I think one measure of genius (or at least smarter than average) is the ability to go from step 1 to step 10 without hitting every number in between. Unfortunately, that puts me more in the Average Joe range rather than the Elon Musk circle of trust. Perfect example of my plodding learning process is how I finally arrived at realizing Laser Range Finders are by far the best method for getting distance on the golf course. Rather than simply purchasing one 5 years ago, I went through every product, including early Sky Caddie models to iPhone Apps to GPS watches. I guess I figured Laser Range finders were too slow, too bulky, and just too much accuracy for a 10 handicapper. I mean, who am I to think I can dial in a 143 yard shot?
I am a numbers guy. I don’t want to be, but as I mature I realize that there is no better way to be miserable than to fight your essential nature. I’ve tried being the ball, gazing at flags and imagining the shot, choosing a club based on nothing more than feel and The Force, but that led to some numbers that I just couldn’t avoid; 7s, 8s, even a couple of 9s before I surrendered to my own personality.
When that happened I didn’t just accept the inevitable, I embraced it with a vengeance. I measured my paces until I could repeat the same stride uphill and down. I added hundreds of steps to my round as I paced off distances from yardage plaques. I bought terrible-quality recycled golf balls to hit at the range because I didn’t trust range floaters. I learned the range of distances for each of my clubs and kept it written in a notebook in my bag.
What I didn’t do was buy a GPS or laser rangefinder. It seemed like every time I got paired up with someone who had one, our round would drag on forever while they checked the distance to everything. It seemed like once they had the ability to know the distance to things they were compelled to find out. They couldn’t not know the distance to the front, middle, and back of everything on the course, from water hazards to cart girls. I once watched as the foursome ahead of me “shared” a laser rangefinder by making the poor geezer who’d spent the better part of $400 on it walk to each of their balls and shoot the distance to the pin. Nobody could choose a club until everyone had their yardage read. Then I watched two of the four lay sod over their ball, advancing it maybe 30 yards before repeating the whole process. I resigned myself to pacing the yardage from the last marker on the way to my ball and trying to do the math in my head (which got increasingly more difficult as the beers added up), but that was a price I was willing to pay to not be one of those guys.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? A couple of years ago I got a GPS watch for running. I wanted to leave my bulky phone at home and go light, but I had to know how far I’d run and what my pace was (yeah, numbers guy). The watch made an immediate difference in my training, and integrated smoothly with my run. So when GolfBuddy sent their new WT4 GPS watch I was eager to get my mitts on it, and not only is it making a difference in my game, it’s actually speeding up my play as well.
I’ll confess that I had some reservations about the a GPS watch for golf. Before the WT4 I made it a point to not wear a watch when I played, to keep my hands as free and unencumbered as possible. I also wondered how well a delicate device like a GPS would stand up to the jolt of hitting one fat. Lastly, my usual courses don’t show up in Golf Digest, so I was concerned that I’d have to go through some computing gyrations to load the courses that I play onto the watch, if they were available at all.
Happily, the Golf Buddy WT4 comes preloaded with 37,000 courses from around the world, including my own favorite tracks, and installing updates is point and click easy using the free software. Arrive at the course, put the WT4 in play mode, and it recognizes the course automatically. To start Play mode, hold down the lower left button until the main menu opens, then use the upper and lower buttons on the right to scroll through the options (Play is the one that looks like a green). Select from the menu by pressing and releasing the lower left button again. The magic doesn’t stop there though – walk to the tee, any tee, and the GolfBuddy WT4 recognizes it when you’re within about 10 feet, displaying the distance to the front, middle, and back of the green.
Just knowing the distance to the green from the tee really isn’t that useful though. After all, that info is usually on a fairly large marker. What about that bunker on the left? How far to carry the water in front of the tee? GolfBuddy has you covered. Scroll through the hazards by pressing the lower right button and see the distance to the front and the back (and sometimes the middle, in case you ever need to hit one exactly in the middle of a pond). In fact the WT4 gave multiple distances to the front of an irregularly-shaped water hazard on my home course, a feature that really did improve how I played the hole. Be careful though, pressing the upper right button doesn’t scroll backwards, it returns you to Play mode.
Of course being able to measure the distance from point A to point B with Department of Defense-approved accuracy comes in handy for a number of different things, and the WT4 features as many of them as I could think of. Do you want to know how far you really hit that hybrid you claim to carry “about 200”? (Hint: No, you really don’t.) Your GolfBuddy will tell you. After hitting your shot, enter Shot Tracking mode by holding the upper right button until the shot tracking icon appears. When you get to your ball, press the upper right button again to see how far you hit it. I’ll warn you though, it’s never as far as you think.
The WT4 will also track how far you’ve walked during your round, and how long your round has taken, which has lots of uses, from knowing how many beers you need to drink to replace the calories you burned walking to having an outside authority to remind your human Golf Buddies to pick up the pace. And unlike your human Golf Buddies, the WT4 doesn’t forget unless you want it to, giving you the ability to save your mileage and your score (did I mention that you can keep your score on the WT4? Of course you can) for logging later. In Play mode you can scroll through the secondary information by repeatedly pressing the lower left button.
