Best Golf GPS Watches In 2018 – Complete Guide for Golf Enthusiasts
Out on the course, eliminating worrying thoughts or fear can produce great results because you tend to swing freely and focus on what is truly important. Knowing what lies ahead can make a huge difference when selecting a club and committing to a shot. The best players around the world use rangefinders to find exact yardages for their rounds. Tour professionals will use rangefinders in their practice round to help dial in distances when they truly need it in competition. Finding the best golf GPS watches that can deliver reliable distances, will transform any player into a more confident golfer.
There are a ton of factors to weigh against each other in this golf GPS watch review, to help find the right fit for you. Some of the factors include: the amount of courses available, weight of the watch, durability, waterproof or not, distances available (to green, hazards, layups, etc.), smart phone connection possibility, the screen on the face of the watch, band comfort, price, and reliability. Some of the factors may be more important to you depending on the type of game you play. Without a doubt, most rangefinders will benefit a player in finding yardages quickly and reliably, but the extra features are where each watch will separate itself from the rest of the field.
1 Garmin Approach S2 GPS Golf Watch
Garmin watches have been the top-of-the-line for fitness and activity tracking. Their expansion into golf GPS rangefinders has been an easy one. Garmin’s tracking and distance measuring creates one of the best golf GPS watches on the market. Their coverage is expansive with over 40,000 courses around the world. The yardage available to golfers are front, back and middle of greens as well as layup and dogleg distances. While calculating distances to different locations, it also has an odometer ability to track the amount of distance covered while playing a golf round.
Instead of losing and constantly searching for a physical scorecard, the watch can act as a digital scorecard to download on to a computer. The scorecard can then be stored and printed to have a physical copy. Another great feature is that it is lightweight and waterproof. Not having to worry about keeping a scorecard or a laser rangefinder dry, the Garmin Approach S2 functions in the rain giving reliable yardages. The model comes in white/grey, purple/white, black/red, and black/green options.
2 Bushnell NEO XS GPS Rangefinder Watch
Bushnell is the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Champions Tour, and U.S. Amateur leader in rangefinders. Their presence, since the beginning, has been dominant and the new watch market is a new territory for the company to tackle. The NEO XS model is pre-loaded with over 33,000 courses in over 30 countries and has no membership or download fees. Once you get the Bushnell watch, it is ready to play. It has an extremely long battery life when in normal watch mode. If you use it in golf mode, it will last over three rounds before needing a charge.
The Bushnell NEO XS model has the standard front, center, and back distances displayed on its 23mm x 23mm screen. In addition to that, distances for hazard and layup distances can be displayed (as many as four per hole) and there is a distance calculator after a shot is played. An odometer is installed to help keep track of how much ground is covered in a round. The NEO XS watch comes in black/yellow, charcoal/orange, and white/blue color combinations.
3 POSMA GT2 Trainer + Activity Tracking GPS Watch
POSMA Sport is an up and coming brand that deals largely with watches and other outdoor wearable items, which is mostly for people that enjoy working out and playing sports. The POSMA GT2 is focused on the game of golf and a player that wants to get better. When heading to the first tee, the watch will automatically register which course you are at. The high-tech watch will tell front, center, and back of green distances as well as hazards within the course (e.g. water, bunker or large trees). If the course offers double green options, the watch will be able to switch between left or right greens with the push of a button. A feature that is not included in most watches is the ability to track the previous shot distance for future reference. This can be helpful for club selection if a similar distance is needed for a future shot.
The GT2 model will monitor things other than distances for golf shots. The watch has a built-it pedometer, which can track the amount of steps taken during a round. In addition to steps taken, the device can also calculate the amount of energy spent (calories) while playing holes or practicing. Practice or play can be done in inclement weather because the GT2 is waterproof. The lithium-ion battery will last you 8-10 hours in play mode (measuring distances and tracking numbers) while it will last around eight days in simple watch mode. The watch is available in a solid black with red band highlights.
4 Garmin Approach S20 GPS Golf Watch
Garmin Approach S20 is their high-end model in golf GPS rangefinder watches. The stylish face acts as a caddy out on the course and doubles as an everyday watch. It has smart notifications from a compatible smartphone for incoming calls, texts and other alerts. The Approach S20 model has preloaded over 40,000 courses worldwide and will display it over a high-resolution face. With a lithium-ion battery, the watch will run up to 15 hours in GPS mode or eight weeks with just the activity tracking mode enabled. In GPS mode, the device will track the front, middle, and back of each green. Leading up to the hole, it can track hazards, doglegs, and layup distances.
