Technology dominates every facet of our everyday lives, so why should it be any different when we are out on the golf course. We want to know how far we’re running, how far we are walking and how far we are driving. So why should we not use the technology to find out how far we need to hit a golf ball? How often do we set off for somewhere unknown and just try to guess where it is exactly? That’s right, never! So why should we be guessing how far we have to hit a golf shot? In today’s world, knowledge is power, and we can have the knowledge attached to our wrist and at the touch of a button, so let’s use it! It's not a question of whether I should be using this technology. It’s a case of not being left behind if I’m not!
That is where a golf GPS watch comes in.
What is a GPS Golf Watch
The fact that you are reading this guide suggests a certain level of interest already in acquiring this piece of kit. That’s great because the price of a GPS watch means it is not something to be kept tucked away in a drawer. This needs to be used. It is not for an occasional golfer, but a keen player who is always out on the course.
Are you a mid to low handicapper where every yard matters? Do you want to know that exact distance that can make that crucial difference? Are you desperate to turn bogeys into pars or pars into birdies?
Do you get invited to play lots of different courses or go on annual golf trips with family or a group of friends? If so, the enjoyment of playing alien golf courses would be so much better if we understand what’s required for each shot on each hole. There is nothing more frustrating than saying, ‘If only I’d known exactly how far I had to hit it…’
Are Golf Watches allowed in competitions?
Yes, but please read on carefully. Golf GPS watches, laser rangefinders and handheld GPS devices are permitted but with certain rules in place. Players are allowed to access distances, local weather information and scorecards.
But there are a number of DON’Ts, too. You cannot be recommended a certain club, there should be nothing to indicate slopes, you cannot access data information from your own current round and the player’s swing cannot be analysed as the round is ongoing. If the device is easily readable, and a prohibited function is displayed, the player can be penalised for having that information available even if they have not used it to their advantage.
Incorrect use of technology causes the loss of hole in matchplay and a two-shot penalty in strokeplay.
How can a golf GPS watch improve my game?
Golf GPS watches, laser rangefinders and handheld GPS devices are believed to improve a player’s performance by around 4.1 shots per round – a jump that cannot be ignored. Exact yardages and the ability to assess slopes on fairways and greens, and conditions like windspeed means players have the necessary information to process the shots required at any given point.
With any one of these products, there are no longer any excuses for not knowing what shot to hit at any point in the round.
Here at AMERICAN GOLF, we have picked out some of the best golf GPS watches along with a few alternative devices that will keep you up-to date and in sync with what is out there.
Best Golf GPS Watches
This golf watch is exclusive to American Golf. Perfect on the course, it is styled to look good in every day surroundings. The colourful CourseView mapping has over 40,000 golf courses uploaded while the PlaysLike distance mode for uphill and downhill shots is ideal for the golfer who regularly plays on a hilly layout.
The Garmin Approach S60 benefits from a larger and improved 1.2inch screen, perfectly readable in all conditions with a higher resolution and an enhanced touch. This golf GPS watch has AutoShot game tracking that allows the golfer to record all of his or her shots for analysis over a drink at the 19th hole. Another new feature is that this GPS watch will automatically update golf courses that you play often when synced with Garmin Connect.
That Garmin connectivity with your smartphone means that notifications of any phone calls or e-mails can be synced to the device, which has a battery that lasts for up to ten hours in GPS mode.
This golf watch is also great for non-golfing activities. The Activity Tracking feature keeps tabs on the number of steps walked, calories burned and even monitors the amount of sleep you have. The user of the watch can also switch from golf (if you think you have mastered it!) to download apps for other sports like running, cycling and swimming to work on keeping fit and active.
This premium golf watch has a bigger face than the Garmin S60, making it easier to use out on the course and comes with full colour course mapping of over 41,000 golf courses. An insight into Green View and Hazards allows you to add in the pin placement to refine your accuracy even more.
Plus, if you can’t have a caddie out there with you, this is the next best thing. The Virtual Caddie feature will factor in wind directions and with every one of your swings being auto-recorded and saved, can take into account previous shots to decide on what club to hit for the one in front of you.
On top of being one of the best golf watches, the S62 offers fitness tracking and a heart rate monitor. The watch can also be used to make contactless payments, so you don’t need to worry about carrying a wallet around with you.
Another great feature is that in GPS mode, the battery can last for up to 20 hours – or somewhere between four and five rounds of golf.
This black golf GPS watch comes in more of a budget end of the market. This French company has been a pioneer in rangefinders and sports optics and they have produced a durable design for this golf watch, which contains a database of 38,000 worldwide golf courses to draw upon, as well as front, centre and back of the green information, and hazards.
It offers precise distance calculations to hazards and is particularly good on those dreaded blind shots and dog legs that none of us like taking on. However, the battery life is only good for around 2.5 rounds of golf.
This product from Shot Scope has proved popular with customers and has achieved consistent reviews across all aspects. It is one of the lightest GPS golf watches on the market at just 41 grams, making it very comfortable to wear, full stop. The colour screen offers access to 36,000 courses and a free mobile app jam packed with statistics about your game. Every shot you hit will be recorded by using the 16 tracking tags, one for each of your clubs, and Power-Sense strap. While before you know it, you’ll be studying up after the round has finished on where you have done well or where you have struggled thanks to over 100 Tour-level statistics, including industry-leading ones on putting. With this golf GPS watch, there really are no excuses for the keen golfer not to make vital improvements to their game.
Alternatives to a gps watch:
Coming in at this price, this is a serious piece of kit. And it is meant for VERY serious golfers. The portable launch monitor goes into professional-level detail to pore over every facet of your golf game. Rather than for use out on the course, this is probably best for use on the driving range or if you are lucky enough, at home, as you can set it up to record you hitting balls. The device has more than a dozen metrics, such as ball speed, clubhead speed, spin - basically lots of the jargon you hear pros talk about when going into detail about their game. So it will allow you to work on those aspects to make a pro-like level to make the one percent upgrade you want to have an impact on the course.
Then once happy with your practise, you can put the golf simulator to use. With over 42,000 courses stored, you can take on the challenge of one of the best courses in the world to test your ball flight or your total distance. Play virtual rounds and post your scores to Garmin’s global leaderboard to test yourself against golfers of a similar standard from around the world.
This American Golf exclusive is an excellent alternative to the golf watches and laser rangefinders. This handheld GPS device is very quick and easy to use if you don’t want the hassle of all the information you need being contained in your watch. With access to more than 40,000 courses worldwide, you are kept up to date with information on greens, doglegs and hazards. It is easy to use and the big numbers mode makes the sunlight readable touchscreen display particularly accessible. It is compact in size and would fit easily in your pocket or one of the small pockets in your golf bag. There is an easy-to-use digital scorecard, while one full charge is enough for 15 hours of battery.
About the Author
Adam Lanigan - Golf Writer
Adam is a freelance news and sports journalist who has written for the BBC, The Sunday Post, The I, The Times, The Telegraph and more. He has been writing about golf for nearly two decades and has covered 13 Open Championships and two Ryder Cups. Not only does Adam cover golf, but he has played golf for as long as he can remember. He was a member at Northenden Golf Club for around 25 years until his children arrived and his last official handicap was 11, although on any given day his form fluctuates anywhere between eight and 18.