Garmin has been a fixture in the golf GPS market for quite some time. Recently, I got a chance to try out the Garmin S60 GPS watch. Long story short, I was pretty blown away by the collection of features this product has on and off the golf course.
It carries a steep price tag, but after testing out many of the other offerings in the marketplace right now, I believe this is best in class. I will go through all of the key features in this review, and try to give you a complete understanding of whether or not this is the right watch for your game.
Update: Garmin has released a newer version, the Approach S62 - you can read my review here.
Performance on the Golf Course
I've played more than 20 rounds at this point with the Garmin S60. I can confidently tell you that it offers a nice mix of functionality during your round that no other GPS watch has right now.
There are a ton of features to get through, but I am going to discuss what I believe are the core benefits and differentiating factors.
As you would expect, the watch easily loads the information of your golf course within several minutes. Garmin has a library of 41,000 courses. I found the yardages to be extremely accurate (I compared to my rangefinder and course yardage markings). It clearly shows the front, center and back yardages to the green. The display is very clear and there are no issues seeing it even in a strong sunlight. I found that I could easily play two rounds of golf on one charge (roughly 8-10 hours of battery life).
However, those are basic features that will not set it apart from many other golf GPS watches that are on the market for a much lower price.
The main benefit of this watch, in my opinion, is the mapping feature. This is the only watch on the market where you can zoom into different points of a hole and check your exact yardages to clear bunkers, water hazards, and other important locations. Usually, you would need to purchase a much larger GPS unit to get this functionality. It is available on your wrist with the Garmin S60. This is a huge feature, and will absolutely make you a better course manager.
Other Helpful Features
- It automatically senses when you hit a shot, and will display how far it was hit at the top of the screen. This helps figure out your real yardages with clubs, brag about your longest drives, and actually can help you find errant balls off the tee.
- If you choose to keep your score the Garmin S60 automatically senses when you are on the green, and prompts you to enter your strokes for the hole.
- Allows you to change pin positions on the green to get a more accurate yardage.
- Factors in uphill and downhill yardage for a "PlaysLike" number (can be disabled for tournament play).
- Tracks your steps for the round and total miles walked (I covered as much as 8 miles and 13,500 steps!)
An Unexpected, but Major Benefit
The collection of features on the course is quite robust. There was another functionality to the Garmin Approach S60 that I found to be critical. This is the only watch that can measure your swing tempo.
If you have been a reader of this site for a while, you know that this is an extremely important concept to me (and one that I believe all golfers should pursue). You can find out why in this article.
The optimal swing tempo for most golfers has been found to be 3.0. This means your backswing will be exactly (or close to) three times as long as your downswing. In the past, the only way to really measure your swing tempo was either through camera frames or swing analyzers.
The Garmin S60 allows you to measure your swing tempo during practice sessions, which is how I have been using it along with Tour Tempo beats. You can see the time elapsed on both your backswing, downswing, and make sure you are finding a repeatable ratio.
They Garmin S60 even goes one step further - it automatically tracks the tempo of your swings during your rounds. Personally, this was a real eye-opener for me. I actually found out that during my rounds my tempo increases dramatically. My backswing is generally way too slow on my errant shots. Simply put, this is a great feature and for me was a huge benefit.
The Garmin Approach S60 actually performs quite admirably as a smartwatch and fitness tracker. The watch is quite attractive looking on your wrist and can fit into the rest of your life if you are looking for that functionality. These might not be important for many of you, but it is worth mentioning.
Personally, I have been using it as a fitness tracker. While it doesn't perform quite as well as a Fitbit, there are some features that are worth noting for you exercise enthusiasts.
It senses your movements during the day and buzzes on your wrist to remind you to get up and move if it senses inactivity for too long. Additionally, it will keep track of your steps and workouts. While it doesn't automatically track your heart rate, I purchased a Garmin heart band to use during my spin workouts. You get an accurate reading of your heart rate, and how effective your workouts are.
Everything is synced quite nicely with the Garmin smartphone app. You get a birdseye view of your activity for the week or month.
If you choose to do so, you can pair the watch with your smartphone via Bluetooth. It will show you incoming calls, emails and text messages with buzzing notifications on your wrist. While it's certainly not as slick as the Apple Watch, the basic functionality is there.
Is The Garmin Approach S60 Worth The Price?
This is by far and away the best golf GPS watch on the market right now. I can tell you that without a doubt. But the price tag is pretty steep. For those who simply want basic yardages to the front, center, and back of greens without breaking the bank it probably makes sense to purchase a unit like a GolfBuddy Voice 2.
This is a premium product that packs all kinds of features. If you are in the market for a smartwatch, fitness tracker and great golf GPS, then you can get all of those rolled into one. Garmin did an excellent job with this product, and when you use it for a while you can see why.
You can purchase the Garmin Approach S60 for $399 here.
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.