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With TomTom South Africa and the PGA South Africa recently announcing a strategic partnership, TechSmart talked PGA chairman, Paul Marks about his views on the TomTom Golfer GPS watch.

As chairman of the PGA (Professional Golfers Association) South Africa, Paul Marks has seen golf tech come and go. Much like in any other sport, if there is an improvement to be had that might provide even a slight edge, then golfers will jump onboard. So when it comes to the recently PGA endorsed TomTom Golfer GPS sports watch, what’s different?

Marks relates the first time TomTom provided him with test units, given to players teeing off on a crisp Saturday morning at the Woodhill Country Club (of which Marks is golf director). After 18 holes they came back sold, and Marks understands their enthusiasm. “Once you’ve experience the TomTom Golfer and know what it can do, you will end up buying it,” he confirms.

In the bag

So what exactly does the TomTom Golfer GPS sports watch have to offer? Firstly, it contains the layout of more than 34 000 golf courses worldwide. As the TomTom Golfer tracks your movement on the course via GPS, you know exactly how far you are from the front, middle and back of the green. This allows for more confidence in club selection, especially when proper distance markings are hard to come by. 

According to Marks, golf is moving away from the traditional slow play, with a speedier game more of a requirement these days. With the TomTom Golfer on your wrist, there’s no more looking for yardage boards or distance markers; as soon as you are at your ball you can select your club.

paul marks tomtom

Apart from providing green distances, the TomTom Golfer GPS watch shows the distance to hazards along the fairway and to the corner of doglegs. As you move from one hole to the next the watch automatically ticks over, so there is very little manual input required. By the time you get to the 19th hole, it knows the distance you walked, and the time it took to complete the round. This is all uploaded to the cloud via a connection to your smartphone.

Golfers can also fill in a scorecard on the watch, although Marks is less enamoured with this feature, noting that competitions require one to fill in a regular (paper) scorecard and repetition with the watch requires more time.

About the others

How does the TomTom Golfer measure up against other measuring devices such as rangefinders? Marks notes that some golfers have difficulties with exact measurement, since they struggle to get the crosshair centred on the flag. Another factor is that although golf courses generally allow devices that measure distance to the hole, they frown at rangefinders that also measure slope (elevation) and wind strength, believing it constitutes an unfair advantage.

In golf precision is the name of the game, so how accurate is the TomTom Golfer GPS watch? Marks is of the opinion that it’s very good - from what he has tested close to one metre give or take. He also notes that the harsh African sun doesn’t seem to cause a problem with visibility, since the screen remains clear and is big enough to view comfortably. The waterproof TomTom Golfer though can also do duty on a wet weather day on St. Andrews, and as the discussion turns to golf tourism, Marks infers that the watch, with layouts of courses across the globe, is a good traveling companion.

Bringing down the strokes

Talking about the PGA and TomTom’s official partnership, Marks believes that the association was happy to endorse the product because of the features, and the fact that TomTom’s service has been “really incredible”. He was happy to see TomTom do demos at the clubs and give the watch to golfers to try out for the day. “In terms of making golf more enjoyable, more fun, this is one of the products we like to promote since it ticks all the boxes.”

Who would he would recommend the TomTom Golfer to? “For all golfers, of all ages,” came the quick reply. “It’s easy to use, comfortable, simple and accurate. You slip on your watch and you play golf. It tells you the front, middle and back yardage, and it tells you where the hazards and doglegs are. What an absolute pleasure,” he notes.

While the golfing fraternity will see many more gadgets fill up rack space at their local golf shop, the bottom line for many remains: Will it make me play better golf? Relating to the TomTom Golfer GPS watch, for Marks the answer is a resounding yes. 

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