Any golfer wanting to up their game should leave guesstimation at the club house. Knowing exactly how far you are from the pin, lurking bunkers, water hazards or a lay-up is essential to keeping your score down and you smiling all the way to the 19th hole. The best way to achieve this is using a golf GPS – the closest thing you can get to a secret weapon.
These gadgets help you boss your course management by using satellite technology to display pin-point yard readings of your position so you know how to play your next shot. Distance to the front, centre or back of greens is par for the course but more expensive models are flashier features than Ian Poulter’s trousers. Some come with hole-by-hole previews, colour touchscreens and can even measure how spot-on your swing is.
You’ll find golf GPS devices to be either a smartphone-sized handheld or, thanks to the breakout of wearable technology, crammed into clever wristwatches. The handhelds are larger but offer more function, while the wearables are more convenient and less intrusive.
We took to the tee to test out the range of options; scoring them on accuracy, ease-of-use and whether their features are game-changers or gimmicks.
1. TomTom Golfer: £179.99, tomtom.com
After years on highways, TomTom shows us where to drive on the fairway with a light, comfortable and waterproof watch. Yardages to front, centre and back of greens are clear and it presents hazards on the bright monochrome display. Not as feature-rich as we anticipated but it’s well-priced and looks great on the wrist.
2. Garmin Approach S6: £329.99, buy.garmin.com
This masterstroke of technology is like a caddie on your wrist. See birds-eye views of over 30,000 courses, lay-up distances and easy-to-read yardages on a punchy 1-inch colour touchscreen. It can display texts and emails and even measure your swing tempo and strength. The only thing it can’t do is carry your clubs.
3. GolfBuddy VS4: £159, golfbidder.co.uk
If you’re after a more straightforward GPS, this simply speaks out distance to the green at the press of a button. Automatic course and hole recognition adds to the easy setup and being only 28g it can be clipped to hats or belts. There’s no hazard information but we like the no-nonsense approach.
4. Bushnell Laser Hybrid GPS: £269, amazon.co.uk
A rangefinder is the traditionalist’s choice to discover yard distances but this combines the best of both worlds by also packing a GPS. The result is a super-accurate tool ideal for blind shots thanks to the quick glance convenience of yards and hazards shown on its LCD.
5. TLink GPS: £89.99, amazon.co.uk
As well as being the smallest and lightest golf GPS in the world, this is also the cheapest on test. It hooks up to your mobile via Bluetooth to give front, back and centre green distances and works as a pedometer to tell you how many calories you’ve burned. It gives a handsome performance at an attractive price.
6. Garmin Approach G8: £329.99, buy.garmin.com
For serious golfers willing to spend a wedge to slice their scores, this top-of-the-range handheld is a fully-loaded weapon. It offers yardage to anywhere on the green plus hazards, lay-ups or doglegs. It adjusts for up or downhill shots, suggests a club, has a 15-hour battery life and keeps score for a four-ball.
7. Izzo Swami 4000 Plus: £120, amazon.co.uk
This palm-sized device comes with a 1.8-inch colour screen (the perfect size for a handheld in our opinion), easy-to-read yardage, no annual subscription and rugged build. The fan favourite now includes distances to hazards and doglegs but our favourite feature is its turn-up, turn-on and play setup.
8. Snooper ShotSaver Tour Pro S340: £249.99, snooper.co.uk
From its awesome flyover hole previews to 3D mapping or the bright 3-inch colour touchscreen, there’s bags to brag about with this on. It offers the clearest visuals and instruction we’ve seen including a really useful tap anywhere function for yardage feature. It’s stacked with tricks and is cheaper than other high-end models.
9. GolfBuddy BB5: £199, golfbidder.co.uk
Literally jumping on the wearable bandwagon is another entry from GolfBuddy with the world’s first golf GPS band. The low-profile design and seven colour options keep things fashionable while the LED screen delivers green distance, tells time and how many steps you’ve trudged. It’s sleek but not the best for feature-to-price ratio.
10. Game Golf: £159.95, gamegolf.com
This part GPS, part training aid is ideal for understanding your game. There’s no screen and won’t offer yardage but it uses NFC tags on your clubs and GPS to track every shot so you can analyse your round on a computer after. It’s incredibly accurate and insightful so no wonder fans include tour pros and Barack Obama.
Using a golf GPS drastically reduced our hit-and-hope shots. They helped us know which club to play to get us nearer to the pin and shave a shot or two off our round. For complete convenience we’d recommend using a GPS watch – they offer all the basic data you need at a glance and won’t get in the way. Our top performer was Garmin’s S6 – a feature-rich piece of kit that shows why it’s a major player in the golf GPS game. However, it’s not cheap which is why we loved using the TomTom Golfer as it’s an excellent price for intuitive use, build quality and useful set of features. If you want a handheld the Snooper ShotSaver 340 offers big dog performance while Izzo’s entry makes the cut for its value and ease-of-use.
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