The Key Features to Look for When Buying a GPS Device

By Colleen Morrison
GPS units can save golfers valuable time navigating courses.
GPS units can save golfers valuable time navigating courses.

A handheld GPS device is frequently used by drivers and hikers to help them find their location or their destination. Taking advantage of the technology, there are now GPS units for golfers to help them get information specifically for their sport. Like all gadgets, these units vary widely in what they can do for your game and what they cost. Consider some of these features as you search for the model that best fits your needs when you're on the course.

Ease of Use

Look for a unit that is easy to use, one that has a gentle learning curve. Especially if you are relatively new to this technology, find a unit that more or less explains itself. Touch screens are especially nice--you simply touch the feature you want to work with and it opens right up. Pay particular attention to how you get from one feature on the unit to another. If it’s not easy when you’re in the store, it’s not going to be easy when you’re on the course.

Screen Traits

GPS units are compact--so compact, in fact, that it can be nearly impossible to distinguish words and numbers on that tiny little screen. Select a unit with a clear, easy-to-read screen that features good graphics, and one that you can see in bright daylight. The unit is supposed to help you improve your game, not ruin your eyesight; those made specifically for golf are designed with weather issues (sun and rain) in mind.


You want a GPS with a database that includes as many different golf courses as possible. Some golf-specific units are pre-programmed with course information. GolfLogix lets you purchase an annual membership, which gives you access to their database so you can download golf course information to your iPhone or BlackBerry.

Additional Maps

For maximum flexibility, look for a unit with a card slot or download capability so you can open up different types of maps, depending on where you’re traveling. You may want to buy extra maps to help you navigate in Europe or Mexico or expand to other outdoor recreation options. For example, you might want one that will read marine maps for boating and trail maps for hikes.


Pay some attention to your unit’s power source. When you’re golfing with a cart, you may be able to plug it in; it’s when you’re on foot that battery life is going to matter. For that reason, a model that uses regular, replaceable batteries may be your best bet.

About the Author

Colleen Morrison has been writing professionally for two decades. She holds an M.A. from the University of Wyoming and a Ph.D. in history from Arizona State University. She ghostwrites articles, blogs and Web content for her clients. Articles under her name appear at M&M, eHow, Golflink and other sites.

Photo Credits

  • handheld GPS image by Christopher Dodge from
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