Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

Golf GPS Reviews - Overall Ranking

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: $299.99
Three-year total cost: $299.99
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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
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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
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Score

91

Grade

A-


Bushnell neo+

Bushnell neo+

With its “Plus” series, Bushnell joins the growing number of manufacturers offering golf GPS devices that come with courses pre-loaded, and, even better, requiring no membership fees for access to the course database. The neo+ is one of the simplest devices we tested, providing text distances to the front, center and back of the green and up to four other hazards/targets on each hole. If you are looking for ease of use, the neo+ ranks among the top devices. Read on at our detailed Bushnell neo+ review.
Retail price: $149.99
Three year total cost: $149.99
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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: $499
Three year total cost: $499
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Score

89

Grade

B+


GolfBuddy World

GolfBuddy World

The GolfBuddy World is a nice combination of an intuitive user interface, quality graphics, a full set of features, exceptional course coverage with pre-mapped targets, and no annual or per-course fees. While users can use the touchscreen to target any point on the hole and receive distances both to that point and to the green, as well as select the flagstick location, touchscreen sensitivity fell short of our expectations. The screen isn’t as bright as we would like, but hole and green graphic images are crisp. Though still not as well known as SkyCaddie and Garmin, GolfBuddy is making good progress. Read our full GolfBuddy World review.
Retail price: $299
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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 on the S2, 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. Read more in our detailed Garmin Approach S2 golf watch review.
Retail price: $249.99
Three year total cost: $249.99
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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+


GolfBuddy Platinum

GolfBuddy Platinum

The GolfBuddy Platinum is touted to have an improved screen with better touchscreen response over their earlier devices. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much of a change on either front. The device still has a nice set of features, and comes with a pre-loaded course database that achieved a perfect 100 on our course coverage test. But the high end price tag makes us wonder if you aren’t better off sticking with the prior generation GolfBuddy products. Read more in our GolfBuddy Platinum detailed review.
Retail price: $399.99
Three year total cost: $399.99
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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
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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
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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
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Score

85

Grade

B


GolfBuddy Voice

GolfBuddy Voice

The GolfBuddy Voice tries to take voice-enabled golf GPS devices to the next level, but things don’t quite click as intended. The attempt to include a display seems misguided, as it’s too small to really be of use, and isn’t the whole point of a voice-enabled display to avoid having to look at a display? Adding distances to the near and far edges of the green is useful, but the method of accessing them is awkward. The device is too thick to look stylish when it’s clipped to the bill of a cap, so you’re left attaching it to your collar or belt. For now, we’re still unconvinced about the utility of voice for GPS devices.
Retail price: $199.99
Three year total cost: $199.99
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Score

84

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
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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
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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-


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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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
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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 (what the?), 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. Check out more in advance of our Garmin G8 review.
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 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: $349.99
Three year total cost: $349.99
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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 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
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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: $TBD; no info yet on annual membership cost
Availability: March 2014

SkyCaddie TOUCH

SkyCaddie TOUCH

SkyCaddie loses the stubby antenna of the rest of the SkyCaddie Tour lineup with the new SkyCaddie TOUCH. The TOUCH sports a glove-friendly touchscreen, a 3″ color screen, 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. New features include “HD” graphics for up to 100 course maps. 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: $499.80
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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
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