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Archive for June, 2015

Adjustable Golf Tees For Driving Range Mats

Ok, they aren’t going to revolutionize your game, but it will save you some hassle. For way too long we had a handful of rubber golf tees in our bag that were different sizes to deal with the variety of driving range mats. Now we just have one. Twist it up, twist it down…adjusts to whatever mat we happen to be using at the moment. Simple, handy and cheap. Ok, we would be rather hitting off grass, but until Critical Golf hits the big time and we can join a club, that isn’t an option.

Now for those who would rather have their ball sitting on a tee at the range and still are required to use mats, you can always grab some of the rubber golf tee holders. We recommend getting the shortest rubber tee possible, then using wood tees of different length to make adjustments.

And if you still aren’t happy with the twist up and down method, and you want to save some tees (even if you get the rubber tee holder option, your tees will break or fly onto the range and you won’t be able to retrieve them), you can stick with the old standby rubber golf tees cut to different sizes.

Retail price: ~$3.50+ each
Amazon: Check price now


Golf Tees

There are about a billion different options in this category, so its impossible to cover the breadth. Our purchases keep to those tees that are USGA-conforming, but after that can range from the traditional cup-style to designs that have a three-prong design, to plastic and bamboo, to those that have stripes on the sides to help with determining height.

Retail prices: varies

Oh, and don’t forget to purchase the correct height tees for your game and clubs!
Some options on Amazon:
Frogger Green Monster (bamboo – harder and more sustainable than other tees): Check price now
Zero Friction (3-prong, with stripes for correct placement): Check price now
Pride Professional (plastic, durable and longer-lasting): Check price now


Apple Watch

And here they come…the Apple Watches. Our test is for the 42mm Watch Sport with Golfshot, though users will have the same user experience on the course. In addition to flashing your Apple fanboy-ness, you will also receive 3D hole flyovers, stats tracking and yardages to hole and targets.

Golfshot has the ability to display the screenshots at right through any of the Apple watches, provided you keep your iPhone close at hand.

Apple Watch

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There are also a bevy of colors for the Apple Watch Sport bands, shown at right.

Apple Watch Sport Colors

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Apple Watch Sport: $349-$399
Amazon: Check price now

There are also more options in the Apple Watch at $549-$1,099, and the Apple Watch Edition at $10,000-$17,000 (right….)

And the additional subscription for Golfshot…
Golfshot: Check price now ($24.99 annually)


GolfBuddy WT5 Watch

The GolfBuddy WT5 brings a slimmer design and lower price tag to the GolfBuddy lineup. It offers the basics in its simple black-and-white LCD that is 1.3″ across. The WT5 watch weighs 2.3 ounces and is 2.32”x 1.65”x 0.52” in size. The company claims to 8 hours of use with the rechargeable battery, so count on one round of golf, and consider yourself lucky if you get in two.

GolfBuddy WT5 Watch

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Four buttons allow the player to get distances to front/center/back points of green, as well as, targets and hazards (good…). You can place the pin on the image of the green using the buttons for a more accurate distance reading. The GolfBuddy WT5 has a scorecard and lets you measure shot distances, but there is no online portal for later analysis.





GolfBuddy WT5 Watch

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The GolfBuddy WT5 is water resistant and is available in black/blue and white/orange color options.

Retail price: $199.99
Amazon: Check price now




and…video!


GolfBuddy BB5 Band

Ahh, the wearables revolution begins. In this case, it is GolfBuddy trotting out the GolfBuddy BB5 golf GPS band. What’s that? Well, think of that fitbit you or your buddies have, but one that shows distances to front, center and back of green on the 20×5 dot LED display and automatically advances through holes. And even though there is little “screen”, there is still the ability to measure shots. And you are probably OK ditching your other band during the round if you need other basics, the BB5 also has a pedometer and the time.

GolfBuddy BB5 Golf GPS Band

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The device, at 2.28”x 1.26”x 0.59”, weighs a mere 1.2 ounces. Would you believe that 37,000 courses are stored on it? Ok, yes, we do too. The rechargeable battery is good for 10 days in golf mode (we will assume you’ll cut it close playing 36 in one day), and the device is IP65 water resistant. You don’t know what IP65 is? C’mon…it means the BB5 is fully dust tight and “water projected by a nozzle (6.3mm) against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.” So Spray away!

