It’s safe to say that we’re collectively going through a difficult time right now. I thought I would share with you a fun father/daughter project that can bring a little joy to your day.
A friend of mine in the golf world, Lou Stagner, created a complete lego replica of the 12th hole at Augusta National with his daughter. The reproduction took 20,000 individual lego pieces and more than 60 hours of work to create in their basement. His daughter, who is in 4th grade, wants to partner with a pro golfer to help a homeless charity with the proceeds of the sale.
Take a look at this time-lapse video to see it come to life, it’s incredible:
If you’re interested in helping Lou and his daughter spread the word, and hopefully find an eventual donor, please contact him on Twitter here. Check out some more photos below:
A common trap that many golfers fall into is that they’ll spend countless hours practicing and assume that alone will entitle them to lower their scores. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. As a junior golfer, I used to get frustrated after hitting hundreds of balls and not seeing any real improvement. I think all of us can relate to this in some way.
There needs to be some balance between being on a golf course and spending time working on your game. While everyone’s schedules and time commitments are different, I want to help you understand something critical about what it takes to become a better golfer.
A lot can happen in 18 holes. You can go through periods of great play, and then abruptly forget how to swing a club two holes later. The emotional “swings” that occur are part of what makes the game so unique and frustrating at the same time.
One thing that golfers lose sight of is that you need to be on the course going through all of those trials and tribulations to gain experience. Most players who progress in their game will tell you the same thing; you need to be out on a course playing. In a way, playing is the best form of practice.
Simply put, you need to be comfortable on a golf course. There are so many little elements to this game that require a certain amount of experience, and if you can’t play enough, then it’s hard to develop them.
I can’t possibly quantify the number of hours, or what kind of ratio you need to divide between practice and playing time. What I can tell you is that at a certain point, spending more time practicing at the expense of playing will likely yield diminishing returns. I know most of you reading this have work, family, and all other kinds of time commitments that seem to get in the way of golf. That’s part of the reason why I talk about managing expectations so much, and why golfers are usually too hard on themselves.
Many of us don’t have unlimited time to work on our games and play as much as we would like. However, if you use that time effectively, you can see improvement.
I’ll discuss three hypothetical scenarios to illustrate my point:
Scenario #1 – Practice With Little Play: If you are a golfer who can get plenty of 30-60 minute practice sessions in but can only play one or two times a month – it usually makes sense to temper your expectations. Some players are more naturally talented than others. Still, I often find that if you are not able to test your skills and learn from them often enough, it’s challenging to gain any meaningful return on your preparation. Overall, if you can’t play enough, I wouldn’t expect too much.
Scenario #2 – Practicing Instead of Playing: If you do have more time to get on the course, but are choosing to practice more instead of play – I would urge you to find more of a balance. Every time you tee it up, it’s an opportunity to learn and challenge yourself. The things you’ve been working on at the practice facility, or your backyard, need a chance to be tested out in live-action.
Scenario #3 – All Play No Practice: Some golfers don’t want to practice at all, and use all of their free time to play. I get it. While I do think you still can learn and improve by playing plenty of golf, you are likely forgoing an opportunity to get better if you aren’t working on your skills off the course. All of the clues about your game are hiding in your on-course performance. If you can take time to analyze what is happening during your rounds, and use that information to work on some of the elements of your game that are lacking, there are usually some low-hanging fruit waiting to be picked.
Speaking anecdotally, the best golf I have ever played in my life has always been when I can get on the course often. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn and be around plenty of golfers who I have seen make significant breakthroughs in their game. They also were playing enough to allow those positive changes to occur. Better golf requires a certain amount of comfort level of actually being on the golf course. That’s almost impossible to replace during practice.
If you can’t play enough golf, that’s OK – there is still an opportunity to get better at this game. I would caution you to be a little more patient with yourself, though. If you only get to play once a month, don’t use that one round as a litmus test of your game. Playing once every 30 days is not enough to get any reasonable measure of where you stand. Please try to enjoy your time outside away from the distractions of the world and not put too much pressure on yourself.
