Monday, September 21, 2009

GPS vs. The Rangefinder

One way to make your golf rounds more enjoyable is to know your exact yardages - to the pin, to the sand trap, to the trouble. On some courses, the carts have GPS technology built in to give you rough estimates of yardage to the pin.

There are much better technologies out there to make the game even easier -- and faster since you are no longer walking off yardages to yard markers on the course.

There are many GPS devices, which you hold in your hand, almost like a cell phone, while they flash all types of information on the screen. Some of these devices, like the popular SkyCaddie, add an annual charge to download courses into the device. The Rangefinder, akin to holding binoculars in your hand, don’t come with any charge fees and allow you to measure direct distance to wherever you point the device.

But which is better?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve tested a SkyCaddie SG4 model against the new Bushnell Pro 1600 Slope Edition.

The Bushnell is simple to use. You remove the cap on one end, look through the lens and press a button to lock in on your target. The slope version, which is not legal for tournament play, will even adjust your distance for elevation. This way you’re not guessing how much extra club to take to reach an elevated green.

The unit is waterproof and has 7x magnification, allowing you to measure things up to 400 yards away.

The SkyCaddie displays yardages to different points on each hole. You simply look down and instantly get information. You can get yardage to different pins and measure how far your tee shots are going (tip: you don’t hit it as far as you think).

The Bushnell is neat because there are no restrictions on what it can measure, though you’ll need a steady hand. I’m never 100 percent sure I’m locking on to what I think I am. Thankfully, you can “drag” the viewfinder across a target and see a few different readings.

On the range, the Bushnell is king. You can measure exactly how far your 8-iron is going and exactly how far it is to the red flag. You can do this, kind of, with the SkyCaddie, but you have to walk off the distance in “edit” mode - and watch out for flying balls while you walk out on the range.

Ultimately, though, the SkyCaddie is faster and easier to use while playing. It’s a personal preference, but being able to immediately see your distances and punch up best layup yardages and ideal tee shot yardages, with no guess-work, is a neat addition to your game.

Both are great devices, but for us, the SkyCaddie is a little better.