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Bushnell Excel review: Pricey, but has EVERYTHING a good golf GPS watch needs

David Court
25 Aug 2017
Our Rating 

Bushnell hopes to win a piece of the golf GPS market with the new Bushnell Excel Black watch, but how does it match up?

Pros 
Good battery life
Nice design
Not touchscreen
Cons 
Expensive
Occasionally laggy
Counterintuitive layout
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Bushnell’s history lies with optics, not GPS. It’s a company that specialises in binoculars, firearm scopes and pretty much anything to do with lenses. So when the company started making laser rangefinders and Bushnell Golf was launched, it was a natural progression. The R&D was already done.

A GPS golf watch is slightly different. Garmin and TomTom are the market leaders here, probably because they have greater GPS legacy with their satnavs. However, Bushnell is on the offensive and the Excel Golf watch is its latest product. Here’s our review of the Bushnell Excel golf GPS watch.

Bushnell Excel Golf review: Price and competitors

It’s not cheap: in fact, its £189 price tag puts it among the most expensive on the market. Is it worth it? In a word, “no” – at least for the moment. You can save £40 and still buy a better watch in the form of the Garmin Approach S20. However, the S20 has been on the market for a few months now, so the price has dropped. If and when Bushnell follows suit, the Excel will start to look like a more appealing option. Head over to our best golf GPS watches roundup to find out more.

Bushnell Excel Golf review: Getting started

There are a few non-negotiables for a golf GPS watch. Touchscreens are more hassle than they’re worth; buttons are king here. Battery life is very important. Getting an accurate yardage at a glance is key. And the Bushnell Excel is a sports watch that subscribes to all of these.

Let’s start with the screen. It boasts a nicely sized 25 x 25mm circular display with five input buttons. The buttons take some getting used to, as they take considerable force to press. I used the watch without reading the manual, as per, and got lost in the menus on more than one occasion. The main issue is that there are two menu buttons, one titled Golf Menu and another just titled Menu.

Once you learn your way around, things start to improve. Pairing with your phone is easy, and adjusting settings to your taste is a doddle. The Excel can also double as a smartwatch, offering the ability to receive basic phone notifications and operate as a passive fitness tracker, too. These are welcome features but ,in truth, not what you need on a golf course.

Bushnell Excel Golf review: Playing golf

Give yourself plenty of time when setting up the Excel for your round of golf. During testing, it was pretty slow at finding a signal. When I first wore the watch, I started searching for GPS signal while walking over to the first tee box. I was putting on the green (Par 4) when the watch finally beeped to let me know it had found the course. I’ve since played with the Bushnell Excel three more times, and while GPS times improved, but it still can’t be described as fast.

But when you’re off and playing, the watch is great. You’re presented with a nice and big display of yardage to (the centre of) the green, flanked by readings to the front/back of the green. Press the Select button and you can toggle through the yardage of your hole’s hazards too. Like all good golf GPS watches, the Excel will automatically keep up with the hole you’re on and also lets you override this via the Up/Down buttons.

There are three more bonus features. These are Track Shot Distance, Tee Time and Swing Pro. Track Shot Distance is self-explanatory, but Tee Time and Swing Pro are more intriguing. Both are designed to be used with the accompanying (and optional) Bushnell app. The Tee Time feature simply lets you manage your golf dates/times and is superfluous, to say the least. Swing Pro is something you might have read about in other golf watch reviews – it’s a feature that works with your app and provides swing tempo feedback. A helpful feature, but something to save for the driving range rather than the course.

Bushnell Excel Golf review: Battery life

Golf watches have come a long way in the past few years. Early models wouldn’t give you power for much more than a single round (about four hours). Connecting via GPS is very draining even for smartphone batteries. Today’s watches are much better and I’m happy to report the Bushnell Excel is too. Bushnell Golf quotes a battery life of “three rounds before charging” on its website, and from my tests I’d say that’s fair. It averaged roughly 25% of battery drainage for every 3.5-4 hours of golf played.

Bushnell Excel Golf review: Verdict

The Bushnell Excel is a solid golf watch. It covers all the basics and carries out the majority of them really well. There are a couple of issues that could do with ironing out, but nothing that would make you regret buying one. Overall, it’s a good golf GPS watch that will serve you well on the course – it’s just a shame it’s not a little cheaper.

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