Not all of you will be able to do this, but if you can practice on the course – do it!
If my course is empty on the weekdays, I’ll often go out for 2-4 holes. On each hole, I’ll try to hit several tee shots and approach shots. I’ll also throw a few balls down around the greens and hit wedge shots from various distances. This form of practice is extremely valuable, and if you can find small time windows to do this on a course without disturbing other players, I highly recommend doing it.
Let’s say you have an opportunity to play once a week. I think that’s a much more reasonable opportunity to test what you’ve been working on in your practice sessions and strike a balance between playing and preparing. Indeed, there’s no right answer for every golfer. But the two main points I would like to get across are:
Keep this in mind as you enter a new golf season. It’s impossible to find the perfect balance, but using some of these guidelines can help you make adjustments on how you spend your time and have healthier expectations for your game.
I’ve heard it many times before: “I can’t hit a fairway wood to save my life.” Hitting a solid 3-wood off the deck is one of the tougher things to do in golf. The shaft is long, there’s very little loft, and you’re probably facing a longer shot. Let’s face it; the situation can be a bit intimidating.
That being said, most players, on most courses, are going to need a club they can hit a long way off the ground.
“A-hem. We have a suggestion.”
-Engineers at Callaway
Enter the Super Hybrid
Most golfers are paying attention to the hype around the newly-released Mavrik line. However, Callaway has quietly introduced an exciting product that can potentially help a lot of golfers – the Super Hybrid.
Simply put, it’s a cross between a fairway metal and a hybrid.
The New Super Hybrid boasts:
Their goal was to create a club that was easy to hit off the ground, launched high enough to hold greens, and help add enough distance for those long approach shots into par 4s and 5s.
As a clubfitter, I’m often tasked with an entire set of clubs. One of the most challenging parts of building a full bag is gapping between the longest playable iron and the driver.
Despite working with some very high-level collegiate and aspiring professional golfers, the majority of my business is with recreational players.
In my experience, most golfers are less consistent with their longer clubs. Finding something they can reliably hit solid and straight(er) off of various lies can pose a challenge.
Callaway’s new Super Hybrid represents an innovation that I believe can build upon the success of traditional hybrids.
The idea is pretty simple – all golfers need something they can hit a long way off the deck, and some folks just flat don’t hit fairway metals well.
I regularly have to talk slower-speed players off the cliff when I tell them their new set will not include a 3-wood. If your driver swing speed is less than 80, you are likely going to hit a 4 or 5 wood higher, more consistently, and on average notably further than a traditional 3 wood.
Some major OEM’s have already begun marking ladies and junior fairway metals as “3-woods” despite the clubs having 18 or 19 degrees of loft, (that’s 5 wood loft folks).
If we strip away the labels, we can examine the design differences of these various long game options and use those measurements to help us choose the best one for a particular player.
Long irons traditionally had steel shafts that matched the rest of the iron set. Now utility irons or driving irons are available with graphite shaft options as well, giving fitters access to lighter weights and higher launching bend profiles.
Hybrids now come almost exclusively with graphite shafts. Most companies’ “stock” shaft length for a hybrid is slightly longer than the length of the corresponding iron. Ie. 3 iron = 39” while 3 hybrid = 40.5”.
For a player who is starting to lose some clubhead speed, this added “lever length” will increase clubhead speed and potentially add both height and distance.
Fairway woods take length to the next level. An 18-degree fairway metal stock length is about 42 inches, furthering the potential distance of the weapon. However, understand that this distance comes with a cost. Longer shafts can make clubs more challenging to hit solidly, especially off of the ground.
The Super Hybrid splits the difference between traditional hybrid and fairway lengths. It’s attempting to achieve some gains from shaft length but salvage some consistency as well. On a side note, it should be noted that the lie angle splits the difference too, making it appropriate for the length of the golf club.
