GPS watches

Some say that GPS technology is the best thing ever invented since sliced bread, and this article is going to prove that premise to be 100 percent true. The point being, we’ll review some of the best golf GPS watches on the market today and we’ll explain you why you should have one in your golf bag. To make a long story short, a proper GPS watch makes for a highly accurate measurement device at your wrist, as it’s capable of mapping out the golf course for you in real time, while providing distances and directions; on top of that, some golf GPS watches offer track scoring features and various other useful metrics, which may help with improving your game in the long run.

Now, here are the main reasons for which you should buy one: most importantly, a golf GPS watch will remove the “guess-work” from equation as it will provide you with reliable distances on the fly, literally removing any doubt regarding what club you are going to use and how to take the next shot.

Then, you’ll be able to play faster than ever before, since you won’t have to waste time on choosing a club or guessing distances; moreover, it will be possible to plan ahead, especially when playing on a new course with a mysterious layout.  Moreover, many high-end golf GPS watches come preloaded with tens of thousands of courses from all around the world, which means you’ll feel right at home even if you play Mar-a-Lago for the first time in your life.

Finally, here are a few things to consider when choosing a golf GPS watch: the design (color, shape, form, size etc.), battery life (go for a model that will last you for multiple rounds and boots quickly), data support (some gadgets provide you with extra downloadable content for free while others require an annual fee for updates), features (the basic models cost less), ruggedness (look for water resistance, anti-glare displays, shock proofing), ease of use and, last but not least, cost. With all these in mind, let’s take a look at our top picks, in no particular order.

Golf GPS Watches Comparison Table

Brand

Battery life

Display size

Water rating

My Rating

Garmin Approach S20

15 hrs

0.9″

Water proof to 5 ATM

5/5

Garmin Approach S10

12 hrs

0.9″

Water proof to 5 ATM

4.5/5

Bushnell Neo iON 2

16 hrs

0.9″

Water resistant

3/5

Callaway GPSy

10-12 hrs

1.28″

Water proof to 1 ATM

3.5/5

GolfBuddy GB9 WTX+

8 hrs

1.2″

Water resistant

4/5

Garmin Approach S20 watch

Released just over a year ago, the Garmin Approach S20 can be described as one of the best mid-level sophisticated golf watches arriving from one of the most reputable companies in the world. The S20 has been designed to look like an everyday watch, which means you can wear it both on and off the golf course. However, this baby is packed to the brim with Garmin’s patented technologies, including tons of golf-centric features, and even boasts a number of smartwatch skills, but let’s see the specs first:

Lens Material: chemically strengthened glass

Display size: 0.9” x 0.9” (23 x 23 mm)

Display resolution: 128 x 128 pixels

Display type: sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)

Weight: 1.5 oz (42.2 g)

Battery life:

Smartwatch mode: Up to 8 weeks

GPS mode: Up to 15 hours

Water rating: 5 ATM

Sensors: GPS & Accelerometer

Daily Smart Features:

Smart notifications

Connectivity: Bluetooth® Smart and ANT+®

Smartphone compatibility: iPhone®, Android™

Compatible with Garmin Connect™ Mobile

To give you a little bit of context, the Garmin Approach S20 literally revolutionized the golf watch industry, as it brings all the technological bells and whistles expected from such a gadget at an affordable price. Starting with the obvious, the watch is made of plastic and comes with an adjustable silicone strap, for helping you achieve the perfect fit. The display is protected by a sheath of strengthened glass, which confers it resistance to wear and tear. Given its plasticky appearance and built, the S20 is very lightweight and comfy, features that make it ideal for everyday use, as it’s designed like a normal smartwatch, i.e. it’s not flashy or bulky, looking just proper on the golf course (the design was inspired from Garmin’s running watches by the way, and those are deemed top of the range!).

Now let’s talk a little shop and see what’s under the hood. The display has a resolution of 128 x 128 pixels, and truth be told, it may appear kind of dull since it’s a monochrome variety,  yet it’s perfectly capable of displaying basic graphics and text. However, we’re talking golf here, not Xbox stuff, i.e. a high-res color display is not really necessary or a deal breaker. What’s essential is sunlight legibility, and the Garmin Approach S20 really shines in this regard.

At a closer look, you’ll discover 4 buttons which allow you to tinker with the S20’s features and menus, and speaking of menus, they’re very intuitive and easy to use. When it comes to golf watches, the most important data required is about distance. As soon as you start the round, the Garmin Approach S20 will go looking for nearby golf courses; as soon as it finds your location via GPS tracking and identifies the course you’re playing on, you’ll see 3 distances displayed on the screen when you’re on your 1st tee: the front, middle and back of the green, plus a map of the green ahead. Moreover, you’ll get more than pin distances i.e. you’ll also receive essential info on lay ups for hazards and dog holes. Truth be told, these are pretty standard features in modern golf watches, but Garmin’s Approach S20 does a solid job in this regard.

