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 Fall 2013)

Golf GPS Device United States Worldwide
SkyCaddie Aire
SkyCaddie Breeze
SkyCaddie Gimme
SkyCaddie Voice
SkyCaddie SGXw
SkyCaddie SGX
SkyCaddie LINX Watch
18,711 29,465
IZZO SWAMI 4000
IZZO SWAMI Watch
17,686 28,150
Garmin Approach S4 Watch
Garmin Approach S3 Watch
Garmin Approach S2 Watch
Garmin Approach S1 Watch
17,473 Not available
Garmin Approach G8
Garmin Approach G7
Garmin Approach G6
17,473 Not available
GolfBuddy PT4 16,007 36,000
Sonocaddie V500 16,000 33,000
Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS
Bushnell NEO XS Watch
Not available 35,000
Expresso WR67 Watch Not available 35,000
Matrix SHOTMATE Voice Not available 22,000

Notes:
Source for “Courses Available” data was each company’s website, marketing literature or company representative.
Garmin courses are within the United States and Canada. Garmin S1 device is the North American versions, and does not have the ability to download courses in other regions.
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 Fall 2013)

Golf GPS Device Course Coverage*
GolfBuddy PT4/Voice 100
Garmin Approach S4/S3/S2/S1 99
Garmin Approach G8/G7/G6 99
IZZO SWAMI 4000/Watch 98
SkyCaddie Aire/Gimme/Voice/Watch 98
Matrix SHOTMATE Voice 94
Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS/NEO XS Watch 93
Expresso WR67 93
SkyCaddie SGXw/SGX/Breeze 59
Sonocaddie V500 26

Notes:
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 Fall 2013)

Golf GPS Device Top 100 Destination Best New Best Value Tolerable 20
GolfBuddy PT4/Voice 20 20 20 20 20
Garmin Approach S4/S3/S2/S1 19 20 20 20 20
Garmin Approach G6 19 20 20 20 20
IZZO SWAMI 4000/Watch 20 20 19 19 20
SkyCaddie Aire/Gimme/Voice/Watch 19 20 20 20 19
Matrix SHOTMATE Voice 19 19 18 19 19
Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS/NEO XS Watch 18 17 18 20 20
Expresso WR67 18 17 18 20 20
SkyCaddie SGXw/SGX/Breeze 14 13 14 11 7
Sonocaddie V500 7 6 5 2 6

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 Fall 2013)

Golf GPS Device West Southwest Midwest Southeast Northeast
GolfBuddy PT4/Voice 20 20 20 20 20
Garmin Approach S4/S3/S2/S1 20 20 20 20 19
Garmin Approach G8/G7/G6 20 20 20 20 19
IZZO SWAMI 4000/Watch 19 20 20 20 19
SkyCaddie Aire/Gimme/Voice/Watch 19 20 20 19 20
Matrix SHOTMATE Voice 19 18 20 19 18
Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS/NEO XS Watch 19 19 17 19 19
Expresso WR67 19 19 17 19 19
SkyCaddie SGXw/SGX/Breeze 19 20 20 19 20
Sonocaddie V500 7 4 3 5 7

See our list of golf courses tested for full details.