SkyCaddie SG5

OVERALL RATING: 85. GRADE: B. SkyCaddie bills itself as “the #1 rangefinder in golf,” and its polished interface and functionality made this claim credible in the past. We’re not so sure it’s as clear cut from here on out. The SG5 features an unmatched number of user settings to controls views on the device, which is a big plus. We’ve revisited this review in connection with the latest software update for the SG5, which now allows the user to record scores and statistics, view overhead hole graphics and see major green contours and false fronts. But the new features are a bit cumbersome and difficult to use, leaving us feeling that they were stitched into the SG5’s user interface in a patchwork manner. Granted, SkyCaddie provides the caveat that these new features are a “beta” release, but given that SkyCaddie has already released the new SkyCaddie SGX, the notion that they will spend much time in properly integrating these features into the SG5 may be an unrealistic expectation.

Our original impression was that while the SG5 does a nice job of delivering basic yardages, it didn’t have enough pizzazz to ascend into our upper echelon of golf GPS devices. After testing the latest software update, we still aren’t comfortable giving the SG5 a bump up in score/grade, so we kept it where it was – the new features just don’t have the fit and finish that we expect from SkyCaddie. Note that with the introduction of the SkyCaddie SGX, the retail price of the SG5 has been reduced to under $300, and it is no longer the highest priced device in our analysis of the three-year total cost of ownership (which includes required annual subscription fees or per course download fees). But it’s still squarely in the middle of the pack in terms of pricing, which makes it hard to promote as a value purchase.

SCORE
85
GRADE
B
Setup/Syncing
88
Course Availability
98
Ease of Use
82
Course Details
92
Features
90
Accuracy
94
Cost/Value
85

Pros:

Cons:

Retail price: $399.95


88 / B+

SETUP
The Good: Detailed step-by-step instructions via their new course management software make setup a snap. SkyCaddie has been doing this longer than most of its competitors, and it shows in their customer support materials. We also appreciated having a light that indicates when the unit has finished charging.
The Bad: Not much – the entire process is well laid out and is simple for even the non-computer savvy. While it would have been nice not to have the additional step of moving courses to a “Favorites” folder, this is necessitated by the maximum of 15 courses (10 SkyCaddie-mapped courses and 5 user-mapped courses) that can be stored on the device. The process of moving to the latest software from an older SG5 produced serious complications both in syncing and using the device on the course, and required multiple support calls to fix (although a nice feature is that if you use the online support and install the support software, the technician then has the ability to control your computer remotely to help diagnose the problem).

Details:

What’s in the Box: The SkyCaddie SG5 comes with:

Required Downloads: Mac users must download:

The SkyCaddie SG5 requires users to sync their device to view old scorecards and statistics. This transfers your scores to your ClubSG account (free with annual membership plans), and you can then view your scorecards and statistics online.


98 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY
Critical Golf Test: We originally thought that the SkyCaddie SG5 had 100% coverage in our course coverage test, but re-visiting the database showed that a couple of the courses were only user-mapped, which we don’t count. Still, 98% ain’t bad, and it goes without saying that SkyCaddie’s coverage is exceptional across all regions of the United States and all course types. Well done, SkyCaddie!
Be forewarned if you are looking at the SG5 because of the availability of the new HoleVue and Intelligreen Pro features. Skycaddie only scored 42% in our analysis of courses covered with both of those maps. We expect SkyCaddie to make a strong push to increase this coverage, as those features are critical as they try to differentiate the SkyCaddie SGX from its competitors.
Manufacturer’s Claims: SkyCaddie claims to have nearly 30,000 courses available in its course database, placing it amongst the top of devices tested.


82 / B-

EASE OF USE

The Good: The device has an intuitive interface for the vast majority of functionality. The SkyCaddie SG5 is also smart enough to stop showing you the distance to a target once you have proceeded past that target.

