I subscribe to the K.I.S.S. method (Keep It Simple Stupid). On the golf course I rely on my stock ball flight unless I am absolutely forced to move the ball one direction or another. My first thought on every short game shot is what is the simplest way to play it, and I always try to err on the safe side with any shot decision. So it's safe to say I am not exactly Phil Mickelson. So when I was asked to review the I'm Caddie Talking Golf GPS, one if the simplest golf GPS devices on the market, I thought this gadget might be right down my alley.
While I like things simple, I was a still a little skeptical about a device this small and this inexpensive. Throw in the fact that I'm Caddie has no display and it's easy to see that its functionality might be somewhat limited. That being said I decided I would take this little GPS on the course and find out exactly what it could (or couldn't) do.
Design and Function
For this review I received the I'm Caddie Tour, which is the more expensive of the two models and also carries with it a few more features. In the box with the I'm Caddie came several different accessories that I will discuss later.
The I'm Caddy is diminutive little device that is designed to be attached to the visor of your cap. At just under two inches across and a feather light three ounces when you do mount it on the bill of your cap you tend to forget that's its there. It has three buttons a [+] and a [-] button on the side of the unit and a main button on the top. The on/off switch and the speaker are located on the underside of the device along side of the hat clip.
The I'm Caddie comes preloaded with over 40,000 courses worldwide and can hold around 60,000. There is no yearly fee and course downloads are free for the life of the device. I found the course database for my neck of the woods to be a little sparser than some of the other GPS companies out there but the device is fairly new and the company is working hard adding many new courses, via update, every couple of weeks (more on that later). Have no fear though, if your home course is not on the device you can chart it yourself and save it on the unit.
As I said above the I'm Caddie GPS does not have a screen, it announces the yardage to center of the green. When you press the main button on the top of the device. A voice comes on and tells you your yardage. One problem some might have with the device is that it only gives the yardage to the center of the green. If you are looking for any information beyond that you are out of luck, yardage to the front or back of any green is left to the careful calculation of the golfer themselves.
The I'm Caddy will speak to you in nine different languages (six for the pro model), and you can also choose either a male or female voice. You can control the volume level to anywhere from screaming across the fairway to whispering so as to not disturb any rabbit eared fellow competitors. It runs on a rechargeable 13-hour battery.
Before the Round
The I'm Caddie must be fully charged prior to its first round so that was the first thing I did upon receiving it. Once fully charged, indicated by a green LED, I figured I would update it to make sure any and all courses I would play would be available. To my chagrin I found that the I'm Caddie cannot be updated on a Mac. Since I gave up PC's for good several years ago I had to head to my father's house in order to run the updates. While this is not a deal breaker, I certainly hope the technology team at I'm Caddie gets on the ball eventually and allows their Apple friendly customers the freedom to update on a real computer.
The update process seemed pretty painless. Some might even call it a breeze compared to updating certain Callaway devices, but looks can be deceiving. While the updating the device you have to pay attention to which drive you are saving the update. The I'm Caddie default setting wants to save any update to the computer's hard drive rather than the device itself. I missed this the first time around and ended up with a device that had no courses saved on it. To be fair it does give a warning during the updating process warning you to check which drive the update is directed to, but if you are like me and tend to click faster than you read you might miss it. Once I figured out what I did with help from someone at I'm Caddy, I fixed my mistake and had the unit up and running in no time. It must also be mentioned that language selection is done during updating and cannot be done without a computer. Selecting the gender of the voice however can be done on the fly.
In addition the Tour model allows for one course to be set up with a course guide. Basically, on the tee box and in the fairway you can hit the main button and the I'm Caddie will announce the features of the hole (Bunkers, water hazards, doglegs, target, etc.) At this point very few courses in the U.S. have been set up for this feature so I cannot testify as to how well it works, but it seems like it would be pretty cool.
So after updating and choosing the language I was ready to take the I'm Caddie to the course.
