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Golf Buddy WT3 watch: GPS on your wrist

Kiel ChristiansonBy Kiel Christianson,
Senior Writer
Golf Buddy WT3 GPS watch
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The Golf Buddy WT3 GPS watch is high-tech, but with a steep learning curve. (Courtesy of Golf Buddy)

Ever since the USGA ruled that range finders could be used during rounds counted toward your handicap -- and even for competitive rounds, if the local competition committee approved -- the related technology has improved dramatically. One big advance is the development of wristwatch GPS devices.

The advantage of these is that you don't have to take a rangefinder out of your bag, find your target, put it back in, etc. You just glance at your wrist, pull your club, and swing.

One of the newest of these convenient and ingenious devices is the Golf Buddy WT3 ($170), which has so much tech packed into a single watch that you feel a little bit like a super hero -- if you can get it all to work.

Playing with the Golf Buddy WT3

The range of functionality on the Golf Buddy WT3 is mind boggling. The watch stores information from some 36,000 courses, and in Advanced Mode, can even provided yardages to hazards and other features, along with a dynamic view of the green from any angle you might be coming in from (which is great for less disciplined players like myself).

In two rounds playing with the Golf Buddy WT3 strapped firmly on my wrist, I compared the distances it provided to front, middle, and back of the greens to the laser yardages my compatriot was using. I could identify no differences at all. On one occasion, however, I was so far off my own hole (into the far rough of a parallel hole), the WT3 did momentarily begin giving me information for the wrong hole. (I parred anyway.)

The problem, however, is that navigating all of these complex functions -- including digital scorecard, GPS tracking, and the Advanced playing options -- is not at all straightforward. There are only three buttons aside from the on/off, and the instruction booklet that comes with the watch is not terribly detailed. (The tiny, nearly indistinguishable icons the written instructions rely on to differentiate the buttons are pretty hard for older folks to see, too, by the way.) Without printed instructions, it is practically impossible to access the information you might need during a round beyond the simple yardages to the sections of the green.

To be honest, even setting the time on the WT3 was a chore. The instruction booklet told me simply that the time would be set as soon as the watch linked to a GPS satellite. It didn't, at first. Nor did it at second, third, or fourth try. So I attempted to set the time by hand, but no real instructions are provided for that. Then suddenly, after about 15 minutes of fiddling, the time set itself.

Unfortunately, that was two days before the switch to daylight savings time. The time did not reset. I contacted the company and asked about it, and was told that there had been issues connected to DST, but they were resolved when the software was updated. Sadly, they didn't share with me how to update the software.

Golf Buddy WT3: The verdict

Compared to another GPS watch I recently reviewed, the Golf Buddy WT3 has more courses and more functions; however, operating the WT3 was much more of a challenge. Furthermore, the battery life of the WT3 was about 4 hours (or one round) shorter than its competitor.

But if you can figure out how to operate all of the WT3's power, it might just make you feel a bit like Tony Stark.

(Note to self: Invent GPS watch with laser blasters ...)

For more information, visit www.golfbuddyglobal.com.

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.

 
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