The Bad: The SkyCaddie SG5 is the heaviest device in our test, and feels rather bulky in the pocket during play. Finding the screen to enter scores and statistics can be a mystery if you are not using the setting to auto-prompt you for this information, or if you pass by the scoring screen and move to the next hole before entering information.

Details:


92 / A-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: Solid detail is provided on most courses, including distances to the end of the fairway on doglegs (a level of detail that few devices provide). The SkyCaddie SG5 has up to an amazing 40 points mapped per hole (although we rarely saw more than 12 points actually mapped). An excellent graphic of the green rotates based on the user’s position and provides precise data on the distances to the edges of the green closest and farthest from the user (which is far more useful to those of us who occasionally spray the ball off the fairway than just data to the points of the green closest and farthest from the tee box). The SG5 is now able to provide full hole graphic images (HoleVue) and detailed green views, including major contours and false fronts (Intelligreen Pro), although these are only available on a subset of the courses in SkyCaddie’s database.

The Bad: The features added in the latest software update (HoleVue and Intelligreen Pro) seem to have been stitched into the SG5’s user interface with some duct tape and twisty ties. When using HoleVue (full graphic images of the shape of the hole), you must endure what seems like an interminable wait each time you switch to this view, or zoom in or out, as the SG5 actually draws or redraws the entire image before your eyes (first cart paths, then tree shadows, trees, fairway, bunkers and at last the green). Note that HoleVue on the SG5 only provides an overhead image to give you a sense of the shape of the hole and the general position of hazards – you cannot click on the image to get a distance to a specific point or the distance from that point to the hole.

Similary, when using Intelligreen Pro to move the location of the flagstick, the SG5 keeps trying to redraw the entire green, and as a result, the image will flash so quickly that it is essentially blank, obscuring the lines that indicate contours or tier. So if you are trying to determine a distance to a particular point on the green, you will need to remember the approximate location, adjust the crosshair, wait for it to redraw the contours, and then adjust again.

Hole View

Click for device images

Details:

Suggestion Box: We were disappointed to see that the course detail for one resort course that hosts a PGA tournament omits key targets, and had older markings for a bunker configuration that had been renovated over two years ago. We have also seen, though rarely, “layup” points marked with no reference as to the layup distance (or why the location was chosen).


90 / A-

FEATURES

The Good: The SkyCaddie SG5 provides most of the general features you would expect to have in a golf GPS device, and has an unmatched number of user-adjustable settings. Now with the ability to track scores and statistics, the SG5 has the majority of features users need.

The Bad: The look and feel of the scorecard isn’t as polished as on the latest devices, but it gets the job done.

Details:

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.


94 / A

ACCURACY

Device Accuracy: We experienced no distance accuracy issues in our tests, with all distances within the acceptable range of plus or minus 4 yards.

Mapping Accuracy: We tested the SkyCaddie SG5 on a variety of courses and had no problems with the accuracy of the course mapping either. Distances readings are available at any distance from a target or the green (some devices stop showing readings within a certain number of yards of a target or the green), thus we were able to develop confidence in the SkyCaddie SG5’s displayed distances even at short range.


85 / B

COST/VALUE
Retail Price: With the introduction of the SkyCaddie SGX, the SG5 now retails for a mere $299.95, making it the lowest priced full-featured device tested. For those who already own an SG5, the software updates are available for $20.
Fees for Access to Course Database: SkyCaddie owners must choose one of three membership plans to access the course database, which are priced at $29.95/year for unlimited courses in one state (each additional state costing $10/year), $49.95/year for unlimited courses in the United States, and $59.95/year for unlimited courses worldwide.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: Our test of the three-year total cost of ownership, which makes assumptions on the number of new courses a user will want to access each year, found the SkyCaddie SG5 to be about average at $419.80.

Value: The SkyCaddie SG5 is a very good device with solid accuracy and user settings, and a new lower price. But gadget freaks will find newer and shinier devices elsewhere, and the SG5 isn’t really priced low enough to qualify as a value purchase.