A golf watch feels like the ultimate luxury item, perhaps only rivalled by an electric buggy.
It isn’t a necessity to have a golf watch to score well, and for most people it’s likely they’ve already purchased a rangefinder prior to even contemplating buying some added tech for their wrist.
A rangefinder – such as the Sureshot PINLOC 5000ip that I own – will give you the distance to the pin and can be used to zap hazards and other landmarks in order to calculate lay-up distances.
So, despite this, is it still worth getting a golf watch?
Golf watches are definitely worth it as they provide a huge amount of data that can help improve your game. They offer far more information than a rangefinder can, collecting a suite of valuable measurements such as distances to greens and hazards. Golf watches can also map out the shots you took and distances they travelled on each hole.
Having said this, not all golf watches are made equal and some do have their flaws, so it’s important to tread carefully when buying and be sure to spend time considering exactly what you want the watch for.
There’s everything from smart watches with tacked-on features to full-blown watches specialised for golf on the market, so buying the shiniest, most expensive thing out there may not suit all aspects of your lifestyle as much as a cheaper option.
As someone who recently bought my own golf watch after doing plenty of research, in this article I’m going to answer some of the most common buyer’s questions you may have to help you decide whether or not you should get one – along with recommending my top picks.
Table of contents
Is it worth getting a golf watch?
It is absolutely worth getting a golf watch, especially if you are into overall health and fitness. Many golf watches will not only be a valuable asset to your golf game, but can record steps, workouts and even sleep data to ensure your body is fit and firing for your next round.
When considering whether to buy a golf watch and whether it is worth it for you, there’s one key question you need to ask yourself: is this purely a golf purchase, or is this a lifestyle purchase?
I say this because a specialised golf watch and a smart watch with added golf features are two very different things.
I went through this exact process not too long ago when deciding if I should splash out my tax refund on a shiny new piece of tech for the course.
However, golf functionality was not the only thing that was important to me, given I wanted options including fitness tracking and storage space to listen to music (through my air pods) without the need for a phone.
I eventually settled on the Garmin Vivoactive 4 due to its wide range of general features that made me satisfied it offered the most value for money.
While the Vivoactive 4 is a great watch and does just about anything I could need it for, the golf features aren’t as broad and detailed as you might see in a higher-end, golf-specific model.
A specialised watch such as the Garmin Approach S60 has a large display with more detail and greater precision relating to golf performance than that of a generic smart watch model.
Ultimately, the most important thing to do when buying a golf watch is to study the features of each option and stack them up against each other.
The one that has, on balance, the features and abilities that suit your needs, is the one for you.
Check out a video review of the Garmin Approach S60 below:
Are golf watches legal to use?
Golf watches are generally going to be legal to use in most club level and non-professional golfing events, so long as they are used to measure distance and not terrain or weather-specific factors like temperature, gradient (slope) and wind. In professional competitions – such as the PGA tour – the use of GPS golf watches is prohibited.
If you are a stock standard weekend golfer who loves entering your local club’s $5 competition on Saturdays or Sundays, then you are by no means breaching any rules, even if you are able to use your watch to get wind and gradient data.
Things do get a little fuzzier regarding regulations in higher level competitions like club or inter-club championships, where calculating distances is usually fine, but additional help is somewhat frowned upon.
Unless you are playing at the professional level, a good rule of thumb is to use your watch to calculate distance (and only distance) when playing in something more serious than your standard weekend club competition.
Do golf GPS watches work?
Yes, golf GPS watches work well and provide a range of data on the golf course including yardages, hazard locations and lay-up distances. They offer information about tens of thousands of golf courses across the world. While there are some cheaper options on the market, be mindful that they won’t provide the full suite of features seen in the higher range models.
It’s also important to note that – despite the fact golf watches do work very well – you may find lesser known or smaller municipal/public courses have less reliable data than the bigger, more expensive private ones.
I’ve found that, at times, even my home course which is quite a reputable track has some slightly outdated information – such as a bunker still showing up as a hazard despite being removed two years earlier.
However, since I play at a golf course at higher altitude up in the hills, fog is often a factor that can reduce visibility and on these days my golf watch pays for itself.
With a rangefinder rendered useless – due to the dense mist not giving accurate readings, and sometimes no readings at all – my watch still allows me to hit greens with accurate distance data despite, in many cases, not being able to see my target.
Which watch is best for golf?
The best watch for golf is either the Garmin Approach S62 or the Sky Caddy LX5. Each boast the full range of features anyone would need on the golf course and have large, crystal-clear colour displays for ease of use during a round.
The SkyCaddie LX5 (pictured below) has a massive 1.39” full colour display, claiming to be the biggest and brightest in the golf watch market.
Additionally, it provides huge amounts of detail in their hole maps, as well as some of the best green maps of any watch on the market.
Equal to the LX5 is the Garmin Approach S62, offering similar size (only a 0.09” smaller display) and features.
