​Best golf GPS watches: Garmin, Bushnell and smartwatch apps to try

Knock shots off your handicap with these top golf wearables
Best golf GPS watches
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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.

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 from the likes of Garmin, Bushnell or Skycaddy – or buy a smartwatch with GPS, such as the Apple Watch SE or Wear OS smartwatch such as the Skagen Falster 3 and use an app.

With smartwatches now prevalent it's increasingly hard to justify paying in excess of $300 for a single use golf watch, which you may only use one a week (if you're lucky).

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.

Garmin Approach S12

Price when reviewed: $199.99

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

Garmin has also added the new Approach S12, an entry level golf GPS watch it 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 $199.99 the S12 gives golfers a budget alternative to the rest of the pricey Garmin range and a big reason to buy over a £279.99 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 $299.99

Approach S42 $299.99

Garmin Approach S40

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 645 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 new 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.

Garmin Approach S10

Price when reviewed: $149.99

Garmin Approach S10

Screen size: 1-inch (128 x 128) | Multi-sport: No | Courses: 41,000 | Activity tracking: No | Shot detection: No | Notifications: No

The Garmin Approach S10 is the company's cheapest golf watch, and its most basic. While it's lighter on the wallet, this does mean a leaner set of features, for those who just want basic on-course information.

You get access to 41,000 courses, without the need to pre-load data, and when you're on the course you'll get distances to the front, back and middle of the green, as well as lay-ups and hazards.

There is also on-watch scoring, although only stoke play – so there's no Stableford scoring or recording of putts, tee-short spread or penalties. All that data is recorded in the Garmin Golf app. However, the S10 doesn't provide round data such as putts per round, fairways hit and other analytics into Garmin Golf, so the experience will be more bare.

There's also no smart notifications, the GPS can't be used for tracking of running, and there's no shot tracking, club tagging or green view with adjustable flag position for more accurate yardages.

However, you can regularly find the Approach S10 for around $100, and which is staggering value for a Garmin golf watch.

Read all about it: Garmin Approach S10 review

Bushnell Ion 2

Price when reviewed: $129.99

Bushnell Ion 2

Screen size: 1.2-inch | Multisport: No | Courses: 35,000 | Activity tracking: Yes | Shot detection: No | Notifications: No

While Garmin dominates the golf wearables market, Bushnell has been in the game even longer – and the Ion 2 undercuts most Garmin watches on the market, while still delivering essential data you need for your round.

The Bushnell Ion 2 is a pretty feature packed watch, with a digital touchscreen, 36,000 courses and a dedicated companion app.

The data displayed on the screen is no-where near as detailed as high end Garmins – and you sacrifice the green mapping you get in the mid-range too. However, you get three rounds worth out of one battery charge – which will beat many Garmin watches hands down.

It will show up to four hazards per hole, change holes automatically, and calculate shot distances.

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

Price when reviewed:$499.99

Best golf GPS watches, smartwatch apps and swing analysers

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 apes the all-singing Fenix 6, to bring 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 a step up from the Approach S60 as 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.

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 6 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.

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're a little confused about what the stats mean, and more importantly, how to fix them.

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 Connect 45 Golf Edition

Price when reviewed: $1,850

Tag Heuer Connect 45 Golf Edition

Screen size: 1.39-inch (400 x 400) | Multi-sport: Yes | Courses: 40,000 | Activity tracking: Yes | Shot detection: No | Notifications: Yes

A bit of a weird hybrid this entry but bear with us. Tag Heuer launched the Connected Modular 45 Golf Edition (above) smartwatch at Baselworld – a special edition of its smartwatch built for golf.

The watch itself has a fabric sports strap and 1-18 etched onto the bezel, which corresponds to the information on the special Tag Heuer Golf app that comes included – which seems to be a rebadged version of the FunGolf app.

The app itself is fantastic – the best golf app we've ever used in terms of extras. However, even that isn't going to attract many people to the enormous $1,850 price tag of the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 Golf Edition.

But the app is actually available for smartphones free of charge and you can have it on your Apple Watch for a $39.99 subscription, which offers yardages to the pin, hazards, on-wrist scoring and round insights all on the wrist.

But it's the brilliantly crisp and clear 3D renders of 39,000 global courses which really won us over, and gives Hole 19 a big run for its money despite the price tag.

Check out our full Tag Heuer Connect 45 Golf Edition review.

Hole19 – iOS and Android

Free, iOS/Android, hole19golf.com

Hole19 – iOS and Android

One for users of Apple Watch and Wear OS smartwatches, Hole 19 is a Wareable favourite. It turns your Apple Watch or Wear OS smartwatch into a golf watch, either using your phone's data or GPS built into the device.

Since its early days the Hole 19 smartwatch app has become far more reliable and responsive, and now can rival the performance of a dedicated watch.

However you don't get distances to hazards or shot measuring, so it's still advantage golf watch for now.

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 plus add your regular playing buddies and keep track of how they're doing.

Tag Heuer Golf app

$39.99 per year, iOS/Android

Tag Heuer Golf app

Tag Heuer has also overhauled its golf app with loads more insights into your game. The on-watch mapping was our favorite element of the Tag Heuer Connected and this is now available for iOS and Wear OS smartwatches.

It's actually an older app called Fun Golf GPS rebadged for Tag Heuer – and it's all about the snazzy visuals and course fly-pasts.

If you pay the $39.99 annual subscription you can access the incredibly slick interactive 2D course maps and distances to the green and hazards. You get distance to the green and hazards, shot measuring, scores and insights and a real-time club recommendation feature.

And it's being constantly updated. The app will now offer club recommendations. You need to set up distances for each club within the app, but it will also use the shot tracking to train those numbers.

The company has also added shot distance tracking via the pushers on the device (including Apple Watch) and updated the scoring app to include stroke play, stableford and matchplay, including non-Tag Heuer using companions.