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Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

SkyCaddie Breeze

SkyCaddie Breeze

Score

87

Grade

B+

Those who know SkyCaddie products will recognize the SkyCaddie Breeze as a slight iteration of the previous generation Skycaddie SGX and SGXw devices. The Breeze uses virtually the same hefty hardware as the others, but the key difference is that the Breeze is feature-upgradable. The base SkyCaddie Breeze comes with distance information to the front, center and back of greens, and users then pay one-time fees to upgrade their device to access additional features (included by default with the Skycaddie SGX and SGXw). These user-upgradable features are available in three different “Feature Packs” (priced at $34.95 each), and include enhanced green detail, full hole views, and yardage arcs. If your purchase decision is based on specific features, be sure to check whether those features are available for the courses you play. For example, our course coverage test revealed that the SkyCaddie database provides advanced green detail on a paltry 59% of courses and pin sheet coverage on only 4%(!) of courses.

The SkyCaddie Breeze offers unmatched ability to customize your device for both features and preference settings. The display and graphics are quite good and the Breeze provides more detailed course information than any other device – assuming that those features are available for the course that you are playing. The Breeze will be a desirable option for players who want the full assortment of upgradable features and are willing to pay the considerable fees. Those who are die-hard SkyCaddie fans but don’t have a need for hole graphics or advanced settings will be better off considering the SkyCaddie Aire or SkyCaddie Gimme, both of which are available at correspondingly lower price points.

SCORE
87
GRADE
B+
Setup/Syncing
75
Course Availability
59
Ease of Use
86
Course Details
96
Features
95
Accuracy
90
Cost/Value
84

Pros:

  • Bright and easy to read color screen
  • Full graphic hole views and green contour detail (depending on course availability)
  • Variety of preference settings

Cons:

  • High 3-year total cost
  • Course coverage extremely low for advanced green features, and virtually non-existent for pin sheet positions
  • Largest and heaviest in our tests
  • Online ClubSG portal needs a lot of improvement

Retail price: $334.80
Three year total cost: $484.65
Amazon.com: Check price now


75 / C

SETUP/SYNCING

We long for the day when we will be able to setup and sync a SkyCaddie device without issue. We’ve had problems in the past so we weren’t surprised by our experience, but a new SkyCaddie user can be in for a rude first impression. We haven’t yet determined a pattern for whether the SkyCaddie Breeze will successfully sync or not, so we just assume it won’t correctly sync on our first attempt to update the software or courses.

Details for syncing:

  • Required steps. You’ll need to sync the Breeze for both course and software updates, as well as to transfer scores and statistics to SkyCaddie’s online portal. The required steps (in addition to activating your Breeze at the SkyCaddie website) are as follows:
    • installing course management software (CaddieSync Express) to your computer;
    • to add courses to the Breeze, log in to your account via the SkyCaddie web site, then search for and select courses to sync to the Breeze (this has a nice interface, and indicates which advanced features are available for each course);
    • launch SkyCaddie Express; and
    • sync courses to the device through the USB cable.
  • Time required for setup. The initial setup included updating both the operating system and the course maps. The operating system update took just under 1.5 hours (this went smoothly, and the time is in line with past device operating system updates). The course map update, however, failed multiple times at the very end of its process, and by the time we finally succeeded we had invested over 1.5 hours. Making this a 3-hour process in total. Painful.
SkyCaddie Breeze Setup
Click for images

Once we were through the initial setup, we found that adding more courses or updating existing courses took a minimum of 20 minutes. We experienced additional errors, including one “Windows CE Networking” error on the device (see image), and others crashing our browser and requiring a restart. Setting aside the basic syncing errors, it’s still a mystery as to why it would take 20 minutes to update a single course and why you should have to select courses one-by-one to transfer to the Breeze as opposed to being able to select a state or region. There is also a limit of 50 courses with advanced feature maps (such as full hole views) on the Breeze at one time, which is puzzling in this age of cheap storage. Our suggestion to SkyCaddie – why not have information for all courses pre-loaded on the device, and then simply “activate” the courses that the user pays to access?

You can charge the Breeze by using the included AC adapter or by plugging it directly into your computer. Once it’s plugged in the Breeze will being charging automatically. A graphic will indicate the level of charge, and the device will power off when the battery is fully charged.

What’s in the Box: The SkyCaddie Breeze comes with:

  • Rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery
  • USB to Micro-USB cable
  • A/C power adapter
  • Belt clip and cradle
  • LCD screen guards and installation instructions
  • LCD screen cleaning cloth
  • Player’s Guide
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Additional documentation (warranty, etc.)

