Gone are the days when judging the distance to the green involved looking about for a 150-yard marker, squinting down the fairway and saying "that's about an 8 iron." Technology has transformed the game of golf, not just in terms of carbon fiber shafts and remote control carts, but also in navigating your way around the course. One of the latest GPS navigation devices to hit the market is the GolfBuddy PT4. We headed out onto the links to see how it performs.
The GolfBuddy PT4 is billed as a premium device and straight out of the box, it looks the goods. It has a slimline design measuring 2.7 x 5.0 x 0.59 in (69 x 128 x 15 mm) and a 4-inch touch-screen, putting it well ahead of the company's previous handheld offering – the Platinum – on both counts. The 4-inch screen is easy to read and the user interface is reasonably intuitive (i.e. we only had to refer to the manual a couple of times). The touchscreen is also capacitive, as opposed to the resistive screens on the older units, which provides a much needed boost in response times and brings the whole experience up a level.
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The PT4 is water resistant and comes with a clip so it can be fitted to your bag or belt. There are also mounts specifically designed for carts available. The clip can be reversed when not in use to double as a screen protector, which could come in very handy.
The first challenge for our test unit was to locate the backwater course we have chosen for our first outing – a modest, picturesque little course tucked away in the middle of nowhere. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it is among the 37,000 courses pre-loaded into the PT4. First challenge met – we know where we are.
In addition to finding the course, the PT4 automatically tracks which hole you are on, though you can manually scroll through holes (as well as search courses) if you need to. Play mode gives you a detailed map of the hole ahead. The 4-inch screen size makes it possible to pack a lot of information onto the hole readout, which includes distances to the front and back of the green. You can also zoom in for a closer view of a particular section of the hole.
It's also possible to set targets on the fairway – a feature we found very useful, especially when you are looking to lay up on a longer hole. Setting the target is simple enough, just tap the screen at the desired location and you'll be shown the distance to the target and the distance from the target to the green. After five seconds, the target point turns blue. You can then move it by tapping the blue pin and setting another target. The process is a little messy, but it's a worthy feature, especially when you're playing an unfamiliar course.
The target function on the PT4 also incorporates distances to fairway bunkers and other hazards. Again, a very useful feature.
When you are closer to the hole, tapping on the distance to the center of green indicator brings up the "Green View Screen." Another tap will get you to a "Dynamic Green View," which overlays a grid pattern and has larger, easier to read numbers. These views give you the ability to move the pin placement by tapping the screen – the pin switches to red when locked in place and when you tap it it switches to blue, indicating that you can now drag it to the desired location. As well as distance to the pin, distances to the front and back of the green are shown. Critically, these distances are calculated from your angle of approach.
For John Daly-types, the PT4 has a shot distance measurement that works by simply tapping an icon to start and stop the measurement. These distances are saved in a list, so you can review your driving prowess on the 19th hole.
Finally, the PT4 incorporates a comprehensive scoring system that caters for up to four players and for stroke or Stableford play. You can also record things like the number of putts (though this only works for one player), input handicap information and review previous rounds. The full scorecard also defaults to an easy to read landscape view. If anything, the scoring functionality seems almost too detailed, though that's not so much a complaint as an observation, and we're sure that some avid golfing number crunchers out there would make full use if it.
Battery life of the PT4 is around eight hours, which should stretch to two rounds, but it's advisable to top it up ahead of each outing. A full recharge takes around three hours and the battery is replaceable.
The GolfBuddy PT4 has a RRP of $499.95, which doesn't make it the cheapest option out there, but seems to fairly reflect the high-end functionality it offers. It's also a one-off cost as there are no ongoing fees, and software and course updates are available through the GolfBuddy site.
This is a product that does the job it's designed to do well. We found the interface to be intuitive and effective with great responsiveness and visibility. Perhaps the only question mark we have surrounds durability – sleek and slimline it is, but this, along with the bezel being flush with the screen does cast doubt on how well the unit will endure bumps and scrapes in the long term. It's fair to say that some might prefer to trade in some functionality for the the convenience of a GPS golf watch, but for those looking to get down to the nitty-gritty details when it comes to chasing a white ball around, the PT4 is well worth consideration.
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