As far as the shaft being offered, the Tensei CK Pro Orange is the only stock option. And it’s a very good one. This “real deal” counterbalanced low launch, low spin shaft is a veritable missile launcher. So far, in my fittings, I’ve batted 1000% with this shaft. The fittings consisted of establishing the flex of the shaft and tuning the hozel to the proper loft and lie settings. With a stock shaft this good, I haven’t had to look to anything else (although there are lots of other options through Callaway’s custom department).
As far as technology goes, Callaway is just rolling all their latest advancements into a new package. But they do seem to combine for some excellent results.
I tested the Callaway Super Hybrid against my current setup to gain some insight into its performance.
Precisely as it should, the Super Hybrid bridged the gap between my current hybrid and my 3 wood. It’s noteworthy that my current hybrid is 17 degrees, and my 3-bent-towards-a-2 iron (which rotates in and out with the hybrid) is set at 18.5 degrees. I must admit that the Super Hybrid was really easy to hit. None of the shots felt like they were dead center (although they weren’t bad either).
While the timing of the release was a bit odd, I think in 2020 we’ll be fitting a lot of players into the Callaway Super Hybrid
who either don’t like fairway metals or struggle to hit them.
As always – test before you buy and work with a qualified clubfitter if you can.
Greg Gibson is a Staff Golf Professional, Certified Clubfitter, Instructor, and Trackman Specialist at Golf Headquarters in Louisville, KY. He previously served as General Manager, Director of Golf, and Head Golf Professional at Shelbyville Country Club. To make an appointment with Greg contact the GHQ Louisville staff at 502-245-8600
Swing Caddie recently introduced the SC200 Plus launch monitor as a replacement for its SC200 model. Almost all features have remained the same, but they have added swing speed mode – which allows you to measure your swing speed without hitting a ball.
I’ve had a chance to test the SC200 Plus, and I’ll share my thoughts in this review. Overall, it remains one of the great values in the personal launch monitor category. The new swing speed mode allows golfers who are pursuing a training program focused on increasing swing speed to benchmark their progress.
The personal launch monitor category has taken off dramatically over the last 1-2 years. There are now a ton of choices, and I’ve tested almost all of them. You can make a strong case that Swing Caddie was the pioneer in this space. I’m told that the original SC200 launch monitor was the best selling product in the entire category over its whole life cycle. That’s why I was a little surprised when I found out it was discontinued.
The SC200 Plus was initially priced at $399, which was slightly disappointing as the original was under $300. Fortunately, you can now purchase it here for $289. Effectively, this is the same price as its predecessor, but now you get the swing speed mode.
At this price level, I still believe it’s an excellent value for the features you’re getting and the accuracy. The Rapsodo MLM, Swing Caddie SC300, and FlightScope mevo will cost you about $150-$200 more. They offer apps and enhanced data features. But for some people, the price point is out of their reach. Or the enhanced features aren’t necessary.
On the lower end, the PRGR launch monitor is about $100 less than the SC200 Plus. It offers similar accuracy (perhaps a little better), but lacks a few of the bells and whistles and requires a bit more effort to operate.
Overall, the SC200 Plus remains an excellent option for golfers who are on a budget but still want a few premium features such as a remote control, practice modes, and voice output. I’d consider it one of the best “in-between” options for under $500.
Testing indoors, you can see some of the original data I collected against SkyTrak, which costs about $1700 more:
|Club||SkyTrak Yardage||SC200 Yardage||% Difference|
|Pitch Shot (LW)||53.8||55.6||3.29|
The SC200 Plus does pretty well inside if you have about 4-5 feet behind and in front of the ball. It’s certainly not perfect (no launch monitor is), but it will give you very good estimates of your swing speed, ball speed, and carry distances.
Since Swing Caddie is using a radar sensor, you can expect it to perform better outdoors when it has room to see the ball travel. For those who want to add a little more data to their range sessions, it fills that void nicely. Be aware that when using range balls, your distances can be affected, which I wrote about in this article.
