There’s a Garmin GPS watch out on the market, and it’s getting a lot of notice. It’s called the Garmin Approach S1 golf GPS.
I’m a big believer in the value of a good golf GPS device, and I have been for a while now. I think the golf GPS is one of the most useful tools invented for golf since people started using wooden tees instead of little heaps of sand. I own a golf GPS unit myself – a handheld Garmin Approach G3, which I review on a separate page of this site. But this Garmin GPS watch is so unique, so innovative and so gosh-darn convenient, how could I resist learning more?
So, is this Garmin golf GPS device as great as it first seems? Does it deserve the buzz it’s been getting? Read on to find out what I think.
First, have you heard of something called the “Wow Factor?” As in, “wow, that is really cool,” or “wow, what a great idea,” or “wow, I’d really like one of those”? Well this Garmin GPS device has the Wow Factor – at least for those of us golfers who are also techno-geeks. It’s getting to be pretty common for golfers to own a handheld GPS device, but one that you can wear on your wrist like a watch is a different animal altogether.
Well, let me rephrase that last sentence slightly. You don’t wear a Garmin GPS watch “like a watch,” because in addition to being a golf GPS the unit is a watch. It even has a built-in alarm clock function. Wear this device as an everyday sports watch and you’ll never forget to bring your golf GPS with you to the golf course.
Okay, it’s convenient because you don’t need to remember to bring a separate device when you’re going to need a golf GPS – it’s already right there on your wrist. But it’s “convenience factor” goes beyond even that. When you’re out on the course you just walk up to your ball normally and glance down at your wrist to get the distance to the green. You don’t need to pull your golf GPS out of your pocket or detach it from your belt or take it out of your golf cart. It’s already with you and within easy view.
Of course, all that convenience only helps if the Garmin GPS watch functions as well as a regular handheld GPS device. So, can a Garmin GPS watch elevate your game the same way handheld units can? The simple answer is “yes.”
The Garmin Approach S1 GPS watch contains a sensitive GPS receiver that will give you accurate, up-to-the-minute yardages to the front, back and middle of the next green. You can also use it to measure the lengths of your shots, so it can give you an accurate gauge on how far you hit each of your clubs. It has a built-in odometer so it can display how far you’ve walked (on or off the course). The large screen is viewable in direct sunlight, and it’s easy to read at a glance. The Garmin GPS watch is also waterproof, so you don’t need to worry about it being damaged if a cloudburst opens up over your head.
Unlike many golf GPS units, the Garmin GPS watch doesn’t have an annual subscription fee, and you don’t need to download a bunch of courses when you first take it out of the box. It comes pre-loaded with maps of almost 18,000 American and Canadian golf courses, and Garmin is adding more courses all the time. In golf mode the Garmin GPS watch quickly acquires the GPS satellites and displays a list of golf courses located nearby. You simply select the course you’re about to play from the list.
The unit is ready to use as a GPS device or a watch straight out of the box - it will even detect your time zone and set the correct time automatically. The lithium-ion battery is rechargeable and a charge lasts up to three weeks in watch mode or eight hours (very borderline for two rounds) in GPS mode.
The Bottom Line: The Garmin GPS watch is rugged and waterproof, and it doubles as an everyday sports watch. It can even serve as an alarm clock. It’s incredibly convenient, comfortable to wear and easy to read. The battery life is a little limited so you’d want to recharge it after every round. Its display is numeric only (you won’t see any maps of the greens or the overall hole as you do with some other GPS devices) but the distances it displays are just as accurate as any other golf GPS device. And isn’t the yardage you need for your next shot the most important information a GPS unit can give you?