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Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

Golf GPS Reviews - Overall Ranking

Spring 2015 –  Reviews, ratings and rankings of the best golf GPS devices and watches. Our editors test and compare the newest golf GPS devices head-to-head to help you determine which golf GPS is best.  Golf GPS devices tested include offerings from Callaway, Garmin, GolfBuddy, Skycaddie, Bushnell, Motorola, Celestron, IZZO, Sonocaddie and Golf Guru.

How We Test

Intro to GPS Devices

Garmin Approach S6 Watch

Garmin Approach S6 Watch

The Garmin Approach S6 is the best golf GPS watch we’ve tested to date, combining overhead hole maps with a touchscreen to determine the distance to any point on the golf course…and it’s all available on your wrist. An excellent set of features, including a swing tempo training aid, make this a versatile and interesting device. Read our detailed Garmin Approach S6 golf watch review.
Retail price: $399.99
Three year total cost: $399.99
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Score

95

Grade

A


Garmin Approach G6

Garmin Approach G6

The Garmin Approach G6 exemplifies the trend of putting all of the best features of previous devices into progressively more compact designs. We love the sleek form factor and ease of use, great course coverage, and no additional yearly or per-course fees. It’s not perfect – we aren’t fans of the arbitrary nature of when target distances are displayed, and experienced some bugginess when accessing old scorecards on the device. But all in all, a very good device. Check out our detailed Garmin G6 review.
Retail price: $249.99
Three-year total cost: $249.99
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Score

93

Grade

A-


SkyCaddie LINX Watch

SkyCaddie LINX Watch

The SkyCaddie LINX adds the full richness of SkyGolf’s hazard, layup and target information and its green maps to a watch device. The LINX also adds Bluetooth, enabling you to connect to SkyGolf’s free mobile app to update course maps on the fly. We love all of the distance information – the cost to obtain the good data, the thickness of the watch, and the setup process, not so much. Read more in our detailed SkyCaddie LINX watch review.
Retail price: $224.95
Three year total cost: $354.90
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Score

93

Grade

A-


Bushnell Hybrid GPS Laser

Bushnell Hybrid GPS Laser

The Bushnell Hybrid features the great idea of combining a laser rangefinder and a GPS device into a single package. Evaluated from the GPS perspective (we have a separate review evaluating it from a laser rangefinder perspective), it’s a bit light on features, is big and bulky, and costs a bundle. A fair attempt for a first generation product, but we’re hoping that new versions will have better integration between the GPS and rangefinder functions. Read our detailed Bushnell Hybrid Golf GPS Device review.
Retail price: $399 (down from $499 at introduction)
Three year total cost: $399
Availability: Though no longer manufactured, the Bushnell Hybrid GPS Laser is still widely available; replaced by the Bushnell NEO XS watch and the Bushnell Tour v3 JOLT
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Score

89

Grade

B+


Garmin Approach S2 Watch

Garmin Approach S2 Watch

The Approach S2 is the awkward middle child in the Garmin family, sitting in between the Garmin Approach S1 and the Garmin Approach S3 watches both in terms of feature set and price. Scoring is available, but we are still disappointed with the lack of hazard data or an online portal to track your scoring over time on the Approach watches. The premium price will be difficult to command in the face of recent less expensive product introductions with similar feature sets, though Garmin has brought down the price since its introduction. Read more in our detailed Garmin Approach S2 golf watch review.
Retail price: $199.99
Three year total cost: $199.99
Availability: No longer manufactured but still available; replaced by the Garmin Approach S3 watch
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Score

89

Grade

B+


Sonocaddie V500

Sonocaddie V500

The Sonocaddie V500 brings you the latest features, including satellite images and video flyovers. But uneven implementation of certain interface elements left us disappointed. Combine that with overall poor image quality of satellite views, lack of ability to zoom, limited mapped points, and buggy software, and you’re left with a device that gets lost in the noise. Oh, and it finished last in our course coverage analysis at a mere 21% of courses available. Not compatible with Macs. Read our detailed Sonocaddie V500 review.
Retail Price: $399
Three year total cost: $428.95
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Score

88

Grade

B+


SkyCaddie Breeze

SkyCaddie Breeze

The hefty SkyCaddie Breeze starts from a base of providing distances to the front, center and back of the green only. Most users will opt for the advanced Feature Packs ($34.95 each) that provide advanced full hole and detailed green views. The display, course detail (when available) and setting options are top-notch, but
annual fees increase the three-year cost to a level far beyond most of the competition.
Retail price: $334.80
Three year total cost: $484.65
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Score

87

Grade

B+


SkyCaddie WATCH

SkyCaddie WATCH

No, that’s not a typo. SkyCaddie has entered the GPS watch game, and kept with the more-prevalent-than-should-be all-caps naming convention. Welcome the SkyCaddie WATCH. The WATCH provides the very basics, with distances to fixed front, center and back points, scoring, and other GPS watch functions. There aren’t any features that differentiate it from other watches, which make it more challenging for us to swallow the annual fee for course updates. Read more in our detailed SkyCaddie WATCH review.
Retail price: $199.95
Three year total cost: $249.90
Availability: Still available for order; being replaced by the SkyCaddie LINX watch
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Score