My favorite part about Swing Caddie launch monitors is its simplicity. All you have to do is turn the SC200 Plus on, allow a quick barometric pressure calibration to occur, and you are ready to go.
The most important feature for accuracy is adjusting the loft of the club you are hitting. The SC200 Plus comes with a remote, which allows you to make those changes with the touch of a button. Also, it will call out your shot distances shortly after it reads your ball flight.
There are four modes you can choose from.
The SC200 Plus will also store your shot data for each club. Over time you can see your average carry distances and clubhead speeds for various clubs in your bag.
The only difference between the original SC200 and the SC200 Plus is the swing speed mode. You can now take practice swings without hitting the ball, and it will display your swing speed. For some, this feature might not be a big deal or even interest them at all.
However, with the rising popularity of swing-speed training, I think the swing speed mode is a very nice addition. One of my top recommendations for golfers who are looking to increase swing speed is to use the SuperSpeed Golf Overspeed training system. One of the fundamental parts of that training is using a swing radar to track your swing speed when using their training clubs (you are not hitting balls). The SC200 Plus can be a worthwhile companion with that product because you can now benchmark your swing speeds, and see if you are making any gains.
Aside from that, I don’t think many golfers might find value swinging their clubs without hitting a ball. Either way, this new feature does not come at an extra cost.
For most golfers, I believe a personal launch monitor can be a great practice tool if they use it properly. My primary recommendation is to use products like the SC200 Plus to hone in on your wedge distances. Many golfers struggle with shots between 25-100 yards, and you’ll see excellent accuracy since it’s easier for any launch monitor to record shots at closer distances. I’ve seen tremendous results in my own game, and quite honestly, it could be worth the price of admission for that functionality alone in terms of its impact on your golf game.
With the SC200 Plus, you can use a mixture of target mode and approach mode. You can first dial in distances between 50-100 yards and get your feel for each shot. Then you can test yourself with random yardage selections to see how well your body is remembering those distances.
Also, if you do want to pursue swing speed training with a product like SuperSpeed Golf, the new swing speed feature is a great companion.
Last but not least you can also use the SC200 Plus to get reasonably accurate data on carry distances for each club in your bag. This is a way to add a bit more structure to your practice sessions, especially if you are hitting into a net without any other kind of feedback.
Overall, the SC200 Plus is not a huge change from its predecessor, and that’s a good thing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! For under $300, you can get reasonably accurate feedback on your club distances, ball speed, and swing speed. The added swing speed practice mode is a great tool for those working on increasing their speed.
When looking at the rest of the personal launch monitor category, I still believe it fits in for golfers who are on a budget but do want a wide variety of features.
You can purchase the SC200 Plus for $289 using this link, which is the lowest price you will find online.
For the fifth year in a row, I attended the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. Usually, I don’t do show recaps because I prefer to do more in-depth articles on products that I think are relevant to Practical Golf readers. But for whatever reason, I felt compelled to do a writeup this year.
There are thousands of products on the show floor every year; it’s a bit overwhelming, and I can’t get to all of them. However, I thought there were a few important releases and trends you should know about.
As usual, there are some great products and others that make me scratch my head.
One category that I have paid close attention to over the last few years are personal launch monitors. There are now tons of options available for roughly $200 to $2000. Every day I receive emails and messages on social media about these products. I’ll summarize some of my key takeaways:
FlightScope introduced the Mevo +, which is a major upgrade over the initial Mevo (which I reviewed here). Priced at $1999, it is now a direct competitor to SkyTrak since it offers premium simulation options. I think they have their work cut out for them since SkyTrak has had a stranglehold on this category for years now.
I am hopefully going to get my hands on a unit soon to give it a thorough test. One thing to be aware of is that it will require roughly eight feet in front of and behind the ball when used indoors, according to their team, since it uses radar technology. For golfers who have limited space at home, and want to build a makeshift simulator (similar to my setup), this could potentially be a sticking point. I’ll reserve my final judgment until I can test.