We don’t have any issues with their effort, but we are concerned about the price. At $250 retail, we bet many players will start looking toward golf watches that offer target and hazard distances, and scoring functionality.

If you want to spice things up, additional bands are available in a variety of colors:teal, white, pink, orange, navy and green. Sassy!

Retail price: $249.99
Amazon: Check price now

Sweet music with that video, oh my…


IZZO Swami 4000+

The Swami 4000+ adds distances to hazards and doglegs to the original Swami 4000, which offered only front, center and back of green information. There is an associated $20 price bump from the Swami 4000, but with no annual fees, the IZZO still remains one of the most inexpensive golf GPS devices on the market.

IZZO Swami 4000+

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The Swami 4000+ comes preloaded with over 30,000 courses worldwide, with no additional downloads required, though players do have the ability to edit course maps (something that we liked early on, but as we test more devices we find that we rarely use this feature – perhaps we would more if we were dedicated to one device). The device comes with the basics of hole advance, shot measurements, and distances in yards or meters. An included rechargeable lithium-ion battery that is claimed to up to two rounds. The device also carries a 1-year limited warranty.

Curiously, the IZZO Swami 4000+, though it has been available for some time, trails in distribution versus the original IZZO Swami 4000. So if you are headed to your local store to look for this device, just make sure to check what version they are stocking.

Retail price: $139.95
Amazon: Check price now


GolfBuddy LR5

Now here’s something we didn’t expect…a laser rangefinger from GolfBuddy. Known best for their GPS handhelds (and now watches), GolfBuddy expands their lineup with the LR5 laser rangefinder. The GolfBuddy LR5 has 6x magnification and accuracy to 1 yard (ranges form 5 to 880 yards), both of which we consider the minimums for laser rangefinders. There is an LCD display and diopter eyepiece adjustment.

GolfBuddy LR5

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There are three different modes in the GolfBuddy LR5: standard, scanning and pin. Standard mode provides the distances to a selected target, scanning mode continuously scans for 10 seconds and allows the player to obtain distances to multiple targets, and pin mode scans for 10 seconds while showing the distance to the closest target. There is an indicator on the display to show scanning and pin mode.

The GolfBuddy LR5 is water resistant, and has claimed battery life to 5K actuations. The device will power off after 10 seconds to conserve battery life. Battery life is shown at the bottom of the display in all modes. The device weighs 7.7 ounces, and is 4” x 1.63” x 2.85” in size.

With one of the least expensive golf laser rangefinders in our tests, tf the GolfBuddy LR5 performs as well as the company’s handheld GPS devices, we expect GolfBuddy to continue to build their offerings in this category.

Retail price: $249.99
Amazon: Check price now

ECCO BIOM Golf Hybrid 2

The ECCO BIOM Hybrid 2, as you have already guessed, is the latest in the line of BIOM Hybrid golf shoes from ECCO and their current top-of-the-line spikeless shoe. We will set aside the ECCO Wingtips for the moment (not our thing), and we are not going to comment on Freddie Couples’ greenest-of-green ECCO Signature 1992. Speaking of which, since Couples climbed to the leaderboard at the 2010 Masters and helped kick-start the spikeless shoe trend, spikeless shoe sales have grown to almost half of all golf shoe purchases!

We give high marks to the performance of the ECCO BIOM Hybrid 2, but note that the price tag, at nearly $200, is on the high side. We walk all of the courses we play (and are never happy to be required to take carts on walkable courses…you know who you are, resort courses), so we place a premium on the happiness of our feet. And given that, we are willing to spend a bit more than we might otherwise.

Retail price: $195.00
Amazon: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now
Zappos: Check price now


SCORE
91
GRADE
A-
Design
90
Construction
92
Comfort
93
Value
89

As a refresher, BIOM (“Biomechanical Optimization”) is ECCO’s technology that helps the body but does not prevent natural foot motion. The intent is to mirror the path of the player’s natural walking motion in a low-profile, lightweight shoe that is slightly lower to the ground that the original ECCO BIOM Hybrid, which helps to improve stability and swing power. “Hybrid” is simply ECCO’s name for their spikeless sole technology. We found the original ECCO BIOM Hybrid to be an extremely comfortable shoe, and our feet were happy with the latest Hybrid 2 in fit and feel as well.

