of pressing and holding of various buttons. For example, we thought we had hit a dead end in trying to start a round for the first time. We found the “Play Golf” mode easily enough, but when we launched it, the watch just showed a satellite icon and displayed the signal strength. We had to delve into the manual to discover that you had to hit “OK” again from that satellite screen to continue (there was no screen prompt). We did not find the ScoreBand Golf to be particularly intuitive, so this is not the best device for those who are not tech savvy.
  • ScoreBand claims 8-10 hours of battery life while using GPS. After a single three-hour round (dawn patrol!) the battery meter was still showing 3 out of 4 bars remaining.

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


82 / B-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

ScoreBand Watch

Click for images
  • The ScoreBand Golf features hazard information as well as distances to the front, middle and back of the green.

    • Hole View – Shows the hole number, the distances to the front, middle and back of the green, the par for the hole, and your score for the hole if you have already entered it (but not your total score or where you are relative to par).
    • Hazard View –displays icons of hazards, placing them on the left or right of a center line to indicate whether they are on the left or right of the fairway, and indicating distances to reach or carry the hazard. The ScoreBand Golf isn’t consistent in the distance it chooses to display (reach or carry), although we saw a preponderance of “reach” distances. For whatever reason, the Hazard View will also display the distance to the tee for the hole – maybe so you know how far you have to sprint back after you can’t find your initial tee shot?
    • Shot Measurement View – Holding down the “OK/SHOT” 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.
  • Hole handicap information is not available on the ScoreBand Golf.
  • The battery meter can only be viewed if you exit out of the round.


80 / B-

FEATURES

  • Auto-Advance. The ScoreBand Golf 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. The ScoreBand Golf enables to track your own score, but not that of your partners. There is no statistics tracking on the device.
  • Scoring Evaluation. The ScoreBand Golf will store up to 10 scorecards – these past scorecards can only be reviewed on the watch itself (there is no integration with a web page or a mobile app). If you find that you made an error in entering your score on a hole, you can edit the scorecard even after it has been saved. We could not, however, find any way to delete rounds from the watch. Note that we found a bug in the scorecard function – for your overall score, the device doesn’t just sum up your front and back nines, but rather it tacks on the total par for the course as well. So the 80 we put up appeared as 152 on the watch. That’s the kind of thing that shouldn’t slip past the quality control folks. As noted earlier, this bug was not fixed in the firmware update that we installed.
  • Shot Tracking. As mentioned above you can measure shot distances on the ScoreBand Golf, but cannot save the distances nor link them to a particular club.
  • Watch Features. The ScoreBand does not have traditional watch features – no alarm, stopwatch or countdown timer. Strangely, while the time on the ScoreBand Golf cannot be set manually – it is determined through GPS –you still have to manually choose the time zone. It isn’t clear to us why the watch doesn’t just automatically adjust the time zone based on your location.
  • Preferences. The ScoreBand Golf has a number of adjustable settings, including how long the backlight remains on (either 15 seconds, or on all of the time), the screen contrast, whether “night mode” (this is not described in the manual, but it appears to be whether the screen is illuminated every time you press a button) is enabled, whether or not daylight savings time is in effect, the format (12 or 24 hours) in which time is displayed, whether the sound is on or off, the unit of measurement (yards or meters), and the language (choose from English, Chinese, German, French, Spanish or Dutch).

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


86 / B

ACCURACY

The ScoreBand Golf 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). The device stops displaying the distance to a point (whether it’s a hazard or the front, middle or back of the green) once you are within 15 yards of that point.

We did encounter one instance of an outdated course map, as a course that has been re-routed for almost two years had not been updated (other course databases have accurate maps of this course).


84 / B

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: The ScoreBand Golf GPS watch retails for $149.95, which makes it the least expensive golf GPS watch in our tests.

Fees for Access to Course Database: There are no additional fees for course map updates to the ScoreBand Golf – of course there doesn’t seem to be any way to update the course maps either.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no additional yearly fees (or ability) to download the latest course information, the three-year total cost for the ScoreBand Golf remains $149.95. At this price point, it is the least expensive golf GPS watch in our tests.

