Com-putter science: GPS golf caddies

Imagine for a moment that you are faced with a dilemma. You are in the middle of the fairway having just nailed a drive and your second shot is crucial. It’s about 173 yards to the green but It’s over water and you’re just not sure what the carry is.
There was a time when you just had to hit and hope, after all, most of the time you don’t have the luxury of a caddie who’ll give you the right advice.

Or do you?

These days help is at hand, because now you can ask your friendly GPS caddie and the good news is that their use has been passed as legal by the R&A. GPS caddies take advantage of portable satellite navigation and course mapping, to give golfers a scientific edge, and more importantly, the confidence to take a shot, knowing exactly the distance to your target and any potential hazards you might face.

GPS Golf Caddies

So with a variety of products on the market, what are the features you’ll really need, and the ones you’ll rarely need?

1. Clearly the most important feature you’ll need, is to ensure that your chosen unit has the courses you need mapped and available to download.

2. Many devices use fly over or Google mapping technology instead of custom ground mapping. This can mean that the course distance accuracy can vary, so low handicappers may prefer to use only ground mapped technology.

3. Make sure the unit shows the length to the front, centre and back of the green and is manually adjustable to also show the yardage from all parts of the course. After all, you never know where you might end up!

4. Be aware, that some units have annual membership fees attached to their downloads and in some cases there are different prices between your home country and the rest of the world. So take this into consideration when looking at the purchase prices of units – a cheaper model might have additional costs attached which make it more expensive in the end.

Recommended GPS Caddies

Sky Caddie SGX £299
One of the most popular and respected brands on the market, this model offers up to 30,000 ground mapped courses pre loaded for out of the box functionality. The large colour screen shows distances to hazards and carries for each hole, although these are only shown graphically on some courses, for others you’ll have to make do with text only. Whilst SkyCaddie’s mapping is second to none, I did find the small directional mouse nozzle quite fiddly and sensitive.

SonoCaddie V350 Plus £289
Hot on the heels of Sky Caddie, this device has over 2,200 UK courses already pre loaded but they are all based on Google mapping. There is a lifetime subscription fee of £25 for downloading unlimited courses overseas however. It is packed with functions such as an electronic score card, a shot analyser where you can keep track of all the actual distances you hit your shots, and a round replay if you like watching horror films!

Shot Miser G500 £279
This device uses Snooper software which means that you can also use it as a sat nav device in the car, and it does come bundled with a cradle just for that purpose.Whilst the Shotmiser uses flyover technology for the mapping, it is one of the most accurate devices I’ve used. It also allows you to check distances to trees and traps or lakes simply by using a tee to drag the cursor over to the hazard from your current position. Whilst I can’t fault the LCD colour display, the cost of downloading courses at £5 each is going to be very prohibitive.