SkyCaddie recently released their SX500 GPS Rangefinder. It's rugged, has an enormous battery life, a large HD screen, and some of the best GPS functionality I have seen.
Recently, I got a chance to play five rounds with it on the course. I've tested a number of GPS devices on this site, and in terms of performance, I have to say it's the best I have tried yet. However, there are some drawbacks that might not make it the right choice for every golfer. In this review, I'll go over what I liked about the SX500, and what are some potential drawbacks.
What I Loved About the SX500
Let's start with the good news. The SkyCaddie SX500 is a strategic golfer's dream come true.
The 5" HD screen shows you incredibly clear graphics of every hole you play. It's like having the most detailed caddie book in the palm of your hand. On the course, you're able to quickly toggle through multiple views of the entire hole and see closeups of the greens. You can easily measure distances to any point on the course with your fingers to help make your club and target selection as efficient as possible. The map will automatically rotate to give you accurate views no matter what angle you are approaching the fairway or green from (for help with those errant shots).
Here is a brief video exploring its key features:
Because SkyCaddie manually captures the information of every course on the ground, you get very detailed images. I found the shape of every green, fairway, and hazards to be almost identical.
You can easily sync your courses through a wi-fi connection, and loading up a course on the go is a breeze. Overall, this is a very well-designed GPS device, and I found no flaws with how it performed on the golf course.
When you hold the SX500 in your hands, you realize this is an absolute beast.
The SX500 has some real weight to it and a rugged design. So you can toss it around in your cart, expose it to the elements (it's highly water-resistant) and it will hold up.
The operating system is incredibly fast, so you won't experience delays on the course. Perhaps it's best feature is the battery life. With most GPS devices I have tested, I am lucky to get 1-2 rounds out of them before having to recharge. I played two 4 1/2 hour rounds with the SX500, and the battery was still above 50%. SkyGolf says in their official specs that it should last for 12-14 hours of continuous use. One of my pet peeves with golf technology is continually worrying about another device to charge, but you can leave the SX500 in your bag for multiple rounds and not worry about it.
There are a few drawbacks that you should be aware of before you purchase.
As much as the size and weight of the SX500 enhance its features, it also makes it a little bit of a hindrance to carry around. It doesn't fit in your pocket easily, so I would say it's a better companion for an electric cart or push cart. If you're carrying your bag, it might prove to be challenging to take in and out while you play. Compared to a GPS watch, it's certainly not as convenient - which is a tradeoff for the extra features you get from the SX500.
Another deterrent is its price and the SkyGolf memberships that are required. The SX500 currently retails at $399, which puts it on the higher end of the market. Additionally, because they spend more time measuring distances on courses manually, there is an ongoing cost to have access to GPS maps. They throw in one year of their Double Eagle membership when you purchase the SX500 initially, but it will cost between $30 - $60 to maintain a membership afterward.
Many golfers who use their smartphones and have free GPS apps like 18 Birdies and The Grint might scoff at paying for a device like this at all. However, I would tell you that the functionality, data, and battery life do make a difference.
Who is the SX500 For?
If you want the best information, functionality, and battery life I believe the SX500 is worth it. I used it during three rounds of tournament golf and found the data to be very useful. For golfers who want extremely detailed yardage information, it's a winner.
On the other hand, it's size, initial cost, and ongoing fees might not make it worth it for other players.
You can learn more about the SX500 on SkyCaddie's website here.