For some reason, golf is still considered by many to be a boring sport. Why? Golf has everything you could want out of a sport: fierce competition, agonizingly sweet suspense, gentle claps from the spectators. It’s every professional athlete’s dream, and yet, golf is still treated as if it’s a game that is far beyond its expiration date. The truth is, technology is transforming golf into a sport that is easier for novices to grasp. While golf can take decades to master, brand new golf-centric gadgets make the learning curve a bit less steep for someone who is just beginning their journey on the green.
There is more to golf than just putting your way across the course. Professional golfers painfully study course maps to help prepare their swing strategies. Golfers who know the yardage of a hole and all of its dips and grades are better prepared to compete. Being prepared is just as important as your drive distance and power. Not knowing the dimensions of your current hole could spell the difference between a double eagle and a double bogey.
The new Bushnell Phantom GPS rangefinder is an easy-to-use and convenient golf GPS device that is built for improving your golf game. The Phantom features a massively gigantic catalog of charted golf courses, auto course updates conducted for free via Bluetooth and a nifty new magnetic mount feature which greatly improves the mobility of previous rangefinders. You’ll also be happy to hear that the Phantom is completely legal for tournament play, and complies with USGA rule 14-3/.05 (a rule barring unusual equipment or artificial devices for the purpose of gauging and measuring distance or conditions).
You’re probably wondering why you need a rangefinder in the first place. GPS rangefinders use global positioning satellites to determine your location on the golf course. Based on your position, the rangefinder can then calculate your distance from the pin, as well as your distance from any hazards. The more accurate your distance information is, the more likely you are to avoid being knee deep in sand or pond scum. And by the look of your handicap, you’ve spent plenty of time at the dry cleaners. We’re not judging, bud. We’re here to help.
The Bushnell Phantom GPS features detailed dimensions for nearly 40,000 golf courses across the entire universe (technically this is true. Earth is part of the universe, right?). 40,000!!! We didn’t even know that there almost 40,000 golf courses. Bushnell is always updating, and adding to, their catalog of included courses, so even if a new course opens nearby, odds are that Bushnell will be adding it to the Phantom. They also feature a “Course Update Request” form on their website, which allows you to suggest changes to their maps. This comes in handy if your local club decides to make some changes, such as adding any hazards or yardage.
One of the main concerns people have when purchasing a new golf gadget is the battery life. If there is one thing we don’t want to feel on the green, it’s that we are being rushed. The Phantom uses very little energy since it is practically a calculator screen with a GPS attached. We were able to easily play through two rounds before having to plug it in for another charge. The charging itself is speedy as well. A full charge only takes about four hours via a USB charging cable. If you’re the kind of person that likes to take a little rest during your round to nurse a Long Island iced tea, than bit of charging time during your break will be enough to keep your distance tracking churning along pretty much indefinitely.
The user interface itself is very easy to use and easy to read. In fact, we find it hard to believe that there is a way for a rangefinder to be any simpler. The interface features your three main distances (typically your front, center and back distances), the par stroke count in the upper right hand corner and the hole number in the upper left corner. The text is large and clear. We had no trouble reading the display, even from several feet away, and we don’t have what you would call perfect vision. The controls allow you to cycle through all of your hazard distances as well. The Phantom can manage up to four hazard distances per hole, which is more than you’ll need most of the time. We found the user interface to be practical, functional, simple and clear—pretty much everything you want out of a rangefinder.
One of the features that we were the most excited about was the Phantom’s Bite magnetic mount. The least favorite thing about rangefinders we have used in the past is their clumsy design. You’d figure a gadget designed for being mobile would actually feel, well, mobile. Not so much. The Bushnell Phantom is a revelation, as far as mobility and convenience goes. The Bite magnetic mount allows you to easily attach the Phantom to any metal surface, including your golf cart. The only problem we can see arising from the Bite mount is that it makes the Phantom a lot easier to lose, just because it’s so unobtrusive and so convenient. If you prefer to attach it to your golf bag or your belt, the Phantom also ships with a clip holder. While clipping it on to your belt is probably the best way to avoid losing this rangefinder, having that Bite magnetic mount as an option is very beneficial.
The Phantom requires very little storage real estate. The display area is 35 mm squared (or about 1.4 inches), with the full dimensions measuring in at 58 mm x 59 mm x 20 mm (2.3 inches x 2.3 inches x 0.8 inches). Its small stature makes it very easy to transport, whether you store it in your golf bag or just want to stuff it in your pocket for quick and easy access. The Phantom weight 52 grams, or about 0.1 lbs., which is obviously hardly perceptible at all.
Some rangefinders make it very difficult to configure. If we’re looking forward to a long day of relaxation and golf, we don’t want to spend our entire morning making sure our rangefinder is configured correctly. The Phantom completely eliminates that problem by incorporating an auto course detection feature. The on-board GPS system automatically detects your location and loads the correct course data. It’s as simple as that. No clumsy PC software and barely any effort.
If that’s not enough automation for you, Bushnell doesn’t stop there. Also included is an auto hole advance feature. When the Phantom’s intelligent GPS technology recognizes that you have completed a hole, it automatically loads the data for the next hole. This completely removes the need for pressing any buttons or stressing over any hardware issues. During out testing, both automated systems worked like a charm. It was so seamless that the Phantom became a natural extension of our game. We felt like a spoiled pro with the best caddy on the course.
If you’re the proud owner of a smartphone (there’s not many left who aren’t), you’re about to have your mind blown. Included with every purchase of the Phantom is the Bushnell Golf app, available for both iOS and Android. The Bushnell Golf app is packed with all kinds of very helpful features and adds an immersive element to the rangefinder process. Inside the app you’ll find graphical maps with hole layouts, including distances, and 3D course flyovers with distance overlays, which gives you a bird’s eye view of nearly 40,000 courses. This is a great way to scope out a course or club before committing to a daylong escapade. You can also wirelessly update courses directly through the app. In combination with the Phantom itself, the app is an amazing supplemental tool. Also included in the app is the ability to schedule tee times at over 7,000 participating courses, your score history, Swing Pro (which will help you up your game) and a pedometer.
Fees and Subscriptions
Many rangefinders require a monthly subscription fee or a membership fee in order to keep the device updated and working properly. Additional fees can add up pretty quick, especially if you’re using multiple tools. Courses are expensive enough. Why should we need to spend more money just to use a product that we’ve already bought? That doesn’t seem very fair. Bushnell agrees with us. The Phantom GPS requires no subscription or membership. You simply buy the product, and you’re good to go. Bushnell has committed to never charging us just to use our own devices. Bushnell also offers a one-year warranty on their Phantom GPS rangefinder. This covers any material defects or workmanship issues that might arise over your first year of use.
After using the Bushnell Phantom GPS rangefinder for a few rounds, we found that it has quickly become an indispensable part of our golf game. Being able to access accurate distance counts at any time, as well as being able to access a bird’s eye graphical map of the course using the Bushnell Golf app, has taken our golf game to the next level. We found that we were falling victims to hazards less and finding the pin more. We saw a marked difference in our scores. We whole-heartedly recommend the Phantom for anyone interested in being the best possible golfer they can be.
Golfing is one of the most relaxing experiences in the world, but landing in the brush over and over and over again is not. While we’re not going to promise your that the Phantom is going to transform you into the next Tiger Woods or Jordan Spieth, we can guarantee you that you’ll be a more competent and all-around smarter golfer. We can’t all afford professional caddies. For those of us who aren’t living off of a massive budget, the Phantom is an awesome alternative.