Voice Caddie VC300
When I saw the original concept for the Voice Caddy a few years ago at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, my first thought was “The world doesn’t need another golf GPS device,” but I was wrong. Several years have gone by and UComm Technology, the Korean company behind the Voice Caddy VC300 has improved greatly on their design and I believe this little gem is ready for prime time.
As more and more golf GPS devices hit the market, they keep adding features that make them more complicated and hard to use. Voice Caddy has gone the other direction with the VC300. They decided to do one thing, and do it well. The Voice Caddy VC300 simply gives you distances to the front, middle and back of the green, along with the ability to measure any shot distance from point A to point B. That’s it. No hard to read maps, useless scorecard features or complicated stat tracking features. The VC300 only weighs 24 grams and easily fits in the palm of your hand, measuring 45 x 45 x 12 mm. (see image below)
The VC300 has a very “Apple” feel to it. The packaging and design are very similar to the way Apple presents their electronics and this philosophy appears to be deliberate. The design is slick, smooth and free of clutter. The device has three buttons – power, volume +/- and the main button that makes up the entire face of the device. It is also gesture-enabled like a smartphone. Despite the unit being so small and light, the VC300’s distinguishing feature is instead of showing you yardages on an LCD screen, it tells you the distance audibly, speaking out the yardage when called upon.
Because the VC300 is so simple, operation is easy and straightforward. Turn the unit on and it speaks a welcome message and tells you the battery charge level. From there, in a few moments the unit will find the golf course automatically from a database of over 30,000 courses built in to the device. That course database is also user upgradable through the VC Manager software available on their website, and everything is free. There are no hidden costs, no subscription fees. The unit clips to the brim of your hat or your belt and detects which hole you are on, announcing it when you arrive at the tee box.
To get yardages one simply pushes the main button, and Voice Caddy will speak the hole and yardage to the middle of the green. “Hole number 6, center, 120 yards.” Swipe your finger towards the front of the unit and you get yardage to the back of the green. Swipe the VC300’s face from front to back and you get the yardage to the front of the green. Double-tap the main button to get distance to the front and back of the green. You can measure the distance between any two points by holding the main button for a few seconds at the starting point, then holding the main button a few seconds at the finish, and Voice Caddy will tell you how far the distance traveled is. This is great for measuring your booming tee shots, or not great, depending how far you actually hit it!
The Voice Caddy VC300 is available in three colors: Black, White and Pink. It is also available in seven languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. The little device charges in only 2 hours and they claim the charge is good for 8 hours. When the VC300 arrived for testing it had a 28% charge out of the box. I managed to play 18 holes with it anyway. In fact, the battery died just as I pulled up to the 18th green, so that 8 hour life is probably a little understated. I bet you could squeeze 36 holes of play out of this thing.
There are a few little issues that I noticed with the Voice Caddy VC300 during my testing. First, the distance measuring feature didn’t work every time I tried. A few times when I arrived at my drive and pushed the button for several seconds, nothing happened. It’s as if the unit forgot about it. Oops. Another small annoyance is the placement and sensitivity of the volume buttons. When installing or taking the VC300 off my hat brim, I instinctually grab it by the bottom for leverage, but that is where the volume buttons are and I always push them by mistake. Not a flaw, but perhaps the next version could move the volume controls to a less obvious place. Finally, on one particular course when arriving at the tee, it announced each hole as a par 4 when they sometimes were par 3s and 5s. Not a big deal because that info is largely irrelevant, but perhaps their course databases are off. Either way, none of these issues affect the accuracy of the yardages, which were always within a yard or two, confirmed by a Bushnell Tour Z6 Jolt laser rangefinder in my testing.
For $149, you get the smallest, lightest golf GPS device on the market that I am aware of. It measures distance, and doesn’t do anything else that golfers aren’t interested in like keep score, show you bad pictures and take up space. I’ve always preferred laser rangefinders over GPS devices because of accuracy and the ability to get a distance from any landmark or tree, whereas a GPS like this only gives you front, middle and back of the green. But what I found when using the Voice Caddy VC300 is that it is so simple and unobtrusive that I enjoyed using it. Because it’s clipped to my hat, I never have to think about it and I know I won’t leave it in the grass somewhere.
As a blogger I always show up to play golf with new clubs and gadgets to try out, and I can get a good idea of how well they will do by the reactions and interest level of my playing partners. After all, they are my focus group. Plus, they all happen to fall within the target demographic of most golf companies. When I brought out the VC300 for several games, nearly everyone liked the concept and said they would be interested in having one. Considering the large price tags of laser rangefinders and more elaborate GPS devices, the Voice Caddy VC300’s $149 price tag, sleek design and simplicity of use makes it an instant winner.
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