Win a SkyCaddie Breeze
To enter to win a SkyCaddie Breeze, just leave a comment below telling us which upgrade feature(s) you would use the most.
What’s a Radio?
(Written by Golfspy Dave) Do you remember your first new car purchase? For me, that car was a Honda Civic Coupe. I was super excited to get a car that was not previously driven by anyone else. I was in grad school at the time and my wife was working for the City of Scottsdale’s Rec and Parks district. For those of you not in the know, these jobs are not a recipe for fiscal dominance. We could afford that new Honda, but just barely. The only option we selected was AC as living in Arizona without it would have been most uncomfortable. It was really the only option we selected. Rather than a car stereo, we had a hole in the dash where the radio should go. No biggie, we saved some cash and added the additional options (CD player, 22’s, airbags, & etc.) later on when we really needed them and could afford them.
I love buying new cars, selecting the options I need (want?), and passing on those I don’t. I feel for all of you who need plug in engine block warmers, but my Cali climate makes buying that option silly. Car buyers can select what makes sense. Sometimes I wish that the new-car-buying model was present in other purchases.
You Choose Your Features
How many features are present in our stuff that we never use? I probably have ten settings on my microwave oven that have never been selected. What if your electronics could be equipped with only the features that you will actually use? What if this also eliminated the need to pay for the features that you don’t need? Sounds good, huh? Pay for what you want; don’t for what you don’t.
This is the scheme behind the simple, yet upgradable, Skycaddie Breeze GPS unit. Out of the box, the SkyCaddie Breeze gives you an accurate, affordable, but initially minimally featured GPS unit. The beauty of the Breeze, especially compared to other lower-cost GPS units out there, is that although it starts out minimally featured, it’s still a SkyCaddie, and if you want more features, they are just a paid upgrade away.
AESTHETICS & DESIGN
Overall, I think that we are looking at an attractive visual package with the SkyCaddie Breeze. The black and white color scheme, though not revolutionary, serves as a clean background for the large, full-color screen. The control buttons are all conveniently located at the bottom of the unit, with the directional control button (joystick?) sitting right in the middle. While the front of the unit may be plastic, the back has more of a finger grabbing rubber surface. The large directional button is also rubbery with a couple of traction bumps that are very effective at holding the button to the finger. Although it is larger than my iPhone 4S, the Breeze never felt bulky, instead, I would describe the hand-feel as comfortable.
Bucking the current design trend, the large, high-res display on the SkyCaddie Breeze is not a touch screen. The directional button instead directs the operations that would be otherwise controlled by touch. Maybe the ability to touch the screen would make navigation a bit faster, but once I became comfortable with the button system, it was likely no real speed difference. If nothing else, not touching the screen should extend the life of that screen. SkyCaddie also helps in that direction by including screen protector film with the unit. I appreciate that having paid for my iPhone screen films.
Really, the only part of the unit that takes a bit away from the aesthetics is the antenna on the top. They have done a good job of blending it in, but the antenna is still there. Not like they can remove it to make the unit appear more symmetrical though. That would be like taking the head off of your driver to preserve the visual lines of the shaft. The antenna represents a critical functional component for the unit, and although it would be nice not to have the big bump on the top, it needs to be there.
AESTHETICS & DESIGN SCORE = 20/20
So what do you need your GPS to do for you on the course?
- Give accurate yardages to multiple important targets (front, middle, back, traps, doglegs, & etc.)
- Be fast
- Have a strong enough battery
- Have data for all of the courses I play.
- Keep my score and play statistics
- Be easy to use.
