A golfer is nothing without his or her tools, and in 2021, we’re not just talking about having the latest Japanese-engineered irons or top-rated golf balls. GPS technology is pretty commonplace these days, and using it while golfing can be one of the easiest ways to improve your game. With that in mind, you may want to consider getting a golf GPS device. Think of the best golf GPS watches as a super-advanced rangefinder you can wear on your wrist.
The best golf GPS devices not only help to chart the distance from the tee to the flag, but also provide specific details about the course and hole you’re playing to better pinpoint your target. In other words, you may just be able to avoid a sand trap, a bunker, a tree, or other elements that a well-designed course has created to challenge your golfing abilities. In addition to helping you improve your game, these devices can also speed up your game, which the players behind you will certainly appreciate.
What should players look for when investing in the best golf watches?
“A key feature you should consider when purchasing a GPS device is that it has a mobile app component,” says Keith Weachter, assistant Golf Professional, Reunion Resort and Golf Club. “Since they are continually being updated, they will instantly recognize the course that you’re playing on and display information about the back, front, center and greens, ” he says.
Alternatively, rangefinders can help to improve your game. “I haven’t used a golf GPS watch before, but I have played with people who have,” says Aaron Stewart senior vice president of sports marketing who oversees the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, a golfing event that pairs about 50 celebrity players with LPGA’s top female golfers. “I use a range finder which is a small, hand-held device that gives you the distance to the pin from wherever you use it,” he says.
Ultimately, whether you choose a GPS golf device or a rangefinder, it is going to come down to comfort and reliability. So to make it easier for you to pick, we’ve done some digging, and here are some of the best GPS devices and range finders worth considering.
1. Garmin MARQ Golfer Watch
We recently selected the Garmin MARQ Golfer Watch as the first recipient of the SPY Pinseeker award, a designation we reserve for truly elite golf products that can help improve a player’s game. This watch is certainly an investment, but it has a host of nifty features that will take your play to a new level. The Garmin MARQ Golfer gives you immediate access to more than 41,000 preloaded golf courses around the world, and the watch’s virtual caddie helps you pick the perfect club for each hole. At the same time, you get data on distance, a green reading view, wind speed and direction reports, hazard views for sand and water, and so much more.
In short, the Garmin MARQ Golfer Watch combines a sophisticated design and a ton of high-tech features. Despite the high price tag, it’s far and away the leader among the best golf GPS watches, full stop.
2. Skycaddie LX5
Reading a manual when all you want to do is hit the course can be a drag. But you skip that with the SkyCaddie LX5 watch because its intuitive functionality makes setting it up a breeze. The touch screen features a sliding cursor and a zoom-in feature that offers the ability to view the exact shape of the green as it rotates to match your location on more than 35,000 courses. The full-color HD maps help you find the distance to a specific spot and places to avoid. So pair it to your phone for auto-updates, then apply your sunscreen, and head to the course. While its price may seem a bit steep, the intel you score from owning this watch is like having your very own coach.
3. SkyCaddie’s SX400
If you are among those, who hate to be burdened by a watch because it feels as if it impedes your wrist hinge, then this handheld is what you need. The four-inch vibrant screen makes for easy viewing while offering many of the same features as the SkyCaddie LX5 watch, including the 35,000 preloaded courses and easy-to-understand yardages. Best of all, it won’t frustrate those who love the laser precision provided by rangefinders because the touchscreen gives more information than you may need. The only bummer is that it may prove a little bulky for those who like to travel light.
4. Garmin Approach S62
Garmin has long been known for its in-car GPS systems, so the brand may not be your first thought when it comes to golf. But the Garmin Approach S62, which features a virtual golf caddie, may change your mind after you strap it onto your wrist. It gives you wind direction for 41,000 courses, offers club suggestions and tips based on your past rounds. And though its price is on the higher side, it also has features that may make you give up wanting a smartwatch or any other timepiece. It keeps track of your health by providing steps taken, stress, and pulse OX measurements. And it is scratch-resistant so it wears well on the course and for everyday use.
5. Garmin Approach S40
The Garmin Approach S40 mid-range golf GPS has a sleek design that even reads easily when the sun is shining brightly. And if you have ever hit the course on a sunny day, you understand the value of that. It gives accurate front, center, and back yardages to about 40,000 preloaded courses, as it keeps track of your scores. Plus, it displays your shot’s distance at the top of the screen, allowing you to scope out the distances to doglegs and much dreaded bunkers. While it’s not as sophisticated as the MARQ Golfer, it still has a lot of the same features at an entry-level price point. For all these reasons, this is also one of the best gifts for golfers.
6. Golf Buddy AIM W10
BEST FOR UNDER $200
The best golf watches aren’t cheap, but you can find some solid GPS devices for under $200. The sporty looking Golf Buddy AIM W10 offers a lot for its price point. It automatically updates information on 40,000 golf courses without the hassle of having to deal with a subscription. Besides providing front and back distances, you can locate hazards such as water, trees, and bunkers. And if you care to know how many steps you have taken while playing or any other time, its pedometer will keep that score as well.
7. Canmore H-300 Handheld Golf GPS
BEST UNDER $100
Though the price point might lead you to believe that the Canmore H-300 is basic, it does give data for more than 38,000 courses sans a subscription fee. It helps steer you clear of hazards like bunkers, lakes and rivers and provides shot distance and front, middle and back data. It is a good option for the golfer who just wants to clip and go as it attaches to your belt, pants pocket, hat, or metal surfaces all for under $100.