05th May 2005

Golf GPS

Hand-held or wrist-mounted Golf GPS devices are increasingly popular for the golfer who wants to improve his or her game. These ‘Digital Caddies’ utilize both GPS technology and other, more traditional ways of measuring performance to help any player get the best from his or her golfing time.

Two main types of Golf GPS units are available:

Wrist-worn unit/GPS Golf Watch

This all-inclusive system sets you up with everything you need to take advantage of Golf GPS technology. Usually, a mapping feature is not included, and unless otherwise stated you’ll need to program in yardage and hazards yourself unless the course you play on is covered by the relevant software. Once this is done however, you have a wealth of advantages over the average golfer. Some of the units that don’t contain a mapping feature will allow you to connect the GPS device to your computer and map it out there.

Larger units with a mapping function sometimes come with courses pre-programmed in – this however is usually only available in North America, but online databases are growing all the time. Programming your own courses, distances and hazards is possible although it can be time-consuming so when buying ensure that it’s easy to do with the GPS system in question.

PDA Golf GPS Upgrade

If you already own a PDA, there are numerous attachments available for you that allow you to have all the functionality of a Golf GPS system without buying a new system or relying on a tiny LCD display. PDA Golf upgrades come with two main components: the hardware and software. The hardware will slot into your PDA and contain a GPS receiver, an altimeter, and sometimes even a receiver for obtaining prevailing wind speed and direction.

The software may come pre-programmed with some courses (usually at an added cost) in North America; in Europe, it’s more common to have to program your own, or download them from manufacturer’s products, such as those by Suunto or iGolf – some are free, some require a small fee.

What can it do?

It’s not just shot length measurement - Golf GPS systems offer many features:


If the system supports it, mapping capabilities can be invaluable. These range in complexity from a simple plotting function for directional analysis, to a full-featured, downloadable, cartographic-quality chart of every hole on the course. Also check the storage capacity to see how many courses or waypoints you can keep saved.

Distance Measurement

The piece de resistance of the golf GPS device, this stalwart feature is as versatile as it is powerful.

Club Suggestion

Some Golf GPS devices allow you to input what club you’re using before you take a shot – then it saves the length of the shot that you make. Using your average shot lengths and accuracy settings, the GPS system can then suggest to you which club is best for a particular length of shot.

Hazard/Green Saving Ability

Usually part of a mapping function, this feature allows you to compensate for the various hazards or desirable targets on the course. By suggesting distances to the hazards and the pin, you can weigh up your options for the best shot.

PC Analysis

By uploading course data, game data (strokes, clubs used, average distance etc.) you can analyse your day’s play in anticipation of a better round the next time. You can also transfer data from your PC to the GPS device – ideal for saving maps or coordinates.

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