One WT4 feature that I haven’t seen on a GPS watch before is the ability to actually change the pin location. The Pin Placement menu lets you use the watch buttons to move the pin location on the green. I didn’t use it in play since I didn’t have a solid idea of where the pins were, but I fiddled with it and it seemed to work as advertised. If you’re the kind of golfer who needs to know that the hole is cut 5 paces on from the left and 23 paces from the font, and you have a pin sheet, you’ll have a leg up on most other GPS watch users. From Play mode press the upper left button, or hold the lower left button and then select the Green View icon. In this mode you can adjust the pin placement using the buttons on the right side, and distances to the front, middle, and back are calculated based on your angle of approach to the green, which I hear is convenient if you sometimes hit your approach from somewhere other than the middle of the fairway.
As for my other concerns, after the first few holes the WT4 felt completely natural, and while I’m on a bit of a putting schneid I don’t think I can blame the fact that I’m wearing a watch . . . sadly these things happen. After 7-8 rounds and multiple range sessions in frost-delay weather, my GolfBuddy WT4 still functions flawlessly and looks good.
In fact the WT4 looks so good that GolfBuddy bills it as a “lifestyle” watch, and I wear mine away from the course frequently. With a choice of digital or analog time display, backlighting, and a nifty menu of secondary information that includes day/date, seconds, or my favorite: sunrise/sunset times, my WT4 has been mistaken for a smart watch more than once.
Of course that’s kind of understandable, since smart watches are known for being big, and the WT4 is anything but dainty. With a large LCD surrounded by a chrome-ish plastic bezel, it’s an eye catcher, but the styling doesn’t scream “Golf Watch”, so no complaints there. For all the surface area, the WT4 is relatively slim, a good bit thinner than my Soleus running watch, and the large screen is what makes things like a Pin Placement menu workable. I have small wrists, but the WT4 doesn’t look out of place on me, so chances are that unless you’re very small-boned it will work fine for you as well.
My only real complaint with the WT4 isn’t with the watch at all, it’s with the instructions. The WT4 has a lot of features and only 4 buttons, so it’s no surprise that it’s a little tricky sometimes to find the feature you want, but the instructions make this worse because they aren’t really instructions, they’re really a list of how to access the individual features. The first couple of times I tried to keep score using the WT4 things went adrift pretty quickly. I was able to figure it out after a good sit-down with the instructions, but you can only access the scoring mode when you’re at the golf course, so if you don’t routinely drop by your local course for a beer and a little putting practice, you’re going to have to remember to put the instructions in your bag. Even then there’s no clear-cut route to actually playing a round of golf, which is what I’d like to see in the instructions. As someone who has made his living writing instructions I realize that this is a very small problem, since nobody reads the instructions anyway. Don’t let my professional ire scare you away from what is really a very useful tool.
With the GolfBuddy WT4 I can get yardage information at a glance as I approach my ball without even breaking stride. By the time I get to my ball I know the yardage and have a club in hand. Because I can use the WT4 to track how far I hit each club, I’m more confident in the club I’ve selected, which means less indecision over the ball. The end result is that I play faster and better, and have a better time doing it.
Disclaimer: I am a golf gadget junky and always work under the pretense that the more information I have the better. Hence, when we received the Golf Buddy Platinum to review, I was first in line. Off the bat, the Platinum from Golf Buddy is a full featured handheld GPS device that has a list of features a mile long, but I want to focus on eight crucial items.
No Annual Fee:
None, nada, zip, but the Platinum does come loaded with 40,000 courses and is ready to go right out the box. The courses are really easy to search and in the review mode you can scroll through the holes and see the layout. This means you can take a virtual tour of any course prior to actually playing it. This feature came in very handy when I traveled to Utah last month and wanted to check out the courses I would be playing.
Automatic Course and Hole Recognition:
For Golf Buddy veterans, this feature is a given but still relatively unique in the GPS world. Here is how it works: Turn on the GPS and forget about it. In just a few minutes, the course will be recognized and will move through the holes seamlessly. Every so often you may have to manually change the hole number if you play a course where the fairways are close together or in an odd configuration, but it happens rarely and not a big deal to toggle to the next hole.
Pin and Target Placement:
The Golf Buddy Platinum utilizes a touchscreen for both the overhead fairway and green view. In both cases you can use your finger to locate areas to change the yardage. For example, you can select an area to lay up to and get that distance. In the case of the green, you can move the pin to different location. Both functions work fairly well, but it can be a little tricky to get the marker to the exact point you want. Fortunately, there is also a “Target” selection that will tell you the yardage to the obvious locations, i.e. to the front of a stream, carry the stream, front of the bunker, etc.
Obviously, accuracy matters and the Golf Buddy Platinum excels on this front. I verified a ton of yardages with my laser range finder and found the measurement to be nearly identical in every single case. I also compared the yardages given by the GPS system that was built into the cart (you know the ones that are in high-end clubs). Suffice it to say, the Golf Buddy Platinum will not steer you wrong with yardage.
Over a three day period I played three different courses and a total of sixty three holes. I charged the Platinum up the night before my first round and it performed flawlessly for the next three days without returning to the charger once. That was a solid performance – Apple needs to look into what Golf Buddy is doing with their batteries and take a hint!
