Hold on to your hats, ladies and gents; we’re goin’ in!
Well, that’s sorta how I felt when Brian gave me the Bushnell assignment. Their 2020 roll-out at the PGA Show revealed the soon-to-be-released new rangefinders, as well as their new multi-function speaker. At their booth, it all seemed pretty straight-forward: two new models of their popular laser rangefinders and a sound system just for fun. We got the interview, took some notes and felt like we had an easy report to send your way.
Not so fast.
First, in the world of supplemental equipment, the name of the game is course management. The whole purpose is to avoid errors of ignorance. How far is that fairway bunker? What do I need to carry that water hazard? How deep is too deep on that dog-leg? How many feet is that green above me from this waste bunker? A professional caddie in full mastery of the course you’re playing could tell you that, but only a handful of players can afford that luxury. For the rest of us, it’s lick your thumb, hold it up and squint. Or for a few hundred bucks, magic is at your fingertips. Welcome to the future.
To say the rangefinder space is crowded is an understatement. To parse the pros and cons of them all is dizzying. To even understand Bushnell’s own space took some digging. Well, let me put down this shovel and grab a cold one and bend your ear a while.
Second, Bushnell bows to neither man nor beast. They know the space and claim to have 97% of the pro field.
As of today, digging through their site won’t reveal a hint of what’s in the offing, so pay attention and you’ll get the inside dope right here. Their venerable V4 and V4 Shift are on the way to second class status after an impressive run.
Third, before we get to the new, let’s spend a moment to understand what’s for sale right now. They have an excellent line up of five models, each with something to offer to the right buyer. All are stated as legal for tournament play (with the right settings for some).
Their 2016 Hybrid Rangefinder & GPS is a nice combo of both products: MSRP $399.99. It’s their only model with GPS functionality. It has 5x magnification, is water-resistant, lacks slope functionality, and boasts +/- 1 yard accuracy (as do all their models). An easy-to-read screen on the side shows the usual GPS readout of yards to front, middle and back of green, scrolling through to other screens gives a full accounting of the hole’s hazards and whatnot. The viewfinder is full-feature-packed with vital info and is easy to understand. Their focus ring makes custom eye accommodations a snap. It’s pre-loaded with 36,000 courses worldwide and comes with Bluetooth for course updates. It has auto-course recognition, so it offers a list of courses close to you when you fire it up: no scrolling through thousands of similarly named courses. It has dual battery sources for each function, a USB charge port for the GPS, and a replaceable CR-2 3 volt standard battery for the rangefinder. (Retail about $4 or $5 each. I have no data on how many rounds before it needs to be replaced. All their rangefinders use the CR-2.) The Bushnell golf app comes with every rangefinder and GPS device, for additional input about play. The Hybrid is a nice tool and still a good deal this long after release.
The Tour V4 and Tour V4 Shift are Bushnell’s aging stars (also 2016 alums), with and without slope: $299.99 and $399.99. They are also rated ‘water-resistant’ and boast 5x magnification. All five models have Bushnell’s brand of target-lock-on feedback that they call PinSeeker with JOLT. When the unit has a target-lock, it vibrates to tell you the number displayed is good-to-go.
They came out with a leather-clad luxury model, called the Limited Edition L7, MSRP $499.99 (now on sale for $399.99).1 The previous three are rated to 400 yards; the L7 is good to 450. It has higher magnification at 6x, includes slope, and is waterproof: an upgrade from the others’ water-resistance.
At last year’s PGA event, Bushnell introduced their newest model, the show-stopper Pro XE, MSRP $549.99. It has 7x magnification, 500 yard range, slope, is waterproof, and has the new PinSeeker with Visual Jolt feature that improves on the target-lock notification by flashing a red ring in the view-field to boost the ‘got-it’ feedback.
This is the first rangefinder model to incorporate their BITE magnetic cart mount feature. (see our product review of their Phantom GPS unit for an explanation.) It also features a prominent slide button on the side that disables the slope function for tournament play. In slope mode, the button reveals a red indicator to show observers the equipment is out of compliance.
An amazing additional feature is hinted at by the XE in the name. The E is for Elements: the standard slope calculation is modified for temperature and ‘adjusted’ altitude (we think that means barometric pressure, but that’s a guess). Altogether, this feature-packed model has reigned as the best of the best for a year, with the price of admission being a $150 premium to the Tour V4 Shift.
Fourth: okay, class, you’ve done well following along, so now here’s the GOOD STUFF.
Tour V5 and Tour V5 Shift
Coming this March, the Tour V5 and the Tour V5 Shift (pictured above) will be available at retail. They have taken most of the cream from the Pro XE and poured it into the V5 line. They’ve split the difference on magnification at 6x (the same as the Lux L7). You don’t get the Elements features of the Pro XE either: no weather slope compensation. But everything else is in the cart (save slope being left off the standard V5). The Tour V5 Shift has their newest slope compensation that includes a more accurate algorithm to recognize the latest ball and club advancements that tend to produce a steeper angle of descent. They both have the Visual JOLT improvement, the powerful BITE magnetic cart mount and are fully waterproof. Are you ready for the best part? It looks like they’re going to offer them for the SAME price as the V4s! Holy cow!
Feeling like a dope because you have a nice V4, but really, really want the V5 Shift next month? Bushnell’s got you covered! They have a trade-in program to buy back your left-behinds once you get the new model. Go here to see what they’re buying and what they’ll give for that drawer full of yesteryear’s gadgets. (It’s a huge list.)
Launch: Mid March 2020
MSRP: Tour V5: $299.99, Tour V5 Shift: $399.99
Wingman GPS Speaker
Fifth: remember I said they have a speaker thingy? Well, they have a speaker thingy. I’m a little ambivalent, to be honest. My mind went immediately to boomboxes on the subway, but maybe that’s just me. (Editors Note: He’s not alone, it’s pretty split down the middle as a quick search on r/golf shows. -BB) The Wingman by Bushnell is a BITE mounted cart speaker/GPS device that will play music from a phone app but keeps track of where you are, and at the touch of a button on the remote, will interrupt the DJ to tell you how many yards to the green (front, middle and back as per usual). Now, to be fair, I saw the latest club carts at the show too, and they were sporting honkin’ woofers, so I’m not sure how rule 1.2a will be enforced:
Showing consideration to others – for example, by playing at a prompt pace, looking out for the safety of others, and not distracting the play of another player.
But that’s just me. Maybe it’ll be the best thing since wooden tees.
Launch: April 2020
I’m a retired Boomer and lifetime golfer. I never got particularly good but have always loved the game. I’ll be an occasional contributor of mostly ‘adjacent’ content. I make observations about life from the perspective of the rear-view mirror. A voice of experience more than of expertise. Decidedly the junior staff. More color commentary than product expert. I’m amazed how far the game has come while still being essentially unchanged in a hundred years: a vehicle for challenging yourself to excel, improve and practice honorable behavior. In other words, build character. Brian’s dad — Donald Burt.