An interesting feature that is included in the Garmin S20 but not in most golf GPS watches, is the ability to track shots and record locations (where you were) for a post-round analysis. It is a lot like the shot-tracker ability on the PGA Tour online website, which will follow each shot for a player on the course and plot out where the player has been on a hole until it is holed. This can be combined with statistic tracking on the watch. The stats that can be recorded are fairways hit, greens in regulation (GIR), and putts per round. It is a great tool for players looking to improve their game.
On the watch face, a different green view can be toggled and show the true shape of a green. It does not matter what angle you are coming in to the green, because it will automatically adjust depending on your position relative to the putting surface. Along with the golf distance and green view, the S20 model can display steps taken, calories burned, time of day, and monitor hours of sleep. It comes in four different colors including black, white, midnight teal, and slate.
5 Garmin Vivoactive HR GPS Smart Watch
Garmin’s Vivoactive GPS Smart Watch does more than just calculate golf distances. It is an all-around active lifestyle watch that will track metrics while running, biking, swimming, golfing or walking. While tracking different statistics for various sports, the smart watch can calculate heart rate all day and night. The battery will last you eight days in normal watch or activity tracking mode while lasting 13 hours when using GPS.
For golf, the Garmin Vivoactive allows a golfer to choose from over 38,000 courses to download for use. The device will show distances for front, center, and back of greens along with layup distances and doglegs. The layup distances will display yardages in 50 yard increments starting at 100 yards, to give a great idea of how far a player has to hit it for an ideal distance. On the face, the number and the par of each hole with the distances can be displayed. The device can also display your score after each hole if you use the scorecard feature. It is fully waterproof for players toughing it out in the rain. The watch comes in regular or extra-large sizes and is a classy watch that would be fashionable to wear both on and off the golf course.
6 Golf Buddy Ladies LD2 GPS Watch
Golf Buddy is one of the first to target the female golfer with their Ladies LD2 GPS Watch. It is combined with Swarovski crystals lining the top and bottom of the watch LCD display face. Golf Buddy also added a genuine leather strap with alligator grain. It is both stylish and effective on the course, even when it is raining because it is waterproof up to 10 meters. The operation life time is six hours when functioning in GPS mode or nine weeks in standard watch mode, but is easily rechargeable with the lithium-ion battery.
The sophisticated watch has a GPS odometer to track the distance traveled while walking around a course. At the end of a round it will give a summary giving time spent and total mileage. The LD2 can measure distances to the front, center, and back of the green on one of 40,000 courses possible. In addition to the green distances, it has capabilities to calculate hazard yardages for an ideal layup or carry shot.
7 SkyGolf SW2 GPS Watch
SkyGolf SW2 is SkyCaddie’s newest line in GPS watches. The lightweight, all black watch gives players a confidence with their reliable accuracy. No annual fees are required and it preloaded with 35,000 courses, so it is ready to play when you get it. The simple yet effective design eliminates any confusion out on the course. The battery will last up to 14 hours in GPS mode and has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. It should last a golfer at least three rounds before having to recharge if it is used solely for golf.
On the golf course, the SW2 can track distances for the front, center, and back of greens. The display will show the center distances in the middle of the screen while the front and back will read below. Scores can be recorded and then synced to their Sky Golf 360 system. Storage of the scores can allow a golfer to break down their round and compare it to other rounds.
The smart technology within the phone also allows golfers to receive notifications of texts, calls and emails. This is a nice feature because it eliminates the hassle of having to dig in your bag when hearing your phone beep or ring. Walking around the golf track, the device will yield a distance from the continuous odometer. As well as tracking walking distance, it can also track time, laps, speed, and calories if you happen to be working out. The usefulness can be seen both on and off the course.