Another thing worth mentioning is the built-in scoring system, which is extremely easy to use and shines due to its simplicity. On top of that, you’ll get a special app, Garmin Connect respectively, free and easy to use, which connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and delivers a review of your performances plus useful feedback on rounds played and all that. One of the most impressive things about the S20 though is autonomy, as the battery will last you forever in GPS mode (read 15 hours, which is more than enough) and up to 2 months in smartwatch mode.

Basically, the Garmin Approach S20 is the perfect choice if you’re looking to get the most bang for the proverbial buck asked, as it comes with tons of features, a variety of colors and looks the part both on the golf-course and at the pub.

Pros & Cons

  • Highly accurate GPS
  • Easy to use
  • Auto Shot technology
  • Auto Recording for post-game analysis
  • Lay-up and hazard distances
  • Battery life of 15 hours in golf mode
  • Pre-loaded with over 40,000 golf courses
  • Can be paired with TruSwing sensor
  • Digital Scorecard feature
  • Great features like Green View, Course View Auto Updater, Stat Tracking, Activity Tracking
  • Multi-sport functionality
  • Waterproof
  • Tour legal
  • No color screen
  • Can't display entire hole layout
Garmin Approach S20 Golf GPS Watch - Black White Blue

Garmin Approach S10 watch

The Garmin Approach S10 is the brethren of the S20, the little brother so to speak, being built as a budget golf watch ready to take you for a spin whenever you’re ready. And speaking of value for money, until S10’s arrival, Garmin’s GPS golf watches were pretty expensive. The S10 is on the affordable side, being a golf-specific GPS gadget aimed at offering basic features in a classic watch form. But let’s take a look at the specs first:

Display size: 0.9” x 0.9” (23 x 23 mm)

Display resolution: 128 x 128 pixels
Display type: sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
Weight: 1.2 oz (35 g)
Battery life:
Watch mode: Up to 14 weeks
GPS (Golf) mode: Up to 12 hours
Water rating: 5 ATM
Sensors: GPS
Golfing Features:

Preloaded with over 41,000 courses

Distance to front, middle and back of green

Distance to layups/doglegs

Manual measures shot distance

Digital scorecard

Now, if you’re looking for a flexible, lightweight and functional golf watch that will help you improve your game, but you’re not ready to pay for the “extra-mile of features”, the Garmin Approach S10 is an interesting option, as it features a sporty design and it punches way above its weight, as it offers all essential features required from a GPS golf-centric watch. The first thing you’ll notice about the S10 is its lightweight and slim design; as an interesting factoid, this baby is also available in a clip-on form-factor, so keep that in mind for further reference.

Design wise, the Garmin Approach S10 is built to appeal to the “masses”, i.e. it’s designed for all golfers, regardless of age and even gender. Another important feature of this watch is that it can be used literally anywhere, anytime, including while swimming, driving, golfing, trail running, mountain biking etc. Moving along with our story, the watch boasts a 1.3 inches wide monochrome display, with excellent sunlight legibility. Just like its S20 kin, the Garmin Approach S10 is very lightweight and comfortable to wear, featuring a silicon-made easily adjustable band which fits most hand sizes. The battery is advertised to last for 12 hours in GPS mode on a single charge, and speaking of golf, the watch comes preloaded with literally every golf course in the world, as per the official specs (over 41,000).

Despite being reasonably priced and incredibly lightweight, the Garmin Approach S10 will do everything most people look for in a golf-watch: the display will deliver you accurate distances to the front, middle, and back of the green, and, on top of that, the hole number and par, plus the shape of the green. If you’re looking for hazard information, don’t worry, it’s a screen away. The S10 also allows you to keep score, and even to upload your score card to Garmin Express, i.e. you’ll always have access to your playing history. However, this is not a “stats tracking” thing, i.e. if you want that feature, look elsewhere (hint: the S20).