Value: While the ScoreBand Golf is inexpensive as far as golf GPS watches go, the rawness of the product make it a little difficult to endorse for value. There are watches priced slightly higher that are much more polished products, such as the Bushnell NEO XS, which goes for about $50 more, but has a more elegant design and better fit and finish.

Retail price: $149.95
Three year total cost: $149.95
Amazon.com: Check price now

And a little video:


Callaway 300

Callaway leverages its new relationship with IZZO to introduce the Callaway 300 Laser Rangefinder. It is reasonably priced, offering an LCD display and 6x magnification (the minimum we recommend), accuracy to +/- 1 yard (standard), and distances in yards and meters. The device has “Pin Acquisition Technology (P.A.T.)” mode, which locks onto the pin from up to 300 yards away, and is the equivalent to competitor’s PinSeeking/PinHunting/First Target Priority mode. The Callaway 300 is waterproof and fog proof, and comes with carry case included. It continues the line of entry-level laser rangefinders that Callaway has offered in the past.

The Callaway 300 comes in white/grey/black, with a soft outer case. The device itself is 4.25″ x 3″ x 1.75″, 7.6 ounces, and is powered via CR2 3V lithium battery, and carries a 1 year warranty (serviced by IZZO).

Callaway 300 Laser Rangefinder

Click for images

Retail price: $279.99
Amazon.com: Check price now







Leupold GX-1i2

Enhancements in the Leupold GX-1i2 from the prior version is slight (so if you have the highly rated Leupold GX-1i it probably isn’t worthwhile to run out and upgrade), and includes a slightly different size, 50% more actuations (up to >6K before a new battery is needed), and an improved pin-seeking capability (“Pinhunter 2”) which Leupold markets as even better at picking up flagsticks and filtering out background objects.

The Leupold GX-1i2 has an plastic shell and an LCD display, all in a solid form factor. Curiously, while lacking slope readings, it is still the largest Leupold rangefinder, though at 4.2″ x 3.0″ x 1.6″, only by a slight margin. The plastic shell keeps the weight down to 6.8 ounces.

Distance readings are up to 800 yards, and flagstick range to 400 yards at +/- six inches. The Leupold GX-ai2 can provides distances while panning, and also lock on to flagsticks equipped with prisms via its “Prism Lock” technology (it will emit an audible beep if you like). There are a wacky 7 (!) aiming reticles to select from as well. Other features consistent with the prior version include Fog Mode, distances in yards/meters, and 6x magnification.

Leupold GX-1i2 Laser Rangefinder

Click to enlarge

We found the original PinCaddie performance didn’t match that of the rest of the line or the competition, and we don’t expect that to change with the PinCaddie 2. It still has a lower maximum targeting range as well, an indicator that is worthwhile to compare across devices.
At just under $400 the Leupold GX-1i2 isn’t inexpensive, but we have found that Leupold laser rangefinders (excluding the PinCaddie line) so be of consistently high quality.

Retail price: $374.99
Amazon.com: Check price now



Leupold Pincaddie 2

Leupold continues to get more aggressive with their entry golf laser rangefinder, with the Leupold PinCaddie 2 now at under $250 is one of the lower priced laser rangefinders in our tests. The PinCaddie 2 has an LCD display and features Leupold’s always-on PinHunter technology (targets nearest object), 6x magnification, and scanning mode.

The PinCaddie 2 doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that other Leupolds do, lacking Fog Mode, a slightly different menu, no aiming crosshair style option and no Prism Lock. It has a red and black sheet, and is the smallest and lightest Leupold, at 3.6″ x 2.9″ x 1.4″ and 6.3 ounces. The device, unlike the original PinCaddie, has a warranty that matches the rest of the lineup of Leupold laser rangefinders.