The SkyCaddie Breeze User Manual is available only via download from the SkyCaddie website.


59 / F

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: We test devices based on their level of course coverage for the most advanced features available, as after all, that’s what the manufacturers market. Disappointingly, the SkyCaddie Breeze scores a mere 59 in our course coverage test, dragged down by its poor IntelliGreen Pro availability (see ‘Course Detail and Mapping’, below, for views and Feature Pack details). This score has been low since its introduction in 2010, and rightly should probably still be called a “beta” feature. It makes us wonder where the high annual fees are going… The slow addition of green detail does, however, imply to us that courses aren’t regularly revisited by SkyCaddie course mappers (the folks who walk the course with magic GPS backpacks).

We are going to give SkyCaddie a pass on the low ranking for its PinPoint Technology, which lets users enter pin sheet locations. We found this feature available on only 5% of courses tested. That’s not a typo. 5%. Five. Percent. It’s a nice marketing move on SkyCaddie’s part to promote this feature, but players should know that they will rarely be able to use this functionality, either due to courses not offering pin sheets, or SkyCaddie not having the feature enabled for the course.

The takeaway here is that if you are considering a purchase of a SkyCaddie Breeze and are interested in specific features, you’ll want to make sure they are included in the list of SkyCaddie courses mapped.

Manufacturer’s Claims: SkyCaddie claims to have nearly 30,000 courses with standard distance information in its course database, placing it among the top devices tested. SkyCaddie doesn’t break out coverage separately for advanced features, so the 30,000 number doesn’t tell you about detailed coverage available for the Breeze.


86 / B

EASE OF USE

The Good: A very nice display and straightforward navigation makes it easy to access the variety of features on the SkyCaddie, though you’ll want to check out the manual to learn all the preferences available. The joystick allowed us to quickly select target points without obscuring the screen with our finger (a problem on some of the touchscreen devices).

The Bad: Size and weight are strikes against the Breeze. There is no ability to step “back” to a previous view – instead you have to cycle forward through all of the options. Target List view often initially displays only a subset of total available targets, forcing users to immediately start scrolling through the list.

SkyCaddie Breeze
Click for views

Details:

  • Buttons. The device features a small joystick, two soft keys, and buttons for power/cursor lock, mark ball, menu, info/toggle yardage arcs, and hole selection. The buttons are temperamental – you need to be relatively deliberate when pressing them, as seeing/hearing the button doesn’t necessarily mean you have successfully engaged the desired function. Under the default settings, using the joystick to scroll through menu items requires a deft touch, as you can unintentionally depress it and inadvertently select a function. This can, however, be remedied by turning off the ability of the joystick to select menu items (one of many preference settings available).
  • Screen. The SkyCaddie Breeze has a very nice 3” screen that works well under all lighting conditions.
  • Form Factor. The SkyCaddie Breeze unfortunately keeps the same bulky form factor as the Skycaddie SGX and SkyCaddie SGXw. At 5.4 ounces it is one of the heaviest devices we tested, and its size is the largest among GPS devices.
  • Navigation. The navigation through the Breeze is very good, and even allows users to exit to the main menu (to adjust settings, for example) and then resume the round. One negative is that in many scenarios when you would want to “back up” a screen, you have to instead cycle forward through a number of views first (i.e. if you want to simply zoom out a level when in full hole view). Switching between views often feels a bit sluggish – hopefully SkyCaddie will speed things up with their next version. We did experience some glitches in attempting to switch between hole views.
  • SkyCaddie Breeze
    Click to enlarge
  • Starting a Round. At the outset of a round, the Breeze will use the device’s location to determine the nearest golf course. The player can select that course, choose from among the courses they have loaded onto the device, or choose from the selection of “Preloaded Courses” that SkyCaddie loads on the device at the factory (which include basic distance information only). After selecting the course, the user selects the hole on which to start the round.

The errors we experienced weren’t limited to the syncing process. We were also forced to quit our round in progress when we received a “Program Memory is Low” error (see image to the right). C’mon SkyCaddie! Thankfully we were able to resume the round and found our previously entered scores and statistics were still intact. Phew.


96 / A

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: While it’s not a satellite image, the graphic hole views provide great detail, including rough mapping of tree cover. These graphics are the most comprehensive of all non-satellite image devices. The green graphic will rotate based on player position.

The Bad: Holes can sometimes get cropped, particularly doglegs and when you’re zooming on a hole and your position is far from the center of the fairway (simple solution – just hit your ball into the middle of the fairway!). Target List doesn’t drop targets from the list off after you pass them on the hole.

