By: Tim Baines
Let’s face it. Many of us golfers are tech geeks.
We want the newest and next best thing.
We cling to anything that may make us better golfers – whether it be hitting the ball further, keeping it straighter or, in this case, helping us out with our distances, giving us some idea which club we should pull out of the bag to hit the next shot.
Golf GPS units are big sellers – they’re flying off the shelves as consumers make the difficult decision. Truth be known, many of the heavyweights are putting great products on the shelves – and they’ll all help your game.
Maybe you make your choice based on looks, maybe it’s more about the functionality.
TomTom is making big strides in the North American market in an area that continues to show big growth — golf watches.
The company just announced the next generation of the golf smartwatch, the ultra-slim TomTom Golfer 2, which will be available in May. New features include Automatic Shot Detection to see at a glance how far you’ve hit each ball, show your distance potential and create a detailed post-round analysis on the compatible MySports app to identify improvements for next time.
The Golfer 2 retains has a wide range of information including actual yardage distance to greens and hazards, based off the player’s exact location. Golfer 2 also includes Auto Scorecard.
“We’ve had great success,” said TomTom’s category sales manager of golf Andrew Clayton. “The golf product and everything that TomTom does is about simplicity of use. It’s all about the consumers and we took their feedback. They didn’t want buttons and things around the outside. When you’re playing golf, you’re swinging a club and you’re touching buttons, your shirt sleeve is touching the screen. They didn’t want that kind of control, maybe where it was touched by accident. One button controls everything and every time you press the button, it vibrates as a confirmation of action so you know you’ve pressed the button.”
On top of the usual distance things, TomTom’s watch includes details every golf nut wants to know, things like at-a-glance detail about the fairway contours, doglegs and bunkers. The watch syncs with smart phones and updates regularly on its own. Put in a profile and you can work out how many calories you’re burning during a round.
“The sky’s the limit. The wearable technology market is the fastest-growing of any of the markets — running, fitness, golf,” said Clayton. “There’s a big difference for the golf consumer who’s maybe used one of the hand-held devices in the past. They’ve started to move over to a more convenient unit which is the watch. They researched 60,000 people about why they’re leaving golf today, I think 36% said it was because of time, they don’t have enough time to play. This is easy and quick to use. You can get around the golf course quicker.”
TomTom got into the sports business in 2011, working with Nike. It came out with its own product in 2014, a cardio running watch. Golf seemed like a logical progression, with the new product launched a year ago.
“We’ve got aspirations,” said Clayton. “We want to be No. 1. It’s important some of the other brands here keep on putting the pressure on us so we keep adapting and moving forward.”
GolfBuddy, with a tagline “fashion and function” – is another company with great products, including a watch specifically designed for women, the LD2, which features Swarovski crystals, a leather strap, a stainless steel bezel and a mineral crystal lens. The LD2 offers distances to the front, back and centre of the green, as well as distances to up to 11 hazards per hole. Like all GolfBuddy products, the LD2 features automatic course and hole recognition. The watch also comes equipped with a dual-shot distance measurement function, which will tell golfers exactly how far they hit their shot.
“Nobody’s gone after the ladies market, they’re always making clunky watches,” said GolfBuddy’s Canadian distributor Paul Greenglass. “The response (to the Golf Buddy watch) has been exceptional.”
The Voice 2 is another success story. The user is able to switch between a male and female voice for distance readings, depending on preference. The audio unit provides automatic course and hole recognition, distances to the front, back and centre of the green and shot distance measurement. The Voice 2 comes in rose/gold and white/blue colours and has a built-in clip for convenient access.
“It’s a very popular model, it comes with a hat clip,” said Greenglass. “We have an accessory that turns it into a watch. It can go in you pocket, on your hat … and you don’t have to have the voice on.”
GolfBuddy’s CT2 has bigger numbers on the face, making it an especially attractive option for seniors. A rechargeable battery with up to 17 hours of life and a digital scorecard are other features. The CT2 has an odometer which can track the distance traveled by the golfer over the course of a round.
“We emphasize that we measure everything by foot,” said Greenglass. “Some people claim we do everything by satellite imagery, but that’s not true. We’ve walked 18,000 courses in Canada. Thankfully I didn’t have to do it all by myself.”
Garmin remains a giant in the golf GPS world. Its latest offering, the S20 smartwatch has functionality on and off the course, acting as an extension of your smartphone. With up to 15 hours of battery life in GPS mode, you can measure distances to doglegs, layups and hazards among its many features. It also records shot locations and distances that you can analyze post-round on the Garmin Connect app.
Then there’s Bushnell, another one of the big boys in the business. New this year is the Tour V4 with its 5X magnification and the neo iON watch, which measures steps and holds a battery charge for up to three rounds.
Other companies like Nikon – one of the heavyweights of the camera world which came out with a CoolShot line – and Callaway have jumped into the fray, looking for a share of the big market.