The Platinum fits comfortably in your hand and weighs in at 5.65oz. It has enough weight to it though that you can tell it’s well made. The case is shock and water resistant but I wouldn’t recommend bouncing it off the rocks and into the pond. Technology hasn’t advanced that far, yet.
The Score Tracking Mode and Statistic Analysis:
As I said earlier, I love information and have kept my golf stats for years. The idea of a GPS/stats unit is great but in reality it is a tough thing to pull off. My basic issues with the scoring module is that entering in your score and number of putts is way too hard and time consuming. One simple fix would be to make the default score be par and the default number of putts be 2. In the case of the Golf Buddy, the default is zero which means you have to enter numbers in for each hole. With that said, you can keep scores for the whole foursome plus stats for driving accuracy, putts and sand saves.
Key to a GPS is the ability to quickly peak at the screen to get yardage to the middle of the green. The Golf Buddy is super easy to read as that information is always in the top right corner. A simple click of that box gives you yardage to front, middle and back of the green. Additionally the Golf Buddy GPS is easy to read in bright sunlight and while wearing polarized sunglasses.
There is a huge upside to Golf Buddy and their wide variety of products. The GPS was amazingly accurate from all area of the course and the automatic hole detection makes it one of the most user friendly GPS’s I have ever used. No more button pushing between holes or shots, you arrive at your ball, look down and you’re good to go. That’s how it should be.
The Golf Buddy Platinum retails for $399.99 on sale now for $345.99 you can view it and all the other products Golf Buddy has to offer on their website.
Golf Buddy Voice Review: “Hey, what’s that sprinkler head say?” That’s how most of us grew up getting yardage. Now it seems like everyone has a laser, phone or some kind of GPS unit. Don’t get me wrong, I am as big a gadget geek as the next guy, but similar to my relationship with Facebook, I’m just not sure I am still that into it.
Sure, when I got my first golf GPS unit I was kinda jacked about being able to get yardage to every spot on the course, but I secretly suspected this information overload was actually having a negative effect on my swing. Plus, I have started to feel burdened by all the buttons and electronics I seem to be toting around the course. Therein lies the problem – I want to enjoy the zen of golf while still having easy access to reliable yardage. With the Golf Buddy Voice I finally feel like I have bridged that gap – in fact, it took me only one round to appreciate how well the Golf Buddy balances technology and aesthetics – Steve Jobs would have been proud.
In my opinion, Golf Buddy Voice has essentially said “less is more,” which goes directly against the philosophy of every other GPS unit that is packing more features and buttons into every release (not to mention the increase in size). The Golf Buddy Voice is only about 1.5″ x 1.5″ and can clip on your belt, hat, or just be put inside your pocket. Instructions? Here they are:
1) Turn it on
2) Wait a few minutes for it to find your course
3) Press the button to hear a nice lady tell you the yardage
4) Shank the ball into the woods
Well actually, #4 is optional, but with over 35,000 courses pre-loaded and no annual fee, the Golf Buddy Voice is essentially your personal caddy. The first time I played with the Golf Buddy, I felt completly freed of gadgets and was able to get back to hitting shots (I shot a 79 that day, which is about 2 strokes lower than my average for what that’s worth). And to be honest, I am probably delusional to think I can dial in much more than the center of the green (don’t fear, Golf Buddy Voice has yardage to back and middle as well).
The only goofy thing I encountered is that the unit once thought I was on a different hole because the course layout was tight. However, you can simply hit the select button and the + button to toggle to the correct hole. Again, this only happened to me once, but until I went back to look at the instructions I was at a loss as to what to do because it is kind of like an iPad with only one button (it actually has about 5 but you really only use one of them).
So this is what you get in the box: Golf Buddy Voice unit, USB or wall charger, rubber protector. Despite the simplicity, the Golf Buddy Voice still packs a punch. Namely:
- Audio distance information (it tells you the distance)
- 40,000 course capacity (from all over the world)
- No annual or download fees
- Distances to Front / Center / Back of the green
- Automatic course & hole recognition
- Shot distance measurement
- Dynamic green view
- Volume control
- Supports multiple greens
What this means for me is that I simply clip the Golf Buddy Voice on my belt, turn it on, and forget about it. When I get to my ball, I just hit the button and I get the distance to the center. You can also look at the screen, but I prefer to have her tell me the yardage. I can toggle through using the button to get distance to the front and back, and I can also mark my ball after a shot to get carry distance. In terms of the battery, you can easily play a 6 hour round with no problem.
Again, the key difference from a larger GPS unit is that I don’t have to tote it around or look like an IT geek with it clipped to my belt. When I compare it to a phone app, the big advantage is that it frees me from the device I hate when I am on the golf course (my cell phone). Yes, I know that sometimes getting yardage to carry a hazard is important, but that’s what I have friends for, right? Seriously, sure there is some information you give up with the Golf Buddy Voice but in terms of ease of use and freedom from bulky devices, I have never seen anything like the Golf Buddy Voice. I absolutely love the Golf Buddy Voice!
You can learn more about the device on their website.
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