As editor of Golf Tips I’m constantly (and happily) bombarded with pitches on new stuff coming down the golf gear pike. This summer I’ve come across three golf products that I’m keeping around for the long haul. They’re not necessarily brand new to the market, and I’ve had one of them for a couple months now, but they clearly help my enjoyment of the game, and even my score. Imagine that.
The original SkyGolf gadget predated the first iPhone by nearly a decade, and more than 20 years later, the Mississippi company’s signature GPS device is nearly as powerful as an actual smartphone in terms of sheer computing power.
From a distance, the SX500 looks a lot like an iPhone, and is about the same size as my “ancient” iPhone 6S Plus. Up close its full-color five-inch touchscreen comes to life as a phone’s does, while its “rugged” case rests comfortably in the palm of the hand with three buttons — power, screen lock and a photo button (yes, it even has an on-board camera so you can record highlights from your round as the computer racks up data) on the case itself; on the bottom is a special USB charging port with a protective flap. This thing is built to weather whatever wars on par comes its way, in whatever weather. It’s light enough to bring along in a carry bag, and fits easily into the handle-mounted cradle on my push cart, but for the majority of folks who prefer to ride in a power cart, an available spring-loaded clamp mounted on the cart’s roof support bar puts the SkyCaddie at eye level.
Once you’ve signed up for an online account (several subscription levels are available) and set up the parameters of your game — what’s in your how far you hit each club — and synced the handheld to that account via WiFi (no need to tether it to your computer) it’s time to dig into that touch screen and start exploring what this baby can do.
Which is, in a word, mucho.
The home screen offers a Play Golf button, which will direct you to a search function for nearby tracks or alphabetically, or you can access a list of your own preloaded favorites. There’s also a Scores & Stats button to check on your personal numbers to date, and the all-important Sync button to keep ever-updated course info fresh — and upload your scores, fairways hit and putt counts to the 360 cloud.
To start, if you’d like you can choose Demo Course mode and navigate from hole to hole on SkyGolf’s sample layout. I did that and became quickly acquainted with its zoom features, which will automatically take you to a close-up of the green once you’re inside a preset yardage (170 yards and in); its ability to show both distance to the hole from various points, but also the distance every previous shot traveled; its on-the-fly distance readout; and, perhaps most crucially, its “Target List” mode, which gives distances to bunkers, water hazards and other features on every hole, from anywhere you are, in addition to the pin, front and back of the green. If you’ve input your average club distances online and kept the SX500’s “RangeVue” feature synced, the screen will recommend what club to hit.
Another cool feature is Dynamic HoleVue, which rotates the fairway and orients the green from your current position and angle of attack as you move from the tee to the green. And its “IntelliGreen” capability, available on selected courses, displays major tiers, contours, false fronts, and mounds from your angle of approach to the green.
In other words, the SX500’s robust GPS capabilities pretty much eliminate the need for a laser rangefinder. Add in a powerful battery (I still had close to 80 percent after one recent walking round), and you’re packing a device that’s as close to a full-service virtual caddie as you can get … no gratuity necessary.
If you’re keeping score on the device (and why wouldn’t you?), just rotate it 90 degrees and it’ll show an entire nine holes, just as an old-school card would. You can even score in Stableford.
As with the phone I’ve had in my pocket for going on five years, I haven’t begun to master all of the powerful features of the SX500, especially in tandem with the SkyGolf 360 platform, which also allows you to store swing analysis date from other devices such as Bluetooth swing sensors and full-featured launch monitors.
I’m geeked up and good to go.
You will be, too.
Note: In the U.S., the SX500 comes with the introductory offer of a 1-year Double Eagle Worldwide Membership valued at $59.95