If your primary use will be outdoors, there are a few things to be excited about. The FlightScope team told me the larger sensor will measure the ball’s entire flight and there will no longer be a need for metallic stickers. Additionally, the app demo I saw was very impressive.
Swing Caddie discontinued the SC200 and replaced it with the SC200 Plus. For years, the SC200 has been the top-selling personal launch monitor in the entire industry. So I was a little sad to see it go since it offered a great value proposition. The SC200 Plus doesn’t change much, except it now provides a swing speed mode, which allows you to track your swing speed without hitting a ball. This could be a nice addition for golfers who are doing Overspeed training with SuperSpeed Golf or any other fitness regimen. Before the show, I got a chance to test out the SC200 Plus at home, and you can read my review here.
Late last year, the folks at Rapsodo (who make the hardware for SkyTrak) introduced their MLM launch monitor. If you read my review, I liked its accuracy and app, but I wanted to see a little more functionality and didn’t love that you can’t use it indoors.
Their booth was packed the entire show, and the team told me about some major updates coming soon to the app. Stay tuned; my lips are unfortunately sealed!
Another late release of 2019 was the PRGR Launch monitor. Technically, it’s not a new unit since its been available in the Japanese market for several years already. While it doesn’t look particularly impressive, I was blown away by its accuracy in my initial review. At a price tag below $200, I’m told they have been selling thousands of units since the late fall. Additionally, after some testing of my own, I also found out that it’s quite accurate at measuring swing speed without hitting a ball.
For the budget-conscious golfer who wants an entry-level launch monitor, and doesn’t mind the basic functionality, I think this could be a sleeper product for 2020.
I know many of you are interested in some of the new gadgets out there, and I noticed a couple of interesting releases that may or may not grab your attention.
The Garmin S60 had quite a run as the best premium golf GPS watch over the last few years. It was inevitable that Garmin would release some upgrade, and they did at the PGA Show with the S62. The new watch will have shot-tracking capabilities, a larger display, a virtual caddie (I’m a little suspect on this feature), and some other smartwatch capabilities such as heart rate and fitness tracking.
As you can expect, it will garner a big price tag of $499. I will test this out on the course to see if the added features are worth the extra money. The Approach S60 will still be available at a lower price, but I still believe the Voice Caddie G1 is an excellent value in the premium GPS watch category.
SkyCaddie is known for offering more in-depth data on courses, but it comes at a cost. They are one of the only GPS providers that require an ongoing subscription. I’ll be testing out this one soon as well to give you my thoughts.
Bushnell is typically known for its rangefinders, but another product that caught my eye is their Wingman speaker. Music on the golf course is becoming a big thing, and there are plenty of Bluetooth speakers currently on the market. I don’t play any tunes on the course, but I know a lot of you are doing it.
The Wingman seems to have a collection of features that make it unique. It offers Bluetooth premium sound, 10 hours of battery life, and a magnetic mount for carts. Another interesting feature is that it also has GPS capabilities that integrate with the Bushnell app. So you’ll be able to get your distances to the front, center, and back of the green as well (you can press the button on its remote and it will call them out to you).
Either way, this looks like a product that’s tapping into the fun category of golf while also giving golfers a few other unique benefits – and it will be priced competitively at $149.
One of the major shot-tracking companies showed me a significant hardware upgrade. I believe it will remove the only major objection to using their system, and they’ve been able to offer the upgraded version at a similar price. Unfortunately, that’s all I can say! Look out for an announcement and my test sometime in June.
Over the past few years, SuperSpeed Golf has quickly become one of the top-selling training aids in the entire golf industry. Readers of the site know that I have trained with their Overspeed system before. For golfers who want to add speed to their swing the right way, it’s one of the few training aids that delivers on its promise.
SuperSpeed Golf announced the SuperSpeed C at the show, which is a counterweight trainer. They have a new set of training protocols that focuses on creating more hand and arm speed. Priced at $99, it can be an entry-point product into their system or an add-on to golfers who are currently training with their traditional set.
