Review: Skycaddie SGX

by Derek on September 24, 2010

in Equipment,Reviews,Skycaddie

Today I’m going to be reviewing the SkyCaddie SGX.  If you’re not familiar with them, SkyCaddie (or really SkyGolf, the company that makes the SkyCaddie line of products), is pretty much the market leader in dedicated golf GPS devices.

The SGX is their latest and most advanced offering.  It comes with over 30k courses preloaded (with front/middle/back green yardages), features a 3-inch transflective LCD screen, “HoleVue with Zoom”, “IntelliGreen and IntelliGreen Pro, as well as a digital scorecard function that can synchronize with SkyGolf’s Club SG service and allow you to track your stats online.

History and a background info on the SkyCaddie:

I’ve been a long time user and fan of the SkyCaddie line of products.  I bought one of the very early models a number of years ago.  I found out about them from my Father, who lives near the SkyGolf headquarters.  He was excited about this company and we both bought one.  Their early products were nice, but boy have they come a long way.

If you’re not familiar with how SkyCaddies work, they’re basically a GPS device much like a Garmin Nuvi for your car.  But instead of being loaded up with roadmaps, they’re loaded with golf course information.  The quality of this information varies by golf GPS provider.  And in my opinion this is really one of the most important, yet overlooked areas of golf GPS devices.  Who cares how accurate the device is if the maps are off by 5 yards?

SkyGolf Mapper Hal Lusk

SkyCaddie Maps:

Many of Skygolf’s competitors rely on aerial or satellite photos to create their golf course mappings.  In theory, this could be more than adequate for mapping golf courses.  However, in practice (for reasons that are beyond the scope of this post), it’s not nearly as good as actually mapping from the ground with surveyor grade GPS equipment, which has accuracy levels down to inches.  Skygolf physically sends a certified mapper to each course in their database.  This mapper actually walks the course and records all of the information that is eventually downloaded onto your device.  A number of these mappers are actually former pros, so they understand what type of information about the course is valuable to golfers.

Skycadde has several types of maps.  Every course map has a list view that shows a number of different targets and yardages that have been defined by the SkyGolf mapper.  Additionally, all maps will at a minimum feature Intelligreen.  If a course is marked in the SkyGolf database as “Intelligreen” that means it  features an outline of the green that you can switch to.  The green will rotate based on your position and you can adjust the cursor position to see exact yardages to different points on the green.  Most of the Intelligreen maps are now being updated to Intelligreen Pro.  This works the same, except elevation changes and contours are now visible when using the green view.

Intelligreen Pro Screenshot showing the green contours as well as the hazards around the green

If a course is marked Holeview, that means you can switch to an overhead view of the entire hole.  From there you can move the cursor and see yardages to any point on the hole.  Finally, if a course is marked as Quickvue, it will offer a pseudo-overview of the course similar to Holevue.  However, you can’t freely select points on the course.  Personally, I find Quickvue to be a waste of time.  If a course does not feature Holevue, then I’m only interested in the list view of targets and the Intelligreen or Intelligreen Pro screens.


This is the view from the 11th tee at the Bryan Park Champions course in Greensboro, NC.

With the SGX Holevue, I can see that it's about a 240yd carry to the fairway and about 300yds through it, leaving 233yds into the green on this Par 5.


The catch to all of this is that it’s not inexpensive to map all of these courses by walking them.  Therefore SkyGolf’s business model is to sell you the device and then let you subscribe to an annual plan that gives you access to the maps.  These plans run anywhere from $19.95 per year up to $59.95 depending on the courses you need access to.  Most people will likely end up on the $29.95 state/province plan or the $49.95 Nationwide plan.  You can also sign up for a free membership that allows you to map your own courses with the SGX, but you won’t have access to any of the SkyGolf mappings.

Personally, I don’t mind paying the annual fee for quality course maps, but obviously not everybody shares that opinion.  I don’t want anybody to go out and buy an SGX only to be surprised to find out that they still have to pay for a SkyGolf Membership in order to download courses.

The memberships at $29.95 and up also give you access to ClubSG Premium, which is the service that lets you track your stats online at  I’ll discuss this some more later.

Device Details:

So what about the SGX device itself?  The SGX is much sleeker looking that previous SkyCaddie models.  They’ve clearly taken their styling cues from modern smartphones.  No, it’s not quite a slick looking as my Droid X, but it’s not ugly either.   The SGX weight 5.6 oz, is a little over 5″ tall, 2.5″ wide, and .75″ deep.  It has a built-in Li-Ion battery that will run for 14 hours of continuous use.   In practice, I’ve found that the battery generally lasts for about 2 rounds of golf.  You can start a 3rd round, but you’re likely to run out of battery before you get finished.

The SGX comes in the box with several screen protectors, a USB cable, an A/C power adapter, and a belt clip.  Since I bought mine the day it was released, it also came with a padded case that can clip to your bag.  I don’t know if they’re still shipping them with the padded case or not.  The screen protectors work well, but they can be a real pain to get installed correctly.  Luckily, there are 3 of them.  I, along with many others, used all 3 before getting it right.

The USB cable uses a micro USB connector.  This has become the standard connector for cell phones so you probably already have some extra cables at home as well as a car or a/c adapter.  If not, you can pick up extra cables for about $1 each from

As I mentioned before, the SGX comes with 30k courses preloaded.  However, these only include the front/middle/back yardages to the greens.  In other words, they don’t have any of the cool Intelligreen/Holevue info on them.  But they can be a real lifesaver if you find yourself at a course that you haven’t had a chance to download onto your SkyCaddie.  It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

All navigation is handled via a joystick and buttons on the lower part of the SGX.  Many people wanted a touchscreen.  However, projected capacitive touchscreens, which are typically used on smartphones and devices like this, aren’t going to work with thick gloves on.   It can be a little sticky to use at times, but the tradeoff is that it can be used while wearing gloves.  In this case, using the joystick was a smart decision by SkyGolf even if the execution isn’t quite perfect.