Leupold PinCaddie 2 Laser Rangefinder

Click to enlarge

We found the original PinCaddie performance didn’t match that of the rest of the line or the competition, and we don’t expect that to change with the PinCaddie 2. It still has a lower maximum targeting range as well, an indicator that is worthwhile to compare across devices.

Retail price: $249.99
Amazon.com: Check price now







Nikon COOLSHOT 40

The Nikon COOLSHOT 40 is the mid-level golf laser rangefinder in the Nikon COOLSHOT lineup, improving on the previously introduced Nikon COOLSHOT 20. The COOLSHOT 40 offers a similar white and blue design, with 6x magnification and scanning for up to 8 seconds. The device has first target priority mode, but unlike the Nikon COOLSHOT 20, you can toggle this off so you can measure distances to targets in the background. Distance accuracy is increased from the Nikon COOLSHOT 20 down to 0.5 yard and range up to 650 yards, and its rainproof too…

The Nikon COOLSHOT 40 is slightly larger and heavier than the Nikon COOLSHOT 20, at 4.4″ x 2.8″ x 1.4″ and 160g, understandable given the more powerful rangefinding capabilities, which allow flagsticks to be targeted at 450 yards, up sharply from the 250 yard maximum for the Nikon COOLSHOT 20. And no waiting…distances are displayed in 0.5 seconds.

Nikon COOLSHOT 20

Click to enlarge

Retail price: $299.99
Amazon.com: Check price now









Nikon COOLSHOT 20

The Nikon COOLSHOT 20 is the entry level golf laser rangefinder from Nikon, replacing the original Nikon COOLSHOT. Differences are slight, with a modified white and blue design, and a slightly less powerful laser. It still maintains, however, 6x magnification, and scanning for up to 8 seconds.

The Nikon COOLSHOT 20 is, at 3.6″ x 2.9″ x 1.5,” the smallest and lightest Nikon golf laser rangefinder, and marketed by Nikon at a mere 125g excluding battery. The device retains 6x magnification, has “First Target Priority” as all previous Nikon rangefinders have had, seeking the nearest object in its line of sight, and can scan across objects for up to 8 seconds. Distance accuracy versus the original COOLSHOT slightly declines, increasing to increments of 1 yard versus 0.5 yards, and maximum distance to flagsticks is only 250 yards. Then again, this Nikon retails for just under $200, which at the low end of laser rangefinders.

Nikon COOLSHOT 20

Click to enlarge

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







ScoreBand Pulse

I wonder…can you see beads of sweat on the golf laser manufacturers foreheads? Time will tell with the release of the ScoreBand Pulse and it’s retail price of under $180. That is not a misprint. Whoa. You might not have heard of them yet, but they do have reasonable distribution across the country.

While you might not expect much at such an aggressive price point, the ScoreBand comes with 6x magnification, scanning mode, flag-lock mode, and claims accuracy to +/- 1 yard. So what’s the downside? Well, you give up maximum distances, with the device only ranging 250 yard range to a flag, and 400 yard range otherwise, which is less the others in our comparison. We haven’t taken the ScoreBand for a test yet, but in general we have found that rangefinders with lower total range capabilities do not perform at the same level as others. Time will tell.

ScoreBand Pulse

Click for images

The Pulse has the ability to toggle between yards and meters, auto shut off, and a low battery indicator on the display. At 4″ x 3″ x 1.5″ and 150g, the ScoreBand Pulse is compact and light, and the device comes with a CR2 3 volt battery, carrying case and lens cloth. Hey, at this price point, we better mention those things!

Retail price: $179.99
Amazon.com: Check price now





Nikon COOLSHOT 40i

The Nikon COOLSHOT 40i was released concurrently with the Nikon COOLSHOT 40, and is the latest top-of-the-line golf laser rangefinder. The COOLSHOT 40i offers all of the same functionality as the 40, including 6x magnification and scanning for up to 8 seconds, along with excellent distance accuracy to 0.5 yard and range up to 650 yards with readings every 0.5 seconds. The device has first target priority mode, but unlike the Nikon COOLSHOT 20, you can toggle this off so you can measure distances to targets in the background.