87

Grade

B+


IZZO Swami Watch

IZZO Swami Watch

Though the golf GPS watch market is growing rapidly, we were surprised by IZZO stepping into the game with their spidey-looking IZZO Swami Watch. The watch includes distances to fixed points at the front, center and back of the green, and features auto hole advance, shot distance measurement, and a digital scorecard. The navigation needs some work and there is no way to save scores, but the IZZO Swami Watch is the least expensive golf GPS watch on the market, comes pre-loaded with courses and carries no subscription fees. Read more at our detailed IZZO Swami Watch review.
Retail price: $149.99
Three-year total price: $149.99
Availability: The model reviewed here has been discontinued, and replaced by an updated IZZO Swami Watch.
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Score

81

Grade

B-


IZZO Swami 4000

IZZO Swami 4000

IZZO changes things up their past golf GPS device format with the new Swami 4000. More similar in look to competing golf GPS devices, the new Swami 4000 comes with the same set of basic features that we have come to expect from IZZO, which includes distances only to fixed front, center and back of the green points. IZZO retains an aggressive price point with the Swami 4000, and without any recurring fees, currently the Swami 4000 is the lowest price unit in our tests over three-year total cost! Check out our detailed IZZO Swami 4000 review.
Retail price: $119.99
Three-year total price: $119.99
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Score

80

Grade

B-


Arccos Golf

Arccos Golf

Looking for our review of Arccos Golf? While it does pair with your iPhone to provide course maps and distance information to help you navigate the course, the driving functionality behind the device is the ability to track shots during the round and provide post-round stats and analysis. Therefore, we have filed Arccos Golf in our Training Aids category. So head on over there to check out our Arccos Golf review.
Retail price: $399.99
Three-year cost: $399.99
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Bushnell NEO XS Watch

Bushnell NEO XS Watch

Bushnell starts 2014 with its new NEO XS golf GPS watch, slightly tweaking their prior gen Bushnell NEO-X watch. Bushnell has upped the maximum number of provided hazards to 4 per hole (we would like even more), and there is now one-button press for shot distance tracking (not saving, however) and a round odometer. It is Bushnell’s lightest and thinnest golf watch, and as with the other Bushnell golf GPS watches, no annual membership frees are required. Oh, and we much prefer the body design. Read more details in advance of our full Bushnell NEO XS golf GPS watch review.
Retail price: $199.99
Three year total cost: $199.99
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GAME GOLF

GAME GOLF

Some might file GAME GOLF under the category of GPS Devices, but as the unit tracks shots to help players learn more about their game after the round, and doesn’t provide distances to holes or hazards during play, we have filed GAME GOLF under our Training Aids category. So head on over there to check out our GAME GOLF review.
Retail price: $199
Three-year cost: $199
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Garmin Approach G8

Garmin Approach G8

Garmin ups the ante in 2014 with their new top-of-the-line Garmin Approach G8. The G8 retains the sleek design of the old Garmin G6, provides distances to front/center/back and doglegs, and the ability to pinpoint any target on the course via touchscreen. The Approach G8 has a 3″ display, offers slope-adjusted distances (though cool, remember this is a no-no for tournament play), club recommendations (based on tracking of prior shot distances), and the ability to receive email, text and call alerts (we’ll pass – we are at out of the office for a reason). And that’s not all, if you have a blind shot and left your compass at home, the G8 can point you in the right direction. The Garmin Approach G8 also stands out with Wi-Fi functionality so you can download course updates without plugging in. No annual fees and an online portal to upload scores and track progress over time are a plus. Read on for more about the Garmin G8.
Retail price: $399.99
Three-year total cost: $399.99
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Garmin Approach G7

Garmin Approach G7

The Garmin Approach G7 updates the Garmin G6 with slope-adjusted distances (whoa!), club recommendations, and the ability to receive email, text and call alerts. The G7 shares the same form factor as the G6, distance information to front/center/back of green and doglegs, and users can pinpoint any target on the course via touchscreen. For those deciding between the G7 and the Garmin Approach G8: the G7 has a slightly smaller screen (2.6″ diagonal), lacks the ability to point in the direction of the center of the green for blind shots, and does not have Wi-Fi. But then again, it’s $100 cheaper. As with other Garmin Approach devices, there are no annual fees. The G7 also connects to the new Garmin portal to upload scores and track progress over time. Check out more info in advance of our Garmin G7 review.
Retail price: $299.99
Three-year total cost: $299.99
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Garmin Approach S5 Watch

Garmin Approach S5 Watch

You didn’t think Garmin would leave a gap in their naming, already having the S1, S2, S3, S4 and S6, did you? We didn’t. And here is it, released at the 2015 PGA Merchandise Show, the Garmin Approach S5 watch. So given this crazy set of offerings, which do you get? The best way to think of the S5 is that it is the entry-level Garmin golf watch with full course maps. It lacks the tempo training and pin-pointing features of the Garmin Approach S6, which is just fine with us. It still offers everything else you need – yardages to near-center-far points on the green, layup arcs, scoring and stats, smartphone notifications, and the free Garmin Connect portal. Read more details in advance of our Garmin Approach S5 golf watch review.
Retail price: $349.99
Three year total cost: $349.99
Availability: Est February-March 2015

