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|The Bushnell Pro 1600 Slope not only calculates distance, but it also can compute how far a shot is playing relative to the lay of the land. (Courtesy of Bushnell)|
Over the past decade or so, it's been interesting to watch the race between laser rangefinders and GPS devices.
Just as soon as you thought GPS was going to take over the market, the measuring devices got a little better and vice versa.
These days, it's hard to go wrong with either one of them. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and both are quite good.
Recently, I had the opportunity to test Bushnell's new Pro 1600 Slope Edition. It's the company's most accurate and sensitive laser rangefinder to date. The number in the name denotes the distance in yards that the Pro 1600 can detect a highly reflective target - you know, in case you hit trees four consecutive times and have a really long shot into the green.
Seriously, though, if it can measure objects 1,600 yards away, it should have no problem with a pin 200 yards away, and the Pro 1600 certainly can certainly pick up a flagstick from any reasonable distance.
In fact, it has an eyepiece that can magnify an object up to seven times for dialing in long distances. This can be really helpful on par-5 second shots, for example, when you're trying to figure out a good lay-up yardage based on the overall distance to the flag. But at that magnification, be sure to use both hands because it isn't easy to keep it steady with one, and you could be targeting the wrong object inadvertently.
That happened to me on a par-3 hole during one of my rounds. Getting out of the golf cart, one member in my group remarked that the hole looked long. Having not played this particular course in quite a while, I wasn't familiar with the distance and lasered it at 210 yards. (I also didn't check the scorecard and didn't really give the hole a good view.)
Going first, I nutted a 4-iron only to see it bounce off the roof of the house behind the green. It seems I thought I had lasered the flagstick, but instead had an object in the house in my sights. Lesson learned.
The Pro 1600 works by emitting eye-safe infrared pulses that are reflected back to a microprocessor inside the unit, which calculates the time and translates it into distances.
This particular Bushnell unit has two modes. In Pinseeker mode, it helps you identify the pin by showing a circle around an indicator in the viewing field when you have it targeted. The Pro 1600 Slope Edition also has a slope mode. It features a built-in inclinometer to provide golfers with a compensated distance based upon the degree of incline or decline. This means when you are aiming at target that's uphill or downhill, the Pro 1600 Slope will adjust the yardage reading for the angle and distance to with accurate club selection.
This is especially helpful on real hilly golf courses. For example, you could have a downhill par 3 in which the green is 50 feet below the tee. The hole might be 150 yards, which might normally be an 8-iron, but the slope feature might calculate to play at 128 yards. That might necessitate switching to a pitching wedge, for example.
The Slope Edition is not legal for tournament play, even though you don't have to use the slope feature. The Pro 1600 TE is legal for tournaments as long as local rules allow it.
If you ask me if I'd rather have the Bushnell Pro 1600 or a GPS unit, it really depends on my mood.
I like laser rangefinders because you don't have to download courses or worse yet, subscribe to a service, as is the case with some GPS units. They are generally pretty simple to use and don't really slow up a round, considering you don't have to look for sprinkler heads.
But the disadvantage is that they don't give you pictures of the holes. You can laser objects like trees, hills and even bunkers if you're really good, but trying to figure out how far you have to the water is a little tricky.
Those disadvantages certainly aren't lost on Bushnell Outdoor Products either as the company now offers four GPS products of its own. The Yardage Pro XGC, for example, vividly displays accurate distance information on a high resolutions color screen with full-color custom mapping to provide distance to any point on the hole.
Price-wise, GPS units can actually be cheaper, at least initially. The Bushnell Pro 1600 Tournament Edition (without the slope feature) retails for $429 and the Slope Edition $479, while GPS units, which can cost as much, often cost much less. The reason, of course, is that high quality optics are expensive, as is laser technology. GPS units are probably less expensive to produce than they were a decade ago.
The Bushnell Pro 1600 is the finest laser rangefinder to date. It is night and day compared to devices a decade ago. It used to be that you could only use them with golf courses that had reflective devices on the flagsticks, and even then, they were sometimes difficult to target, but that's not the case anymore. It is also more accurate than most GPS units, within a yard, plus or minus.
The slope feature is also a nice touch and an advantage over GPS. I used it on a hilly course and found the adjustments on the mark every time.
The bottom line is the Bushnell Pro 1600 is a tool that will last you a long time, it's easy to use and runs forever on one 9-volt battery, which means you don't have to keep it charged.
For more information, see www.bushnellgolf.com.
April 21, 2009
Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.
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