Pros & Cons

  • Lightweight and compact design
  • Easy to use and super comfortable
  • Display has excellent sunlight legibility
  • Provides distances to bunkers, water, doglegs, layups
  • Great coverage via 41,000+ preloaded golf courses
  • Free life-time updates on golf courses
  • Long lasting battery (rechargeable)
  • Good at keeping scores
  • Compatible with Garmin TruSwing sensor
  • Zero setup-time required
  • Built-in odometer
  • Waterproof
  • Tour legal
  • No Bluetooth connectivity
Garmin Approach S10 Golf GPS Watch - affordable with great specifications

Bushnell Neo Ion 2 watch

The Bushnell Neo iON 2 is our next contender, and it makes for a fashionable GPS device aimed at younger golfers i.e. it looks like a regular sports watch (think G-shock) and features Bluetooth connectivity plus a reversible strap. The Neo iON2 is the successor of the popular Bushnell Neo iON Watch, a no-nonsense easy to use golf GPS (hence its success). The second-gen is even better, since it’s been upgraded with Bluetooth and comes preloaded with more than 36,000 courses from thirty different countries. It already sounds tempting, right? Let’s see about specs first:

Display size: 0.9” x 0.9” (23 x 23 mm)

Weight: 1.7 oz (48 g)
Battery:
GPS (Golf) mode: Up to 16 hours
Recharge time: 3.0 hours
Auto course recognition technology
Auto hole advance technology
Water resistant
Golfing Features:

Distances to front, middle and back of green

Distances to hazards/layups (up to 4 per hole)

Shot distance calculator

Round odometer

USB charging

The next-gen Bushnell Neo iON 2 can be ordered in 2 colors, black/blue watch band or sliver/green watchband respectively, and comes preloaded with basically all important golf courses in the world. It’s worth mentioning that what we’re dealing with here is arguably one of the lightest and thinnest golf GPS watches available today. Despite its thinness, the watch boasts an impressive battery life, which is almost 50 percent better compared to some of its competitors, i.e. you can play more than 3 rounds with the watch in GPS/golf mode. Also, the Bushnell Neo iON 2’s user interface is available in 5 languages, which is a nice touch from the company.

Design wise, the Bushnell Neo iON 2 looks like a regular sports watch, and yes, it’s pretty comfy to wear all day long. What’s more important is what happens on the golf course; here’s what you get: first, this Bushnell product is incredibly easy to use, and has an intuitive user interface. The Bushnell Neo iON 2 will deliver front/middle/back distances plus auto-hole advance technology, 4 lay-up/hazard distances, odometer, shot distance calculator and even a step counter. You’ll also find common features, like countdown timer, stopwatch and alarm, but we have to mention the Tee time benefits feature, which connects to the best GPS satellite seven minutes before the tee time schedule, so your golf-watch will be already set up and ready to go before you start the first tee off.

Next to all the features of the iON2 watch, the Bushnell Golf App is included with the purchase. This golf app offers even more and better features to make this a great combination! 

Pros & Cons

  • Lightweight and ultra-thin design
  • Intuitive interface, easy to use
  • Great sunlight legibility
  • Provides distances to bunkers, water, doglegs, layups
  • Great coverage via 36,000+ preloaded golf courses
  • Free wireless updates on golf courses
  • 16 Hours long lasting battery (rechargeable)
  • Auto Hole Advance technology
  • Auto Course recognition technology
  • No fees / membership required for updates
  • Built-in odometer
  • Waterproof
  • Tour legal
  • No score tracking available
Bushnell Neo Ion 2 Golf GPS Watch - free mobile app

Callaway GPSy golf watch

Callaway is one of the biggest players in the golf industry and their strangely named GPSy golf watch is everything you’d expect from a premium company, i.e. one of the best gadgets out-there: the GPSy is highly accurate, lightweight and does a great job at delivering a ton of information on a tiny display. But let’s see about specs first:

Display size: 1,28” 

Weight: 2.24 oz
Battery:
GPS (Golf) mode: 10-12 hours
Watch mode: 90+ days
Golfing Features:
Auto hole advance technology
Shot distance measurement
Auto course recognition technology

Distances to front, middle and back of green

Distances to hazards/layups/doglegs

Scorekeeper tracks scores, GIR, and putts per round

Preloaded with 30,000+ golf courses worldwide

Analog and digital time display

To begin with, the Callaway GPSy differs from other GPS watches mentioned before as it requires a little bit of tinkering with before starting your first round. Also, the user interface is not as idiot-proof as Garmin’s for example, and getting through the OS and menus requires using the 3 button interface quite often. Basically, you’ll have to read the manual first, but that’s not as terrible as it sounds.

The battery charges via USB, and once you power it up, just go to the menu and you’ll see “Play Golf” right at the top. It will take about a minute for your GPSy to locate the nearest satellite and generate a list of golf courses in the immediate vicinity. You’ll have to select the one you’re playing on and that’s about it, as in you’ll never have to touch your gadget again, as it will automatically update both switch holes and yardages. If you require more detailed stuff like score keeping, hazards and shot measuring, you’ll have to start digging through the menus, but it’s not that hard once you get the hang of it.