Garmin Approach S4 Watch

Garmin Approach S4 Watch

The Garmin golf GPS watch lineup continues to expand with the Garmin Approach S4, the new top-of-the-line watch in the family. As with the Garmin Approach S3, the S4 features a touchscreen display, is preloaded with courses (and free lifetime updates…we like!), has distances to front/middle/back of greens along with layup and doglegs. The Approach S4 can also measure shot distances and track scores and statistics. While we are still left longing for pre-mapped hazard data and an online portal, the Approach S4 does add the latest and greatest feature from Garmin – the ability to check your emails and text messages when paired with an Apple iPhone. You might be at the office…who knows?! Read more details in advance of our Garmin Approach S4 golf watch review.
Retail price: $299.99 (dropped by $50 since launch)
Three year total cost: $299.99
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GolfBuddy PT4

GolfBuddy PT4

GolfBuddy continues their model numbering system we haven’t deciphered yet with the GolfBuddy PT4. This top-of-the-line GolfBuddy replaces the GolfBuddy World and GolfBuddy Platinum. It notably features an extremely large 4″ high-resolution touchscreen and slimmer body design. While players generally think first of SkyCaddie and Garmin, the GolfBuddy PT4 features stats tracking, distances to any point on the course, pin placement capability and customizable targets, and with excellent course coverage and no annual fees, it shouldn’t be overlooked. Read more in advance of our full GolfBuddy PT4 review.
Retail price: $399.99
Three year total cost: $399.99
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GolfBuddy VT3 Watch

GolfBuddy VT3 Watch

The GolfBuddy VT3 is the 9th (yup, NINTH) device that GolfBuddy has added to their lineup (which is insane, but we’ll leave that for later comment). The VT3 is an iteration to the GolfBuddy Voice+, adding a touchscreen, ability to place the flagstick on the image of the green to obtain more accurate distances, and the ability to score. The device doesn’t provide distances to hazards. Pricing is significantly higher than the GolfBuddy Voice+, which makes us wonder how it will fare. Read more about the GolfBuddy VT3 watch.
Retail price: $299.99
Three year total cost: $299.99
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SkyCaddie AIRE

SkyCaddie AIRE

Just when you think SkyCaddie is going to greatly simplify their family of devices with their versatile SkyCaddie Breeze, where users can customize through additional Feature Packs, there they go again. At any rate, the Aire is a part of a group of 4 different SkyCaddie devices announced in 2013), and is the smallest handheld SkyCaddie device with screen (greyscale) available. The Aire provides distances to the front, center and back of green only, and some additional features that we don’t need, such as calorie counter and odometer. Check out more details on the SkyCaddie Aire review. And as with other current SkyCaddie devices, don’t forget to consider the yearly fees – for the Sport Series, which includes the AIRE, $49.95 will get you 3 years of course updates.
Note: for a limited time, SkyCaddie is offering free annual “Go Play” memberships, which provide course data but not the ability to upload cores and data to ClubSG, which is available separately.
Retail price: $129.95
Three year total cost: $179.90
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SkyCaddie TOUCH

SkyCaddie TOUCH

SkyCaddie loses the stubby antenna with the SkyCaddie TOUCH. The TOUCH sports a glove-friendly touchscreen, 3″ color screen, “HD” graphics for up to 100 course maps, and links to your SkyGolf (free) mobile app via accompanying Bluetooth. Now, if your handheld GPS is talking to your iPhone on the course…well, that’s one too many devices for us. But you can use it to download course updates without a cable, so its got that going for it. Don’t forget the $49.95 yearly fee for unlimited nationwide courses (we won’t) Read on for more about the SkyCaddie TOUCH.
Retail price: $299.95
Three year total cost: $499.80
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TomTom Golfer Watch

TomTom Golfer Watch

If you have heard of TomTom, you’ll know them for their navigation and mapping products – perhaps you’ve owned one of their portable car navigation systems (if sp, we are guessing before iPhones were all the rage). The company has leveraged their mapping business with the release in Fall 2014 of the TomTom Golfer, a golf GPS watch that provides rudimentary maps with distances to hazards, distances to front, center and back of green as well as layup points, and allows for score tracking. The watch, which is available in white and dark grey, is capable of wireless updates (via the TomTom MySports mobile app) to make sure you have the latest course information. Read on for more details about the TomTom Golfer watch.
Retail price: $249.99
Three year total cost: $249.99
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Voice Caddie VC300

Voice Caddie VC300

As with their prior voice GPS devices, the Voice Caddie VC300 speaks distances to center, front and back of the green at the push of a button. The device comes with 30,000 worldwide courses preloaded, and course updates can be downloaded (to Windows devices only…bummer) for free via their client software. The device features, as you would expect, automatic course and hole recognition, shot distance measurement, and volume control. The rechargeable battery provides up to 8 hours of continuous use. Read more about the Voice Caddie VC300.
Retail price: $169.00
Three year total cost: $169.00
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