Investing in a top golf GPS watch is a great way to slash your handicap, and we couldn't imagine going back to guessing which club to choose.
A golf watch can provide crucial yardages to the pin, and also hazards in the course. This makes club selection easier, and can translate to shots saved on the course.
We've reviewed the top golf watches – so here's our buying guide.
Key considerations when buying a golf watch
Smartwatch vs golf GPS watch
Getting accurate yardages is the holy grail for golfers, and it's now do-able straight from the wrist. But there's a decision to make if you're thinking of buying a golf watch: invest in a dedicated golf watch – or buy a smartwatch with GPS (and an App Store), such as the Apple Watch SE or Galaxy Watch 4.
With smartwatches now prevalent it's increasingly hard to justify paying in excess of $300/£300 for a single use golf watch, which you may only use one a week (if you're lucky).
It may sounds obvious, but golf watches are really expensive. Some Garmin devices on this list cost nearly $500 – which is a lot of money for something to tell you how far you are from a stick in the ground.
That basic functionality can be got for free from a smartphone app – or included on your regular smartwatch. That's why we've included some cheaper devices on this list.
To justify the big price tags golf watch makers add a lot of extra features, aside from distance tracking. The main one is distance to hazards, and that's covered by most budget golf watches. That's a huge help on the golf course, working out how far that bunker or stream is, to decide on a lay-up.
There's also shot measuring and scoring – both easy-to-use and handy features. But again, even mid-range watches go even further, wanting to be your caddy or coach.
Analytics and swing detection
To woo you into parting with more cash, watches such as the $500 Garmin Approach S62 offer analytics on your game, which are stored in the Garmin Golf app.
You can use SwingTempo and TempoTraining on the range to improve your swing, and you can tag shots on the course to clubs, and have Garmin work out distances.
For some, this is worth the extra money – and makes the golf watch even more useful. For our money, we don't like fiddling with tech while we're playing golf. It's personal choice.
Best golf watches
We've tested a host of golf watches over the last few years, and it's still Garmin that rules the roost. Increasingly, golf watches are about more than just the 18 holes, with fitness tracking and other sports features now built in. Read on for our list:
Top pick: Garmin Approach S12
Screen size: 0.9-inch (175 x 175) | Multi-sport: No | Courses: 42,000 | Activity tracking: No | Shot detection: With accessory | Notifications: No
The Garmin Approach S12 is the company's entry level golf GPS watch, which scales back on features, keeping it all about distances to the green, hazards, and has a big numbers mode, which we presume might be aimed at older users, or those that really just need glanceable data.
Golf watches have very much come under threat from smartwatches with apps – many of which are free. At $199/£179 the S12 gives golfers a budget alternative to the rest of the pricey Garmin range and a big reason to buy over an Apple Watch SE.
It's not totally bereft of features. You get a shot measuring tool, scoring on the wrist, a more rudimentary green view. It will also pair up with the CT10 to log your shots, and has 30 hours of battery life.
Of course, one wonders why it exists when there's the Approach S10 available for less.
Well you get compatibility with shot tracking sensors and data and analysis of your round that the S10 doesn't offer.
The screen is also marginally better at the same size, and it's a lot more attractive than the boxy S10.
However, if it's all about cost, you can pick up the Garmin Approach S10 for around $100.
Garmin Approach S40/S42
Approach S40: $299/£199 | Amazon
Screen size: 1.2-inch (128 x 128) | Multi-sport: No | Courses: 40,000 | Activity tracking: No | Shot detection: Yes | Notifications: Yes
The Approach S40 sits between the Approach S62 and Approach S12 golf watch, offering users a design akin to the Forerunner range. It's a big visual step up from Garmin's recent budget golf watches, and there's a boost in terms of smarts too.
As well as distances to the pin and hazards automatic shot detection, measurement of shots and the ability to tag clubs used means it's capable of providing loads of analysis about your game – if you put the work in to log every shot.
There's a 1.2-inch colour touchscreen, and a full range of smart features including notifications.
In terms of golf, it packs all the usual accurate distances to hazards, doglegs and also to the front, middle and back of the green.
However, there are also advanced features such as AutoShot Game Tracking, which keeps tabs on all your shot distances and offers much more detailed feedback after your round. All of that data is fed into the Garmin Golf app.