I started my training protocol last night with the SuperSpeed C, so I’ll give you all my thoughts when I’ve had a chance to see the results.
One of my favorite parts of being in the golf industry is interacting with all of the fledgling brands who are having success. Whether it’s custom headcovers, practice aids, apparel, or shoes – there are so many great stories of entrepreneurship. While the behemoths of the industry can outspend them on marketing, I’ve found that many of these smaller- to medium-sized companies are offering superior products.
One fun product I saw was the Perfect Practice putting mat. A younger guy fresh out of college was sick of all of the cheap putting mats on Amazon, so he worked for almost two years perfecting his own design. He badgered touring professionals from around the world on social media to try it out, and now he’s got testimonials from some big names and his business is exploding.
There are plenty of other stories like this on the show floor, and it’s great to see.
One of my big takeaways from the show is that health and wellness are becoming more of a priority amongst golf companies. Mostly, this is a great thing. Fitness and health are extremely important to me and it’s never too late for anyone to start working out and taking care of their body. At 36, I’ve made it more of a priority to keep my golf game (hopefully) pain-free and enhance my overall health.
Orange Whip, whose swing trainer is one of my favorite products in the entire industry, was mostly focused on their Golf Fitness X platform at their booth.
On the flip side, CBD was EVERYWHERE. In 2019 I counted only two companies at the show – and by my guess, there were 20-30 brands this year. They quickly took over the show floor with some of the most prominent booths. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw a barrage of sarcastic tweets about them.
The most overheard line at the PGA Show…
“Let me explain how our proprietary blend of CBD is different” pic.twitter.com/r4ZSv7zGFg
— Jon Sherman (@practicalgolf) January 24, 2020
To be entirely transparent, it felt like a cash grab. I could overhear each company talking about what made their blend different than the competition. Some booths had doctors on hand to give the impression of more legitimacy. There was CBD for pets, even CBD from a putter grip company. My bullshit detector was flashing red. You won’t see me reviewing any CBD products any time soon. I would look towards any legitimate clinical trials for guidance. Most people I spoke to who have tried it out had a similar response, “I think it did something, but I’m not entirely sure.”
Harvard Health warned, “without sufficient high-quality evidence in human studies we can’t pinpoint effective doses, and because CBD is currently is mostly available as an unregulated supplement, it’s difficult to know exactly what you are getting.” Nature Magazine also called into question the lack of sufficient trials, “unfortunately, if studies such as these are not done — or not done properly — then consumers will be left to fend for themselves in a poorly monitored marketplace. In that scenario, the signal of true clinical benefit would almost certainly be drowned out by the noise from personal anecdotes and the placebo effect, which could jeopardize the future of a potentially valuable medicine.”
Lastly, there were tons of massage guns and similar products on the floor. It seemed that everyone was trying to knock off Theragun. While this isn’t my wheelhouse, I did try a vibrating massage ball last month for a stiff neck and it seemed to provide relief. Perhaps a little more tangible benefit than CBD.
Not surprisingly, the largest and most prominent booths were from companies like Callaway, Titleist, and Ping (as usual). TaylorMade was absent again because they’re likely sick of paying millions of dollars for the sake of appearances.
I’ve spent a lot of time learning about club fitting and what makes golf clubs different from one another. Don’t get me wrong, all of these companies are making fantastic products because they employ some of the top engineering talents in the world. If anything, there is more opportunity than ever to dial in equipment for your swing.
My advice is always is to look past the marketing hype and test on your own. Work with a qualified clubfitter if you can. Companies like Club Champion are seeing real growth because there is more of a demand for customization. They told me that they have doubled to more than 70 locations, with many more opening in 2020.
You don’t need a new driver every 1-2 years. The technology doesn’t change that much. However, if you waited 5-6 years, it’s possible you could see some very tangible gains. In the past 15 years, I’ve only had two sets of irons. They don’t wear out, and if you get it done right the first time, it’s not necessary to keep upgrading. However, your wedges are the only clubs that wear out, so keep an eye on those.
