Golf GPS devices and laser rangefinders

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Virtual Caddies A slew of portable laser rangefinders and GPS devices takes the guesswork out of club selection and helps improve the pace of play. The only tough decision is choosing the technology that's right for you. The best units vary in price, ease-of operation and the course diversity of their databases. The ideal way to choose, of course, is to take these high tech instruments for a test run. Contributing writer Josh Sens sampled eight top models. Here's what he found. Bushnell Pro 1600 $430; bushnellgolf.com The Upside: Sturdy and easy to hold steady, the Pro 1600 zeroes in on the flag from up to 400 yards and measures to within one yard of the true distance. A scanning mode provides multiple distance readings in quick succession. Something else you should know: It compensates for slope, which is sweet, though the feature is prohibited in tournament play.
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Callaway uPro $399; uprogps.com The Upside: Slim and lightweight, the uPro packs a lot of brains into a small body, so you can keep it in your pocket without impeding your swing. Bells and whistles include cool aerial views, precise measurements to any point on the course, and a screen that's readable in direct sunlight. No annual fee. Something else you should know: High-resolution aerial photography (as opposed to digital reproductions) of holes is a special feature. But it comes at a cost of $1.20 to $10 per course, depending on the number of courses you download.
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Garmin Apprach G5 $499; garmin.com The Upside: No need for pesky downloads. The Approach G5 comes with thousands of preprogrammed courses, so unlike its main competitors, it's good to go out of the box. The touch-screen display allows you to dial in distances without any awkward fumbling. Something else you should know: The satellite mapping of pre-downloaded courses (as with many GPS gizmos) may not include the latest course changes.
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Laser Link Red Hot $299; laserlinkgolf.com The Upside: The easiest to use of all the leading rangefinders, the Laser Link is a simple point-and-shoot with just one button to cut down on confusion. It draws a bead on a flagstick-mounted target, so you don't have to worry if you've mistakenly dialed in a tree or other object. Something else you should know: It can be a challenge to "shoot" the flagstick, especially from beyond 200 yards, if the course you're playing isn't equipped with flagstick mounted Laser Link reflectors.
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Leupold GX-II $399; golf.leupold.com The Upside: A calculator and a caddie all in one, this sleek, lightweight laser rangefinder does everything but hit your shot. The Leupold GX-II measures true playing distances by taking into account slope, temperature and altitude. It even goes so far as to recommend a club. (Of course, these neat features make it nonconforming for use in competitions). Something else you should know: The Leupold GX-II measures distances up to 750 yards. At 6.8 ounces, it requires a steady hand to hold still on your target.
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OnPar $479; onpargps.com The Upside: Looks like an iPhone and works like an iPhone, with a simple-to operate touch-screen display. Along with many of the usual features, there's a virtual "golf bag" that allows you to track how far you hit each club. Something else you should know: It's not yet Mac compatible, but they're working on it. A touch screen, in some people's hands, can lead to slower play.
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SkyCaddie SG5 $399; skygolf.com The Upside: This market leader provides yardages based on its own maps rather than standard satellite photos. How? It charts courses by foot, like a real caddie, for increased accuracy and reliability. Its proprietary database includes more than 23,000 courses worldwide. SG5 offers up to 40 different measurements on each hole, a flyover feature, a digital scorecard and easy-to-find distances to the front, center and back of each green. Something else you should know: Membership plans cost from $29.95 (for one year of access to courses in your home state) to $129.95 (for three years of access to courses worldwide).
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Sonocaddie V300 $349; sonocaddie.com The Upside: A cool edit function lets you update the course map, correcting errors or adding missing features, on the spot. The nifty distance calculator measures individual shots in 3-D. The V300 holds up to 30 courses; you can download all of them for free. Something else you should know: Like other satellite mapping systems, the Sonocaddie should work in less-than ideal weather conditions. The unit is waterproof, but treat it like a cell phone (i.e., don't leave it out in heavy rain).