SkyGolf has begun to seriously pare down their lineup of golf GPS devices, now focusing their Tour series on the SkyCaddie TOUCH, which is the evolution of the SkyCaddie BREEZE, SkyCaddie SGX, and SkyCaddie SGXw. The TOUCH retails at a moderate entry price of $299.95, higher than the SkyCaddie BREEZE, but also requires an additional $49.95 a year (the price of a nationwide unlimited course upgrade membership). There are those who will tout the improved accuracy of having courses mapped by someone from SkyCaddie who actually walks each hole, and the annual fee does provide some additional benefits beyond course updates – access to the SkyCaddie portal and some product discounts. But $150 in annual fees over a few years sounds like an awful lot when compared to companies such as Garmin, GolfBuddy, and IZZO, who don’t charge yearly fees.

If you can get past the cost (and it’s something that we definitely struggled with), you may well be enamored with the TOUCH’s bright 3 inch glove-friendly touchscreen display that enables you to zoom in and still maintain clarity and readability. The TOUCH can hold 100 “HD” maps at a time, with full hole graphics, a display of the shape of the green and distances to the edges of the green, yardage arcs, scoring for multiple players, and simple statistic tracking. The TOUCH will also measure club distances, count the steps you take in a round, and track the elapsed time. We note that the SkyCaddie TOUCH marketing website does not mention a couple of features previously marketed by SkyCaddie: “IntelliGreen Pro” (which displays green contours) and “PinPoint” (which locates pin positions based on a pin sheet). We found PinPoint available on rare occasions with the TOUCH, but given the sparse availability, it appears SkyCaddie is no longer developing the capability or course coverage.

Given the feature set, you may think that the TOUCH is the perfect device, but while we wanted to have an exceptional experience, we found one far from it. From the start we had issues syncing, which has been a recurring problem with previous SkyCaddie products. But more importantly, we were disappointed with the user interface and performance of the TOUCH device itself – from the sensitivity of the screen, to the choice of yardages displayed, to the interaction necessary to obtain distances. We expected a step forward, but instead found instead found ourselves two steps back.

SCORE
83
GRADE
B
Setup/Syncing
70
Course Availability
99
Ease of Use
83
Course Details
96
Features
90
Accuracy
96
Cost/Value
82

Pros:

Cons:

Retail price: $299.95
Three year total cost: $499.80
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70 / C-

SETUP/SYNCING

As with all of the recent SkyCaddie devices that we have tested, the initial setup and syncing process flat-out stunk.

To start, we had to register the SkyCaddie TOUCH and create a free SkyGolf user account online. You can choose activation-only membership for the TOUCH for $0, which includes basic yardages, software updates and the ability to map your own course, but if you are spending the money to get a TOUCH with all of its capabilities, the free membership really won’t suffice. We selected an annual nationwide plan and downloaded the CaddieSync Express desktop software to start installing updates. The software will (try to) step you through the process of syncing your TOUCH with the latest updates. We first had issues installing the desktop software, and then experienced the pain of not knowing if updates were happening correctly. In the end it took a number of times plugging and unplugging the device to get it to work. At times the process seemed to hang, but if we left it alone, it would eventually updated a bunch of items (though the device was new): rounds, odometer data, pin location, etc. This was the smoothest part of the process, taking 30 minutes to get the device updated and the membership activated. However, upon syncing the device again, we found that our membership hadn’t activated the TOUCH, and the device required two more separate software updates. The desktop software failed to find the SkyCaddie multiple times when attempting each software update, and also crashed multiple times seemingly at the very end of the upgrade process. All of this tacked on another hour and 45 minutes of setup. One word: awful.

Assuming you are able to get everything up and running, you can then sync scores and courses via USB cable (you log in to the SkyCaddie portal and then sync from the browser) or through Bluetooth. The cable method worked smoothly, but the Bluetooth experience, via their free SkyGolf 360 app for mobile devices, was fair at best. We repeatedly received an “Unable to open Session for Device” error message from the device, and even when we didn’t, the courses just didn’t sync at all, which is a problem when you are already at the course and have forgotten to add it to the device.

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

We only call out the instructions as “totally unprofessional” since they were totally inconsistent with the rest of the packaging. One would think that a company that has been around as long as SkyCaddie would make sure that what they deliver is relatively polished.


99 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: You may remember the pitifully low score for the SkyCaddie BREEZE in our course coverage test. So how did the TOUCH suddenly jump back to a strong score of 99?

