The Golf Guru Color Guru is rich in features but the design of the hardware, user interface and packaging all could use a lot of polish. It ranks highly with respect to the amount of data that users can add to existing course maps, but the interface to add this data is challenging for those who are not gadget-oriented. The device has a nice color screen, but the data presented by the device is largely text based and doesn’t fully utilize the color functionality. Lastly, the manufacturer made a puzzling design decision that will have you consistently holding the device upside down.
Even with the second lowest three-year cost of any product, we think most consumers would be well-served to check out whether one of the more user-friendly alternatives to the Golf Guru Color Guru would be a better fit for them before making this purchase.
- Maps up to 30 targets per hole
- The second least expensive device over a three-year period
- Easy to track score and statistics
- Device layout makes you feel like you are holding it upside-down
- Unclear identification of hazards can make for confusing distances
- Little utilization of premium color screen
Retail price: $399.95
Availability: Discontinued; replaced by the Golf Guru 4
The Good: Setting up the Golf Guru Color Guru is like putting duct tape on your muffler to pass a smog test – it ain’t pretty, but it doesn’t take too long, and it works.
The Bad: Clearly Golf Guru’s technical writer has gone on to an illustrious career of writing unintelligible assembly instructions for Scandinavian particle board bookshelves. Take the Quick Start Guide and throw it in the trash, as it contains references to a download URL that no longer exists, a CD that isn’t included, and technical specs that don’t mention that Apple computers are supported (they are). Turn instead to the User Manual, which looks as if it was created in about an hour. While you may eventually find that you want to throw the User Manual in the trash as well, at least it contains up-to-date information. The lack of attention to detail is clear throughout, and we don’t think anyone wants to read a manual that outlines how to alternate between the “center, near and fart [sic] measurements by scrolling the joystick…” (insert your own joke about the bean burrito at the turn here) . We wish we were kidding.
- Required steps. Setting up the Golf Guru Color Guru is a process similar to those for most other devices, involving:
- registering on their web site to create a free account;
- installing “desktop manager” software on a PC or Mac;
- searching for desired golf courses through the web interface;
- downloading selected golf courses to the PC or Mac; and
- using the desktop manager software to transfer (or “sync”) the courses to the device.
- Time required for setup. The entire set-up process took us about 12 minutes, including the registration process and syncing 15 different courses (four minutes were needed just for course syncing). Golf Guru’s web interface and desktop manager software weren’t particularly slick or pretty (and in some cases were decidedly awkward), but they got the job done.
Suggestion Box: It would have been to nice to have a light on the device to indicate that the unit has completed charging – the only way to check seems to be to power on the device, wait for it to boot up, and look at its battery indicator meter on the screen – a bit of a clunky process.
What’s in the Box: The Golf Guru Color Guru comes with:
- USB cable
- Wall adapter
- Quick Start Guide
Required Downloads: The user must download:
- Golf Guru Utility desktop software
- Golf Guru User Manual
Critical Golf Test: In our course coverage test, the Golf Guru Color Guru finished at the top with perfect 100% coverage. Nothing more to add to that!
Manufacturer’s Claims: Golf Guru claims to offer about 20,000 courses for download, which puts it in the middle of the pack among devices tested.
Ease of Use
The Good: The Golf Guru Color Guru is relatively easy to use. With just a little bit of experimentation (because even if you are one of those three people in the world who reads a manual before using a device, trust us that this is NOT the manual to read), users can quickly learn to explore the wealth of functionality that is available.
The Bad: Users will be naturally inclined to hold the Golf Guru Color Guru upside-down, because contrary to the design of every portable device on the market ranging from calculators to cell phones to iPods, the designers of the device opted to put the buttons ABOVE the screen instead of below it. This means that the screen will be blocked by your fingers when navigating menus, and that you will quickly see smudges on the screen from your hot dog condiments at the snack shack. It is truly maddening. In theory this is to provide stronger signal strength for the GPS antenna, but we didn’t notice any advantage in accuracy over the other devices tested.
- Buttons. There are seven buttons (power, mark shot, back, menu, and three soft keys) and one joystick – this allows for quick navigation through menus once you are up to speed. The buttons have a nice solid feel to them, though players with larger fingers may find them bit too close together.
- Screen. The screen was crisp and clear, and our reviewers noted no problems viewing it in either bright sunlight or under overcast skies. Users can choose from four levels of screen brightness.
- Form Factor. Though the unit was one of the largest tested in terms of length and width, it was the second thinnest device and felt comfortable in a pocket during play.
Course Detail and Mapping
The Good: The Golf Guru Color Guru displays better than average detail on the courses during the play of a round. For those users who have the initiative, it also provides remarkable flexibility for adding and saving additional targets to the course maps.