SkyCaddie Breeze
Click for views

Unless you purchase one of the Feature Pack upgrades, you will only have access to text distances to the front, center and back of the green. Once a Feature Pack is purchased, you can quickly cycle between the available views (see below), and can customize the display to remove any views you don’t want to use. In a business decision that isn’t very player-friendly, the Feature Packs all “build” on previous packs. For example, if you want Feature Pack 3, you have to first purchase Feature Packs 1 and 2. For a closer look at the different views available, check out the Feature Pack images at right.

Views:

  • Standard Views. Until you upgrade by purchasing one of the Feature Packs, you will only have access to distances to the near, center and far points of the green based on your position on the course. This basic screen, as well as the more advanced, also provide the hole, par, handicap, battery life, signal strength, time and distance metric (yards or meters).
  • Feature Pack 1. Feature Pack 1 adds SkyCaddie’s IntelliGreen and IntelliGreen Pro functionality, as well as a target list view. The IntelliGreen view provides a graphic of the shape of the green and the surrounding hazards, with distances to the front, back, and center of the green. Use the joystick to move the target crosshairs (which is placed by default in the center of the green), and the Breeze will then display distances from the target crosshairs to the front and back, as well as left and right sides of the green. Very handy for picking a strategic place to land the ball! IntelliGreen Pro is extremely useful, adding graphics contours and false fronts, and becomes even more advantageous when PinPoint is available to provide players a better sense for hole location (see ‘Feature Pack 3′, below).

    As previously mentioned, Feature Pack 1 also includes a Target List view, which provides a list of distances to hazards, carries and layups ahead of the player on the hole (up to 5 at a time), along with the distance from the selected target to the green. There is no graphic view associated with the Target List but if you want to save a few dollars, this Feature Pack may contain all the distance information you need. We found that even with a full hole view available, we still would refer to the Target List view on occasion to speed up play, particularly in cases where we wanted distances to a number of targets/hazards at one time and didn’t want to have to target them one by one of them using the joystick in full hole view.

  • Feature Pack 2. Feature Pack 2 provides SkyCaddie’s Interactive HoleVue and QuickVue functionality. HoleVue is our preferred view of the lot, and is one of SkyCaddie’s strongest selling points. HoleVue is an overhead graphic of the entire hole and, through positioning of the target crosshairs with the joystick, enables users to obtain distances to any point on the hole. When the user targets a position on the course, the display will provide both the distance to that point and the distance from that point to the green (and will continue to show the total distance to the center of the green). The overhead graphic will automatically zoom in to the remaining portion of the hole as the player advances. You can elect to zoom in and out on your own and the Breeze will step through 3 levels of zoom, each focusing more on the green. If you zoom when you are too close to the edge of the hole, however, you may not be able to see your location (the zoom doesn’t focus on your position, but rather on the fairway/green), and there is no ability to pan the screen.

    Also bundled into Feature Pack 2 is QuickVue, which provides a pseudo-3D view of the hole to provide the “safest route,” with surrounding hazards shown as little blocks. It also provides a graphic preview of the green above the 3D-ish image. This is the least useful of all views, and one we turn off – (80s arcade game Battlezone had better graphics).

  • Feature Pack 3. Feature Pack 3 offers Dynamic RangeVue and PinPoint. Dynamic RangeVue is an overlay of distance arcs on top of full hole and green views. Consider it a faster way to get distances to multiple points, for those times when you want to know distances both short of and past your targets (hey, sometimes things go awry). We weren’t fans of these arcs at first, but they have grown on us, and you can toggle the arcs on and off at the push of a button.

    PinPoint enables users to enter in pin sheet positions, allowing them to (perhaps) more accurately place hole location as opposed to having to try to estimate the position by eye and then position the crosshair on the green, or pulling out a laser rangefinder (though that will most often produce a more accurate reading to the flag). As mentioned, PinPoint is available for very few courses (see ‘Course Availability’, above).

Users have the ability to switch to viewing either their scorecard or an alternate green view that only displays the distance to the center of the green by simply rotating the device to the left or the right. We found these views too easy to trigger regardless of sensitivity setting, and ultimately elected to turn it off. Both the scorecard and green view are still easy to access.

Users can’t add custom points for existing courses, but can create personal courses from scratch (though with distances to the front, center and back of the green only).


95 / A

FEATURES

The Good: The SkyCaddie Breeze provides nearly all of the features and you would expect from a premium-priced golf GPS device.

The Bad: No ability to modify layup points that are shown in full hole view. Would prefer to enter additional statistics on the device (you can, however enter them manually on the online ClubSG portal).