One of the most luxury elements of the S62 is ‘virtual caddy’, giving you suggestions for which club to hit based upon your past distance data, wind direction and shot shape.
Either of these golf watches will act as the perfect ‘on wrist caddie’ for players of all levels and commitment.
What is the best golf watch for money?
The best golf watch for money is the Garmin Vivoactive 4. Not only does it boast excellent golf features such as distances to greens and hazards, it allows smartphone-free music playback through Spotify and fitness tracking for a range of activities. It is a perfect blend of golf and fitness functionality.
I do own this watch myself so you could accuse me of bias, but settling on this model did not come about by chance – hours of trialling and researching watches, not to mention interrogating more than a few shop assistants, led me to determine this was the best all-round watch on the market.
Now, don’t be confused – this isn’t the cheapest watch on the market, but it is the one I believe has the best range of features for the price point, as well as being from a brand with a great reputation.
If you are looking for the best value watch purely designed and optimised for golf, rather than general fitness and leisure, there’s no going past the Garmin Approach S42.
It may not have quite the array of features and quality as the Garmin Approach S60, but it also doesn’t have the price tag, sitting at a cost that will still be accessible to most people in the market for a quality smart watch designed for golf.
If your idea of value for money is more-so a watch that does the basics you need on the absolute cheap, there are a few options to consider that will give you great data for a fraction of the price. These include:
TecTecTec Golf GPS Watch
The TecTecTec Golf GPS Watch comes in at one of the cheapest on the market; as low as $100. This watch is excellent for providing accurate distances to things like front, back and middle of the green, but lacks the coloured display and overall appearance of higher end models.
Garmin Approach S10 Golf Watch
The Garmin Approach S10 is at the lower end of price for the Garmin range, but still boasts a number of features that will be appreciated by every golfer. The square face doesn’t offer a colour display, but it does give you distances to greens and hazards, as well as showing basic overviews of hole structures such as green shape.
CANMORE TW-353 GPS Golf Watch
The CANMORE TW-353 GPS Golf Watch has up to 40,000 preloaded courses from across the world and offers the full suite of basic features most budget watches do. It will give you key distances and record your score, but again, won’t provide a colour display and has fewer appealing visuals than those of the Garmin Approach S10.
Which Garmin watches include golf?
Garmin has one of the widest ranges of golf watches on the market, with both specialised and all-round watches that offer golf functionality. The main Garmin watches that include golf are:
- The ‘Approach’ series, specifically designed for golf. This includes the Approach G10, Approach S12 (pictured at top of article), Approach S42 and Approach S62.
- If you are after an ‘all-round’ sports watch with more visual appeal, yet still can be used for golf, consider one of these: Vivoactive 4, Fenix 6, Venu, Forerunner or Enduro.
The biggest decision you need to make when considering buying a golf watch is whether or not it is purely for golf, or instead designed to be an all-round tool.
Generally, golf watches will be optimised for the course and less so for other activities and features, like music.
The all-rounder watches are often more visually appealing and will pass as a smart looking watch for work and events.
If you only want a watch for golf then consider a high range Approach model, otherwise look at some offerings that provide a little more bang for buck.
Does Fenix 6 have golf?
Yes, the Fenix 6 Garmin Watch does come with golf compatibility and the golf sports app. It will give you all of the basic features such as distances to the front, back and middle of greens, as well as track shot distance and score. However, since it is an all-round outdoor watch, it isn’t specialised for golf and lacks some of the features of the Garmin Approach S62.
If you are looking for a general smart watch to track calories burned, exercise and sleep – on top of golf – then the Fenix 6 Garmin Watch is a good all-round option.
If you want the full suite of golf functions in a watch, consider something from the Garmin Approach range.
Can an Apple watch be used for golf?
Yes, an Apple Watch can be used for golf and offers a range of apps that provide information such as lay-up distances, yardages to the front, back and middle of greens, and the ability to keep score. However, because Apple Watch golf apps are created by third parties, they don’t function as smoothly as golf watches that create their own apps.
This isn’t to say the Apple Watch can’t work reasonably well as your on-course distance provider, but it is somewhat hindered by the fact that it doesn’t create dedicated golf apps that Apple itself controls.
If you already own an Apple Watch it is definitely worth using it for golf and seeing what it has to offer before splashing out for something golf-specific – however, you may find it lacking when compared to the specialty golf options on the market.
There’s no doubt that golf watches start to border on a luxury item and there’s plenty of other equipment and technology you should consider buying to improve your game – such as a rangefinder, or even getting a lesson using a TrackMan launch monitor – before splashing out on a SkyCaddie or Garmin.
But, if the purchase of a smart watch with added golf functionality is more of a lifestyle decision, you’ll find that these watches actually provide great value for money and offer hordes of features for everyday use.
Not only will you get the fitness and lifestyle benefits that come with these watches, you’ll also gain an extra edge over your playing partners on the golf course.