Some kind of portable golf GPS has become standard for golfers of all levels and handicaps to take out on the course with them these days. With that increasing popularity comes increasing product choice. The number of different golf GPS devices available is becoming almost dizzying and making a choice gets harder everyday.
Our focus here, the GolfBuddy VTX, is a talking handheld that has been introduced to replace the company’s now discontinued Golfbuddy PT4, a gadget that, while it lasted, was one of the popular choices among those golfers looking for a good mid range golf GPS device. But how does this chatty new gadget stack up against its competition? That’s what we’re going to take a look at here.
Table of Contents
Golf Buddy VTX Basic Stats
- Number of Preloaded Courses: 38,000+ and counting
- Display Area Size: 2.7″ (6.85cm)
- Weight: 5 oz/140 g
- Expected Battery Life From Fully Charged: 15 hours
- Estimated Recharge Time: One to three hours
- Tournament Legal Globally
- Completely Waterproof
What’s in the Box
- Golfbuddy VTX device
- USB charging cable
- Belt clip
- Basic instruction booklet (full instructions and tips available at https://en.golfbuddy.com/)
Golf Buddy VTX Basics
As you’ll gather from the price tag – one of the larger you’ll find for this class of handheld rangefinders – the Golf Buddy VTX is designed to be an all round helper that will not only help you measure distances and find your range but keep you in touch with the real world when you are out on the course, however remote.
Golfbuddy claims that the VTX offers a significant upgrade on the PT4 and is designed to provide a seamless transition from the older model for those golfers that have become used to having that device out on the fairways with them.
Is Bigger Better?
The first thing most people notice about the Golf Buddy VTX is that it’s big. If you picture the size of the old iPhone 3G (remember those?) this gadget is only a little bit smaller, so it’s not a tiny, easy to lose device at all.
Given that it’s still pretty lightweight and can still be slipped into a pocket with ease. Given that its ‘voice’ – one of the biggest selling points of this rangefinder versus its competition – would be ‘muffled’ if you do, the included belt clip is probably a better option instead.
Given that it’s a larger option than some similar devices, this may be the right choice for those golfers with bigger fingers, although any screen this small might be a challenge for the very ‘fat fingered’. This having been said if you manage to text on your smartphone fairly accurately you should be fine here.
In terms of the actual display the visuals are bright, colorful and pretty clear. You should note that unlike its closest competition, the Garmin Approach G30 it does not have the ‘Big Numbers’ function that the device boasts for range data, so those with less than stellar short distance vision may find themselves squinting a little at times.
Battery Life: Claims vs. Reality
According to the manufacturer the Golf Buddy VTX has a battery life of 15 hours from fully charged, with charging taking anywhere from one to three hours via USB cable. We did find that it performed well for two rounds, but other users, who have made greater use of it than we have had the chance to do claim that the 15-hour claim is not accurate, and that the average is closer to 10-12 hours with standard use (including the voice feature).
It’s likely that the greater battery drain is due to the use of the voice function, although that is just a theory of ours, we’ve seen no evidence to back that up. It may also be due to the fact that the device pulls its data from two sources, both standard GPS and GLONASS.
What’s GLONASS? According to GolfBuddy, it’s a separate set of satellites to those routinely used by GPS devices and can provide better coverage in locations that are very south or very northern.
At first, we did wonder how much use that will be to someone playing near their own home in the average neighborhood will be we’re not sure but for the globe-trotting golfer who wants to try out every course they can it may be a plus. However, with s decent number of test play hours under our belt with the device we think it’s faster than many even when playing on local courses.
According to the manufacturer’s literature the Golfbuddy VTX comes with more than 38,000 golf courses from around the world preloaded and can be updated easily when new courses become available.
This did seem a little odd to us, as the Garmin Approach G30 comes preloaded with 41,000+ courses and given the double satellite system coverage we would have expected the Golfbuddy VTX to offer more. However, for most people the chances are very good that their favorite greens are covered, and so we may just be splitting hairs here.
