Garmin are one of the leading brands in GPS technology and since applying their expertise to golf they’ve made quite the splash. In fact, Garmin GPS golf devices are right up there with the very best on the market and whether it’s handheld GPS, laser range finders or watches, Garmin have all bases covered.
Golf GPS technology has come on in leaps and bounds over recent years and now all golfers can not only have pinpoint accurate yardages to the green, but they can access detailed information on hazards, elevation and even wind. Playing on a course you’ve never seen before? No problem, detailed maps are available and you can even get club recommendations for each shot you face. And get this; all of that is available just by looking at your wrist. Amazing, right?
The golf watch is a truly wonderful invention that makes a golfer’s life so much easier. While not as essential as having the best driver, best golf bag, best golf balls, or best golf shoes, a GPS watch will undoubtedly help your game and make your pre-shot thought process much simpler.
Sure, you might still shoot a high score even if you have one of the best GPS golf watches around, but your bad rounds won’t be because of a lack of information as you can now have the same kind of insight that previously was only available to golfers who could afford to hire their own caddy.
Some golfers may prefer a standard GPS device, a laser range finder or even just an app on their smartphone, but in my experience a GPS watch is the simplest way to get the correct yardage and once you become accustomed to using it it’s difficult to imagine ever being without one.
Garmin offer a wide range of devices catering for all budgets and golfing requirements, but it can be confusing if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Luckily for you, T3 are here to help.
I have extensively tested Garmin’s range of GPS devices over the course of the last 12 months, including their full catalogue of watches so without further ado, here is my handy guide to the best GPS watches Garmin has to offer.
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Here's the best Garmin golf watch in action
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The S62 is Garmin’s flagship golf offering and - solely in terms of performance - in my opinion it’s comfortably the best golf watch on the market.
The S62 succeeded the very popular S60, which is a fine watch in its own right and worth considering if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to an S62 (you can still pick up an S60 for around £300 while stocks last).
The main advancements in the newer model are an increased screen size, higher resolution graphics, longer battery life (double the time when in GPS mode) and extra features such as pulse oximeter, mobile payment and virtual caddie.
The S62 isn’t just a golf watch mind; it has plenty of smart watch functions too with a particular emphasis on health and fitness. There’a a heart rate sensor, step counter and numerous apps for activities such as cycling, running and swimming. You get notifications but can’t reply to them like you would on an Apple Watch for example. It’s a smart watch but it isn’t that smart!
On the golf course, however, it has unparalleled performance. As well as all of the standard things you’d expect, the S62 has all manner of cool extras. It automatically records the distance of every shot (which makes finding balls that have strayed from the fairway a whole lot easier), shot tracking is available which is great for those who enjoy the analytical side of things, and the touchscreen makes it simple to check distances for hazards and to find the ideal spot on the fairway for layups.
What separates the S62 from the rest is that after you have played five rounds using the watch you will have access to the ‘virtual caddie’ feature, which will give you club recommendations based on how far you hit each club in the club, while also taking other external factors into account, such as wind and elevation.The MARQ Golfer is the only other Garmin watch that currently offers this function.
The S62 does not need to be used in tandem with a smartphone as it works perfectly well on its own, but if you do pair it with the phone during the round you will have access to wind and slope details with the ‘plays like’ feature. So whereas a standard GPS watch may be telling you you have 150 yards to the pin, the reality may be quite different if you are playing uphill and into a 10mph headwind. The S62 factors that into the number it gives you.
To find out more on this beauty, check out my full review of the Garmin Approach S62.
The S42 offers the best combination of value / performance in the Garmin golf range mainly because it does many of the things the S62 can do while coming in at a whopping two hundred pounds cheaper.
This watch is the successor to the S40 and Garmin have taken everything good from the S40 and improved on it further with the S42. The main difference being that the S42 has 5 hours more battery life in GPS mode than its predecessor. In other words, you get an extra round of golf from the newer model.
While the S62 remains Garmin’s flagship GPS watch, the S42 shares many of the same features and incorporates smart watch applications like step tracking, notifications, calorie and sleep monitoring along with fitness profiles for different sports and water protection. The heart rate monitor still only lives in the S62.
The S42 is also touchscreen but unlike the three button set up of the S62 it uses a single button operation system, which actually works better than you'd probably think and doesn't restrict functionality.
