Investing in the best golf GPS watch or swing analyser is a great way to slash shots off your handicap, and we couldn't imagine going back to guessing which club to choose without the data to back it up.
Wearables and golfers have long been bedfellows, and those desperate to shave a few digits off their handicap can really find benefits with technology. Using a GPS golf watch can help golfers make better decisions on the course, and the price of the technology has plummeted in the last year, making them affordable for everyone.
It's not just GPS watches and glorified range-finders, either. Systems like Game Golf, Arccos and Zepp are helping golfers get more out of their practice time, and both systems promise* to offer insights into your game – and most importantly, actionable information to become a better golfer.
*Miracles not guaranteed.
TomTom Golfer SE
TomTom has expanded its line-up of golf watches by adding the TomTom Golfer 2 SE. We panned the original Golfer 2 for the useless and intrusive shot detection system (since slightly tweaked) that inflated price to $249.
Well, the SE slashes cost substantially, and while the jury is out on the accuracy of auto-shot detection until our review , we can live with it at a lower price. Check back for our full review in the coming weeks.
Garmin Approach S60
The latest Garmin Approach S60 apes the all-singing Fenix 5, to bring maximum features into one device. In terms of golf, it packs in advanced technique and swing analysis (SwingTempo and TempoTraining) of the ageing Garmin Approach S6, and pairs it with the distances, hazards, scoring and shot detection.
New features include PlaysLike, which 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 Fenix 5 that puts golf first, and just as bulky, which will put some golfers off – especially ladies.
We've yet to get to grips with the Approach S60, but it looks like the most complete golf watch Garmin has released so far.
Best golf GPS watches
Garmin Approach X40
Okay – there are a lot of Garmins on this list, but the company is turning out golf wearables faster than Jason Day is accumulating titles, and they're all very different. The Garmin Approach X40 doubles as an all-day fitness tracker and offers GPS run tracking, bolstered by 24/7 heart rate tracking that will match any Fitbit.
Back to golf, it comes pre-loaded with data for 35,000 courses, which includes pin position details and hazards. It's surprisingly easy to navigate on the small touchscreen display and there's also a mode for measuring your drives.
The Approach X40 will also track your shots – if you turn the feature on – and will subtly prompt you to tag which club you used. We found this slightly superfluous and easy to ignore, though real data golfers will no doubt love the feature. On-watch scoring is nicely implemented, and you can also benefit from smartwatch notifications delivered from your phone.
All-in-all the Garmin Approach X40 is a fantastic golf watch and so much more. If you're a passionate golfer whose active lifestyle extends beyond the course, it's a fantastic buy.
Read the full verdict: Garmin Approach X40 review
Garmin Approach S20
Designed to be worn away from the golf course, as well as providing GPS distances on it, the Approach S20 offers fitness tracking and smartwatch notifications. On the golf course, there's support for 40,000 worldwide courses with distances to front, middle and back displayed next to a map of each green.
You can call up hazard and lay-up distances for any hole through the context menu, keep score on the watch using a super nifty tracker, and the watch claims to record every shot you take on the course – although we found that hit and miss to say the least. You'll get two big rounds of golf from the battery – and up to eight weeks as a standard smartwatch.
The Approach S20 hasn't been treated to GPS tracking for workouts, nor does it boast a heart rate monitor, so it's slightly less versatile than the excellent Approach X40. But if you prefer the watch format to the fitness band, it's still a top golf device.
Check out our full Garmin Approach S20 review for more details.
Hole 19 + Apple Watch/Android Wear
Okay so it's not technically a wearable, but Hole 19 has become a staple of the Wareable golf line-up. It turns your Apple Watch or Android Wear device into a GPS golf watch by piggy-backing off your smartphone, and while it's not that reliable (the Apple Watch app has a nasty habit of crashing) it's a good way to get extra value out of your smartwatch.
But beyond turning your smartwatch into a golf GPS device, the smartphone app is also well worthy of a mention. The scorecard (which can be input via the watch) is fantastic, and there's an awesome golf community where you can post photos of your rounds and add your regular playing buddies and keep track of how they're doing.
Free, iOS/Android, hole19golf.com
TomTom Golfer 2
Thanks to a couple of post-release improvements the Golfer 2 is off our naughty list although we'd advise buyers to wait for the SE version (see Incoming). As well as yardages to the pin and hazards, it also employs automatic shot tracking to help you find out where your game is going wrong.
The tracking is a bit hit and miss, but you can quickly cancel mis-logged shots and add others by covering the screen. This has been improved, and thankfully, the bleep and vibrate shot notification is now able to be muted.