ECCO BIOM Hybrid 2

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The ECCO BIOM Hybrid 2 looks more like a dedicated golf shoe than the original ECCO BIOM Hybrid. This starts with the more noticeable ECCO dots on the side, no doubt to brand the shoe. We could have done without these, preferring the more subtle look of the Streets and the original BIOM Hybrid. The other noticeable design change is the more prominent heel counter, which stands out in a different color from the rest of the upper. Again, we would prefer a subtler look, but admit we are also probably the only people that are still trying to find all-white tennis shoes to purchase.

Compared to the BIOM Hybrid, the Hybrid 2 features a thinner midsole throughout (including the loss of a portion of midsole that extended into the arch on the ECCO BIOM Hybrid), creating a sleeker look. With the thinner midsole, ECCO reduces the weight of the shoe by a couple of ounces down to 1.6 pounds while also bringing you closer to the ground – both of which are good things. The Hybrid 2 retains design elements such as the slightly more encompassing toe box and a pull tab/Achilles tendon protector, though it doesn’t extend as high as the one on the ECCO BIOM Hybrid.

ECCO BIOM Hybrid 2

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On the breathable yak leather upper, ECCO has removed perforations on the quarter (side) of the shoe, but retains them on the tongue and vamp, just below the laces. The yak leather is durable and is treated with ECCO’s Hydromax to make the shoes water-repellent and prevent the leather from hardening after the shoes get repeatedly wet. Craftsmanship was reasonably good, with the only real issue at the base of the tongue, where poorly cut yak leather bunched up under the bottom eyelet, but didn’t impact the feel.

The Hybrid 2 insole is nearly identical to the original model, with the addition of raised silicon designs printed on the insole. This silicon printing is in four areas – one at the heel, two across the ball of the foot, and one other at the big toe. You may get thrown a bit when first putting the shoe on, thinking your socks are catching on something. And they are – the silicon is quite good at gripping to your sock. The intention of the silicon is to prevent unwanted foot movement and slipping during the swing. We didn’t notice any difference during play from the traditional insoles, and have to think that while the silicon printing may hold the sock firmly, wouldn’t our feet still slide within the sock? Maybe the simple answer is to go sockless? In any event, we haven’t logged a full season on these shoes and thus can’t comment yet on the wear of the silicon over time.

As with the original model, there is additional rubber extending at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock on each of the “spikes” on the sole of the BIOM Hybrid 2, but the spikes now run throughout the sole, instead of having a gap under the arch of the foot. The spikes are laid out in a diagonal pattern as you look at the sole, as opposed to horizontal rows with the original Hybrid. The Hybrid 2 has a slightly stiffer feel to the sole than the original Hybrids – not by a great deal, but definitely noticeable. This is due to the sole having different densities of rubber: more firm in the “stability areas” at the outside of the foot, wrapping around the toes and most of the heel, and softer in “comfort zones” at the inside of the foot. We prefer a softer sole, but this is an area where personal preference will reign above all else.

ECCO BIOM Hybrid 2

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The ECCO BIOM Hybrid 2 comes in five different color combinations: concrete (grey)/royal blue, black/brick red, camel/fanta (yellow), white/black, and white/red. We consider these to be good-looking shoes, and while Mrs. Critical Golf gives a slight nod to the original Hybrids, she still considers these to be acceptable.

With the ECCO BIOM Hybrid 2 the price of the BIOM line creeps upward to $195 (up $5 from the original ECCO BIOM Hybrid. Certainly not cheap. At the time of our review, only the adipower Boost Boa carries a higher price tag, due to the expensive Boa closure system.

Yes, you can try to justify the purchase with ECCO’s one-year Limited Warranty that covers the basics, though based on the performance and construction of the shoe we expect you won’t need to take advantage of the coverage. We liked the performance of shoe nearly as much as the original ECCO BIOM Hybrid, so we give the BIOM Hybrid 2 our recommendation. If you think the price is too high, we would advise either skipping your daily Starbucks lattes for a few weeks, or losing one less sleeve of balls on your next outing – take those extra dollars and add the ECCO BIOM Hybrid 2 to the list of shoes to consider.

Retail price: $195.00
Amazon: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now
Zappos: Check price now


Nike Lunar Waverly

When the test pair of Nike Lunar Waverlys first emerged from the box, Mrs. Critical Golf immediately stepped into them and went into a rather frightening rendition of “It’s Tricky.” Ignoring the fact that Run-D.M.C were adidas men, the point remains clear – the Lunar Waverly is old school, with styling modeled after some of Nike’s first shoes.