The biggest reason to buy a golf GPS is to have its range finding abilities immediately to hand. The Golfbuddy VTX offers what it terms Dynamic Green View. This allows you to ‘see’ and measure almost every aspect of the course – and the hole – you are playing, including sand traps, tree cover, gradient and, of course, measures those all important distances with extreme accuracy thanks to the dual satellite system.
Another advantage is the speed at which the views, and distances, reset themselves if you veer off the set course path. This can be especially useful if you are playing a new course that features a number of obstacles or the distances between holes are unfamiliar navigation for you. The speed of reset is thanks to that dual satellite system and the boost it offers in terms of both data and speed.
While Dynamic Green View is very clear and colorful it’s also very simple, but that is far from a bad thing. There really is such a thing as too much information and the device displays what you need to know and nothing else. It’s also large and easy to read – even in bright sunlight, but if you are going to rely on its voice to guide you, you may not even notice that. Which brings us to our next point…
The Voice Thing
It’s fair to say that it is the voice feature that Golfbuddy devices are famed for and, if you like the idea of a talking golf GPS then this is probably going to be the selling point for you. You can choose from a male or female voice to guide you and, in a nutshell, anything that you can read on the screen can be read out to you instead.
Obviously most of the time you will want that to be distances, but if you want to have your GPS buddy keep reminding your party of the current scores it can do that as well. We’d only suggest doing that when you are ahead though.
One note, to use the extended voice features offered here you will need to maintain a Golfbuddy subscription. If you don’t want to do that, but you do want a voice and a handheld versus a wearable, you could consider downgrading to the Golfbuddy Voice X, but that is a significant downgrade, in terms of size, functionality and even screen colors.
The Golfbuddy VTX does keep score for up to four players, but, disappointingly, you can only save and upload your own scores. If your only interest is monitoring and analyzing your own performance this is more than adequate, but if you play as a part of a regular group and like to keep track of how well everyone performed – in other words if these are grudge matches – then you’ll have to resort to an old-fashioned paper scorecard or find a way to sync up data later.
The bluetooth is great and the coverage holds well, but it will depend on your phone type how connected you can remain to your calls and messages. Most will push basic notifications however, and should you really be holding up play to read a text? We think not.
Golfbuddy VTX Pros and Cons
So, in summary, here’s an overview look at what we found the pros and cons of the Golfbuddy VTX to be.
- Large, bright and colorful touchscreen display
- Fast GPS reset when changing path
- Data from two satellite systems improves accuracy
- Charges quickly even from a drained status
- Does not offer as many courses as a default as the Garmin Approach G30
- Full use of all the voice features calls for a monthly subscription
- Battery life may not be quite what’s claimed
- Limited built in scoring options.
So, what did we really make of the Golfbuddy VTX after getting to put it through its paces for a while? We learned that there were things we loved, and things that really annoyed us.
Perhaps the best feature of all is the device’s speed. If you have never played a course before, even with a GPS to guide you in the right direction it’s not hard to become disorientated, veer off path and then risk ruining your shot as a result.
As the GPS recalculates and resets very quickly thanks to the two satellite systems, you probably have a better chance of saving a hole that was starting to go bad because you got disorientated. Which is a very good thing.
Then there is the voice feature. We liked it, but we like tech and so, to us, a talking rangefinder is cool. Both voices are as natural as a robot golf aid can be – not quite Alexa level, but not bad – and the sound is clear and booming. Will you annoy your partners with your talking assistant? Maybe, but then again, every caddy has their annoying moments too.
The lack of scoring options was disappointing. Many other rangefinders not only keep score for four but they score and upload scores for four two – and share them to social media if you like – so the fact that the Golfbuddy VTX is lacking here is a minus for us.
Finally, there is the subscription issue. You can use the basic voice features without it, but for full functionality you’ll need to pay, which may be a deal breaker for some.
If you are a technophile, and the idea of a non wearable talking rangefinder appeals to you then choosing the perfectly functional – and fast – Golfbuddy VTX may be the best move you can make, as of the few on the market that offer the functionality this one stands out as the best.