The Nikon COOLSHOT 40i is the same size and weight as the Nikon COOLSHOT 40, at 4.4″ x 2.8″ x 1.4″ and 160g, and is waterproof as well.

In addition to all this, the COOLSHOT 40i provides slope adjusted distances. The COOLSHOT 40i offers a different color scheme than the 40, a darker color (maybe to imply that you are receiving, ahem, assistance?). But that’s ok, i you are looking for Nikon optics plus slope adjusted distances, you’ve come to the right place.

Nikon COOLSHOT 20

Click to enlarge

Retail price: $399.99
Amazon.com: Check price now









Sun Mountain Front 9

Sun Mountain’s offering into the superlight/ultra-light category is their Front 9, which at 4 pounds with the rain hood on, is the lightest and most stripped-down of Sun Mountain’s carry bags. Don’t think of it as small though – they would prefer you consider it to be “efficient.” And we’ll agree with them on this one – the Sun Mountain Front 9 offers a 3-way top, surprisingly with full length dividers, and the six pockets make it functional. We are big fans of walking the course, and the light bags available nowadays certainly make that more attractive for a wider range of players.

There are a handful of features that most players will want in a bag: at least a few sections for clubs, some pockets to store valuables, a rain jacket, balls and tees, and a beverage container. And this bag has all of that, in a lightweight package. Oh, and if the bag still isn’t light enough for you, don’t forget to consider picking up a push cart.

Retail price: $169.99
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 2015 Sun Mountain Front 9 carry bag.


SCORE
87
GRADE
B+
Club Storage
86
Pockets/Storage
84
Carrying Impressions
92
Rain Hood
93
Cost/Value
86

Somewhat humorously, Sun Mountain makes a point of marketing the Front 9 as “big enough to carry a full set of clubs.” I guess they were worried that people would confuse their bag with one of those quiver-style bags. Yes, we tested this assertion. And yes, all 15 clubs fit just fine. Hey, wait a minute! Dangit Myles, did you not count the clubs again?!

Our 14 clubs fit smoothly in Sun Mountain’s new 8.5″ oval top, which features a slight flared opening at top. At about only ½” of flare, this didn’t greatly impact our experience with the bag, but hey, at least someone is trying to innovate, right? And it did help a bit with sliding clubs back in or drawing them out.

Sun Mountain Front 9

Click to enlarge

The 3-way top divides the bag into a 1-2 pattern, with only a single full length divider running horizontally. Having at least one full length divider is important – with very few sections, a lack of a divider would result in lots of grips getting tied up in the bag. No doubt some players will be fine with the 3-way top, though we prefer a little more organization, say five sectors in a nice 1-2-2 pattern.

If you are overjoyed at being able to carry all 14 clubs in your bags, you’ll be elated at the pockets and storage available:

  • One large garment pocket that runs virtually the entire length of the right side of the Front 9 and is as spacious as one found in larger bags. On the outside of this pocket is a velour-lined valuables pocket. No pockets are available on the inside of the large garment pocket.
  • On the lower left hand side of the bag is a very good-sized pocket, which we generally used for gloves, scorecards and course guides. This pocket is actually quite a bit larger than you would typically see, perhaps to make up for the bag having fewer pockets overall, but also to balance the beverage sleeve. The sleeve, which is accessed from the outside of this pocket, extends into the pocket, unlike most other designs that keep the pocket and sleeve separate. The beverage sleeve is not insulated and is a bit shorter than most.
  • On the spine of the bag sit two pockets, which is a relatively standard design in carry bags. The bottom pocket is larger, which we generally used for all of our odds and ends, and a medium sized pocket sits just above, though like the beverage sleeve, it extends “into” the larger pocket, thus sharing the same overall space.
  • Not included in the pocket count is a pen/ holder, located on the right side of the pocket on the base of the bag on the spine. We would prefer this at the top of bag where it would be more accessible.