The transflective TFT LCD screen is great because it provides good visibility in direct sunlight.  A larger and possibly higher resolution screen would be nice but I can’t complain too much about this aspect of the SGX.

The SGX is also very solidly built.  Mine has already been dropped a couple of times and it’s still going strong.  My impression is that you would have to do some serious thumping on the SGX to break it.

A number of accessories are available for purchase including a variety of different mounts.  Personally, I either put it in my pocket or throw it in a cup holder in the cart.  Both of those options work just fine for me.

Measure Your Distances:

One item of note is the “mark” button (with the golf ball on it) in the lower left hand corner of the SGX.  This button lets you mark a point on the course.  The SGX will then tell you exactly how far you from that point.  Now you’ll know how far you really hit your driver.  Additionally, when you mark a tee shot, the SGX will record the distance and include that data in your upload into the ClubSG system.

Accuracy and Laser vs GPS:

The ongoing debate in the rangefinder/GPS world is accuracy.  The proponents of laser rangefinders argue that GPS is inherently too inaccurate.  The GPS guys say that lasers are too limited with what they can target for a distance reading.  In reality they both have their benefits and drawbacks.  In practical terms the SGX appears to be accurate within 1-2 yards.  Laser is typically accurate within inches, but you can only get a reading on a target that you have a line-of-sight to.

I like both technologies, but currently I get more value out of the SGX and it’s HoleVue and Intelligreen features.  It really is like having a tour yardage book for virtually any course in the country.

Early Issues:

If you’ve followed the SGX on any of the online golf forums, you’re probably aware that SkyGolf had some teething problems with early units.  The software and drivers were not ready for prime-time.  They did not have signed drivers for 64-bit OS’s at launch, some features were missing, and there were numerous bugs.  Additionally, a number of the early units had hardware problems.  I actually had to swap my first SGX due to an issue with the screws on the rear of the unit.  However, SkyGolf did a pretty darn good job getting things under control.  They did (and still do) a great job of monitoring the forums on their website and quickly got a number of software updates/patches out the door.

At this point, they seem to have addressed the early hardware quality issues and the software is now stable.  Should it really have taken 8+ weeks for all of this to have been resolved?  Probably not and hopefully SkyGolf will have better beta testing in place before their next product launch.

Club SG:

ClubSG screenshot showing some of the game development tracking tools.

One of the coolest features of the SGX is that you can keep your score on it.  All of the data will then get uploaded into ClubSG when you sync your device through the CaddieSync software.  As more and more data is loaded into the system, you can really start to analyze your game and identify weak points.  You can create golf groups, and share scores and messages with other members of your group.  The only thing that I think they should add is the ability to create USGA golf clubs out of your ClubSG groups and maintain a USGA handicap through them.  I think that’s a service that many people would pay extra for, even if I probably wouldn’t take advantage of it myself.

Future Options:

SkyGolf will be releasing a set of club tags (aka SmartClub technology) that go on the end of you grips.  If you drive off and leave a club on the green, the SGX will alert you so that you don’t make it too far before realizing it’s gone.

The other (cooler) feature is that once the SGX knows which club is being used on any given shot, it can use the “mark” feature to record distances for every club and shot.  So in the future, you will see distances for every shot being uploaded into ClubSG, instead of just tee shots.  The potential for this is huge.  If you have GPS data for every shot, you could essentially recreate a PGA Tour “Shotlink” style system within ClubSG.  You could even have the SkyCaddie make recommendations for club selection based on your known distances.  I don’t know that SkyCaddie has plans to take the club tag technology that far, but the potential is there.

I’m going to have to write some articles talking about the “Golfmetrics” revolution.  This device could be what enables the data that Golfmetrics needs to really take off, and SkyGolf could be creating a shot database worth a lot of money to players looking to identify and improve on their weak points.


In conclusion, would I recommend the SGX to friends and family?  Absolutely.  I think that it’s currently the best golf GPS device on the market.  Do I think it’s perfect?  Absolutely not.  I’d like to see a removable battery instead of the built-in one.  There may be times when I simply don’t have an opportunity to charge the SGX and would love to be able to just drop in a fresh battery.  The joystick sensitivity/responsiveness could use a bit of tweaking and a bigger screen would be nice as well.  But as of right now, I don’t think anything else on the market touches it.

The list price is $399, but you can find them for less at various golf shops.  I picked mine up from a very reputable dealer for $320.  They’re not doing that deal any longer, but you can buy one at Golfsmith for $350.  If you buy through them, I get some beer money.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Morgan September 28, 2010 at 8:46 am

I would add that some of their lesser models can be obtained far more inexpensively and are certainly adequate for many users. Personally I use the SG3.5… which, with coupons, sales, etc etc I managed to pick up for $145.oo. I love my Sky Caddie 3.5!


Derek September 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Excellent point. You can get most of the same functionality out of the lower end models like the SG5 and SG3.5. I believe they’re even adding holevue support on those models, although I don’t know if it will function exactly the same as the SGX.


cal wick October 15, 2010 at 8:31 am

never buy this unit. I have returned three that have not worked. Now their “Advanced customer support” is only by email. Unit is a 9 when it works. Customer support is a 0.

Don’t take the risk of buying this.


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