The choice around buying the Approach S40 revolves around that extra data. If you're looking for insights into your average club distances then it's a stellar purchase, which negates the need for expensive shot tracking systems. However, if all that seems too much like hard work, stick to one of Garmin's cheaper devices.
The Approach S42, launched in 2021, is a reworking of the Approach S40 but with some premium finishes, with rose gold, gunmetal and silver.
The Approach S42 also functions well when you’re away from the course, with fitness tracking, notifications and workout profiles that can use the built-in GPS for running and cycling. That makes it a decent smartwatch alternative, albeit one that’s at its best when you’re out on the course.
Bushnell Ion Edge
Screen size: 1.08-inch | Multisport: No | Courses: 35,000 | Activity tracking: Yes | Shot detection: No | Notifications: No
It's been pretty hard to recommend Bushnell watches in the past, which have generally offered fewer features than Garmin rivals at a higher price.
The Ion Edge, however, enjoys a $119 price tag in the US – which many will find appealing.
It looms pretty basic with a monochrome display, that shows front, back and center pin distances, as well as up to six hazards – albeit the UI leaves a bit to be desired.
The data displayed on the screen is no-where near as detailed as high end Garmins – but the Ion Edge does show a map of the green, so you can get an idea of shape.
While previous Bushnell devices haven't been cheap enough to justify over buying Garmin, the price tag here does make it an attractive proposition for those looking for a dedicated golf watch, and spending as little as possible.
Garmin Approach S62
Screen size: 1.3-inch (260 x 260) | Multi-sport: Yes | Courses: 40,000 | Activity tracking: Yes | Shot detection: Yes | Notifications: Yes | 24/7 heart rate: Yes | Pulse oximeter: Yes
The Garmin Approach S62 brings maximum features into one device. In terms of golf, it packs in advanced technique and swing analysis (SwingTempo and TempoTraining) and pairs it with the distances, hazards, scoring and shot detection.
It's Garmin's top golf watch, and has boosted screen size to 1.3-inch, which helps take advantage of data screens such as detailed green mapping and Hazard View.
You also get PlaysLike, a feature that offers distances that take elevation into account, pairing with the TruSwing sensor and GPS sports tracking with a full roster of sports.
It's essentially a Garmin Fenix that puts golf first, and just as bulky, which will put some golfers off – especially women. But you do get 24/7 heart rate tracking, a pulse oximeter and loads of multiport profiles.
It's an incredible feature set, which in all fairness, is too much for most golfers.
Most won't want to start fiddling with SwingTempo based on the watch, and to be honest, even as experienced golfers we were a little confused about what the stats mean, and more importantly, how to go about fixing them in our swing.
Some golfers will love getting their hands on all this data – and you certainly pay for the privilege. As regular golfers ourselves, the Approach S62 simply offers too much for too much cash, but if you want the best there's little out there to match it.
Read our in-depth Garmin Approach S62 review.
Tag Heuer Connected Calibre E4 Golf
$2,650/£2,200 | Tag Heuer
Screen size: 1.39-inch (454x454) | Multi-sport: Yes | Courses: 40,000 | Activity tracking: Yes | Shot detection: Yes | Notifications: Yes
Tag Heuer's Wear OS smartwatch has a special golf edition – and it's a serious statement.
While Tag Heuer launched two sizes of its Calibre E4, the Golf Edition will only be available in the larger 45mm case.
The iconic 1-18 is etched onto the dial, and this corresponds to on-screen data to show the current hole.
Tag Heuer also includes a ball-marker attached to the strap for use on the greens, which is a nice touch.
The screen has been given an upgrade over the previous generation, and the 454x454 326ppi OLED panel is much brighter and suited to viewing the excellent hole maps and visualizations from the Tag Heuer golf app.
Battery life has been improved, and it now offers five hours of golf tracking (easily enough for a round), which was a major flaw of previous Tag golf watches, which could struggle to make it through 18.
You can now scroll the crown to virtually explore the hole on screen, using the excellent 3D imagery – our favorite element of the experience.
The shot tracking is an interesting new feature. It attempts to identify a swing on the tee box using the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, and do the same for the second shot, which will log the start and end point of your drive. It's low effort, which we like, but you can log the direction for extra analysis if you wish.
And you can do that on the driving range too for extra insights.