The Sun Mountain Front 9 has a cord and loops to hold and secure an umbrella, and a nylon towel loop at the top of the bag. There are no other frills, so don’t bother searching for tee holders, a scorecard slot or Velcro to secure your glove.

The “DRY HOOD” (hey, why not name it?) is a DuPont Teflon coated cover that has 2 buttons at the back of the hood to attach to the top of the bag, and a combination of two more buttons and Velcro to attach it at the front. Easy to put on when the rain hits.

Nice and light is how we like our golf carry stand bags, and that is the takeaway carrying impression:

  • Weight. Tipping the scales at only 4 pounds, including rain hood, the Front 9 bag is in one of the lightest bags we have tested, in the thick of the ultralight/superlight category. Unless manufacturers start stripping out even more space, which seems unlikely, we wouldn’t expect bags to get much lighter than this 3.5 to 4 pound range and still have reasonable storage.
  • Hip padding. Not surprisingly, the amount of hip padding in the bag is less than you’ll find in one of the heavier and more full-featured bags. It’s not as if you can feel your clubs through the padding, but it is noticeably thinner, though approximately the same in terms of covered area.
  • Straps. The “X-Strap Dual Strap System” is a simple system that has two independent straps criss-crossing, which allow the bag to be easily carried with just one strap as well. Unlike other manufacturers, straps are attached at the lift handle, as opposed to slightly lower. The shoulder straps are contoured and offer adequate, if not exceptional, padding.
  • Legs. The Front 9 has a “patented roller-bottom leg mechanism.” What this means is, that unlike bags that have this integrated into the base, there is a foot that extends out slightly and activates to extend the legs from the bag. These base mechanisms are more likely to catch on carts, but at least the Front 9 has elastic straps to lock down each of the legs. The legs also have triangular-shaped feet to ensure they don’t sink into the mud or the sand (though Rule 13-4 permits bringing your bag into a bunker, we still don’t know why anyone would do that…)
  • Handles. The Front 9 has the two standard handles that most all carry bags have: one at the top of the bag that is integrated into the rim (fun fact: Sun Mountain pioneered this industry-standard lift assist handle), and a nylon handle (with rubber grip) on the spine near the top of the bag. A third “handle” is integrated into the base of the medium sized pocket toward the bottom of the bag.

While the bag itself is relatively basic, Sun Mountain presents you with a wide range of color combinations so you can express yourself on the course: black-white-lime, black-citron, black-white-red, navy, grey-white-yellow, gunmetal-black-red, and, in left-sided bags also, black and titanium-gunmetal-orange.

At an MSRP of $169.99, the Front 9 is the least expensive carry bag in the Sun Mountain line. While other big-name manufacturer’s bags start in the range of $150, this fairly small difference in prices leads us to encourage you to first decide what features are most important to you in a bag, and then find the right bag in your price range. If you like to walk and don’t need a bag with all the frills, the Sun Mountain Front 9 may be the one for you.

Retail price: $169.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


adidas adipower Boost Boa

adidas’ new top of the line spikeless golf shoes, both in terms of price ($230 MSRP) and performance, is the adipower Boost Boa. adidas touts the use of new technology, including Boost foam cushioning (visible in the heel of the shoe), gripmore “spikes” for traction and our favorite new gadget, the Boa closure system (essentially a replacement for shoelaces).

We’ll delve into the technology in greater detail below, but note that the Boa closure system is not only a fun toy, but also an extremely useful advancement to enhance comfort and performance on the course.

The adipower Boost Boa is waterproof on the outside and extremely comfortable on the inside. The $230 MSRP isn’t chump change, but if you’re looking for a pair of golf shoes that will make a difference in how tired your feet are at the end of the round and might actually save you a stroke or two by providing you with better balance, it could be money well spent.

