As a relative newcomer to golf, the distance measuring device (DMD) has developed at a rapid pace. The information has become more accurate, devices are easier to use and the good news is, they’re also becoming more affordable. With this in mind, we tested 12 models that have been launched since our 2011 test. Not only have top-end models improved the quality of maps and the amount of information on offer, but there has also been an influx of stripped-back versions that are easy to use and provide basic information.
The major laser brands have also refined their products to make them easier to use. All this means there are more options out there than ever before, with products designed to meet the needs of different golfers. In this test, we aim to help refine your search and identify the best products on the market.
The Golf Monthly staff conducted the test at the beautiful Liphook Golf Club in Hampshire, number 79 in the Golf Monthly Top 100 list. It was a course that the vast majority of testers had never played before and features a number of blind shots, as well as holes that require a club other than driver from the tee. The course offered the perfect opportunity to test each device to its fullest.
To begin with, the test team went through the set-up process for every device to compare how easy it was to get the unit ready for play. Each member of the team then tried out two units on the course. The test team’s handicaps varied from five to 24, and ranged from long-time DMD users to those who had never used one before. This helped us to test the suitability of a unit for different golfers. After the round, the team compared the features and benefits of each model and awarded points for the following:
Value: The initial price and download costs comparative to the quality of the unit.
Set-up: How easy the unit is to set up initially and download courses on to.
Ease of use: How easy it is to read yardages, as well as use any other additional features.
Information: The quality and quantity of information provided on the unit.
Ergonomics: How the unit feels in the hand, the button design and the bag clip.
Accuracy: How the yardage readings compare with other units, yardage markers and course guides.
Performance: An overall rating including how robust the unit is, the battery life, the clarity of the screen and how the unit attached to a golf bag.
'USER-FRIENDLY GPS'Unit price: £279.99 Download costs: None Key technology: Preloaded with more than 27,000 courses and with no subscription fees. As well as front, back and middle of green distances, there are also yardages to doglegs and lay-up points. The glove-friendly touchscreen shows the shape of each green, and pin positions can be manually entered. There’s also a digital scorecard.Simple to use, and with additional features compared to the original Garmin GPS watch. Key yardages are immediate and easy to read. But... the watch is quite large, particularly if you aren’t used to wearing one while playing. More expensive than the original and other models in this basic information category.GM verdict (Stephanie Atkinson - 24 handicap):The first Garmin GPS watch, the S1, set the standard for stripped-back GPS devices. Many of the positives remain in the S3, including preloaded courses and a fuss-free set-up process. Added to the new model is an easy-to-use touchscreen, plus distances to doglegs. You can also enter your own yardage points, which is useful for your home course. Great for those who are concerned about information overload.Value: 12/15Ease of use: 14/15Information: 10/15Accuracy: 13/15Set-up: 9/10Ergonomics: 8/10Performance: 16/20Total: 82/100