It's by no means perfect, and data is a tad limited because clubs aren't tagged. But if you're considering a shot-tracker such as Game Golf or Arccos and a golf watch purchase, this offers some form of convergence.
Garmin Approach S6
The Approach S6 is the grandaddy of golf watches, although it's about to be superseded by the incoming Approach S60. The Garmin Approach S6 has built-in mapping for 40,000 international courses, and will display yardage to the pin and a top-down view of the hole on its colour screen.
The S6 will also provide information on your swing, helping you to achieve a more consistent performance, and Garmin Connect, which is one of the best platforms for running stats analysis.
The only problem is that you'll need to spend the equivalent of a top-end driver on a device that tells you how far to hit one.
Best swing analysers
Zepp 2 golf sensor
Zepp 2 is a clip-on device that attaches to your glove when you're on the course or hitting on the range. The array of sensors notes everything from the speed of your hands to the tempo of your forward and backswing, before showing your data in the app which flashes up less than a second after you've hit the ball.
You can then review the data, look at visual charts of your shots, and even compare them to professional's swings to see where you're going wrong. There are also heaps of tuition videos from pros tailored to the area of your swing you're struggling with.
When paired with a smartphone, the app will even use the built-in accelerometer to track hip movements: a crucial element of a consistent swing and the Achilles heel of many a weekend golfer.
Check out our full Zepp Golf review for our take.
Garmin's swing sensor takes a different tact to Zepp, and is positioned on the club shaft, rather than the glove. The steady position makes it a tad more accurate, and it picks up a host of data, from shaft angle, lean, club speed, club plane – everything you need to build up a picture of your game.
But is it any good? This is quite a nuanced decision, so bear with us. In terms of raw data we found the Garmin TruSwing to be a fantastic swing tracker, but is much better if used with a regular coach.
The app isn't nearly as good as Zepp with its traffic light system of swing analysis, and the raw data can be quite impenetrable. Comparing swings isn't nearly as easy, but if you pair it with the Approach S20 or the Approach X40, you can get data on your wrist, which is infinitely better than fishing out your phone to check your swing plane.
In short, if you're working with a coach pick the Garmin. If you just want to fix your swing down at the range, the user-friendly Zepp 2 is a much better bet.
In-depth: Garmin TruSwing review
Best golf shot trackers
Taking the fight to GameGolf is the impressive Arccos Golf package, which uses club-top receivers to track every shot on the course. Unlike its big rival, however, you don't need to physically tap before taking every shot, with shots automatically detected by your smartphone. In return you get handicaps derived from each aspect of your game, showing you where you can pick up shots, as well as average distances for every club.
It's not perfect, and in our testing not every shot is recognised, but it blends into the background allowing you to get back into your game. Arccos is currently being tested at Wareable and the full review will follow.
Game Golf LIVE
Another wearable analyser, Game Golf is brimming with professional endorsements with Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and some bloke called Barack Obama all using it. If that wasn't enough, GameGolf even boasts design by Yves Behar, the creative director of Jawbone.
Game Golf comes in two parts, a wearable sensor which mounts on your belt, and a series of sensors that mount onto the top of your club. When you're about to play a shot just touch the club element to the sensor, then play. When you get home Game Golf shows every shot and the success rates in each part of your game, so you can identify the areas you need to work on.
It's a decent system, but we've never managed to include it into our game. We get so engrossed into the round – be it playing well or badly – that we forget to tap, and for our money, it's a bit too much like hard work. But if you're willing to build Game Golf into your pre-shot routine, the well-designed app and array of data can add valuable information to your game post-mortems.
Cobra Connect driver range
The Cobra Connect drivers feature the above Arccos technology built into the shaft, and connect to your phone via Bluetooth. You use the same app, but without having to buy the full set of screw-in sensors.
While you don't get a map of every shot you take on the course, the Cobra Connect drivers enable you to track your driving accuracy, which is a manageable way to get started. One paired with the smartphone app, the driver recognises a shot and plots it on the course map. When you take your second shot with a sensorless club, the app uses your phone's microphone to detect the resulting shot being taken, and plots the second GPS position.
This should start to demystify your driving and provide real data on your bad shots. Are they predominantly left or right? What percentage make the fairway? For many golfers, the reality is far different from the perception.
The Cobra King LTD is $450 and available at American Golf now, while the Cobra King F7+ is $400 and Cobra King F7 is $350.
From $350, cobragolf.com
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