Keeping Distance: Latest Technology Makes Distance-Measuring Easier and More Accurate Than Ever
The USGA’s February decision allowing golfers to use distance-measuring devices in all USGA amateur championships and their respective qualifying events may not affect you one bit. In fact, GPS and rangefinders have been USGA-approved for local rules since 2006. But the ruling did return deserved attention to the category, which has really hit warp speed as of late, with respect to technological advancements.
Was it really just two years ago when we had to manually connect stand-alone GPS handheld units to our computer before we left for the course, just to load course maps onto it? Convenience has indeed evolved.
For instance, many of the units now wrap around your wrist, so you needn’t worry about schlepping a bulky unit in your pocket or attached like a dead weight to your bag. Nowadays they come in the form of either sleek-looking watches or even sexier sport bands. And they’re not only pre-loaded with every course in America and beyond, but they automatically recognize which course and hole you’re playing.
“Wrist-worn golf GPS devices have transcended the market,” says Bushnell product director Terry Mears, who emphasizes the company’s distance-made-simple mantra. “We’ll continue developing products that provide quick, accurate and easy-to-obtain distances on the course.”
Meanwhile, the latest rangefinders — which still come in the form of handheld units, because they need to be held up to your eyes to capture distance in the viewfinder — are lightning fast in locking in and displaying yardages. The latest models are also lighter weight and cased with excellent gripping materials.
Prices for the most part have dropped slightly, although some high-end models might still make you think twice. But overall, now is a great time to buy some help with distance on the course.
Leupold’s GX-4i2 ($625) is one compact, elegant-looking rangefinder. Armed with Smart Key technology, you can swap faceplates from standard silver to yellow (the latter of which measures uphill and downhill slopes and factors it into the overall distance). The viewfinder is crystal clear, vivid and well laid-out. http://golf.leupold.com
The streamlined Bushnell NEO XS watch ($200) is a bargain. A charged battery lasts three rounds in GPS mode. As a watch, it’ll go two years. And it’s preloaded with 33,000-plus courses in more than 30 countries. It can also be used as an odometer, so you can track how many miles you’re walking on the course. www.bushnellgolf.com/gps/neoxs.cfm
GolfBuddy’s BB4 ($349) simply looks futuristic. The solid-colored sport band fits comfortably around your wrist. Distances to the front/center/back of the green appear on the band’s surface in a dotted format. Its chip contains distances from 37,000 courses, and its battery lasts a respectable 10 hours. Definitely worth checking out when the product debuts this summer. www.golfbuddyglobal.com
SkyGolf’s SkyCaddie LINX GPS watch ($250) is the first such device offered in a plethora of colors. It gives you instant and accurate yardage on 34,000 courses, displayed on a high-definition, sunlight-readable display. Paired with its free companion mobile app via Bluetooth, it’ll also track your scores and stats. www.skygolf.com