Retail price: $230
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


SCORE
95
GRADE
A
Design
96
Construction
94
Comfort
93
Value
95

The adipower Boost Boa is available in white (with silver trim, including the trademark adidas stripes) or black (with gray trim). The uppers are made of leather and the styling is conventional other than the heels, which frame and accentuate the pebbled Boost foam. We’d probably prefer that the toes were a little less pointed, but that’s purely an aesthetic opinion – the shape did not adversely impact comfort. The design is upscale enough to wear the shoes with long pants, and indeed the adipower Boost BOA may be slightly better suited for that use case (although we wore them with shorts and didn’t notice any disapproving stares).

We didn’t encounter direct rain during our test rounds, but played on some soggy courses, and the shoes held up as waterproof. Adidas backs this up with a two-year waterproof warranty. Mud wiped off of the white leather uppers of our test pair with ease, but the straps used as part of the Boa closure system are cloth and are probably tougher to keep clean in the long run.

The adipower Boost Boa is only offered in one standard width, but strangely enough, the label on the exterior of the box indicates that the shoe is “Wide”. This was true of every box we saw at a large golf chain store and also the box for the pair that we ordered online (where we were careful to order a standard width pair). Maybe it’s just a printer’s error…

Let’s jump into the technology that is featured so prominently in the name of the shoe. Boost is a proprietary foam that, according to adidas, is “comprised of thousands of TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) energy capsules fused together by way of a proprietary high pressure steam molding process.” As mentioned earlier, the foam is visible in the heel, both from the side and the bottom of the shoe. adidas claims that Boost foam retains a consistent shape as temperatures vary, unlike traditional ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam. We can’t validate that assertion, as our test rounds were in 60-70 degree weather, but we can tell you that the heels are nicely cushioned and felt supportive and responsive (as opposed to soft and gooey).

Traction is provided by a number of mini “gripmore” spikes of varying sizes positioned the length of the outsole, with additional pointed spikes at both the toe and heel, and what we can best describe as “tab-like” spikes at the perimeter of the forefoot. All of this combined to provide slip-free test rounds. The gripmore spikes did occasionally retain clumps of grass and dirt, so it’s worth taking a look down every once in a while to see if you need to stomp hard on the cart path to free things up.

adidas adipower Boost Boa

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But what made us really love the adipower Boa Boost was the closure system that replaces shoelaces. adidas licensed the closure system from Boa Technology, which first made its name replacing laces in snowboard and ski boots. A wire runs through the traditional eyelets on both sides of the shoe, through the tightening knob, and then connects on both sides to a strap that runs across the back of the heel/ankle. To tighten the shoe, you push down on the knob to engage the system and then turn it clockwise. Tightness is reduced by turning the knob counterclockwise for fine adjustments, or alternatively by just popping the knob up, which releases the wire entirely. By connecting to the strap across the back of the heel/ankle, the Boa closure system ensures a more uniform snugness, rather than just the tightness across the tongue that happens when you use traditional laces.

“Seriously?!? You want us to get excited about a replacement for shoelaces?” Yes, Dear Reader, we do. We really do! Balance is critical to a good golf swing, and we were shocked by how much keeping our shoes properly tightened helped stabilize our base. How many times have you felt like your shoes were a hair too tight, but were too lazy to bend down to re-lace them, particularly when you might just wind up going too far in the opposite direction? Or you wanted to tighten up your shoes just a bit to give you confidence in a particularly mighty swing? Problem solved – just turn the knob a couple of clicks (there are little ratchets that emit a sound) in either direction. We also note that our feet tend to heat up and expand a bit over the course of a round, and having a quick and easy way to slightly loosen the shoes can be a godsend.

At 1.8 pounds for the pair, the adipower Boa Boost isn’t the lightest fella around (it actually ties with two other shoes for the heaviest shoes we’ve tested). And the outsoles are less flexible than some of the lighter competitors that we’ve reviewed. But the shoes were comfortable right out of the box and did not require any break-in period.

Of course the catch is that with an MSRP of $230, the adidas adipower Boost Boa is the most expensive pair of spikeless golf shoes that we’ve tested. But if you can spare the cash, we highly recommend that you give them a try. The Boa closure system is just that cool.

Retail price: $230
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