On the Course
The simplicity of the I'm Caddie is evident immediately upon arriving at the golf course. All that is necessary to get the device ready for play is to turn it on. The I'm Caddie determines which course you are playing, and even which hole you are starting on for those shotgun tournaments and starts you there. All the player needs to do is push the main button in order to get the I'm Caddie to announce the yardage.
The I'm Caddie announces the yardage along with the hole number, for example, "Hole number 12, 158 yards." The unit can also tell you the distance of any golf shot. All you have to do is hold down the main button for two seconds from where you hit the ball and repeat the process once you have reached your golf ball. This should be a great feature for all the big hitters out there that want to hear how far they hit their drives.
The main thing a GPS device is measured on is its accuracy. The first thing I did was check any given yardages against my current GPS and my laser rangefinder. I found that the I'm Caddy was consistently within 2-3 yards of my current GPS although the I'm Caddie was always the longer of the two. Through several rounds on several courses the I'm Caddie never gave a yardage shorter than my Golf Buddy World, nor was it ever shorter than my laser rangefinder. It was either dead on with the other two, or more often it was 2-3 yards longer. I charted the results and found the I'm Caddie was right on about 35% of the time and slightly longer 65% of the time. Additionally, I checked the yardages given while standing on the 150 and 200 yards discs in the fairways. Again, the I'm Caddie seemed to consistently be 2-3 yards longer. In its defense the I'm Caddie never gave a yardage more than 4 yards off, but the fact that its always a tad long may be something the boys in the technical department need to take look at. All things considered, I believe the device to be accurate enough for my game.
When I took the I'm Caddie on the course for the first time I chose the female voice to announce my yardages. After one hole the voice had already been given the name "Betty." My playing partners were very impressed with "Betty's" measurements and soon I had to go to each player in my group's golf ball in order for Betty to give them their yardages. As I said above, the I'm caddie only gives the yardage to the middle of the green. At my home course, or any course I am very familiar with, this is plenty of information in order to figure out what club to hit or the approximate distance to a pin located on the front or back of the green. That being said, I like distances to the front and back of greens when I am playing courses I don't know as well.
The thing I really like about the I'm Caddy was the convenience. No need to carry the handheld GPS from the cart to your ball, no fiddling with a display that dims or turns off. Also, since there is no screen it is a very friendly device for anyone who is visually impaired. During the second round I took it on I finally turned off my handheld GPS because I found I wasn't using it. Using the I'm Caddie my partner and I played 18 holes in just under two and a half hours, as the design really lends itself to speeding up play.
The battery life of the unit is also something I was impressed with. I was able to get in three 18-hole rounds and a 9-hole round on the I'm caddie before I had to recharge it.
The I'm Caddie comes with everything you need to update and accessorize your unit. With the device came a wall charger, the world's shortest micro USB cord, a set of four interchangeable colored faceplates, a protective silicone cover, a custom magnetic ball marker, a set of directions, and a soft case to carry it all.
As mentioned above the I'm Caddie is available in two different models, and in either white or black. The four interchangeable colored faceplates that come with the Tour model are, black, green, orange, and pink. I have a tendency to wear some rather loud colors on the golf course, but I cannot even begin to compete with the obnoxious shades of these faceplates. I cannot see me ever needing any of the colors except black.
The I'm Caddie tour model retails for around $137 with the pro model coming in around $99. I do not see a big enough difference in the two models to warrant spending the extra dough on the tour model, unless you really want to accessorize with those lovely faceplates. Again there are free course downloads for the life of the device and there is no yearly subscription fee.
The I'm Caddie is not a device that all golfers will be interested in purchasing. If lacks certain functionality that some players will feel is a necessity. For me I like the little unit. While it won't replace my current GPS it is a really nice addition for casual rounds. The I'm Caddie is perfect for players that are looking for a cheaper alternative to a traditional GPS device, or for anyone that just wants something simple to give them basic yardage. Make sure to check out their website