- Have something extra to separate it from my iPhone or laser rangefinder
1. Give accurate yardages
Some of you are likely already grumbling about SkyCaddie charging an annual membership fee. I get it. Why pay this membership when your phone app doesn’t require it? Let me tell you why. The SkyCaddie Breeze is the most accurate (non-laser) rangefinder that I have ever used. Period. End of story. We have all seen the commercials with the guy sporting the space-age backpack walking the golf course. This direct measuring must be expensive, and this expense needs to be passed along to the consumer. In my opinion, the SkyCaddie accuracy is well worth the annual subscriber fee. There were holes where the yardage given on my iPhone app GPS was off by 5-10 yards compared to the SkyCaddie Breeze. Laser testing showed time and time again that the Breeze gave the better, more accurate, number. Should accuracy matter to you in a GPS, then the membership cost is money well spent. They are even running a buy two years, get one free promotion right now. You get that and some discount vouchers for other golf stuff. Check all of it out HERE.
2. Be Fast
The speed of the SkyCaddy Breeze gets some cheers and jeers from me. First, the cheers. Once you have selected your course and are on that first tee, the SkyCaddie Breeze is a quick, number-spitting machine. When you walk up to your ball, it takes only a second or two to settle on the number. In Basic Mode, this means you immediately get Front/Center/Back or green. Other numbers provided after upgrading your feature package (more on this later) are just as quick. While some of the speed can be attributed to the fancy electronics in the unit, the other thing that makes the Breeze such a fast instrument is the simple fact that it stays on while you play. No sleeping, no powering up, entering passcode, selecting the app, and so on. You look at it, and get the number.
My speed jeer with the Breeze comes once you begin the course selection process at the course. If you just press the Play Golf button, the unit gives you a picture of the Earth and begins a scanning process that takes a few minutes. Once completed, it selects your course, and you go play. To save time, instead of pressing the Play Golf button, go to Courses and manually select your course. This cuts down on the wait time by a great deal and prevents the unit from selecting the wrong course should there be multiple courses where you are playing.
3. Have a strong enough battery
I think that SkyCaddie is a bit concerned about battery life with the Breeze, as they suggest both in the documentation and in the software that you plug in the SkyCaddie Breeze after each round. There is a great deal of processing going on and the screen staying on does take juice. I think that they are being a bit over cautious though. I have found that the unit stays charged in between rounds and that it made it through 36 (OK Tony, Matt, and Frank, it was 34 holes) last Saturday without a problem. I think that the battery life is more than sufficient, but I do follow their guidelines of plugging it in after play. It does also charge fairly rapidly.
4. Have data for all of the courses I play.
“30,000 course maps are pre loaded and ready-to-play out of the box with Basic green information”. If you play less than 30K courses, you are all set. The unit also holds 50 “full-featured” courses that you select via download. I don’t imagine that many people will need more than 50 courses at any given time, and if they do, they can download ones to swap in/out once the unit is synced to a computer.
5. Keep my score and my play statistics.
The SkyCaddie Breeze does have a score keeping function and the ability to track play in the ClubSG (beta) section of their website. Scorekeeping is pretty straightforward. You are given the option to keep score at the beginning of the round and then the unit will automatically advance to the enter score screen as you move to the next tee box. Should you somehow get off track, you can either head to the scorecard through the menus, or if you have the option selected, turn the unit 90° to the left and the scorecard pops up. Nice and simple, though you should expect a bit of lag between screens if you go the menu route.
I think that the online ClubSG section shows some promise, but I feel it is a bit behind some of the other offerings out there. I would like to see some additional stats included in the scorekeeping; sand, penalties, OB, & so on. Some of the phone apps and other GPS units have this data, and I personally like having it. Having the sand and penalty shots cataloged lets me remember the holes more accurately when I get into the online sites to review my rounds. To their defense, the ClubSG portal is overtly labeled as “Beta”. What they have up right now is solid, but they will need to expand the stat tracking and add some features like being able to view course layouts from the computer if they are going to compete with the other units’ online portals.
6. Be easy to use
Once you get the gist of the SkyGolf operating system, usage is very easy. However, being that this was the first SkyCaddie unit that I have used, I did have a bit of a learning curve, and I did even have to read the instructions. I’ll admit that this part was a bit of a bummer, or maybe better stated as a blow to my ego. The Breeze has a great many options for play, especially once you upgrade it. As such, you need to know where the control for these options resides in the menu architecture. It’s not a huge knock on the unit, just more of a FYI to the consumer. I think if it this way. If I was driving to your house right now, I’d use Google Maps to learn how to get there. The next time, I’d probably be OK without the directions. For you tech guys, this concept is nothing new. RTFM=Success.
