There is no shortage of devices hitting the market now for golf. Amateur and professional players alike have started to embrace technology to improve their game and obtain a competitive edge.
Essential reading: Best golf swing analyzers and shot trackers
Smartwatch and sensory gadgets have come a long way in helping golfers hone their skills. Using a GPS watch can help golfers make better decisions. Tiny sensors placed on gloves or clubs can analyse swings, and some wearables track performance, such as how far the ball travels and how accurate the golfer is on the fairway. These gadgets offer unprecedented insights into the game and actionable information to become a better golfer.
This is our roundup of the best golf GPS watches on the market today. While compiling this list, we’ve examined functions and features carefully and thoroughly. We try to test every device personally, but where not possible we took user reviews into consideration and dismissed devices with bad customer reviews and low ratings. This left us with the following selection.
Garmin Approach S6 is a GPS watch that comes with a hi-res colour touchscreen and a rich set of features that will appeal to golfers of all ability levels.
The S6 features full-colour course views for over 40,000 international courses and a dedicated CourseView button, to give you previews of doglegs, traps and water hazards, green shapes and pin positioning from wherever you are on your favorite course. Touch Targeting allows you to touch any point on the display to get the precise distance to that exact spot. The PinPointer blind shot assistance provides better situational awareness during the game.
You can train your swing with SwingTempo, TempoTraining and SwingStrength. SwingTempo measures the relationship between backswing and downswing and expresses it as a ratio 3:1 being the ideal ratio, even with individual variations of speed. TempoTrainer uses the 3:1 ratio, guiding golfers with audible tones to fine-tune their tempo during practice. SwingStrength provides you with immediate feedback on your power percentage.
The watch also provides some basic smartwatch functions and will for example dish out SMS notifications when paired with a smartphone. The battery lasts for 10 hours, more than enough for a good round of golf.
Instead of the S6, you could opt for Garmin’s Approach X40 GPS golf band. Although not as fully featured it comes with a lower price tag and slimmer design. You still get precise distances to greens, hazards and doglegs.
On the course, Approach X40’s AutoShot round analyzer automatically detects shots along the fairway and measures distances for post-round analysis on Garmin Connect. With its built-in digital scorecard, the X40 golf band makes it easy to keep track of your score throughout each round.
It also doubles as an activity tracker including Elevate wrist heart rate technology and smart notifcations to connect with your active and healthy lifestyle. Now you can take steps to shoot better golf, while at the same time keeping an eye on your overall fitness and well-being.
Launched in July, the S60 is a luxury timepiece with GPS golf technology. This sleek looking wearable is essentially as a scaled-down version of Garmin’s Fenix 5 super-watch. It boasts a sunlight-readable 1.2 inch color touchscreen display and interchangeable watchbands.
You’ll find course view mapping right on your wrist and access to information such as yardages to greens, hazards and doglegs. It also features AutoShot game tracking technology and like other Garmin models the S60 is compatible with the Garmin Golf app that has a plethora of social features and allows users to compete in leaderboards with other Garmin users.
You can keep the S60 on your wrist when you’re off the course as the device also doubles up as a 24/7 activity tracker. It will keep tabs on your steps, calories, distance and sleep, and spit out alerts to get you moving. The only thing it seems to be missing is a heart rate sensor. You can get smartphone notifications on it, as well – right down to weather forecasts for anyone worried about a potential rainout.
TomTom are market leaders in car satellite navigation and they have a meaningful presence in the golf industry as well. Offering a similar feature set to the Garmin S6, the light and slim TomTom Golfer 2 GPS Watch is an option definitely worth considering.
Now with automatic shot detection and post-game analysis you can drive your game to the next level. Other features include a database of more than 40,000 courses and a GPS chip providing precise yardages to the front, centre and back of the green, as well as distances to individual hazards incuding creeks and streams along the fairway.
Unlike the S6 there is no colour display but the 168 x 144 monochrome screen offers course graphics and a green view mode for checking out the position of the flag. The watch has a durable, scratch resistant, super-tough display and is water resistant up to 50 metres so you can play regardless of the conditions. There is also a score-keeping function, distance and time for your round and information on the calories you’ve burned during your session.
Vivoactive 3 is the successor to the Vivoactive HR, a Swiss knife of activity trackers. Garmin has realised that it needs to introduce a less bulky form factor if it is to appeal to a larger demographic. And on that count, the Vivoactive 3 does not dissapoint. With a classy new design, it closely resembles Garmin’s Fenix and Forerunner line.
There are 15 built-in GPS sports profiles, including new ones for snowboarding, cardio, yoga, eliptical and stair stepper. Vivoactive 3 will also let you mix it up by creating customized workouts. Other new features include VO2Max and stress/workout tracking.
When it comes to golf you’ll get a plethora of features including: yardage to F/M/B (distance to front, middle and back of green), yardage to layups/doglegs, measures shot distance (calculates exact yardage for shots from anywhere on course), digital scorecard, stat tracking (strokes, putts per round, greens and fairways hit) and more.
Approach S20 records the location and distance of every shot automatically and provides a wide range of statistics. This includes precise distances to the front, back and middle of the green, distances to course targets such as sand traps, water hazards and more, as well as layups and doglegs.
S20’s AutoShot feature automatically detects every swing and records each shot’s location for post-round analysis on your Garmin Connect account. You can even see all your shots overlaid onto a map to find out your own personal trends and tendencies.
The watch is designed to be worn both on and off the course as it offers daily activity tracking. This includes counting steps, calories, distance, measuring sleep and giving you inactivity nudges throughout the day. You can easily get through an entire weekend of golf as the watch runs for 15 hours while in GPS mode, and an impressive 8 weeks in watch mode with activity tracking.
GolfBuddy BB5 takes the form of a band rather than a traditional watch. A variety of different color wristbands are offered separately in two different sizes. The device doubles up as a pedometer and displays distance to the front or back of the green on its LED dot display for more than 38,000 courses.
The full feature set includes: distances to front/center/back of the green; shot distance measurement; pedometer; auto course/hole recognition; water resistant; time; rechargeable battery and an interchangeable wristband.
Compared to some of the other devices available, this is a rather limited feature set – so may suit those who only want the basics.
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