While it is true that you can wear these around town or even to the office (assuming you work in the tech world), and then step right on to the course, Nike might have gone a bit overboard in their efforts to make an old school shoe, since the Lunar Waverly not only looks like but is also about as comfortable as a shoe from decades ago. While the Lunar Waverly may win some over with its hipster design and reasonable price point, we found that the technology and design elements didn’t match the comfort and performance of other spikeless golf shoes in our tests.

Retail price: $140.00
Amazon: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


SCORE
83
GRADE
B-
Design
93
Construction
85
Comfort
80
Value
85

As soon as you see the Lunar Waverlys you’ll be thrown back in time, and it isn’t accidental. With the Lunar Waverlys, which are part of the “Versatility” footwear family from Nike Golf, the design team drew inspiration from iconic running and tennis shoe designs, with the goal of creating something that could be worn on and off the golf course.

While we went old school Lunar Waverly with white shoes with grey and red highlights (aka White/Action Red/Light Bone/Sail), you can also choose from a wide variety of color combinations. One can only envision the Nike creative department with whiteboards full of names such as Obsidian/Summit White/Clearwater/Blue Lagoon (apparently someone is a Brooke Shields fan), Tawny/Prism Pink/Lunar Grey/Tawny, Cargo Khaki/Desert Camo/Green Haze/Summit White, Anthracite/Summit White/Venice/Anthracite, White/Volt/Barely Volt (come on, really?)/Black, Black/Pure Platinum/Volt/Anthracite, and Baroque Brown/Sail/Hyper Punch (Hey Kool-Aid!)/Black. Now imagine the names not selected. No, we can’t imagine those either. If you want to try to step from your office to the range at lunch, just pick your color choice wisely.

Nike Lunar Waverly

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Nike also incorporated a number of new design elements into the Lunar Waverlys, although they didn’t seem to enhance the fit or performance of the shoe. The laces run through what are basically thin cords, which in turn are threaded through the holes in the waterproof full-grain leather uppers (where the eyelets would customarily be), and then attach to the midsole of the shoe. Now we need a fancy name. Call it “Dynamic Flywire.” There is also a rubber cup-sole that provides lateral support. The sock liner (aka insole) is made of – get this – cork! This is a first for Nike Golf, and the purported benefits include greater comfort (which we didn’t experience), light weight (though this wasn’t enough to keep the Lunar Waverlys, at about 1.7 lbs. for a pair of size 10s, from being one of the heavier shoes in our tests), and odor prevention (which we we haven’t been able to confirm). It certainly is distinctive, though you’ll be the only one to know that it is there. To retain comfort, there is a “Lunarlon” form (thus the use of ‘Lunar’ in the shoe name) that is included to provide responsive cushioning. We weren’t fans of the feel, finding the shoe had less arch support than others in our tests, and left our feet more tired at the end of the round.

Other things we didn’t love were the shape of the toe box, which, while traditional in look, wasn’t as wide or comfortable as some of the spikeless alternatives, and the heel tab, since we prefer a lower-cut heel tab/scoop for greater comfort

Nike Lunar Waverly

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On the sole the Lunar Waverly features a waffle-like design (think squared off small rubber spikes) set on a diagonal. Curiously, the “spikes” vary quite a bit in length, with the longest spikes around the ball of the foot and extending toward the big toe. The spikes get shorter and shorter toward the instep, where they are quite short, and then lengthen again toward the heel. One byproduct of having spikes of relatively long length and soft material is that you can actually move the sole and shoe in different directions, while still keeping the spikes firmly affixed to the ground. We aren’t sure the benefit to this design, as it seems that this would provide more shoe movement when one would theoretically want less. However, we didn’t notice any additional movement when swinging, experiencing it only on cart paths and extremely hard ground. Perhaps this longer soft “spike” design is to allow some amount of ability for the foot and leg to pivot and twist to lessen stress on joints? Hey, it’s just a guess.

At $140 retail the Nike Lunar Waverly is about average within our tests – far from the least expensive that hover at $100, and much more reasonable than those that break $200. Even at this price tag we found that there were others that provided far more comfort for the same bill.

Retail price: $140.00
Amazon: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now