On the course the unit is in fact, a breeze to use. Sorry about that, but it is very simple. Single button presses will change the displayed data/view. Turing the unit 90° takes you to the scorecard, main view, or simple Front/Middle/Back yardages. You can even tell the unit at which yardage you want it to switch from fairway to green view in the preferences. There is some complexity in figuring out the settings, but once that is learned, and your preferences set, you can play golf and not worry about how to get the unit to work.
7. Have something extra to separate it from my iPhone or laser rangefinder
And so we are back to my first Honda. Out of the box, the Breeze is a very basic GPS unit. Don’t take that as a knock on the unit. Like that stock Civic, the basic Breeze is a great basic unit, it just doesn’t have any fancy options. The basic unit does let you see distances, record your shot distances, score, and some stats. It also has a bright, color display and uses the walk-the-course mapping system common to all SkyCaddie models. Remember, a Mercedes without all the fancy options is still a Mercedes. Like a car, the SkyCaddie Breeze can be upgraded. There are three upgrade packs available, each costing about $35. This is what comes in the upgrade packs (from the SkyGolf site):
In testing the SkyCaddie Breeze, I first played rounds with the unit in the basic mode, then added upgrades one at a time to see the difference in play. While the basic configuration was OK, it did leave me wanting more features. Of the features present in the upgrades, my favorites are the Target List, IntelliGreen, Interactive HoleVue, and Dynamic RangeVue.
Overall, I really like the ability to upgrade the Breeze to have the features that you will actually use. My only suggestion would be to have the six options as single $17.50 options rather than $35 pairs. I would definitely recommend the previously mentioned four favorite features to everyone who gets a Breeze. The great thing about the Breeze is you get to choose what upgraded features are worth paying extra for. One little bonus FYI, when you upgrade your features, you will need to download the advanced versions of your courses. Just hit the download courses after each upgrade. You’re welcome.
PERFORMANCE SCORE = 56/60
The SkyCaddie Breeze retails for $229.95. But you can find it here for $219. While this price does not get you all of the features of the higher-end SkyCaddie models, it does get you their SkyCaddie mapping accuracy and hardware. As mentioned, the upgrades cost $35 each and the memberships run from $29.95-$59.95 per year. Should you upgrade the unit completely, you will be in for about $370 including the unit cost, upgrade costs, and “birdie” membership. This now gives you a unit that compares favorably in price against SkyCaddie’s fully-featured SGXw unit that costs $399.95.
That’s not the story of value though. The story of the SkyCaddie Breeze is that you can now by a less expensive GPS unit that still has all of the SkyCaddie pedigree, and then add features to it when you decide you need them down the road. I think that this ability helps the Breeze to score well in initial “Value”, and it also adds to its value down the road. Does it cost more than a phone app? Sure, but it also does a better job than those apps and to be fair, costs a whole lot less than that app and your phone.
VALUE SCORE = 20/20
The ability to upgrade the SkyCaddie Breeze is great, but let’s not get away from the fact that this is the most accurate GPS unit that I have ever tested. Is there a learning curve to figure out how to use all of its features? Sure. Would I like to see the data collection and online analysis expanded? Of course. However, these are but little tweaks that would only add to an already solid little unit. If you are looking to pick up a GPS this holiday season, I would strongly recommend you give the SkyCaddie Breeze a long, hard look. Check the SkyGolf site for some December promotions as well.
TOTAL SCORE = 96/100
Visit the SkyCaddie Website: >> HERE
Follow SkyGolf on Twitter: >> @SkyCaddie
Win a SkyCaddie Breeze
To enter to win a SkyCaddie Breeze, just leave a comment below telling us which upgrade feature(s) you would use the most.