Grade: Depending upon your rubric, this could range from an A+ to a C.
Teachers’ Comments: A nice product, but I have reservations about the revenue model. If you hold accuracy at a premium, though, this is the device for you.
The Breeze is SkyGolf’s newest GPS unit, touted as “easy, affordable, preloaded and upgradable.” The concept is pretty good: buy a basic GPS unit and upgrade the software to the features that you need.
Out of the box, the $229.99 Breeze is a basic GPS unit, offering distance to front, back and center of the green. The best feature of the basic unit is that the numbers for the yardages are huge. Unlike other GPS units, I didn’t need my reading glasses to see them.
The Breeze is not a touchscreen, so navigation is handled by a several buttons and a joystick. Having grown used to touchscreen tablets, phones and other devices, I found this awkward at first. I kept tapping the menu items on the screen. Once you learn the various menus, though, it all becomes quite easy.
The unit is quick to connect to GPS and lasted a couple of rounds before needing a recharge. It fits nicely into my hand. On the course, the screen is easy to read in sunshine and in shade. Yardage data updates nearly instantly. In comparison, my current GPS unit sometimes has a lag that’s evident even when I’m walking.
Along with the Breeze, the box contained some nice extras: In addition to the unit and charger, SkyCaddie includes a belt holster, a cleaning cloth and a screen protector. Put the protector on immediately. I got a scratch on my screen while the unit was residing on my desktop.
The basic Breeze also offers distance measuring, a digital scorecard and stat tracking. It has data on some 30,000 courses built in, and you can use it straight out of the box for thirty days.
After that, though, you need to connect the Breeze to your computer, and pay a $19.95 annual membership. Here’s where I ran into the first difficulty with the unit. The first attempt to load the drivers failed. So I rolled the computer back, rebooted and tried again. Nothing. I got the same no-result on the second attempt. So I rolled the computer back and gave it another go. The third time was the charm. I was then able to connect to SkyGolf and register the device.
My feeling is that this entire process is unnecessarily complicated. I’m a geek to whom family, friends and colleagues turn for tech support. If I had trouble, I can imagine that other, less tech-savvy golfers will be stymied by the process.
Once you’ve connected your unit, you then have the option to purchase one or more “Feature Packs” to upgrade the unit. Here are the features and pricing from the Sky Golf site:
Feature Pack 1 ($34.95) adds:
Target List: Displays distances to hazards, carries and layups automatically as you move down the fairway.
IntelliGreen Technology: Displays the exact shape of the green from your angle of approach, plus front carry and back distances, depth of green, and distances to any other point on the green. IntelliGreen Pro, where available, adds distances to major contours and false fronts.
Feature Pack 2 ($69.90) adds:
QuickVue: A virtual preview of the hole shape from tee to green for maps that do not have HoleVue.
Interactive HoleVue with Zoom: Golf’s most accurate hole graphic. Measure to any point on the hole, whether you can see what’s ahead or not.
Feature Pack 3 (104.85) adds
Dynamic RangeVue: Yardage arcs that overlay fairway landing areas and greens to help speed up club selection.
PinPoint Technology: Simply add pin sheet positions or green zones and get distances to the flag.
My feeling is that everyone who buys a Breeze will at some point want to upgrade. While front-middle-back of green distances is useful, the others, such as the hole view and pin locations can really improve a round.
To get these additional features, though, you also need to upgrade to an advanced feature membership plan. These memberships allow you to download the data for the courses that you are going to play. Access to single state’s worth of data will cost $29.95 annually, while access to courses across the US costs $49.95 annually.
Herein lies my problem with the SkyGolf revenue model. They nickel-and-dime you to death. Here’s the two year cost of owning a Breeze at the basic level:
$229.99 for the base unit
$39.90 for the basic subscription
The Bushnell Neo+ Golf GPS Rangefinder, which gives you 25,000 courses preloaded, and no membership fees: $116.99
The two year cost of owning a Breeze with all the features:
$229.00 for the base unit
$104.85 for the upgrades
$99.90 for the two years of memberships
Garmin Approach G6 Handheld Touchscreen Golf Course GPS, with similar features, 25,000 preloaded courses, no membership fees and a touchscreen: $299.99
And of course, each year you renew the membership, the ownership cost gap just increases.
In addition to course data, having a SkyGolf membership nets you “SkyRewards.” These are points that you earn for buying SkyGolf products, including renewing memberships. The SkyRewards points then can be used to get discounts on various golf products. You can add a $10 surcharge to your existing membership and upgrade to “Silver.” This apparently unlocks a variety of hotel savings, gift cards and SkyGolf upgrades.
Bewildering is the only way I can describe all of this. There are just too many options for me to work through: Basic memberships, 3 Feature Packs, Birdie, Eagle or Double Eagle memberships and Silver SkyRewards.
So given all this, why would you buy a Breeze? According to SkyGolf, it is for the accuracy. SkyGolf maintains that it has the most accurate course mappings available, thanks to its on-the-ground crews of guys with backpacks. Sky Caddie GPS backpack crews walk each of the courses, personally verifying data that other GPS manufacturers presumably get from satellite photos. This makes sense. I have experienced a couple of instances on my current GPS unit where I encountered obviously incorrect distances or unexpected hazards.
The SkyCaddie Green View function also offers much more information than I have on my current GPS model. I can get distances to the front, back and center of green and an idea of the general green shape on my current unit. The SkyCaddie, however, offers exact green yardages.
Assuming that a significant accuracy differential exists, then the SkyGolf cost of ownership differential makes sense. There’s a significant investment in sending the SkyGolf GPS backpack crew to 30,000 golf courses.
For the average golfer, the decision to buy a SkyGolf Breeze or another, presumably cheaper and less accurate, product boils down to the premium placed on accuracy and course information. The information provided by the Breeze, especially with the upgrade packs, could really improve your game.