These days if you don’t have a gadget to help you measure distances out on the course you are probably at something of a disadvantage when compared to your round partners so naturally most of us have at least one.
There are plenty to choose from, and they come in several forms; traditional rangefinders, apps for your smartphone, portable GPS units, physical course markers – and perhaps the newest of them, GPS golf watches.
On the face of it, it’s not hard to see why GPS golf watches have become so popular. Most people wear a watch anyway, so swapping their everyday timepiece out for a more useful one – on the golf course at least – isn’t much of a hardship. They are also, for the most part, fairly reasonably priced, especially when compared to something like an Apple Watch.
Bushnell has long been a big name in the world of golf tech, and so it’s not unreasonable to expect quite a lot from any golf GPS watch they come up with. The Bushnell iON2 is the replacement for a previous offering, the now discontinued NEO ION, and so would be expected to be especially good as the company had the ‘learning curve’ to work from off that watch which was, in its time, a big seller.
But how does the Bushnell iON2 really stack up against its increasing competition? Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
Bushnell iON2 Basic Stats
- Dimensions: 15 x 45 x 54 mm, 1.7 oz (4.8 g)
- Screen Display Size: 23 x 23 mm
- Display Type: LCD/Black
- Legal for Tournament Play: Yes
- Measuring Metrics: Yards and Meters
- Measuring Distance Capability: Distance only
- Waterproof: Yes
What’s In the Box
- Bushnell iON2 watch
- USB charging cable
- Instruction Booklet
Bushnell iON2 Basics
As previously mentioned the Bushnell iON2 is offered as an upgrade on the original NEO ION. The fact is that not a lot has changed really, except perhaps the looks. However, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of just what this golf GPS watch really has to offer.
Golfing and style have gone together since the game began. And while some fashionistas may question some of our fashion choices, as golfers given the nature of the game – all that walking, uncertain weather conditions, the great need for freedom of movement, we try to be a stylish bunch. So any watch we wear has to look good.
The neon nature of the Bushnell iON2 is less jarring than it sounds. We are not talking 80’s day-glo here, just a subtle strip of green or orange on the watch band (which is reversible to all gray if you prefer) and a little color on the well designed watch face itself. It stands out without screaming out, which we think is a good thing.
It is a little on the ‘plasticky’ side – this is no Fossil watch – but that plastic is rugged and durable, which is really more important. What we especially liked is that it is not oversized (some golf GPS watches are) and you can still wear it off the course without it looking terribly out of place. All in all, in terms of looks, not bad at all, especially considering it’s a very unisex look, so would suit female golfers every bit as well as it would male.
Course Offerings and GPS Capabilities
The number of preloaded courses a golf GPS offers is important. Yes, many do offer the chance to download a specific course – and this watch does allow for that – but that is time consuming and not a little inconvenient, so usually the more preloaded courses the better, although this really won’t matter if you stay close to home.
The Bushnell iON2 offers 36,000 preloaded courses from around the world and the very good news here is that updates and new course downloads are free, no being tied to a pricey subscription just to get up to date information.
The GPS capabilities of the Bushnell iON2 were, in our tests (we call them tests, that sounds better than ‘well we played golf again today’ when asked what we do for a living) reasonably. It did seem to get a little lost once, hanging and dithering until it found its way again.
We did pass that off as simply the course we were playing, but investigating further we did find that others, not playing anywhere near our area courses, reported similar issues sometimes.
Satellite issues can be caused by dead spots in coverage on the greens – especially true in very rural areas and the weather, which no one can control, so it’s not always the tech to blame. A handful of reviewers said the issue got so bad they asked Bushnell for a replacement, which they got without too many problems. So, maybe there are a few defective timepieces out there, but it’s good to know that you can get a replacement easily if you happen to end up with one of them.
First of all, we have to say, if you are used to using a different golf GPS device it will take a little getting used to when you are relying on a watch to guide you, but once you do you’ll find it’s super convenient and certainly usually our favorite option. There’s nothing extra to carry, or to remember to put back in your bag, just a watch that’s much harder to lose.
In terms of the display the watch offers more than you might imagine. There are fly over views, zoom ins and hazard specific displays, and all in all we found them to be clear, concise and certainly more than adequate. Obviously not as large as some handheld golf GPS options offer, but not everyone is looking for big anyway.
General On Course Performance
What really matters is how any golf GPS performs ‘in action’ and how much of a help it is to your game.
What we found was that the Bushnell iON2 did pretty much everything we wanted it to.
The display initially shows the hole being played, its par, nice big text that displays the distance to the green’s center and also the front and back distances of the green right below. Press a button and you can be shown the distances of up to four hazards on any given hole too, which we found to be a big help.
To check its accuracy we matched what the Bushnell iON2 told against the course markers and a separate rangefinder and found that they were spot on, which is always a good thing.
The one thing the Bushnell iON2 lacks that some of its competitors in the golf GPS watch niche do offer is automatic scoring. That’s a minor annoyance, but not something that bothered us too much. And there were some nice little extras that other watches don’t always offer that we enjoyed. The built-in pedometer is nice, and a ‘tee time’ function, when set, we automatically activate the watch as a golf GPS at the appointed time, which is kind of a nice touch.
Battery Life and Charging
The manufacturers claim a 12-hour battery life, which translates to about three rounds, and we found that to be pretty accurate. The USB charger works well, and if you buy a third party charger you can make use of it in the car – or the cart – just fine.
Bushnell iON2 Pros and Cons
Want the condensed version of our final thoughts on the Bushnell iON 2? Here’s a quick look at what we found to be the biggest pros and cons associated with it.
- It’s a watch, so convenient to ‘carry’ and to use
- Auto course recognition feature works very well
- Bluetooth capable so can connect to your phone if needed
- Good-looking and available in a couple of unisex colorways
- No automatic scoring
- Some people reported slight glitching in between holes
- Smaller display than a handheld
Overall, we liked the Bushnell iON2 for what it is – a simpler, easy to use GPS watch – a lot. Some of its competitors offer more bells and whistles, especially in terms of stats and additional displays, but if you are looking for a simple golf GPS watch that does a good job and is very reasonably priced then we can certainly recommend this one as a very good choice.