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Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

Golf GPS Reviews - Overall Ranking

Summer 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 Bushnell, Callaway, Garmin, GolfBuddy, IZZO, ScoreBand, Skycaddie, Sonocaddie and TomTom.

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
Amazon.com: Check price now
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Score

95

Grade

A


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: $299.99
Three-year cost: $299.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now
Edwin Watts Golf: Check price now

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
Amazon.com: Check price now
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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-


Garmin Approach G8

Garmin Approach G8

The sleek Garmin G8 provides distances to front/center/back of green, selected hazards and and doglegs, and the ability to pinpoint any target on the course via touchscreen. The device has a 3″ color display, offers slope-adjusted distances (!), club recommendations, and the ability to receive email, text and call alerts (we’ll pass – we are at out of the office for a reason). And if you have a blind shot, the G8 can point you in the right direction. No annual fees and an online portal to upload scores and track progress over time are a plus. Check out more in our Garmin G8 review.
Retail price: $349.99
Three-year total cost: $349.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Score

91

Grade

A-


Bushnell NEO XS Watch

Bushnell NEO XS Watch

The Bushnell NEO XS really is “new and improved”, both better looking and more capable than its older sibling, the Bushnell NEO-X watch (i.e. Matt Dillon to Kevin Dillon). Its feature set is limited, but it comes at a nice entry level price, and does the basic things very well. Read more in our detailed Bushnell NEO XS golf GPS watch review.
Retail price: $199.99
Three year total cost: $199.99
Amazon.com: Check price now

Score

90

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
Amazon.com: Check price now
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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: $179.99 (down from $199.99 at launch)
Three year total cost: $179.99
Availability: No longer manufactured but still available; replaced by the Garmin Approach S3 watch
Amazon.com: Check price now
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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
Amazon.com: Check price now

Score

88

Grade

B+


TomTom Golfer Watch

TomTom Golfer Watch

Longtime GPS player TomTom enters the golf GPS world with the TomTom Golfer golf GPS watch. There are some nice elements, including an excellent user interface and the ability to update courses via Bluetooth from your mobile device. But the presentation of hazards is seriously flawed, impacting our enthusiasm for the device. TomTom has promised a software update to improve the hazard feature, but until that actually comes to fruition, we can only provide a polite golf clap for the Golfer. Read on for more details about the TomTom Golfer watch.
Retail price: $249.99
Three year total cost: $249.99
Amazon.com: Check price now

Score

88

Grade

B+


ScoreBand Golf Watch

ScoreBand Golf Watch

The ScoreBand Golf Watch is the lowest price golf GPS watch we have tested, but sometimes you get what you pay for. An awkward user interface, software bugs, map inaccuracies, and no apparent way to download course map updates all left us with the impression of an unfinished product. Read on for ScoreBand Golf GPS Watch review.
Retail price: $149.95
Three year total cost: $149.95
Amazon.com: Check price now

Score

84

Grade

B


SkyCaddie TOUCH

SkyCaddie TOUCH

The SkyCaddie TOUCH sports a glove-friendly touchscreen, a 3″ color screen, and links to your SkyGolf (free) mobile app via accompanying Bluetooth. We found an interface that leaves a lot to be desired and an overall sub-par experience. Oh, and don’t forget the $49.95 yearly fee for unlimited nationwide courses. Sigh. Read on for more about the SkyCaddie TOUCH.
Retail price: $299.95
Three year total cost: $449.80
Amazon.com: Check price now
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Score

83

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-


Apple Watch

Apple Watch

And here they come…the Apple Watches. Our test is for the 42mm Watch Sport with Golfshot subscription, 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. Stay tuned for more in our upcoming Apple Watch review.
Retail prices are shown below for the range of Apple Watch offerings.
Apple Watch Sport: $349-$399
Amazon: Check price now
There are also options for the Apple Watch at $549-$1,099, and the Apple Watch Edition at $10,000-$17,000 (right….)
Golfshot: Check price now ($24.99 annually)

Bushnell NEO Ghost

Bushnell NEO Ghost

Want simple? The Bushnell NEO Ghost is it. The Ghost provides front, center, and back of green distances, 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. The functionality is essentially the same as the Bushnell NEO XS watch. The deciding factor for players will be if they want to spend a bit more for the convenience of a watch instead of pulling the Ghost from their pocked or the attached clip. Read more details in advance of our full Bushnell NEO ghost review.
Retail price: $129.99
Three year total cost: $129.99
Amazon.com: Check price now

Callaway ECLIPSE

Callaway ECLIPSE

We have to admit we are struggling to figure out the target market for the Callaway (/IZZO) 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. The ECLIPSE provides front, center and back or green, as well as distances to hazards and doglegs. There are scoring features as well, including putts and GIR. We just aren’t quite sure what the versatility gains us. Read more about the Callaway ECLIPSE.
Retail price: $199.99
Three year cost: $199.99
Amazon.com:
Check price now (available for pre-order)

GAME GOLF Classic

GAME GOLF Classic

Some might file GAME GOLF Classic (not to be confused with the GAME GOLF Android-exclusive tag set or their mobile app) 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 Classic under our Training Aids category. Read on for our GAME GOLF Classic review.
Retail price: $199.00
Three-year cost: $199.00
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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 about the Garmin Approach G7.
Retail price: $249.99
Three-year total cost: $249.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
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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 lo and behold, released at the 2015 PGA Merchandise Show, is 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 on the Garmin Approach S5 golf watch.
Retail price: $349.99
Three year total cost: $349.99
Amazon.com: 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: $249.99 (dropped from $349.99 at launch)
Three year total cost: $249.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
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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
Amazon.com: Check price now

GolfBuddy WT5 Watch

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. Four buttons allow the player to get distances to targets and hazards, front/center/back points of green, place the pin for more accurate reading. The WT5 also provides an image of the green and pin, and a scorecard. Read on for more about the GolfBuddy WT5 Watch.
Retail price: $199.99
Amazon: Check price now

GolfBuddy BB5 Band

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 an LED display. 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. Read more about the GolBuddy BB5 golf GPS band.
Retail price: $249.99
Amazon: Check price now

IZZO Swami 4000+

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, but with no annual fees, the IZZO still remains one of the most inexpensive golf GPS devices on the market. The device has a 1.8″ color screen, and offers basic functionality such as hole advance, shot measurements, and distances in yards or meters. Read on for more about the IZZO Swami 4000+.
Retail price: $139.95
Amazon: Check price now

SkyCaddie AIRE II

SkyCaddie AIRE II

The SkyCaddie AIRE II is the smallest handheld SkyCaddie handheld device, providing distances to the front, center and back of green only on its black and white screen. And as all SkyCaddie devices, don’t forget to consider the yearly fees for the features you will likely want, in this case distances to hazards, as well as additional green information…for a whopping $49.95 per YEAR. Check out more details on the SkyCaddie Aire II.
Retail price: $169.95
Three year total cost: $319.80
Amazon.com: Check price now

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