By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Images courtesy of SkyCaddie
RIDGELAND, MS – It’s a scenario that every golfer’s familiar with – you’ve just hit a shot that’s a little offline – or a lot – and you’re left wondering how far you should try and play your next shot.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a weekend player, a once-a-year duffer on vacation or Tiger Woods, you’re going to find yourself in unfamiliar territory on occasion. And there simply aren’t enough yardage markers to cover every spot on the course, especially when you’re in trouble.
Thankfully, technology has now taken a lot of the guesswork out of these ‘mystery’ shots, particularly the SkyCaddie handheld rangefinder – which essentially gives you accurate yardage about the hole you’re playing from anywhere on the golf course. It’s the type of information that Tour players demand from their caddies, and now it’s available to everyone.
Electronic yardage devices definitely aren’t new – or novel – and anyone who’s played enough golf in recent years has certainly been to a club equipped with a GPS system on the golf carts. But if you’ve used them you also know they’re incredibly unreliable – they either go out in the middle of your round or sometimes fail to accurately report on a situation. Hence, the need for something better.
Julie Davis, Vice President of Marketing for SkyGolf (which manufactures the SkyCaddie), says there simply was a need for a superior product: “Cart based GPS systems have always been very unreliable and the cost to the golf courses using them was extremely high. From the beginning, our goal was to provide golfers with a cost effective alternative focused on accuracy and reliability that would use technology responsibly, while also respecting the traditions of the game.”
“The original SkyCaddie eliminated the need to search for distance markers on the course and/or navigate through yardage books to obtain distance information,” Davis added.
The device is even useful to supplement cart GPS systems, for those club members whose carts are already equipped with GPS – partly for the reasons mentioned above, but also for the dreaded cart-path only days. Also, if your playing partner is spraying balls all over the course, it’s useful to send him off with a SkyCaddie instead of trying to drive to some remote and impossible to get to location. Cart based systems are very limited unless you can actually reach your ball – and if you can’t drive across the fairway, they’re virtually useless.
That’s all well and good, but I recently played a round with a partner who swears by a laser rangefinder. Here too, SkyCaddie comes out ahead.
“If you don’t have a line of sight on your target, a laser rangefinder will not work,” Davis explained. “If you happen to hit an errant shot and end up in the wrong fairway, or if you are blocked by trees or playing a dogleg, a laser rangefinder simply will not provide you with distances you need, and club selection becomes guesswork.”
“In contrast, the SkyCaddie GPS provides distances for up to forty targets on each hole, including SkyGolf’s patented IntelliGreen technology, which automatically rotates the true shape of the green to match a golfer’s angle of approach, enabling golfers to more effectively navigate the entire golf course, and choose the appropriate club with confidence,” Davis added.
The key element in all of this is SkyCaddie’s method of mapping golf courses, which differs from all of its competitors – most of which rely on satellite images to plot distances. With the SkyCaddie, there’s the essential ‘human’ element that provides the difference.
The course mapping method was developed by Tour caddie Mark Long, who’s been carrying Fred Funk’s bag for much of his successful career (including Funk’s Players Championship win, and 2009 U.S. Senior Open win). Long knows what Tour players look for from a caddy, and he’s shared that knowledge in helping to develop the SkyCaddie.
Tour caddies are known to walk every yard of a golf course to provide distance information that their pros can trust, and SkyGolf is the only company in this line of products that has adopted the Tour proven ‘ground walking’ method. Long has said that Tour players would never trust their game to satellite images, and neither should amateur players.
For each course in the SkyCaddie library (over 23,000 at current), skilled golfers actually walk the ground using sub-meter, survey grade equipment, to record and verify course information using the same method trusted by Tour caddies. In contrast, using unverified and possibly out-of-date satellite images is a cost-saving short cut that could produce unfavorable results for both the facility and golfer.
|SkyCaddie offers the opportunity to mark the distance of your golf shots.|
“Professional caddies simply will not rely on aerial maps, unless they are determining wind direction, no exceptions!” Davis elaborated. “In fact, satellite images are aerial views that are created by IT technicians who don’t necessarily have knowledge about the game of golf. SkyCaddie professional course mappers have literally walked 23,000 courses (in forty countries) using state-of-the-art GPS survey grade equipment to capture distances from every angle on every course.”
