If you are a golfer looking for the best golf GPS watch for your game, you came to the right place. I wanted to write a guide that would satisfy different budget levels and collections of features. This article will show you some of the better models out there and what separates them.
Stick around to the end where I explain how you can actually use these GPS watches to lower your scores on the course. Isn't that the point after all?
Why You Should Use a Golf GPS Watch
One of the cornerstones of this site is course management. If golfers pay more attention to their strategy on the course, I firmly believe they can lower their scores without changing their swings. You can download my free eBook on strategy here if you want to learn more on this topic.
Knowing your yardages to key areas on the course as well as the front, center, and back of the green is crucial information. There is no excuse anymore for golfers not to know yardages because GPS technology has come a long way. The devices on the market now are easier to use and more cost effective than years ago.
In this article, I discussed why GPS technology is far more valuable to most golfers than rangefinders that give your exact yardage to the pin. Long story short, for a rather small investment I believe you can save a few strokes per round if you know key yardages on the golf course.
What to Look For
I have tested a number of golf GPS watches at this point. I believe the number one feature anyone should look for is ease-of-use. A number of the models I have tried were too difficult to set up and operate on the course.
The last thing you want to do is waste precious time during your round trying to fidget with a watch that doesn't work properly. The best golf GPS watch should just turn on, locate your course, and easily display information during your round. All of the watches that made this list passed that test. I chose not to include some of the poorer models because many of them had inferior technology, and had difficulty pairing with smartphones.
Here are the five best golf GPS watches available right now.
Garmin S60 - Best Overall Features ($399)
For the golfer that wants everything, it is hard to find a better product than the Garmin Approach S60. Many consider this to be the best golf GPS watch on the market right now for its unique mix of features. Aside from being quite stylish, it goes above and beyond some of the other models out there.
With more than 40,000 golf courses preloaded from around the world and a 10-hour battery life, it passes my "easy to use" test. Some GPS watches are difficult to operate and maintain, but the S60 simply works when you turn it on without any headaches. More importantly, it has a crisp 1.2" display which easily allows you to see your information and not waste any precious time during your pre-shot routine.
Personally, my favorite feature is that it displays yardages to the whole golf course, not just the green. You are able to touch any point on the map and get an exact distance. Additionally, it will calculate your true yardages based on how uphill or downhill your approach is. Most golf GPS watches will not go into this much detail. I believe this is what makes this watch truly unique.
The Garmin S60 also comes with some extra features through Garmin connect. The watch automatically keeps track of your shots for post-round analysis. Overall, this is a premium product for golfers who want it all.
Update: Garmin has just released their first rangefinder - the Approach Z80. It combines laser distances along with GPS yardages using a 2D map. You can check out my full review here. It is arguably the best rangefinder on the market right now and will entice golfers who want all of the yardage information possible.
TomTom Golfer 2 ($199)
TomTom has been a leader in the distance-measuring device category for quite some time. Their TomTom Golfer 2 model made the best golf GPS watch list for its mix of functionality and price tag ($199).
Pre-loaded with more than 40,000 golf courses, this golf GPS watch comes with an impressive list of features despite being one of the more affordable options on the market. The distances to the front, center, and back of every green are prominently displayed. It will also let you know the front and back yardages of individual hazards on the course. Additionally, it has a battery life of up to 11 hours.
The TomTom Golfer 2 also comes with automatic shot-detection technology. This gives insights into your game after your rounds, and also automatically keeps your score.
Overall, this is a solid option for golfers who don't want to completely break the bank.
GolfBuddy WTX - Best Overall Value ($179)
GolfBuddy is one of my favorite brands in the GPS category. In the past, I have reviewed their WT5 watch, LR5 Rangefinder, and Voice models. All of their products are moderately priced, and best of all they work without any fuss.
The WTX made my best golf GPS watch list because it has a few features that separate it from the pack at this price point ($179). It comes preloaded with almost every golf course out there and features a generous battery life.
What is interesting about the GolfBuddy WTX is that you get a full-color view of each hole with the key yardages displayed. The only other watch on this list that had this feature is the Garmin S60, which was more than double the price. Getting a visual representation with yardages is a huge benefit in my opinion, and makes this one of the best values out there. Other golf GPS watches will require the use of a smartphone to display this info.
Some other bonuses are that it functions as a pedometer, can track the distance of your shots, and has a dynamic green view.
Bushnell Excel - The Best Smartphone Integration ($249)
Bushnell made the best golf GPS watch list with their Excel model for several reasons. This is a great GPS watch for golfers who want a wide mixture of features that pair nicely with a smartphone.
With a battery life of up to 14 hours (3 rounds), this is one of the longest-lasting golf GPS watches on the market. It packs many of the features other models on the list have such as:
- Distance to front, center, and back of every green
- Key hazard distances
- Auto-hole recognition
- Shot distance calculator
For those who want integration with your smartphone, this is probably the best golf GPS watch out there. Bluetooth integration allows golfers to get incoming call, text message, and calendar notifications. If you are playing hooky from work, this could come in handy.
Owners of the Bushnell Excel also get access to the Excel smartphone app. This allows you to get full hole layouts with distances, 3D flyovers, and wireless course updates. Additionally, it keeps track of your swing speed and tempo.
The Best Golf GPS Watch - Budget Picks
If you have a much lower budget, I've got you covered! There are a few models out there that might not be the newest technology, but they work just fine.
One of my top picks would be the GolfBuddy WT5 watch.
You can also buy the original TomTom Golfer for around $125 right now, which is yet another great budget option that will suit your needs nicely.
So now that I have given you an overview of some of the best golf GPS watches out there, let's talk about how you can actually use them to lower your scores!
An Informed Golfer Makes Smarter Decisions
The great thing about knowing your yardages to all kinds of targets on the course is that you can make smarter decisions before you swing. Additionally, when you know your numbers you can make more confident swings rather than hoping you chose the right club and target selection. This is exactly why professional golfers make detailed notes on every course they play.
The biggest piece of advice that I give to golfers of all levels is that you need to forget about where the pin is. Getting your ball safely on the green is the number one thing you can do to lower your scores. Being aggressive and going after tucked pins will result in more double bogeys than birdies. That being said, using the distances your GPS watch provides you are extremely important.
For most golfers, I would suggest honing in on the yardages to the center and back of the green. Most players are not honest with their distances and often will not take enough club. In fact, GAME GOLF has shown that 94% of golfers are missing the short side of the green on average because of this.
Additionally, if your watch is providing you distances to key hazards on the course make sure you pay close attention to where the trouble is. If it is going to take a 200-yard shot to clear a water hazard maybe it makes sense to lay up rather than going for it. You can find out more examples of how to be a smart course manager in my free eBook here, but I believe purchasing a GPS watch is the first step in that direction.
Alternatively, if you are looking for a rangefinder that also has GPS functionality, you can check out our review of the Voice Caddie SL1.