Bushnell Ion Elite Watch-6

Bushnell Ion Elite Review: A Solid $200 GPS Golf Watch

When I think of Bushnell, the first thing that comes to mind are their excellent laser rangefinders.

This has historically been their bread and butter when it comes to golf.

But over the last few years, they’ve been branching out and creating an array of solid products across the golf space.

The Bushnell Launch Pro is the most hyped Bushnell release this past year.

But they also make a great cart GPS in the Phantom 2, and they’ve had some solid budget golf watches like the ION 2 and ION Edge.

And today we’re talking about their latest foray into the GPS golf world: the ION Elite.

Bushnell has yet to take on the likes of Garmin with a truly high-end golf watch, but the new ION Elite is their most full-featured to date.

At $199, this represents an excellent value in the budget GPS watch category, but is it the right watch for you?

Let’s find out.

First Impressions of the Bushnell ION Elite

My last experience with a Bushnell golf watch was the ION 2, which was perfectly serviceable. 

It gives very accurate GPS numbers, but lacks a color screen, and considering it retailed for $200 at the time – it feels like a high price for what you get.

The successor to that is the ION Edge, which you can currently pick up for $100, and that feels like a very good deal.

But the ION Elite is what we’re talking about today.

It’s the first Bushnell watch I’ve used that is full color, and has GPS maps built into the watch itself.

Out of the box, the ION Elite feels pretty much as I expected it to.

It’s a light watch, with a high-quality rubber strap.

Opening the box of the ION Elite.

There’s a cute little bouncing golf ball animation that displays when you turn it on, and the screen itself is very bright and easy to read.

The ION Elite is a nice size at 46mm, and feels similar to wearing any of the other GPS watches I’ve tested over the last couple of years.

It’s slightly smaller than the Garmin S62 or the Apple Watch Ultra, and feels much lighter than either of those (especially the Ultra.)

It feels similar to the previous generation Bushnell watches or the TecTecTec budget watch.

The Bushnell Ion Elite Watch Compared to the Garmin S62 and Apple Watch Ultra

One thing that you immediately notice is there’s only one button, and its placement around the 10 o’clock marker is unique, and is a cool aesthetic touch.

It takes a hole or two to adjust to the location if you’re used to a traditional button at the 3 o’clock spot, but I adjusted very quickly.

One thing I wish all GPS watch manufacturers would adopt is using a universal USB-C charger. Each company often has their own proprietary charger, which is easy to lose. 

I pretty much always have a USB-C on hand, but if I forgot to charge my watch and I’m already on the way to the course – likely out of luck.

This is personal pet peeve however, so it may not bother you in the slightest.

Setting Up the Bushnell ION Elite

Setting up the ION Elite is a breeze.

In my experience, this watch tended to lock on to satellites faster than other watches I’ve used, and immediately pops up with the course I’m at. In less than 90 seconds after turning it on, I was ready to golf.

The ION Elite has a bright color screen.

If you decide to pair it with the Bushnell golf app, it only takes an extra minute or two to setup the watch with your Bushnell account.

The app allows you save your scores, track statistics from your game, get additional GPS data on your phone, and also update the watch with future firmware updates. So it’s worth taking the time to setup and pair.

If you already use the app for say, the Bushnell Wingman for instance, then you’ll get even more benefit out of using it.

Best GPS Watch Under $200
Bushnell iON Elite Black Golf GPS Watch
$204.99

The Busnell ION Elite is a full color GPS golf watch with some great features for the price. It's not as robust as more expensive Garmin models, but is an excellent watch for the money.

Buy from Amazon Buy from Bushnell
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/04/2022 07:02 am GMT

Bushnell ION Elite Performance

Despite being Bushnell’s best GPS golf watch, it still sits in the top end of the “budget” category.

Watches like the Garmin S42, Garmin S62, and Voice Caddie T9 all have far more features than the Bushnell.

But for most golfers? All of those extra features are cool to have, but likely not necessary.

Chances are you just want to easily and accurately get distances around the course and keep your score.

And I can firmly attest that the Bushnell ION Elite does this very well.

The display is very easy to use and navigate.

You can clearly see distances to the front, back, and center of the green in the center of the watch.

Then there are 5 different digital buttons around the screen that give you various options:

The main screen of the watch while golfing.

