There are plenty of golfers who simply can’t wear a watch while playing golf, GPS or otherwise. If that’s you, then there’s nothing for you here.
Neither the new SkyCaddie LX5 nor any other watch is going to change your mind.
But if you do wear a watch while playing and do use GPS functionality, you’re definitely going to want to read on. The LX5 GPS has an array of features sure to grab your attention, especially if you’re a fan of SkyCaddie’s SX400 and SX500 handheld units.
Honey, I Shrunk the GPS
Last year’s MyGolfSpy GPS Buyer’s Guide told us one thing – the Garmin S60 GPS watch is an outstanding piece of equipment, with a large touchscreen, excellent accuracy, easy-to-use features and health tracking.
We also learned the SkyCaddie SX500 is one outstanding piece of equipment as well. It, too, has a large touchscreen, excellent accuracy and easy-to-use features. There’s no health tracking but, then again, it’s a hand-held.
Quite simply, SkyCaddie’s new LX5 GPS watch shrinks the SX500 into a watch form.
“You’re basically getting the SX500 in a watch,” says Paul Calabrase, SkyCaddie’s National Sales Manager. “It has the same hole imagery as our handhelds. We have the same graphics – we didn’t have to eliminate trees or water. It has the same detail.”
Most GPS watches feature a 1.2-inch screen, but SkyCaddie is going big with a 1.4-inch screen. Two-tenths of an inch may not sound like a lot but 17% bigger is 17% bigger.
“Even though the screen is bigger, the thickness is the same as the Garmin and other competitors,” says Calabrase. Of course, bulkiness in a GPS watch is most certainly in the eyes and on the wrist of the beholder. If you find a typical GPS watch too bulky, chances are this won’t work for you.
Features and Functions
The SX500 made its bones last year due to its graphics and functionality and it’s all been crammed into the LX5. It features SkyCaddie’s Dynamic HoleVue – which gives you a full look at the fairway with trees, water and other hazards. It also rotates and orients the green on the off chance you hook one into the next fairway.
The LX5 also features a fully functional touch screen with a sliding cursor and a zoom-in feature. If you want to find the distance to a specific spot, you can slide the cursor across the screen with your finger – just like on the SX500 handheld. Is that better than touch targeting, which requires you to touch different points on the screen to move the cursor? As always, it depends on the user.
“If I’m on the tee box, I can look at the hole and see what’s out there,” says Calabrase. “Our cursor defaults to our fairway target – what we’ve found through course mapping is the ideal landing area. But you can slide the cursor to find the distance to the end of the fairway or to the creek or a bunker you might need to carry.”
You’ll also get dynamic front-center-back distances based on your angle to the green as well as SkyCaddie’s unique Intelligreen technology. Intelligreen accurately maps the green for you and shows swales, false fronts and other major features.
The Garmin S60 gives you hole imagery and front-center-back distances as well, but on a shared screen. The LX5 will give you a full screen image of the hole and you can swipe from mode to mode using the touch screen. You can keep score on the watch as well as track your fairways hit, whether you missed left or right, and how many putts you took.
The LX5 also offers health-tracking capabilities like your basic Fitbit. It counts your steps, miles and monitors your heart rate. It can also connect to your smart phone and provide alerts to calls, texts and emails. You can’t use it like an Apple Watch but, then again, it’s not an Apple Watch.
As with the Garmin and others, you can also use LX5 as an everyday watch with either a digital or an analog screen. It has very much the sports-watch look so, again, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. SkyCaddie estimates 10 hours of battery life when used as a GPS and 10 days when used only as a watch.
Depending on what you want out of a GPS Watch, the LX5 is either a bargain or an unnecessary expense. You can find a basic front-center-back GPS watch that may give you hazard distances for under $200 and will get the job done. You can buy a $350 to $500 GPS watch with HD graphics, smart-phone connectivity, health tracking and enough style that you could wear it to the opera.
The LX5 fits into that second category at the relative bargain price of $299.
When discussing SkyCaddie, the 500-pound gorilla in the room is always the annual subscription fee. In the case of the LX5, SkyCaddie is including a three-year worldwide subscription in the $299 purchase price.
“Every kind of electronic device – your phone, your computer, anything – lasts about three years,” says Calabrase. “So you get a three-year membership when you buy it.”
When your membership expires, you can buy something new or renew your membership, which is definitely less expensive than buying a new watch.
To put the price into perspective, the Garmin S60 runs from $350 to $500 depending on the style and type of band. If you prefer the functionality of the Apple Watch 5, that will run you from $400 to $800, while the older Apple Watch 3 is a $200 to $300 proposition.
Again, value depends on what you’re after, versus what you want to spend. Basic distance can be had for less and sexy graphics and features can be had for more. SkyCaddie seems to be positioning itself in the middle, offering sexy graphics and much of the functionality of the Garmin S60 for less money while staying well below the price of an Apple Watch.
That membership thing has been problematic for SkyCaddie. They’ve told us it pays for their on-course mappers but it is something SkyCaddie charges for that others don’t. Depending on how long you plan to keep and use the watch, a three-year worldwide membership is roughly $120. U.S.-only or state-only memberships can be had for less.
So one way to think about it is that you’re paying roughly $420 for six years with SkyCaddie versus $350 to $500 for however long you choose to use the Garmin.
The question then, dear readers, is twofold: what do you want from your GPS watch? How long would you use said watch before choosing to upgrade?
The SkyCaddie LX5 watch will be unveiled at the PGA Show this week and is scheduled to start shipping in March.