Accuracy wise, the GPSy is amazing, while the battery life is more than adequate: up to 12 hours in GPS/golf mode and 3 months of standby. There are extra features available if that’s your cup of tee, things like stat tracking and shot measuring.

Pros & Cons

  • Amazingly accurate GPS sensor
  • Good overall performance
  • Good working scorekeeper which tracks scores, GIR and putts per round
  • Solid built quality
  • 30,000+ preloaded golf courses
  • Courses can be updated with the Watch Update Tool
  • Easy to read display
  • Auto Hole Advance technology
  • Auto Course recognition technology
  • Shot distance measurements
  • Odometer
  • Tour legal
  • User interfaces takes time to get used to
  • Slow startup to find GPS satellites
  • Only waterproof to 1 ATM
Callaway GPSy Golf GPS Watch - 2 colors available

GolfBuddy GB9 WTX+ 

The GolfBuddy GB9 WTX+ is arguably one of the company’s best golf-watches, and it shines as a budget-friendly gadget which is capable of delivering a ton of information in a small and stylish form-factor. And by a ton of information we mean something you’d expect from a handheld GPS golf-device. Let’s see the specs first:

Display size: 1,2” 

Screen resolution: 240×204 pixels

Weight: 2.2 oz (62 g)
Battery:
GPS (Golf) mode: 8 hours
Rechargeable lithium-ion
Golfing Features:
Distances to front, middle and back of green
Shot distance measurement
Auto course and hole recognition technology

Hole layout view with current position of player

Distances to hazards/layups/doglegs

Preloaded with 38,000+ golf courses worldwide with free updates

Dynamic green view and distance readings from the golfer’s position

USGA/R&A compliant – legal for handicap & tournament play

Activity tracking with pedometer

Starting with the design, this looks more or less like a regular timepiece, yet it’s a bit bulky on the wrist, as it’s the case with most GPS watches. The rubberized wrist strap is easy to adjust and comfy. It’s interesting that GolfBuddy chose an unusual system for recharging it: rather than the classic USB port, you get a magnetic disk that attaches itself to the back of the watch and then plugs into the mains of your laptop/power bank via a regular micro-USB cable.

The GolfBuddy GB9 WTX+ comes pre-loaded with over 38,000 golf courses worldwide and all the information is comprehensively displayed on a high quality 204 by 204 pixels full-color screen, which looks kind of cool, all things considered. The main features of the watch include yardages to hazards and key distances on the green, but what’s really striking is how incredibly detailed the information is delivered on the high-res color touchscreen.

Pros & Cons

  • High quality touchscreen full color display
  • Fast and accurate
  • Intuitive and informative user interface
  • Compatible with the free GolfBuddy golf-App
  • 38,000+ preloaded golf courses with free updates
  • Provides yardages to distances on the green and hazards on the course
  • Large watch face is very easy to read, even in sunlight
  • Dynamic green view and distance readings from the golfer's position
  • Tournament legal
  • Auto power-off function to save battery
  • No subscription fees
  • Lacks scorekeeping feature
  • Relatively poor battery life
  • No waterproofing
GolfBuddy GB9 WTX+ Golf GPS Watch

 

Conclusion

This concludes our comparison for today and the next question is: okay, but what golf GPS watch should I get? Which one is the best? Don’t get us wrong: all of our picks are top-notch, as in regardless of which one you choose, you’ll not go astray on the battlefield. 

However, in our view, the Garmin Approach S20 is king of the hill, and that’s due to a number of factors: first, it’s incredibly easy to use, i.e. there’s no set-up required, and everything’s a “point and shoot” kind of a deal. Secondly, there’s the budget question, and the S20 delivers amazing value for money, making for a solidly built/feature rich golf watch that gets the job done with zero drama and flying colors, so you can stay focused on the game and nothing else. Battery life is also amazing, and all important features are there, including Bluetooth connectivity and waterproofing. 

The affordable best seller will be the Garmin Approach S10, the little brother of the S20, and although it’s still a great golf watch, the features are just a little bit less advanced but the S10 is available for a great price! 

The Callaway GPSy comes second place, due to the plethora of golf-centric options, amazing accuracy and impeccable built quality, not to mention its great design. Our third option is the GolfBuddy GB9 WTX+, as we definitely enjoyed its color touchscreen, the tactical design style and the features. Although the poor battery life and lack of waterproofing put a dent on its everyday usability. Our fifth choice is the Bushnell Neo iON 2. That’s it, cut and dried, just make your pick and play hard.