For most golfers, GPS rangefinders are a handy tool that can assist in improving their handicap and club selection. But for the vision impaired, they can truly be life-changing. GolfBuddy Voice+ is the first "talking" golf GPS specifically designed for blind players. We caught up with Blind Golf Australia's president Doug Sloan about how this pocket-sized gadget has helped him to lift his game.
Golf ball picture from Shutterstock
As President of Blind Golf Australia and Blind Golf Australia Victoria, Doug Sloan has seen his fair share of golfing gizmos. However, the GolfBuddy Voice+ is the first time a device specifically designed for blind golfers has made him feel more part of the game.
Blind golfers play with the assistance of caddies, who essentially fill in for the golfer’s eyes, especially in regards to distance information. GolfBuddy Voice+ significantly cuts down what the caddy needs to do and gives the golfer an added sense of empowerment and independence. The unit boasts a 24-channel GPS receiver, hole recognition technology and a dynamic rotating green view which ensures distances are given directly from the angle of approach.
"We heard about the GolfBuddy down here in Melbourne through a golf supplier who knew I'd been after something that could talk to me or used voice activation," Sloan explained to Lifehacker.
"I tested it and it was amazing. You walk up there on the tee and press the button and the dear little lady will give you the distance to the centre of the green. If I want to know to the front of the green or to the back of the green I just hold down the button and she'll tell me that too.
"It just makes things a lot easier. The difference it made to my game is unbelievable and it's also made life much easier for my caddy who doesn't have to look around for markers or test for distances. As a totally blind golfer, it makes me feel much more part of the game. It's only a little thing but it's made a hell of a difference."
Sloan said the GPS unit was around the same size as an iPod nano, which makes it small enough to clip comfortably into a flat cap or belt. It can also be worn like a watch via an included wristband.
"I'd recommend it to any vision impaired or totally blind golfer; it's simple enough that anyone can use it," Sloan said. "You just switch the slider to turn it on and it automatically searches for the course via satellite and then talks you through the steps."
According to Sloan, the majority of blind and vision impaired golf members in Australia have already purchased the device which he partially puts down to a good value proposition.
"It's got something like 36,000 golf courses in it worldwide which are included in the cost [RRP: $220]. There's no subscription costs and any course upgrades are free; you just plug it into your computer when it needs to be updated."
Sloan said the GolfBuddy Voice+ was just one example of how recent developments in voice technology had made life easier for the blind and vision impaired.
"The technology that's out there now has made a huge difference to my life in the past few years. In my office I have two computers, and iPhone and a talking calculator. Prior to that, I had to use braille, tape recorders and so on to get my job done. Nowadays I can just use an application that read out everything that's on my computer screen.
"Subsequently, there are now a lot more job opportunities out there for the vision impaired because of these voice applications. I've been in this place thirty-three years and I've never had it better!"
The GolfBuddy Voice+ can be purchased for $220. For more information, pay a visit to the GolfBuddy website.