Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Yardage Debate: Bushnell vs. SkyCaddie

The days of stepping off yardages are over. They're over. If you're doing that in your local game, you are behind the times. In the 90s it was titanium. In the early years of this decade it was the Pro V1 and the Project X and now we've come to a time where golf technology has headed away from the clubs.

Recently, I got my hands on two rangefinders, the Bushnell Tour V2, Slope Edition, and the SkyCaddie SG5, and my goal was simple. Which one of these works best for what player?

Here is what I came up with.

Why It's Important to Own One

People might think owning a $300 or $400 device that just gives yardages is a little expensive and unnecessary. Up until a month ago, I never owned a device, I'd just borrow them if I was playing in a tournament that allowed them. I was always excited, however, to be playing in a group where someone pulled a rangefinder out of their bag.

"156 to the pin," they'd say and I'd be comfortable knowing that the yardage was spot on, so my shot needed to be just as exact. It's a different style of confidence that you can't find by using the yardages on a course.

The problem with stepping yardages off is it isn't an exact science. People take different strides, so the "yards" aren't always yards, and even the plates can be a bit off if the hole has change or the green has been altered. Using these devices, I had instances where my "step" yardage was nearly 10 yards off (almost a full club) than what I was getting from my rangefinder. That isn't just a shot that comes up short or long, it's probably a dropped shot. If that happens twice a round, and you place four times a month, you're talking eight shots you lose a month because of inferior equipment.

Which One Suits My Game?

Messing around with both devices, it was easy for me to understand what people of different handicaps should buy.

The SkyCaddie is a more popular device for higher handicappers, as it should be. When your goal is to get it on the green, not necessarily near the pin, you want a device that will give you yardages to the front, center and back of the green. Using the SkyCaddie was beneficial in this regard. Playing on a golf course with large, firm greens, the SkyCaddie is helpful because you might not know how far it is to the pin, but you'll be able to hone in on how far to hit a certain shot to a certain distance. "I don't want to go over, so if it's 196 to the back, I need to hit the club that, at best, will only fly 190."

For someone that enjoys golf but isn't necessarily breaking course records, I would suggest the SkyCaddie. When you buy the device, you have software you must download on a computer. Setting all this up was easy and didn't take too long, and after you purchase the plans for the SkyCaddie, you are off and running. Also, who doesn't love another icon on their desktop?

One of the other things I loved about carrying this around was with errant tee shots. Many times, you're going to miss fairways and in the rough and in the trees, it isn't always easy to find a yardage marker. This will give you exact yardage, so even if you have to punch out, you know how far to hit it so that you're at a comfortable yardage for your next shot. Bonus all around.

For lower handicappers, I have to suggest going with the Bushnell. I will say, older people I know have struggled with shooting yardages with this thing, and I don't blame them. It took me four or five rounds to get comfortable enough with the V2 to shoot the pin and get a consistent yardage, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty darn easy (Easy tip -- don't shoot at the flag, shoot just above it at the top of the pin).

While front and back yardages are helpful, being able to sit in a fairway and shoot the pin, knowing exactly how far you have, is as good as it gets. Along with that, I used the Bushnell during my U.S. Open qualifier practice round to fire at trees off tees that I wanted to stay short of, and bunkers near greens that I wanted to keep back of (Not to dismiss the SkyCaddie in this regard -- they also have a feature where you can see how far it is to certain bunkers and how far you just hit a tee shot. That helps if you just muscled a drive and want to brag to your buddies that you're the next Tiger Woods. If they roll their eyes, that's your bad.)

If you are able to hit a shot to a yardage fairly consistently, I'd have to say the Bushnell device is the best around. While the "slope" feature isn't allowed in tournament play, clicking it off is an option that you can use so that you don't have to ditch the device.

Also, during the practice rounds that I caddied for Erica Blasberg in, we used the Bushnell device's slope feature to understand how far up and down certain greens were, noting that in the yardage book so we could remember it in tournament play.

Where Can I Buy One?

If you want the Bushnell V2 ($431.99), click right here and you can get it sent to your house. I'm not sure about this, but they might include a picture of me in the box.

If you are interesting in purchasing the SkyCaddie SG5 ($399.95), you can get one right here. Picture of me doing a handstand, not included.

Should I Buy One?

If you want to improve your golf game, and not waste time stepping yardages like you're a caveman, yes, yes you should.


Cash said...

Spot on, old chap... Great review and I think an accurate bit of advice. One bit that I would add - for less than $300 smokes, you can snag a Nikon made, Callaway branded rangefinder that it comes in a coll azz yellow color toi match those LoudMouth pants you have been ogling

Shane B. said...


Lucas said...

I use the golf guru, which is a handheld gps device and it works fantastic and the support has been outstanding. $250

A gps definitely saves you a few strokes during your round. You still have to hit the shot and putt though.

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