How to Choose a Golf GPS
Lets face it, golf is all about distances. If you don't know the proper yardage to the green, you won't know the right club to pick. With a GPS or rangefinder, you can find out the proper yardage then plan your shot. With certain GPS units, you can find out if there are any hazards between you and the green. Sometimes on undulating fairways, you can't see lakes or bunkers that are hidden from view. With an advanced GPS unit, you can see an aerial view of the fairway or a fly over from tee to green.
Golf GPS units use a golf course map to determine the distance from one object to another. To use a golf GPS, you hold the device in your hand and the device figures out your GPS location in relation to the golf course map and identifies the distances to stored objects (eg. trees, lakes, bunkers) on the map.
Pros: Gives lay of the land and distances to trees, bunkers and other landmarks, can give you shape of fairway and whereabouts of landing areas, greens and hazards.
Cons: Depends heavily on up-to-date course data or data downloaded from the manufacturers' servers prior to round.
Rangefinders that use laser technology employs a eye-safe laser to determine the distance from one object to another. To use a rangefinder, you look through the device like a pair of binoculars and aim it at the target such as the flag. The rangefinder will send a laser beam to the target and wait for the laser beam to return. It uses its internal clock to calculate the time it takes for the laser beam to reach the target and back. The result is an accurate yardage from the rangefinder to a target.
Pros: Does not depend on course information for yardages. Gives accurate distances to physical targets.
Cons: Have to focus on target before a reading can be made. Hard to use when windy, rainy and snowy conditions. Also will not provide course information such as lakes, bunkers, ravines. If you can't see something, the rangefinder is blind as well.
When it comes to a GPS or a Rangefinder, there are 3 main types you can choose from. The first type allows you to carry the device in your pocket, hooked on your belt or stored in your golf bag until you need a reading from it. Most Golf GPS and rangefinders are of this type and are very popular among golfers on every level, including tour players. Newer golf GPS devices are wearable and allow the device to be worn on your wrist (like a wrist watch) or secured on your cap. The ones that secure on your cap usually talks to you at the push of a button so that you can keep your eyes on the target while getting your distances.
The reason why golfers like to use a personal golf GPS or rangefinder is to get the proper yardage to the pin. Depending on your skill level and how well you can hit your clubs, this information can either make or break your game. Knowing that each iron can incrementally give you about 10 yards difference, it is critical to know how far the pin is from your present location. It may be simple if it is a straight shot to the green but in most cases, it is not. Perhaps there is water between the green and your ball or there are green side bunkers that guard the green. In situations like these, it is important to know the distance between your ball and the front edge of the hazard if you are laying up. Or if you are going to carry the ball to the green then you may want to know the minimum distance to clear the furthest edge of the hazard. Some GPS devices provide this information along with a graphical representation of the fairway, hazard and green.
All golf GPS and rangefinders will provide you accurate distances as long as the course information is up to date. Watch for courses that have been renovated and not recently calibrated. Just one altered hole can throw the whole device into a spin. Once the device gives you a bad reading, your round is over because you have lost the confidence of your golf GPS giving you accurate information. To avoid this, make sure your golf GPS manufacturer provides an up to date course database for you to download and update your device.
I'm sure when it comes to choosing your device, you will select the best unit that gives you the most information and not cost you an arm and leg. As you can see, choosing one requires you to analyze how you play the game and what information you need to make an informed decision. I think I have covered the important points in helping you choose a device. If not, check back with me because I will keep this page current and up to date with news about helping you improve your game.
Review: Voice Caddy VC100
I have 2 GPS units at my disposal. The Sonocaddie is an older GPS unit that lets me download and play up to 10 courses at a time. When I arrive at a course, I have to select the course and hole before I play. The newer GPS units do that automatically for you. After turning it on, the GPS unit automatically detects the course and hole that you are playing on. Also instead of 10 courses, these units have up to 20,000 courses on hand for you to play on.
The second unit I own is the Voice Caddie VC100 which is a no-nonsense GPS unit that attaches to my cap. It is lightweight and easy to use. When I need yardage, I push a button on top of the unit and it tells me the hole number and the yardage. The GPS unit determines the yardage between where I am standing to the middle of the green. If the pin is at the back of the green, I have to estimate how deep the green is and guess the total distance to the pin myself.
It is easy to use and there are no other buttons to push, except the on/off button which is located at the bottom of the unit.
Review: Golf Buddy
I had a chance to use the Golf Buddy Voice GPS unit on a round of golf and here is what I found. First of, you have to be on a course before you can set the clock time on the unit. This is a mandatory step before you can use the unit. The good thing here is that once you have set the clock, you don't need to do that again and again - unless you don't keep charging the unit and letting it sit for awhile. Anything not charged will eventually lose the time.
The Golf Buddy has a nice LCD display that is visible in the sun. It has a big round button on top of the unit (like my Voice Caddie) that will tell you the yardage when you press it. The unit also has 2 buttons on the side of the unit that acts as function buttons. When you have to set the time or set the unit to measure the distance to the ball, you have to use these buttons. Personally, I found these buttons to be too small for my fat fingers. On a day when I have cut my nails, I could not get to these buttons so I could not use my Golf Buddy fully. Either leave your nails long or use a pencil to push the buttons if you have fat fingers like me. Aside from small buttons, the Golf Buddy is great. It gives accurate information and is relatively easy to use.
Rangefinders are the most popular units with PGA and LPGA players. To use one, you simply look through the viewfinder (like a binocular) and focus in on the flag. When the unit locks on, it measures the distance to the flag and gives you a visual on the yardage to the flag.
There are a number of rangefinders on the market but not all are equal. The Bushnell is one of the best because when the unit locks on to the target, it vibrates. This cue lets you know that it is measuring the yardage to the flag that you are focusing on.
Rangefinders work great most of the time but on windy days when the flag stick is blowing in the wind, it is hard to lock on. Also on some courses where flag sticks are not equipped with a embedded prism, rangefinders cannot lock on to the flag sticks.
Rangefinders will give you accurate information on the exact yardage to the pin. This is great when the groundskeeper places the pin in the front or back of the green. Most GPS units will only give yardage to the middle of the green. But where is the middle of the green? With a rangefinder, it will tell you exactly the distance to the pin wherever it is situated.