How We Test Golf GPS Devices

Purchasing a golf GPS device is a bewildering experience. Each manufacturer lists a dizzying array of feature sets and technical specifications. Layer on top of that a multitude of different pricing models for adding new courses to the device, and you have a serious problem.

But relax, we’re here to help! We provide an overall golf GPS rating for each device, and also show you our ratings across a series of categories. This lets you easily compare golf GPS devices, and determine which golf GPS device is best for you.

Set-Up. How quickly can you get up and running with the device? Most of the devices tested require either installation of software on a computer, registration on the web, or both – can a normal person do this without tearing their hair out?

Course Availability. Every manufacturer says that it has thousands of golf courses available in its database – but do they actually have the courses that you play? And just as important, are the features they advertise available for “covered” courses?

Ease of Use. Features and detail on the course are great, but if you have to hit a 16-button sequence to access them, they’re basically useless. How easy is it to use the device when you are actually on the course? Is the device slim enough to slide into your front pocket during play, or do you have to go to the trouble of attaching it to your bag or a pull cart?

Course Detail and Mapping. Once you’re out on the course, how much information does the device provide to you? How many hazards and bunkers are displayed on a given hole? Does it show the distance to various lay-up points (100 yards from the hole, 150 yards from the hole, et al)? Can you add additional hazards or bunkers to an existing course map and, if so, how easy is it to do these things? If they don’t have the courses available, can you map the course on your own, either with the device or from your computer (using Google Earth or other satellite imagery)?

Features. What are the distinguishing features of each device? All of the devices provide the bare minimum of displaying distances to the front, middle and back of the green – but some provide pretty amazing stuff like aerial fly-over maps of each hole, digital scorecards with sophisticated analysis of your statistics, and the ability to calculate who owes whom and how much across multiple betting games at the same time.

Accuracy. There are two types of accuracy – device accuracy and mapping accuracy. The former is with respect to the devices’ ability to pick up satellites and accurately determine its location. The latter is whether the courses were properly mapped, i.e. is the front of the green where the map claims it is?

Cost/Value. Golf GPS devices range in price from around $100 to over $400. The manufacturers also have different models on how you pay for adding courses to your device. Some include unlimited courses within the purchase price, others charge per course, and still others require you to pay an lifetime or annual subscription fee. What’s the total cost of ownership over a three year period?