SkyCaddie Breeze
Click for images

Details:

  • Shot Tracking. Users can easily mark their shots to measure distances.
  • Scores and Statistics. On the Breeze, users can track score, putts, fairways hit (or left/right) and tee shot distance, but unfortunately not penalty or sand shots. After entering the score for a hole, players have the options to see a round summary that displays where they stand relative to par, total score and total putts; up to 20 scores can be stored on the device. Players can also access their scorecard at any time, which provides the par and the score relative to par on each hole, along with total relative to par on the front 9, back 9, and for the entire round. Users can edit previous hole scoring from this screen as well.
  • Auto-Advance. Users can choose between automatic or manual advancement between holes. Though there were occasions where the Breeze didn’t recognize that we had moved to the next hole, and times when it would ask if we were done with the hole before we had reached the green, in general we preferred to leave the auto-advance option on. If needed, you can quickly jump to another hole at any time.
  • Preferences. SkyCaddie provides more user settings than any other device, which, depending on your comfort with their menus and navigation, can be either a boon or hopelessly overwhelming. These settings include common ones found on many devices, such adjustments to backlight and power, but also options of views to display (and when), and when to display targets. Good times.
  • Battery Life. With the screen left on and the Breeze at full brightness, the Breeze will last between 7 and 8 hours. You can extend your battery life by modifying the backlight and power save settings.
  • ClubSG. ClubSG is SkyCaddie’s online portal for storing user scores and statistics, and is automatically updated when users sync their Breeze. There are a large number of stats that can’t be entered on the Breeze itself, but rather can only be entered directly through ClubSG (though we were too lazy to do this). Players with active SkyCaddie memberships can also enter ClubSG Premium statistics, including the number of alcoholic drinks consumed per round and mulligans taken. The navigation and data presented still need a ton of work (why would I want to know the total of my average drive distances? Huh?). There is a lot of junk displayed throughout the portal that you don’t have the option to turn on/off. Personally, we don’t care about seeing leaderboards for stats, for example, which show tons of players with a 100% GIR percentage – liars! SkyCaddie has spent a lot of time enabling the inclusion of a lot of information, but not as much time in making navigation as crisp as it should be. Focus SkyCaddie, focus! Do your customers a favor and use some of the high annual fees to splurge for a top-notch UI designer and programmers to make ClubSG a polished portal that we would want to visit.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.


90 / A-

ACCURACY

In most instances, the distances provided by the SkyCaddie Breeze were within 4 yards of sprinkler head readings, though we have seen distances differences of up to 7 yards. Distance readings are available all the way to the green.

Our readers have asked about the benefits of having a device that has been mapped by SkyGolf (parent company of SkyCaddie) through having employees walking the course. This process enables SkyCaddie to provide more information than its competitors, with the edge coming in areas such as green contour and additional course detail which can’t be seen on satellite images (upon which most companies rely for their mapping). We have, however, run into a number of cases where SkyCaddie maps aren’t up-to-date. While SkyCaddie notes that they are reliant upon golf courses to tell them when changes are made, it is still disappointing to see that they haven’t known about, or made the effort to find out about, changes at major courses that have been in place for several years. It’s high time that SkyCaddie used more of our steep annual fees toward maintaining the course database!


84 / B

COST/VALUE
Retail Price: While the SkyCaddie Breeze starts with a retail price of $229.95, our reviews encompass the full capabilities of GPS units, which in this case includes the three Feature Packs. This raises the total SkyCaddie Breeze price to $334.80, putting it in the top quartile of retail golf GPS devices, comparable with full-featured golf GPS devices from Garmin and GolfBuddy.

Fees for Access to Course Database: Fewer and fewer companies charge annual fees for access to their course database, but SkyCaddie hasn’t changed its stance. SkyCaddie Breeze owners can choose one of three membership plans to access the course database with advanced information: $19.95/year for access to just front/center/back of the green course information and updates, or for full course maps (which most users of the Breeze will want), you can choose between $29.95/year for one state, $49.95/year for the entire United States, and $59.95/year for worldwide access. These memberships all include ClubSG access.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: At $484.85 over three years in our tests, the SkyCaddie Breeze is one of the highest-priced devices in our test of total golf GPS cost. $$$$$!

Value: While the SkyCaddie Breeze markets an aggressive starting price with a solid number of features and settings, our bet is that most customers will purchase all of the Feature Packs, as these really are the selling points of the device. There are a variety of features and settings available, and the graphics make the device a compelling purchase. The relatively large size and spotty course coverage for advanced features are negatives, and the recurring fees add up over time. The Breeze is a device worthy of consideration if your courses are covered and you have the bucks, but at nearly $500 for three years, the SkyCaddie Breeze is going to face tough sledding against the competition.

Reviewed: March 2013