“Don’t call it a comeback… I’ve been here for years.” LL Cool J’s assertion might as well be Callaway’s slogan moving forward for its laser rangefinders and GPS units.
On Dec. 31, 2014, Callaway made the decision to discontinue support of the uPRO line of products. With that decision came a lot of questions and some hard feelings from customers who felt left a bit in the lurch. But as with all technology, the only constant is change and products that require ongoing third-party support are more susceptible to market fluctuations than those where the technology simply becomes outdated. More or less, this is current state of affairs with Callaway as the uPRO platform is firmly in the rearview mirror and the road ahead is marked by a partnership with Izzo on two new GPS products — GPSync Watch and Eclipse GPS — and the new 300 Laser Rangefinder
With the 2015 line of laser rangefinders and GPS products, Callaway is back in the conversation, even if they weren’t gone all that long.
300 Laser Rangefinder
What you need to know: The Callaway 300 is solid in every respect and provides the player a clean and functional optical experience. The 6x magnification places it right in line with competing products at similar price points ($249.99 with current $30 rebate) and the overall range (1,000 yards to any target) is more than anyone reasonably needs. Distances are displayed in yards or meters and the 300 can lock on a single target or scan across multiple targets seamlessly.
Why you should buy it: The optics provided by Nikon on the Callaway 300 are top notch, and it has what Callaway calls P.A.T. (Pin Acquisition Technology). This helps to lock the laser onto flags quickly and displays precise yardages (+/- 1 yard up to 300 yards). If you’ve ever struggled to hit the flagstick instead of the trees behind the green, this is for you.
Why you might keep looking: Currently, this is the only model in the lineup and because Callaway has a price point targeted at the middle, players looking for higher-end features (read: more magnification, varied display colors, slope features, hardshell case) will need to look elsewhere.
Final Thoughts: If you’re looking for a rangefinder, chances are you want a product that locks onto pins easily, gives accurate yardages with point-shoot ease, is durable and user-friendly. The Callaway 300 is all that. Nothing more, nothing less.
What you need to know: There’s a whole lot going on with the GPSync Watch from Callaway. It’s a lot more than a watch, and it’s something beyond your standard golf GPS. It provides basic stat tracking, shot distance measurement, an odometer as well as text/email/call notifications from your bluetooth enabled smartphone. Basically, it’s the seven-layer dip of wearable golf technology. While it doesn’t excel in any one particular area and carries a fairly hefty price tag ($299), there’s enough here to garner a fair bit of attention.
Effectively, it’s a golf GPS wrapped in watch clothing. The standard functions of distance measurement to the front/middle/back of greens as well as hazards and doglegs are accurate, albeit with simple graphics — if a hole has multiple hazards, it’s tough to decipher which distance is associated with which hazard. That said, distances were always within 1-2 yard of my rangefinder and if accuracy is your bottom line, you’ll be pleased with the performance.
The GPSync Watch comes preloaded with 30,000 courses which should be sufficient, but you’ll want to check the database before you purchase just to make sure. Furthermore, Callaway’s partnership with Izzo means tapping into a greater database of information without any concern of subscription fees moving forward. If you’re going to use this primarily as a GPS on the course, the 10-12 hours or expected battery time might be a bit optimistic. In my experience, 8-9 hours was more realistic.
Why you should buy it: I can’t lie, there is some “cool factor” here. The integration of smartphone technology is appealing and for golfers who routinely wear a watch to the course and/or use a GPS, this sets the GPSync Watch apart from competitors. Not all of us can just ditch the phone for 4+ hours and pray no one calls, texts or sends an urgent email. Thankfully, you can leave your phone in your bag and the GPSync Watch will alert you when this happens. Just hope it’s not in the middle of your swing at a critical juncture in a match against your brother — hypothetically speaking, of course. The distances provided are spot on and the device navigated from hole-to-hole and screen-to-screen with adept agility.
Even though the graphics are a little “meh,” the overall user experience is intuitive and pleasantly easy to learn. If you can send an email, you can work the GPSync watch without frustration.
Why you might keep looking: The first generation of any technology has its risks, glitches and room for improvement.
The accompanying free app provides a nice starting point for stat-tracking, but it would be better if you could review past rounds and examine aggregate playing data. Finally, for those wanting an enhanced graphic experience, course mapping imagery leaves quite a bit to be desired. If I’m dropping three bills on a watch-GPS, I want it to blow my mind in at least one area and the GPSync watch, while entirely functional, is a bit underwhelming at this price point.
Final Thoughts: I like this product at $299, but would love it somewhere around $100 less, where comparable products reside. The other option is to bump the price up a bit and offer a product that competes directly with the creme de la creme of GPS-watch hybrids. The ability to get notifications of texts, emails and calls is nice, but you still need to reach into your bag and find your phone if you want reply. The GPS is solid if not unspectacular, however, the robust list of features and options is substantial and attractive. Ultimately it comes down to what you want. If it’s an Apple Watch with GPS functionality, this isn’t it. However, if you want a GPS and watch in a single package and like the idea of bluetooth integration, the GPSync Watch is certainly worth a long look.
What you need to know: The Eclipse GPS from Callaway is the GPSync Watch minus the watch.
The foundational GPS technology provided by Izzo gives you access to 30,000 courses without any annual subscription fees. Syncing and updating your device is relatively simple, although it is a multi-step process. Distances to front/middle/back and hazards are precisely measured and the unit is remarkably easy to use. Added features for basic stat-tracking (putts, GIR, fairways hit) and shot distance measurement put the Eclipse GPS right in line with similar products from competitors.
In a word, the Eclipse GPS is about convenience. From the handy bag clip and diminutive stature to the auto-hole advance and satellite set time/date, there’s nothing about this unit that is complicated or difficult. Wouldn’t it be nice if the rest of the game were this easy!
Why you should buy it: At $199, there’s enough performance here to justify the cost. While many companies have focused on embedding GPS technology into watches or creating handheld GPS units, the Eclipse GPS stands alone. Sometimes less is more and in this case, the smaller size of the Eclipse is a good thing. Attaching and removing the Eclipse GPS from your bag or belt loop is a fluid and simple process, although players might prefer to use the Eclipse as they would any handheld GPS. I was pleased with the convenience of simply glancing at my bag to get distances, although if you have bag tags, towels, keys or anything else already on there, it’s easy to for the Eclipse to get lost in mix.
Those seeking convenience and function over form are going to find a whole lot to like in the Eclipse GPS.
Why you might keep looking: If you’re looking for a handheld GPS device or the idea of clipping a GPS onto your person or bag seems a bit awkward, you may want to opt for a full-size GPS or the GPSync Watch. If you are going to clip the Eclipse onto your bag, I’d love to see something more substantial with a locking feature. I never could get on with the idea of latching it onto my belt loop, but if that’s your thing that is an option. As with the GPSync, the Eclipse GPS is more graphically basic than you’d think for a device released in 2015. At its core, this product is about providing information, not aesthetics.
Final Thoughts: The Eclipse GPS by Callaway is a no frills, all business, straightforward golf GPS. It does precisely what it proposes to do and if you’ve been waiting for the functionality of a full-powered GPS, but don’t want to wear a watch or operate a hand-held device, the Eclipse is an intriguing option.