The answer is that our course availability scores are based on the availability of maps for all marketed features for the device, under the theory that if your buying decision might be swayed by what the manufacturer claims its device can do, then they’d better provide course coverage for those features. SkyCaddie has stopped marketing two of the mapping features that it touted for the BREEZE – IntelliGreen Pro (which shows green contours) and PinPoint, which lets users enter pin sheet locations to more accurately place the pin within the hole. These features were available on only a small number of courses, which dragged down the score for the BREEZE, but no longer does so for the TOUCH.

Manufacturer’s Claims: SkyCaddie claims to have nearly 35,000 courses with standard distance information in its course database, placing it average among devices tested.


83 / B

EASE OF USE

While the TOUCH is reasonably sized and the screen is very good, it is the touchscreen experience that hold the device back.

We recommend glancing at the manual in order to better understand the behavior of some of the features and how to access some critical pieces of information, which isn’t intuitive.

SkyCaddie TOUCH

Click to enlarge

Details:

If you are one for playing in the rain, you’ll be happy to know the device has an IPX 7 rating. In English, that means “Ingress of water in harmful quantity shall not be possible when the enclosure is immersed in water under defined conditions of pressure and time (up to 1 m of submersion and for 30 minutes).” You learn something new every day, huh?


96 / A

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

Some may recall the “Feature Packs” that were available for the SkyCaddie Breeze, which allowed the user to pick-and-choose specific packages of functionality that were available for an extra fee. SkyCaddie has reverted to the model of the Skycaddie SGXw, SkyCaddie SGX, and earlier devices, where the difference in the annual packages is based on the geographical region covered, and not the feature sets.

SkyCaddie TOUCH

Click for views

The “Basic View” on the SkyCaddie TOUCH requires no additional membership fees, and provides text distances to the near, center and far points on the green. The battery level, GPS signal strength, and time are always displayed on the TOUCH.

If you purchase one of the annual plans you will also have access to the following views:

Curiously, when moving through screens, you always will advance in the same order: full hole, green view, target/hazard list, basic text view. On the tee box of a par-4 or 5, it seems premature to go to the green view after the full hole – seems to us like it would make more sense to go to the target/hazard list first.


90 / A-

FEATURES

The number of features is an asset of the SkyCaddie TOUCH. Now what is needed is a lot more polish.

Details:

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


96 / A

ACCURACY

We found the SkyCaddie TOUCH, which uses the same course database as all SkyCaddie devices, to be generally accurate within 4 yards of sprinkler head yardage readings. SkyCaddie also has a feature that many manufacturers don’t, which is the ability to show distances all the way to the green or hazards, instead of dropping off 30-50 yards in advance. It is useful to have these distances available to you, and we find that helps give players confidence in the distance readings as well.

If it hasn’t been beaten into you from all of SkyCaddie’s advertisements, we’ll say it again – SkyGolf is the only golf GPS device manufacturer that actually has someone walk the courses to get mapping data. The benefit is clear: more detail available throughout the course maps (though not always exposed in hole or target views). Other GPS companies will claim just as accurate maps through the use of satellite images, and for the most part these work well. We have found cases where satellite images are correct but the mapping is not, something we haven’t seen with SkyCaddie devices. There are always outliers with either method of mapping, however, when there are courses that need updating. And this is one of our pet peeves about SkyCaddie – high annual fees to us should support course updates shortly after course renovations, but we haven’t seen that to be the case.


82 / B-

COST/VALUE
Retail Price: The SkyCaddie TOUCH has an above-average price for the hardware only, checking in at $299.95 retail. If only that was the last you would pay for the device…

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: We wish we could say that $299.95 was the end of your cash outflow. Sadly that is not the case, as tacking on three years of an annual membership for updates to courses nationwide at $49.95 per year bumps the total up to $449.80, making it one of the most expensive golf GPS devices in terms total golf GPS cost. The annual memberships are not absolutely required, but you wouldn’t purchase a SkyCaddie if you didn’t want the features that require annual memberships.

Value: While the SkyCaddie TOUCH offers a lower entry point than some of the most full-featured handheld golf GPS devices, the recurring fees quickly ramp it up to its position as the highest priced GPS-only handheld over three years. The course coverage is excellent and mapping is extremely good, which ostensibly is the reason for the high membership fees, but an overall poor user experience and more aggressively priced competition makes us recommend that you look elsewhere first.

Retail price: $299.95
Three year total cost: $449.80
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now