The GPS distance-measuring watch won over Morning Read contributor Gary Van Sickle by delivering the essential numbers consistently
There are two kinds of golfers in this world — those who use laser rangefinders and those who use GPS devices.
Choosing sides in this Distance-Measuring Device (DMD) dilemma is not a life-and-death matter, not like choosing between the Hatfields and the McCoys, Visa and MasterCard, Gryffindor and Slythernin, or Delta House and Faber College’s Dean Wormer.
This is where I have a confession to make. I recently switched sides. It’s because my game has deflated while my age has inflated, and I don’t live and die for exact yardages anymore. Serious players do. That’s why most of them prefer laser rangefinders. The rest of us average hacks are satisfied with middle of the green info that we can get from a GPS device, which knows where the greens are but doesn’t know where any given flagstick is.
I have been a laser carrier since the early days. Lately, I struggled with the model I was using. It wasn’t a top-of-the-line brand — Bushnell dominates that market — and the model I carried had trouble hitting the target, which sounds like me with a 9-iron.
It was getting frustrating, plus I mis-clubbed a few times after the laser apparently pinged on a tree behind the green, not the flagstick.
So the Shot Scope V3 ($219) fell into my lap at just the right time. It is a GPS wristwatch, a popular product with recreational golfers. Yardages to the front, middle and back of the green from anywhere? That’s all I need these days.
I tried it out for a few rounds and now I’m hooked. It helped that the course where I played the most rounds this summer — Harmony Ridge in Ambridge, Pa. — is hilly and has several blind shots. A rangefinder can’t measure what it can’t see while GPS always knows.
Honestly, I didn’t expect to like a GPS wristwatch. I thought I needed that exact laser number. But it’s like the people who think they need four-wheel drive to go off-roading when the closest they get to off-roading is taking on the speed bumps in front of the elementary school. I wanted the laser but didn’t really need it.
One thing in favor of the Shot Scope V3 is its size and weight. It’s like a regular digital wristwatch with only a slightly larger head. Since I ditched the golf cart and began walking my rounds at Harmony Ridge, using the V3 meant I could also ditch the laser in my bag. It’s not that heavy, but walking up that annoying steep hill on the ninth hole, I don’t miss the laser’s extra weight.
Another reason I liked the V3 is because of Harmony Ridge’s opening hole. It’s a mean par 5 that is long and as twisted as a cellophane wrapper. I typically end up in a low spot somewhere between 100 and 130 yards to an uphill green and I couldn’t get a laser reading unless the pin was in the front.
Learning that I had, say, 115 yards to the middle of the green and the back of the green was 134 yards made a world of difference even if I didn’t know where the pin was located. Before, I had been eyeballing it and you can probably guess how well that worked.
A third plus is the V3’s extended usage life. I often play fairly briskly, but even factoring in a standard pace-of-play round, the V3 has no problem going 36 holes before recharging.
No technology expertise is required to use the V3. Simply charge the watch’s battery in a laptop using a USB cable that came with the watch.
The watch offers several nice options, such as GPS+Tracking or GPS Only. Tracking is for using computer plugs inserted into the handle of each club and the high-tech plugs are included with the watch. Shot Scope uses artificial intelligence to capture data and scoring on every shot. Select GPS Only and the watch searches for a signal to find which course it is at. Within a minute or three, it finds the course among its 35,000 pre-loaded global courses.
There are options for yardages to bunkers and water hazards, too, and they’re easy to use as well. Another nice perk is that at a round’s conclusion, click on “End of Play” and you get your exact playing time. I may start keeping stats on that.
On the downside, GPS devices are known to be slightly less accurate than lasers once you’re inside 100 yards — at least, that’s what my laser-device-making friends used to tell me. If true, it doesn’t matter because now I’m not Bryson DeChambeau out there with a protractor and a slide rule trying to factor in the humidity level. I want yardage to the front, middle and back of the green and I don’t want to have to carry another device to get that. I want to keep it simple, stupid, and glancing down at my wristwatch is as simple as it gets.
Sorry, laser friends. I have switched sides. For the right offer, you might win me back, but in the meantime, give my regards to Dean Wormer.
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