Green View

On the top right there’s a pin and green icon that opens up the “Green View” feature.

This shows you the green and allows you to tap anywhere on it to get an exact distance.

The feature works pretty well, but and is more precise than the comparable Garmin S12, but not as robust as higher-end watches.

As an example, the Voice Caddie T9 will show you detailed heatmaps and the undulation of the green – where as this is just distances to any point.

But if you know where the flag is, being able to zero in on that data is useful, and easy to access.

Score

In the bottom right there’s a button for score.

It’s very easy to keep score on the ION Elite. 

After each hole you can plug in how many shots you had, as well as how many putts.

Then it gives you the option to tell it whether you hit the fairway or missed on the left or right.

This data can be accessed for all of your rounds in the Bushnell app, and it only takes a few seconds to input – so it’s quite useful if you aren’t tracking via a different tool.

The auto switch from hole to hole works great. Some watches I’ve seen will have the score screen come up after each hole, and in my two rounds with the ION Elite, it hasn’t done this.

However, there may be a setting to enable it that I missed.

Current Hole

On the bottom it shows the current hole you’re on and what the par is.

You can easily switch holes by tapping this.

If you forgot to add a score on a previous hole, you’ll need to hit this button first to change your hole, and then hit the score button again.

It’s an extra step than it feels like it shouldn’t be, but in practice really isn’t a big deal.

Hazard View

On the bottom left, you can open up the hazard view.

This is super useful, as it gives you distances to each of the hazards on the hole you’re playing like fairway and greenside bunkers, as well as water.

I really enjoy this button layout, because it makes it very easy to quickly get the information I need without having to fumble through menus or deal with complicated menu systems.

GPS Map

Finally on the top left you have GPS view which will give you a GPS overview of the entire hole.

You can zoom in and out, and select any point on the hole to get distances to and from that point.

It’s a nice feature to have, but definitely lags behind other models we’ve tested in terms of visual detail, and responsiveness.

It can be a little tough to pinpoint the exact spot you want – just as was the case with the green view.

That said, keep in mind the watches I’m comparing this to that have these features are all at least $100 more than the Elite, if not significantly more.

So the fact that a sub $200 watch has a color screen and these GPS features is very impressive.

Shot Tracking

If you swipe to the left, there’s a distance-tracking feature. It’s pretty basic, but it allows you to measure your shot from any spot. Hit your drive, select measure, and then look at it again when you get to your ball.

Hit reset, and you can measure again for your next shot.

It’s a little basic, but it’s a welcome (and honestly, expected) feature. There have certainly been a few well-struck drives that I couldn’t wait to get my distance on.

If this is an important feature to you, then you might consider a Garmin watch that’s compatible with their CT10 shot-tracking system.

Those watches and sensors work wonderfully together.

Or you could also go the Arccos route which is what I personally use for most of the rounds I play.

Final Thoughts on the Bushnell ION Elite

Overall, the Bushnell ION Elite is a very capable GPS watch at an attractive price point.

The GPS distances were spot on as you’d expect. The battery life is rated for 12 hours, and that’s on par with what I got. I was able to get two full rounds of golf without charging it, and there was still some juice left after.

The comparable Garmin watch, the S12 is the same retail price, but lacks a full color screen and the full GPS course view. This gives the Bushnell Elite a huge leg up over its primary competitor.

That said, if you’re in the Garmin ecosystem and use, say an Approach R10 or are interested in those CT10 sensors – then you might be willing to forgo the extra features of the Bushnell watch to remain in the Garmin ecosystem.

Bottom line, if you’re new to it all and are just looking for a reliable golf watch with a color screen and nice feature set, then the Bushnell ION Elite is a fantastic watch to consider.

Best GPS Watch Under $200
Bushnell iON Elite Black Golf GPS Watch
$204.99

The Busnell ION Elite is a full color GPS golf watch with some great features for the price. It's not as robust as more expensive Garmin models, but is an excellent watch for the money.

Buy from Amazon Buy from Bushnell
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/04/2022 07:02 am GMT
8.4
Buy it!

Good Things

  • Very accurate
  • Solid feature set for the price
  • Bushnell App works well

Bad Things

  • Proprietary battery charger
  • Lacks features of other high end models

The Breakdown


Presentation
9
Performance and Features
8
Price
9
Personal Affinity
8




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