As mentioned above, the S62 has the ‘plays like’ feature which factors in slope and wind speed when giving you yardages. This is illegal in tournament play but unlike with the Garmin Approach Z82 rangefinder for example, there is no way to visibly show that this is switched off on the S62 and golfers were relying on the honour system. The S42 does NOT have the ‘plays like’ feature so is better suited for golfers who play competitively.
One other small edge the S42 has over the slightly older and significantly more expensive S62 is that the GPS locator works considerably quicker. When you arrive at the course and select 'golf' it knows where you are within a few seconds. Don't get me wrong, the S62 is not slow by any means, but the S42 is super quick.
You can track each individual shot using the ‘last shot’ function. This is the same function the S62 displays automatically on the home screen, but in this model it needs to be manually selected which can be a tad inconvenient at times.
As with all Garmin golf watches the S42 is very good for post round analysis and is compatible with the C10 club sensors (which must be bought separately).
This watch is ideal for those who don’t have the budget for the S62 but who who want something that is still packed with features and functionality. All in all, this watch offers the best combination of value and performance.
The MARQ Golfer crosses Garmin's Fenix and Approach ranges, then festoons it with titanium and other luxury materials. The result is a feature-packed gentleman's watch that's obviously great for golfers but also has a wealth of additional fitness and smartwatch features.
The MARQ is built with premium materials, a 46-millimeter titanium case and ceramic bezel with custom etched 1-18 golf hole markings. A domed sapphire lens and an always-on, sunlight-readable display also mark this out as a high quality piece of tech. It's not as attractive as an OLED screen, but it's more practical and allows for much longer battery life.
On the course it has very much the same functionality as the S62, with the one significant difference being it isn’t touchscreen.
The real beauty of the MARQ Golfer though is that you can wear it off the course too. It’s stylish enough to wear out to dinner, serves all the usual smartwatch needs – ie: notifications – and is practical enough to meet all your health and wellness requirements.
It’s jam packed with everything you’d expect from a smartwatch and then some, while the five button set up makes it very simple to use, once you've figured out what each button does of course!
The MARQ Golfer comes with three Approach CT10 club tracking sensors for advanced tracking capabilities, including locations, distances and club type.
If the price does not put you off then this is the golf watch you should go for as it combines virtually all of the on course functionality of the S62 with a stylish, premium look that will make you never want to take it off.
If you're thinking of taking the plunge be sure to read my full review of the Garmin MARQ golfer first, so you know exactly what you're getting. Alternatively, if you're trying to decide which premium Garmin watch to go for we can also help you with this handy comparison of the Garmin MARQ versus the Approach S62.
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If you want no faffing and a watch that just does a basic job to give you the info you require and very little else, then you’ll love the S12.
It has a plain black and white screen, the images are basic and there’s no touchscreen so everything is controlled via four buttons.
You get yardages to the front middle and back and you can move the pin around to different positions for a more accurate figure. As with the S42 there are dots on the green graphics to show where the front middle and back yardages are taken from.
Score entry is pretty much the same as with the other, more premium Garmin watches. You’ll enter your score, how many putts you had, whether you hit the fairway or missed left or right, and it will also ask if you had any penalties on the hole.
There is a shot tracker option but it works differently to the more expensive Garmin watches. The S62 automatically shows the distance your shot has travelled without you doing anything, whereas the S42 will show you that information if you scroll through the menu and select ‘last shot’. The S12 needs to be activated manually from the spot you hit the shot and will then begin counting the yards when you start moving.
This isn’t ideal if you’re not used to having to do that, but for golfers who haven’t used a GPS watch before then it’s something you will quickly get into the habit of doing.
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Not all golfers like wearing a watch on the course. Some find it off putting and feel that it interferes with their swing. If that’s you, then you might want to consider the G12. This nifty little device is to all intents and purposes a GPS pocket watch.
You can clip it to your belt or your golf bag, or alternatively just keep it in your pocket as it’s so small you won’t even notice it’s there.
As with all Garmin GPS devices it’s pre-loaded with over 42,000 courses and it’s C10 sensor compatible. A four button set up makes it quick and simple to use on the course and it has most of the same features you’ll find in the S12.
Greens are shown to their true shape and you get yardages to front, middle and back of the green as well as distances to any hazards along the way. You can keep score and all of your stats will be uploaded to your Garmin account when you sync to your smartphone either during or after your round.