Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

Golf GPS Device Course Availability

Every manufacturer says that they have tens of thousands of golf courses available in their database (see Table 1) – but we think it’s more important to know if they actually have the courses that you play (see Table 2). In general, devices with full hole views, either graphics or satellite views, have lower course availability than those without.

We also tested how easy it is to map courses that aren’t available from the manufacturer, and in cases where the course is mapped and available, if you can add more targets points to each hole.

Table 1. Manufacturer Claim of Courses Available (Updated Summer 2015)

Golf GPS DeviceWorldwide
Sonocaddie V50040,000
Garmin Approach G8
Garmin Approach G7
Garmin Approach G6
Garmin Approach S6
Garmin Approach S5
Garmin Approach S4
Garmin Approach S2
GolfBuddy PT437,000
SkyCaddie Aire
SkyCaddie Breeze
SkyCaddie Gimme
SkyCaddie Voice
SkyCaddie SGXw
SkyCaddie SGX
SkyCaddie LINX Watch
TomTom Golfer34,000
Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS
Bushnell NEO XS Watch
Expresso WR67 Watch
Callaway GPSync
ScoreBand Golf27,000
Matrix SHOTMATE Voice22,000

Source for “Courses Available” data was each company’s website, marketing literature or company representative.
For reference, the National Golf Foundation states there were 15,979 golf courses in the United States as of January 1, 2010 and Golf Digest estimated the number worldwide at over 32,000 as of 2005.

Our Survey

We took a cross-section of 100 public courses across the country and searched to see if the courses were available for each device. In order to avoid having a skewed result, we tried to utilize as broad and representative a sample as possible.
We counted courses as “covered” only if the highest level of functionality advertised is available for the course.

To test if there were specific areas lacking in course coverage:

  • 20 courses were selected in each of 5 geographical regions of the United States – the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West.
  • Courses from 48 states were represented in our survey.

Selections were also evenly dispersed among 5 different types of courses:

  • Top 100: The best of the best, these 20 courses are listed among the top 100 public courses in the country as determined by various publications.
  • Destination: This group consisted of 20 resort courses that didn’t quite make the grade for Top 100 awards.
  • Best New(ish): As a test of how quickly companies make new courses available, we selected 20 courses recognized by various publications as among the best new courses of 2007 or 2008.
  • Best Value: We decided to test whether companies would map courses for the frugal golfer, and found 20 courses recognized by various publications for their value for the money (”Best Public Courses Under $50″, et al).
  • Tolerable 20: Finally, to see if course coverage extended to the average golfer, we selected 20 public golf courses that received absolutely no accolades – the type of munis and other local courses that the average duffer plays every weekend.

The Results

Overall Coverage

Overall coverage is based upon course availability of the most advanced features marketed for the product (such as IntelliGreen Pro for selected SkyCaddie products). All devices continue to creep upwards in course coverage since our initial reviews in 2009, though some still toil at lower coverage levels, dragged down by a lack of coverage for their advanced features. Scores were out of a possible 100. Full detail of courses tested is available.

Table 2. Critical Golf Test Results – Course Coverage (Updated Summer 2015)

Golf GPS DeviceCourse Coverage*
Garmin Approach S6/S5/S4/S3/S2/S1100
Garmin Approach G8/G7/G6100
GolfBuddy PT4/Voice100
Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS/NEO XS Watch99
Expresso WR6799
TomTom Golfer99
SkyCaddie Aire/Aire II/LINX/Watch99
Callaway GPSync98
IZZO SWAMI 4000/Watch98
ScoreBand Golf96
SkyCaddie Breeze57
Sonocaddie V50026

We define our course coverage statistic to only count a course as “covered” if it was mapped in the most advanced mode a device provided. The change in our methodology results as more and more devices evolve to providing overhead maps. We believe consumers want to know if these devices they are buying are able to deliver what is promised, and not a lower level of service.

Coverage by Course Type

When it came to course type (see Table 3 below), coverage of “Best New” courses is the differentiator between the upper echelon and also-ran competitors in this category. That wasn’t too surprising (we would presume that the primary challenge for the makers of these units will always be keeping up with new courses that open) – but we were pleasantly surprised to see most units providing solid coverage of the Tolerable 20. Scores were out of 20 for each course type.

Table 3. Critical Golf Test Results – Course Coverage by Course Type (Updated Summer 2015)

Golf GPS DeviceTop 100DestinationBest NewBest ValueTolerable 20
Garmin Approach S6/S5/S4/S3/S2/S12020202020
Garmin Approach G8/G7/G62020202020
GolfBuddy PT4/Voice2020202020
Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS/NEO XS Watch2020192020
Expresso WR672020192020
TomTom Golfer2020192020
SkyCaddie Aire/Aire II/LINX/Watch1920202020
Callaway GPSync2019201920
IZZO SWAMI 4000/Watch2019201920
ScoreBand Golf2019191919
SkyCaddie Breeze131313117
Sonocaddie V50075536

See our list of golf courses tested for full details.

Coverage by Geography

The breakout by geography in Table 4 shows that devices that aren’t in the top tier of our course testing generally have one or more regions that trail their strongest regions in coverage. Scores were out of 20 for each region.

Table 4. Critical Golf Test Results – Course Coverage by Geography (Updated Summer 2015)

Golf GPS DeviceWestSouthwestMidwestSoutheastNortheast
Garmin Approach S6/S5/S4/S3/S2/S12020202020
Garmin Approach G8/G7/G62020202020
GolfBuddy PT4/Voice2020202020
Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS/NEO XS Watch2019202020
Expresso WR672019202020
TomTom Golfer2019202020
SkyCaddie Aire/Aire II/LINX/Watch1920202020
Callaway GPSync2019202019
IZZO SWAMI 4000/Watch2019202019
ScoreBand Golf1919192019
SkyCaddie Breeze111271612
Sonocaddie V50073458

See our list of golf courses tested for full details.