The Bad: The device sometimes omits distances to certain obvious targets or provides only half of the equation. For example, it will often provide the distance to a bunker, but not the distance to clear the bunker, even when the bunker is clearly in play. And unlike some of its competitors, the Golf Guru Color Guru does not provide distances to layup points (100 yards from the middle of the green, 150 yards, etc.).
- Views. Users will likely cycle between two screens when utilizing the device: the target view and the smart green view.
- The target view is text only and shows up to three target distances along with the distance to the green. Navigation between the target and green views is simple. While it is relatively easy to decipher the target descriptors (“Clr Lt Bunker” = Distance to clear the left bunker), it often isn’t clear which point on the golf course is being referenced. For example, in a cluster of bunkers, it may not be clear which bunker is the “2nd Lt Bunker”, since that descriptor refers to the second bunker marked on the hole, not necessarily the 2nd bunker on the hole. Since the Golf Guru Color Guru doesn’t provide an overhead pictorial map of the hole, you are left to your best guess.
- The smart green view displays a graphic of the approximate shape of the green, which is relatively basic but acceptable. Blue and red marks helpfully denote the “near” and “far” green points from the user and move according to the player’s position relative to the green. The Golf Guru Color Guru’s joystick allows the player to pinpoint any location on the green and is very responsive (some competitive devices display a noticeable lag in responding to joystick movements).
- Hole Information. While the target and green views both display the current hole and par, there isn’t a notation of hole handicap, and we did find one case where the hole par was incorrect (this can be fixed by editing the course).
- Custom Mapping. As mentioned above, the Golf Guru Color Guru is great for those who enjoy customizing a course map on their own. The device stands apart with the ability to map a whopping 30 target points per hole and provides a unique feature that allows the user to map an outline of the green merely by walking around the green during the mapping process. We do note that using this mapping functionality is not the smoothest process, requiring more time to learn and navigate than on other devices, so it may appeal only to more technologically savvy users.
The Good: The Golf Guru Color Guru is one of the more feature rich devices available, with particular strength in tracking statistics during play (fairways hit, greens in regulation, etc.). The statistics can be synced to your computer (albeit in a not-so-user friendly process) to be tracked over time.
The Bad: There’s a nice color screen, but the device doesn’t take advantage of it. The polish of the text and graphics are less sharp than desired. Also, although Golf Guru trumpets the ability to upload saved scores from your computer to ushandicap.com, they fail to mention the annual fee ranging from $4.95 to $21.95 (depending on whether you want to maintain a USGA handicap, and whether you want easy access to all of your statistics from the web).
- Shot Tracking. The device can track distances of multiple shots, and also allows the player to add attributes including position on course and club selection (as long as you don’t play hybrids, as those aren’t included as one of the club choices). At any time during or after the round you can review your tracked shots.
- Score and Statistics. The Golf Guru Color Guru allows users to track their score through a straightforward interface. It provides a visual scorecard that displays the score relative to par during play, though it is nested a few clicks away from the main hole view. Additionally, it is easy to track fairways hit, greens in regulation and putts.
- Auto-Advance. Users can set whether the device will automatically advance to the next hole, prompt the user on whether to automatically advance, or only advance manually.
- Clock. Both the target view and green view show the time, which is particularly helpful in determining how appropriate it is to yell at the slow group in front of you.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS features.
Device Accuracy: The Golf Guru Color Guru’s GPS receiver has 16 channels, and our test of device accuracy showed it to be accurate to within three to four yards – as good as any other golf GPS device.
Mapping Accuracy: At a high level, we did not see any accuracy issues with Golf Guru’s course mapping. We would note that the device stops displaying distances to a target once the user is within 50 yards of the target, which makes it difficult to get a real feel for the accuracy of their mapping.
Retail Price: The Golf Guru Color Guru retails for $399.95.
Fees for Access to Course Database: None! No annual fees, and no per course download fees. Now that’s a price we can live with!
Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: The three-year total cost of ownership (which makes certain assumptions on the number of new courses a user will add each year) is the most relevant calculation of cost in our estimate, and the Golf Guru Color Guru shines due to its lack of any additional annual fee or course download fees. With a total cost over three years of $399.95, the Color Guru has the third lowest three-year total cost of GPS devices reviewed.
Value: Notwithstanding the nice three-year cost of ownership, we think that consumers considering purchase of a Color Guru should take a serious look at its grayscale little brother, the Original Golf Guru. Retailing for $249.95, the Original Golf Guru will save you $150 and matches the Color Guru in functionality, with the two primary differences being the lack of a color screen and less storage to hold courses on the device (40 courses vs. the Color Guru’s 200 courses), neither of which are dealbreakers in our estimation.
Availability: Discontinued; replaced by the Golf Guru 4