The golf industry is like any other. There are plenty of great people looking to provide real value to their customers. There are also people legitimately trying to do that, but unfortunately failing (think bad training aids). Unfortunately, there are also some people who don’t care about you or your golf game – they just want your money.
The primary focus of Practical Golf is to help you get better at golf and enjoy yourself more through my “philosophy.” However, over the past few years, I have enjoyed the role of being a filter for all of you when it comes to certain product categories. I try to sift through the garbage and tell you about the good stuff. You can make your decisions from there.
While there isn’t too much new under the sun in the golf industry, each year there seems to be mild progress in product features, and luckily certain technologies are making some products more affordable (except those $499 drivers). I’m not sure when I’ll write another recap of the show, but hopefully, you enjoyed this one.
I talk a lot about strategy, and how it can really lower your scores. One of the pillars of course management is knowing your yardages to various points on the golf course, which is why I have always advocated most golfers using GPS technology. My number one strategic recommendation relies on knowing the back yardage to every green.
Naturally, I pay very close attention to the marketplace and try to test out all of the new gadgets that come out. For the most part, the industry has been relatively stagnant lately. You can get entry-level GPS watches on a budget that gives you basic yardages to the green. But if you want premium features that go above and beyond, you have to pay a lot more for them.
That is why I was so surprised when I first learned about Voice Caddie’s G1 GPS Watch. The list of features was extremely long, and some of them I had not seen before. The price tag was also $100 – $150 lower than the industry-leading GPS watch, and it had a more robust set of features.
After testing the Voice Caddie G1 on the golf course, I’m prepared to say it’s the best overall value for golfers who are looking for a premium offering. It’s fast, packs tons of features, and best of all, will not break the bank.
In this review, I’ll take a deep dive into what makes the G1 so unique and how it can help you make smarter decisions on the golf course.
Any GPS watch these days can get you yardages to the front, center, and back of the green. That’s old news at this point.
If you’re looking for added features, such as course maps, shot tracking, or even Bluetooth integration – you have to pay more money. Garmin has dominated this category for years. Two years ago, I deemed their Approach S60 the best overall GPS watch in golf. It’s a position they’ve held since then, and enhanced with other releases like the Approach S40. The tradeoff is the price. The S60 watch has consistently sold between $350 – $400 because there really was no rival.
I think Voice Caddie might have knocked them off their perch. And to be honest, it comes from a very unexpected place. Traditionally, they have not had anything in the GPS category that was unique.
When I first saw all of the features that the Voice Caddie G1 was packing, I had to reread the list several times. I’ll get into most of them later in this article, but I first want to highlight what makes this watch a bit of a game-changer.
There are three in particular:
I’m going to explore each of these separately to explain why they are so important when you consider the competition.
Perhaps my favorite feature of the Garmin Approach S60 is the ability to use your finger to determine yardages on the map. So whether you are hitting a tee shot or a layup shot, you could point to a spot on the course such as a bunker or water hazard and find your yardages. When it came out, it was the only watch that boasted a full touch screen. The only issue I have is it was not entirely fast, and I had to wait for the map to load when I zoomed in.
The Voice Caddie G1 is the only other watch that has this feature, and I think they’ve improved upon it. The image is crystal clear, and more importantly, when you touch the screen, it reacts almost immediately. It’s incredibly fast. As you know, hardware technology sometimes changes in months, and it’s clear that Voice Caddie has been able to use a faster processor on this watch.
The map shows you your current position on the hole, how far you hit your last shot, and the distance to the target you select. This feature is a big deal.
The Voice Caddie G1 also packs slope adjustment. It automatically displays your slope adjusted yardage based on elevation changes, which is indicated by the small icon next to the center yardage number. This feature can be disabled if you’re playing in a tournament.
Having slope adjusted yardages is another significant feature for a GPS watch.