“These course mappers are skilled golfers and established caddies that understand what’s important for a golfer to score his or her best,” Davis said.
Armed with a SkyCaddie, players never have to worry about the distance to the front of a hazard or the exact distance to carry it. You’ll still be responsible for assessing the weather conditions and you can’t order lunch with it, but in all other respects, SkyCaddie takes away your excuses.
I’ll admit, prior to obtaining the SkyCaddie, I was concerned that its course library wouldn’t be large enough to encompass all the courses I’d need. It didn’t seem possible that all the places I visit would be available – and the device isn’t any good if the course hasn’t been mapped.
Thankfully, every course I’ve searched for thus far has been included in SkyCaddie’s library, without exception – and they’re adding more all the time.
“We choose the courses to map based on the demands and needs of our customers,” Davis explained. “We’re constantly updating our library to make sure we are servicing our customers to the best of our ability. If there’s a course a customer can’t find in our library, they can request that it be mapped and we’ll start the process to get it completed as quickly as possible. We respect all of our golf course partners and always request permission from each golf course before mapping it.”
In that sense, it’s a great way to market the product, because once a course is mapped, the facility would be more likely to carry the device for sale. It works both ways very nicely – it’s good for the course, and good for the SkyCaddie library… and ultimately, the consumer, too.
Downloading courses to the device is also simpler than I anticipated. The device comes with a USB cord (amongst other accessories) that works well with my computer – and once the CaddieSync software is loaded onto the computer, it only requires a couple more steps to find courses and then upload them onto the device. The device also charges using the USB cord – it works the same as an Ipod.
On course, the device is also very easy to operate. If you’re able to use some of the features of an ordinary cell phone, you’re sharp enough to use a SkyCaddie. The library of courses (that you’ve pre-loaded onto the device) is easy to access and navigate, and once you’ve selected the right course, the SkyCaddie works practically by itself. You can also access features that provide distance to targets, as well as the IntelliGreen feature which shows the shape of the green.
You can even measure the distances of your tee shots – how far do you really hit it?
|SkyCaddie's IntelliGreen feature is very helpful in assessing your shot into the greens.|
It’s very easy to use. But perhaps the most understated benefit of owning a SkyCaddie is the convenience it offers. Since it’s accurate from anywhere on the course, you can get exact yardage from wherever your ball ends up – which greatly speeds up the pace of play. No more searching for sprinkler heads or trying to compare your position in the fairway to a drawing on a yardage book. Like a cart GPS system, the SkyCaddie reading changes as you move along.
We do not endorse products, but we’ll also say that the SkyCaddie performed every function that we asked of it, and it’s not hard to use. As stated above, every course we looked for was available in the library, and downloading/uploading was easier than anticipated. This is certainly one area where an electronic ‘gizmo’ can help your golf game, even if it won’t swing the club for you.
We’ve also seen the device offered in many of the shops we’ve visited recently, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find, either.
We’ll let Davis have the last word: “Everyone hits good shots every now and then, and when they do, they should experience the benefits of accurate and reliable information to help them score better. SkyCaddie eliminates the guesswork and provides golfers of all skill levels with the necessary information to help them play their best game.”
That’s a good thing, because most of us can use all the help we can get in that respect.
SkyHawke Technologies, LLC
Ridgeland Technology Center
274 Commerce Park Drive, Suite M
Ridgeland, MS 39157
We tried the SkyCaddie SG5, which comes with free accessories (Car Charger, Travel Case, and LCD Protector with each SkyCaddie SG5 purchase (a $70 value)) and retails for $399.
There’s an additional charge for membership plans for access to the SkyCaddie course library.
SkyCaddie was available in most of the shops we’ve checked in the past couple months, and information on where to purchase a device can be found on the company’s Website.
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