Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

Golf GPS Reviews - Overall Ranking

Fall 2014 –  Reviews, ratings and rankings of the best golf GPS devices. 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 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
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith.com: Check price now

Score

93

Grade

A-


Garmin Approach S3 Watch

Garmin Approach S3 Watch

The Garmin Approach S3 GPS golf watch builds upon its well-regarded predecessor, the Garmin Approach S1, by adding distances to layup points and customizable targets, a map of the shape of the green (with the ability to adjust the pin placement using the…wait for it…touchscreen), and scoring capability. We like the device, but have reservations about the lack of pre-mapped hazards and the high price. Read more at our detailed Garmin Approach S3 golf watch review.
Retail price: $349.99
Three year total cost: $349.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Score

92

Grade

A-


Garmin Approach S1 Watch

Garmin Approach S1 Watch

Just a bit thicker than standard watches, the S1 has an easy-to-use interface providing distances to the near, center and far edges of the green. While hazard distances aren’t available, the S1 provides hole and par information, along with shot measuring capability. If you are looking for just the basics and don’t mind wearing a watch while you play, or simply miss your Finnish Suunto G9, the S1 is the way to go! Read more at our detailed Garmin Approach S1 review.
Retail price: $179.99
Three year total cost: $179.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Score

91

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: $499
Three year total cost: $499
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

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
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

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
Amazon.com: Check price now

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
Amazon.com: Check price now

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
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Score

87

Grade

B+


SkyCaddie SGXw

SkyCaddie SGXw

The SkyCaddie SGXw’s ability to determine any point on the course, pre-mapped targets, radiating yardage arcs, mapping of the entire green all add up to the most extensive mapping and distance information you can find in a golf GPS unit. The optical trackpad received mixed reviews from our staff (and there are still bugs to work out). It’s a great device for data aficionados, but players will want to consider both the device size and hefty price tag before purchase.
Retail price: $399.95
Three year total cost: $549.80
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Score

86

Grade

B


SkyCaddie SGX

SkyCaddie SGX

The SkyCaddie SGX has some of the latest features, including full hole graphic views and detailed green maps that show contours and false fronts. But course coverage for these new maps is still sparse, a user interface that feels overloaded (maybe it’s time to move to a touchscreen?) and a steep price tag, keep the SGX from rising higher in our rankings. Read our detailed SkyCaddie SGX review.
Retail price: $349.95 plus yearly fees
Three year total cost: $499.80
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Score

85

Grade

B


Matrix SHOTMATE Voice

Matrix SHOTMATE Voice

The Matrix SHOTMATE “speaks” distances at the push of a button. Approximately the size of a matchbook, and with a clip to attach to a cap, shirt or belt, it’s incredibly easy to use, and comes with courses preloaded. The trade off is that the SHOTMATE only provides distances to the center of the green, which may be sufficient for some, but alas, the distances to bunkers, creeks and trees are all too relevant to our game. Read on for our detailed Matrix SHOTMATE Voice review.
Retail price: $149.99
Three year total cost: $149.99
Available direct from Matrix only: Check price now

Score

83

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
Amazon.com: Check price now

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
Amazon.com: Check price now

Score

80

Grade

B-


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
Amazon.com: Check price now

Expresso WR67 Watch

Expresso WR67 Watch

Expresso iterates on their original golf GPS watch with the WR67. Updates to the original WR62 include black and white color options, longer battery life, tee time start function, and adjustable band. The watch is a close cousin of the Bushnell NEO-X watch, with front, center and back of green distances, and limited hazard information. Pricing remains the same as with the WR62, and is one of the least expensive golf GPS watches available, with no additional yearly or per course fees. Read more details about the Expresso WR67 golf GPS watch.
Retail price: $179.95
Three year total cost: $179.95
Amazon.com: Check price now
In-The-Hole Golf: Check price now

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: $249
Three-year cost: $249
Amazon.com: Check price now

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
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

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
Amazon.com: Check price now

Garmin Approach S6 Watch

Garmin Approach S6 Watch

The Garmin Approach S6 golf GPS watch puts the rest of the Garmin (and competitors) watch line to shame with full color course maps (seriously…full hole maps! On a watch!), the ability to target any point on the course through the touchscreen display, and swing metrics (tempo, swing speed, etc.) all in one (healthy-sized) watch. This all in addition to their existing yardage to near-center-far points on the green, layup arcs, scoring and stats, smartphone notifications, and Garmin Connect portal. Sounds darn impressive. Read more details in advance of our Garmin Approach S6 golf watch review.
Note: Garmin appears to be filling orders as quickly as possible – Amazon may or may not have supply on a given day, though Golfsmith has had availability in recent weeks.
Retail price: $399.99
Three year total cost: $399.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

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
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

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
Amazon.com: Check price now

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
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

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
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

SkyCaddie GIMME

SkyCaddie GIMME

We haven’t figured out the target market for the SkyCaddie GIMME, which seems to provide the same distance information as the SkyCaddie AIRE. Overall we think SkyCaddie continues to spread themselves too think (in addition to the four models announced for 2013, they have three additional devices still on the market, the new SkyCaddie Breeze, as well as the SkyCaddie SGXw and SkyCaddie SGX. It’s like SkyCaddie is trying to do their best to confuse the customer. The GIMME is marketed as having “large, easy-to-read numbers”, and distances to the front, center and back of the green. We don’t get it, but read more about the SkyCaddie GIMME. And don’t forget yearly fees – for the Sport Series, which includes the GIMME, $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: $169.95
Three year total cost: $219.90
Amazon.com: Check price now

SkyCaddie LINX Watch

SkyCaddie LINX Watch

SkyCaddie adds target information along with green maps to the comparably bare-boned SkyCaddie WATCH. The LINX also adds Bluetooth, allowing players to connect to SkyGolf’s free mobile app to update course maps on the fly. The LINX provides distances to the front, center and back of the green based on player position, as well as layup targets with no membership fee. There is an additional cost to upgrade to IntelliGreen, which provides green maps and ability to select green points, and up to 40 targets per hole. Read more in advance of a detailed SkyCaddie LINX watch review.
Retail price: $249.95
Three year total cost: est $299.90, no announcement yet on annual membership cost (est. will have $49.95 3-year plan to upgrade to IntelliGreen features)
Availability: Summer 2014

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.
Availability: Expected October 2014
Retail price: $299.95
Three year total cost: $499.80
Amazon.com: Check price now (available for pre-order)

SkyCaddie VOICE

SkyCaddie VOICE

Not wanting to be left out of the voice trend in golf GPS units, SkyCaddie in 2013 announced their first golf GPS unit that provides distances by voice. The device was marketed as providing distances at the push of a button to front, center and back of green, and lacking any screen. The company marketed the VOICE as providing distances at the push of a button to front, center and back of green, and lacking any screen. At the time of announcement the retail price was slated to be a bit lower than competing devices, though SkyCaddie annual fees would likely increase the three year total cost by a bit. But given it’s been well over a year since the announcement, right now we are marketing the VOICE up to vaporware. Nice work, SkyCaddie VOICE review.
Retail price: $149.95
Three year total cost: $199.90
Availability: Um…never?

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
Amazon.com: Check price now