8 TomTom Golfer 2 GPS Watch
TomTom is known for their GPS systems for cars and other vehicles. Their expansion into one of the best golf GPS watches companies makes perfect sense. The same technology used for making perfect routes on roads and highways will lead you around a golf course with precision. The TomTom Golfer 2 device will automatically detect when a shot is hit and record it in a log. The recorded shots can be compared to see which part of your game needs work. An example of this would be if you tend to miss shots from the 175 distance, it will record that you tend to be 20 yards short of the desired distance. This can then be used to make practice time more efficient knowing what needs to be worked on. It will display the front, center, and back of green distances as well as individual hazards throughout the course.
Along with recording shots distances, the TomTom can act as a virtual scorecard without the use of a pencil or paper. You can then upload each round to compare statistics from previous rounds. A unique thing to TomTom is the ‘Ultimate Round’ feature which will take the best holes from rounds that have been played at the same course and put it all together. It is an interesting view on your game because it shows you the possibility of going low; you have done it once before and can do it again.
9 GolfBuddy Voice GPS (and Wristband)
GolfBuddy has created a very simple rangefinder to guide a player around the course. The wristband must be bought separately but comes in several different colors. The device is lightly weighted, measuring in at a little over one ounce or 29 grams. A voice guides you through the round telling you how far each distance is. There is a voice that comes with both a male and female option and is available in 11 different languages. This smart technology requires few adjustments during the round, and will decipher which course you are on out of the 40,000 worldwide it contains. It measures distances to the back, front, and middle of each green while automatically registering which hole you are on out on the course.
The battery life in the GolfBuddy lasts up to 14 hours, so depending on how fast you play you can use it over two rounds every charge. The LCD display gives clear yardages without having to guess which number it is trying to show. Rain resistant technology allows any golfer to play in the wet weather and get the most out of their round.
10 Bushnell Neo Ion Golf GPS Watch
Bushnell’s newest GPS rangefinder watch is the Neo Ion. It is preloaded with over 35,000 courses in over 30 countries. The auto-course recognition will make finding the track you are playing a lot easier. Along with the auto-course recognition, it will automatically advance to the next hole when a hole is completed. When it recognizes which hole you are on, it will show the front, middle, and back distances as well as hazards and layup yardages. This can help when deciding which club to select and help plot your way around the course.
The long-lasting battery will last over three rounds while using the GPS setting. The Neo Ion is a little thicker than the other Bushnell XS model but it is because of the extra features and larger battery. While out on the course, it will simultaneously count steps taken much like a Fitbit or other activity watch. The watch is also like other activity watches because it has a very comfortable, flexible strap that you will not have to worry about when swinging.
How to Determine the Best GPS Watch?
The best golf GPS watches is a subjective matter for each golfer. Through this review, features have been described for each product to help decide on the right fit. There are features and qualities that may make a watch superior in different areas than others. For the most part, they track yardages very similarly and yet they are all unique. The added confidence that players get from a reliable GPS watch can lead to improved consistency from certain distances and lower scores.
The main factors that should be taken into account to are reliability, distances available and the amount of courses it possesses. The reliability factor is the single-most important factor because without reliability, distances will be off. Most watch brands have experience with calculating distance with other products and use the same technology in their watches. This also impacts the distances available to players. A watch may only have distances to greens when it may be helpful to have distances for hazards and other layup spots. This feature is critical when playing a new course because you may not know what the hole looks like or how to play it. The amount of courses a watch is capable of tracking is make or break. If the watch does not have the course you play regularly it would not be worth it! The more the GPS watch carries, the more likely it will have different courses you play or will play eventually.
Secondary factors that are still important are smart phone connection, band comfort, and price. Smart phone connection for your watch will eliminate any miscommunication between other people when you are out on the links. A few watches will be able to send alerts to notify when people are trying to contact you. You may not want this feature and can toggle it to remove the alerts so it does not bother you. Having a product, especially the band in a watch, that fits and feels comfortable is another consideration. Pricing on the watches are in a pretty close range. Some features that are unique to that watch may increase the price because it is only available on that merchandise.
The Perfect Fit
In this golf GPS watch review, many products were compared with different qualities and features. Rangefinders, in theory, should deliver the same results. With so many options to deliver yardages out on the course, products vary in many ways. Choosing which distances you would like to see in your game could depend on your skill level or need for yardages. If you are a more precise, plotter-of-the-golf-course player then you may want all of the distances available on a watch; if you are a “it-plays-about 150” type player than a device with center distances could suffice. Weighing all of the factors and features against each other will yield the right fit for you and your game.