A lot of golfers remember when the first “computerized” display screens showed up on golf carts, mounted on the roof’s interior between the driver and passenger. With early models, golfers were allowed to see a two-dimensional graphic of each hole and the total course layout, order a hot dog and a beer for the turn, and see the tiny print along the bottom of the screen that indicated their pace of play.

It’s safe to say that today’s technology has come a long way from those early GPS systems.

Now, it’s hard to imagine being able to play without the assistance and information offered through the latest GPS, (Global Positioning System), technology, with dozens of innovative new features and capabilities developed to enhance the enjoyment of the game. While the initial intent was to provide real-time data for the benefit of both the golfer and the club personnel back at the clubhouse, there are now many new advancements and conveniences on both cart and handheld GPS systems.

Some courses from the local municipal to private clubs and world class sites of international major tournaments even provide hand-held, 2-way GPS units that attach to hand-pulled carts and a walker’s golf bag.

Leading GPS manufacturers have developed software and hardware that provide a full overview of the golf course in amazing, 3-D clarity on the screen, allowing golfers to select their club and shot strategy more easily. Another key benefit is how this affects the overall pace of play on the course, keeping players and club staff advised if a specific group is falling behind. This technology is critical to club management staying ahead of the curve on things like if a cart is being operated unsafely or going into a prohibited area, along with up to the minute details like battery health or other potential maintenance issues.

Through the use of geofencing, a cart’s GPS device and reporting can determine exactly where every cart is on the course, which can greatly improve the overall flow of the groups currently playing. Some geofencing technology also relies on things like area Wi-Fi, cellular data and radio frequency identification, or RFID, to provide vital information about every cart in real time.

Many current GPS systems allow the golfer to connect their smartphones to control their music playlist and other apps right from the GPS touchscreen.

If you’ve ever played on a course where your cart automatically slows down to 2-mph within specific areas like near the clubhouse, cart storage or the club’s pool, that’s a good example of geofencing within a cart’s GPS system, allowing club management to pre-set those areas to their exact requirements.

Global Positioning, Global Industry

The emerging advancements in the golf GPS industry have resulted in an extremely competitive marketplace, and not just for 4-wheel passenger carts. Leading manufacturer’s have stepped up their game to provide handheld, course mapping technology for walking golfers that can also be mounted on a cart at a public golf course.

Let’s look at some of the major players in this exciting new golf experience enhancement.

SkyCaddie® SX550 GPS

So much more than just a rangefinder, this handheld GPS features a large, 5.5-inch LCD display screen for clear course mapping, images and more. The device comes preloaded with more than 35,000 verified, up-to-date course maps for unequaled accuracy. This unit is continually updated and comes with a high speed multi-core processor, is water resistant and is about the size of a typical cell phone. SkyGolf’s® SX550 retails for about $350.00.

Bushnell® Ion Elite Golf GPS Watch

If you don’t want to pull out a separate device for on-course GPS data, this model is a watch you strap on for confident course information and critical details. This innovative device features Bushnell’s patented distance accuracy including their new Slope Technology for hitting the precise shot required. The stylish watch offers a vivid color display screen, plus HoleView® and Shot Planning technology to provide every shot detail on every hole. It comes with 38,000 course maps and even a feature that allows golfers to see the slopes of a green. This watch retails for around $180.00.

Garmin® Approach G80 GPS

This compact handheld GPS device takes you from the range to the course, the first to feature an integrated launch monitor to allow golfers to track their swing speed, tempo, trajectory, and distance. The G80 boasts a bright LCD display screen, touch targeting that provides precise distances for a layup shot, green contour images and a large number display mode for easy reading in the sun. This hi-tech GPS sells for around $450.00.

Golf Buddy® Voice 2

This compact GPS device allows the golfer to clip it to their belt or hat and comes preloaded with precise data on over 140,000 golf courses around the world and free downloadable updates via the USB connection. Not only does this device offer a sharp LCD display, but also provides voice data for every shot, is fully waterproof and will last for up to 14 hours on a single charge. You can get a Golf Buddy Voice 2 for around $100.00.

Most personal GPS units require some type of subscription service for full functionality.

To get the most from your game and reduce your score and playing time, investing in a cart-mounted or handheld GPS device can be a smart choice for your golf enjoyment.