Testing on the course, I found the slope adjusted yardages to be very consistent with a couple of rangefinders. You should know that all devices will give their best guess since they all use different means of calculation. On the whole, I think slope adjustment is perhaps the most valuable feature that the G1 watch has over its competition. Taking the guesswork out of elevation changes can help you hit more greens in regulation.
Something that has never been done before on a GPS watch is green undulation data, and the G1 debuts this technology. Using satellite imagery, they have been able to map out the slopes of greens and quickly display them on the watch (you have to swipe to see it).
The more red shading represents the highest points of the green, and as you transition to orange, yellow, and blue, you start to see the lowest parts.
My course has tons of false fronts and significant changes in slope on the greens. It was interesting to see how the maps represented each green. I found the heat maps to be pretty spot on. You can clearly see the overall slopes of any green and if there is any unexpected trouble awaiting you. For golfers who have difficulty identifying the whole slope of a green, mainly when they putt, this can be helpful.
I should note that this feature is not available on every golf course. They are continually adding courses in the USA, and you can search their database to find out what features your course currently has here.
Overall, when you take into account these three unique features of the watch (and it’s price tag of $249) – the value proposition becomes very clear.
Now that I’ve uncovered what makes the Voice Caddie G1 unique, let me cover some of its other features. First off, the overall functionality of the watch is a breeze. You can load up your course quite quickly without any headaches. It comes preloaded with more than 30,000 courses, and there are no ongoing fees for updates. As I mentioned, the processor they are using is speedy so there are no delays. Additionally, I found the watch to be relatively light and not a burden to wear on my wrist.
The screen is extremely sharp and has the best resolution I’ve seen on a GPS watch to date. No matter what the lighting conditions are for the day, you can easily see all of the information on the watch without having to strain your eyes. Voice Caddie also states that the watch is waterproof, so no fears if you get caught in the rain.
On the course, you can quickly toggle between the hole map, overall distance information, and the green image by swiping to the left or right.
Looking at the home screen, you’ll see pretty much everything you need. The primary information is slope-adjusted yardages. You also can see the current hole information, your score and shot count (you can use the watch to track your score), and the present time.
Another feature the G1 has that I’ve come to love on other watches is that it automatically tracks the distance of your last shot. There are two main reasons I’ve found this useful – you can start to see how far you actually hit the ball, but more importantly, it’s helped me hone in on the location of an errant shot that’s been hard to find.
On approach shots, you can also move around the pin position with your fingers. This allows you to get an estimate of your yardages to the pin, and it also shows you your distance to the front and the back of the green. All of this is valuable information that I always recommend golfers should know.
Lastly, the battery life is on par (no pun intended) with other premium GPS watches. You can expect to get 2-3 rounds of usage before you have to charge it.
The Voice Caddie G1 also has a few smartwatch capabilities. If you choose to do so, you can wear it throughout the day and pair it with your phone via Bluetooth. You’ll be notified of incoming calls and text messages from your phone.
The watch also syncs with the Voice Caddie app to wirelessly transmit updates. When you’re finished with your rounds, you can upload your scoring data to the app.
If you’re into fitness, the G1 automatically tracks how many steps you’re taking throughout the day and displays it on the bottom of the screen. You’ll get an estimate of how many calories you’ve burned. Walking my course yielded almost 14,000 steps!
I wouldn’t say that the G1 is going to rival an Apple Watch, but if you currently don’t have a smartwatch, it can quickly fill that void for you if you choose to keep it on outside of the golf course.
Voice Caddie quietly released perhaps the best overall value in the premium GPS watch category with the G1 watch. They’ve matched most of the features of the industry-leading Garmin Approach S60, but for far less money. On top of that, they added new features not seen before. I’ll be using this as my watch for the upcoming season, and I think most golfers will be very pleased with its performance.
You can purchase the Voice Caddie for $249 using this link (it usually retails for $299). In the current marketplace, I don’t think you’ll find a better overall package of features for that price.