While Bushnell may be best known for their laser rangefinders, which are the most popular choice for amateur and professional golfers all over the world, they also offer a GPS Watch which may well be one of the best products we have tested this year...
The ION Elite is Bushnell's premium watch offering and is packed full of features, including Slope technology for the first time in a Bushnell watch. After testing the ION Edge last year I was underwhelmed, but this is a serious upgrade.
Who Is It Aimed At?
This is Bushnell's most feature-packed product which provides the serious golfer with everything they could possibly need out on the course all in one neat package, with a pretty decent price point.
This value for money, coupled with the fact that the watch is simple to use, also means that more casual golfers could benefit from using this watch even if they aren't interested in all of the stat tracking and shot planning capabilities (more on that later).
If you want something that gives you all of the information you could need before you hit every shot, this is the watch for you.
The ION Elite features a new colour touchscreen and becomes the first Bushnell watch to use Slope Technology, giving golfers the chance to get accurate yardages like a laser would offer.
The watch comes preloaded with more than 38,000 courses around the world and displays front, middle and back yardages on the main screen, with a number of other features available too.
GreenView with movable pin placement shows the shape of each green, as well as allowing the user to adjust the pin position on the green, with the yardages then reflected as a result.
HoleView allows you to view the full layout of the hole, with shot planning allowing you to pinpoint your intended target and get precise distances to any point on the hole, making it easy to work out layup points and correct lines off the tee.
Dynamic green mapping means that front and back distances are shown based on the golfer's line of play rather than just from the middle of the intended fairway, which provides better accuracy when you stray off line.
The watch features more than 12 hours of battery life, ensuring that you can play at least two rounds on a single charge.
Additional features offered by the ION Elite include:
- Auto course recognition
- Auto hole advance
- Shot distance calculator
- Magnetic USB charging cable
- One year limited warranty
Bushnell ION Elite GPS Watch Review
Over the last few years one of the big improvements made to GPS devices has been the speed and ease with which you can set them up, and the ION Elite was no different.
From turning the device on, setting the date and time and then selecting to play golf, the watch had found my golf course within about 90 seconds and was ready to go.
The magnetic charging cable is a little fiddly to attach but it was nice to see that the actual cable was longer than you often get for devices like this - for some reason manufacturers tend to give you a tiny cable which makes life much more difficult.
I have also found that these magnetic cables can easily become detached so it's always worth double-checking that your device is definitely charging to avoid any disasters when you arrive at the first tee.
On the wrist the watch was on the bulky side although I didn't feel like it was off-putting whilst playing, and although it does have a 'watch mode' where the time is displayed, it still does feel like a sports watch rather than a smartwatch with a golf mode. If you're looking for something a little sleeker, the Shot Scope G5 GPS could be worth a look...
I tested the watch in white which looked pretty smart, although if given the choice I'd probably opt for the all-black version which seems a little sleeker, but of course that is just personal preference.
The rubberised strap feels durable and should be easy to keep clean which is a bonus.
Both the colour display and the touchscreen were impressive, with the screen being really easy to read in a variety of lights. The touchscreen has been massively improved since the previous ION Edge, and even worked pretty well whilst using a glove which is a bonus, although I usually wear my watch on my glove hand which does make things easier for me.
I also liked the fact that the watch turned itself onto standby mode after a few seconds or when you put your arm down, to save battery life. This is a feature you see on running watches too and I found that the screen was pretty responsive in lighting up again when you raise your arm to look at the watch.
Out on the course, the ION Elite provides everything that you would expect from a GPS Watch and more, with a host of different features.
The main screen shows front, middle and back yardages, with icons around the outside allowing you to access more information for each hole. The new addition to this watch is the slope feature, which can be used when you're not in competition and shows an orange ring around the outside of the watch when it is switched on.
HoleView is a great way of getting an overview of each hole in the same way that you would with a GPS device or even a GPS app, and allows you to zoom in and drag your target around the hole to work out your strategy, with yardage rings also available to provide an added guide on distances to hazards.
Up on the green you are able to move the pin around to it's real position on the day for more accuracy, with the yardages being reflected from the angle that you're approaching.
The hazard screen may take a bit of deciphering as Bushnell use codes for their different distances, but they do provide measurements to bunkers, water and also provide layup distances which are useful.
The watch auto-advances once you reach the next tee which saves a bit of faffing around, whilst there is also a pretty good summary screen which shows your score, number of putts and fairway and green percentage as you go around.
You can also pair it with the free Bushnell App which I have used alongside Bushnell products in the past and this works pretty well if you want a clearer picture of the hole and your statistics as you play.
Bushnell ION Elite GPS Watch Verdict
The good thing about this watch is that it manages to blend between providing you with just the basics you'd need, whilst also having the option of extra features if you want them.
For some golfers, just having yardages to the front middle and back, as well as hazards, is enough. But if you want your watch to keep track of your scores and statistics along the way, as well as helping you plot your way around the course and avoid any danger, the option is there too.
I was also really impressed with the price tag considering the number of features included with the watch - at an RRP of £199 this puts it much cheaper than the likes of Garmin or SkyCaddie who offer similar products.
I tested Bushnell's ION Edge watch last year and I wasn't particularly impressed but this definitely a return to form in my eyes, and if you're after a new GPS Watch this winter then I would definitely recommend that you take a closer look.
It looks fantastic, it's easy to use and it gives you all the information you'll need to play your best golf.
Would I Use It?
I'm not a big fan of using a watch whilst I play golf but if I was to use one, this is the one I'd go for.
Bushnell ION Elite GPS Watch Pros and Cons
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