The Complete Guide to the Best Golf GPS Watches available in 2020
The best golf GPS watches in 2020 do a lot more than just give you a yardage to the green. The best golf watch can track every shot you hit, giving you an accurate average yardage for how far you hit every club in your bag (we almost guarantee the reality will be a bit shorter than you think). And some golf GPS watches can even use this information to act as a virtual caddie, recommending the right club for your next shot.
But we know a good golf watch isn’t cheap, so we want to make sure you’re getting the best golf watch for your money.
Below you’ll find our pick of the best golf watches available. So if you want the best cheap golf watch, the best golf watch to track your game, or the best overall golf watch, we’ve got you covered.
How accurate are golf GPS watches?
Golf GPS watches were typically accurate to within 3-5 metres, which isn't bad, but at the top end of that scale could mean the yardage given was 16 feet higher or lower than the reality. That could be the difference between finding the green or a greenside bunker. Modern golf watches are becoming increasingly accurate, most to within one or two yards. The new ShotScope V3 claims accuracy of 30cm, which will be close enough for even the most accurate golfers.
Is the Apple Watch good for golf?
The Apple Watch can be used for golf, but golf obviously isn't its main purpose, and it shows.
For a start, you'll need to use a third-party app like Golfshot or 18Birdies. Most of the Apple Watch golf apps are paid-for or involve some kind of subscription to get the full service. You'll also need your phone to be involved in the process of playing golf, usually at the start and end of the round. Some of the apps will actually be taking the yardages from your phone and displaying them on your phone, which isn't particulary helpful unless your bag is right next to you. If you're on the tee and your bag is 10 yards away, your watch could be displaying completely the wrong yardage.
If you have an Apple Watch and don't want to buy a second watch purely for golf, then it can and will do a job for you. But if you're choosing the best golf watch from everything available, the Apple Watch would be some way down the list.
There's also the fact that the Apple Watch can do so much – calls, emails, social media, fitness tracking, etc etc – that it will tend to interrupt your golf unless you remember to turn everything else off before your round.
Golf watch vs. laser rangefinder vs. handheld GPS
Golf watch – pros and cons
Quick and convenient – Golf watches are the quickest to use of the three options; simply glance down at your wrist and you have all the information you need.
Stat-tracking – Most golf watches now offer some form of stat-tracking which can be hugely useful to help you work out the strengths and weaknesses in your game, as well as reliable information on how far you hit each club in your bag.
Overhead hole views – Some of the more advanced golf GPS watches can give you a bird's-eye view of the hole, which helps you plot your shots and play smart shots to avoid hazards.
Feeling on wrist – Some golfers don't like the feeling of a golf watch on their wrist when they play, and therefore prefer a laser rangefinder or handheld GPS. Most modern golf watches aren't overly bulky, so this won't be an issue for many people, but it's a personal preference.
Not as accurate as lasers – Golf GPS watches are very accurate, but if you want the absolute most accurate yardage to the flag possible, a golf laser rangefinder is the way to go.
Battery – Most of the best golf watches will last you two 18-hole rounds of golf on one charge, but if you're on a golf holiday and forget your charger, there's nothing you can do. The majority of golf lasers use replaceable batteries rather than rechargeable ones and will last for months, if not years, without needing to be replaced.
Golf laser rangefinder – pros and cons
Accuracy – If you want to know exactly how far you've got to the flag, a laser rangefinder will beat a golf watch or handheld GPS every time. That said, many golfers would benefit from aiming for the middle of the green rather than the pin more often, and that's something the laser can't really help you with.
Simplicity – With a golf laser, you don't need to faff about with a touchscreen or countless different menu options. Simply aim at your target, press a button (most lasers only have one or two buttons), and the yardage will flash up before your eyes.
Battery life – Most lasers use replaceable batteries and these will typically last dozens, if not hundreds of rounds. Just make sure you always carry a spare battery in your golf bag for the inevitable day the battery dies on the first hole of an important competition...
Hand shake – Some golfers find it difficult to lock on to their target as it requires a relatively steady hand. The best golf lasers do tend to have features to help with this, and to let you know that you've definitely locked on to the flag and not the trees behind, but if you're inadvertently waving it around all over the show there isn't much it can do.
Pin-only yardages – Standard golf lasers only provide a yardage to the target you aim at, which is typically the pin. It's much more difficult to get an accurate yardage to a hazard that doesn't stick up, like a bunker or water.
Speed – We've all been stuck behind a golfer who takes an age to get a yardage with his laser, and feels the need to repeat the process two or three times on every shot. Whilst the process should only take a few seconds, there's no denying that it's never going to be quite as quick as just looking down at a watch that's already displaying the yardage.
Lack of stat-tracking – A laser will help you while you're on the course, but it doesn't offer any stat-tracking or post-round analysis, which you get with the best golf watches and handheld GPS devices.
Related: Best Golf Rangefinders 2020
Handheld golf GPS – pros and cons
Combined speed and accuracy – A golf GPS will constantly display yardages and update these as you move around the course, so there's no need to worry about pressing any buttons as you have to do with a golf laser
Cheap – You can pick up a half-decent handheld golf GPS for under £100, although top models with extensive functionality can be four times that amount.
Comprehensive – A full-screen golf GPS will give you a full picture of the hole you're on, which makes it easy to plan your way around bunkers, dog-legs and so forth. Whether you can then hit the shots you planned is another matter...
Accuracy – As we've established, nothing beats a golf laser rangefinder when it comes to accuracy to the flag. Top-end golf GPS devices will let you place a pin on the green and give you a yardage, but that's only as accurate as your interpretation of where the flag is on that day.
We've picked out what we feel are the best golf watches to buy in 2020. Click on any of the products to be taken straight to that part of the page:
This entry-level Garmin is all the golf watch most people will need.
Battery life using GPS: 12 hours
Number of courses: 41,000
Garmin are the market-leaders when it comes to golf watches and even their entry model, the Garmin Approach S10, will really help your golf game.
The Garmin Approach S10 may not offer as many features as some of the more expensive golf watches on the market, but for the price, it is a fantastic golf watch.
The Garmin Approach S10 comes preloaded with 41,000 worldwide golf courses and the watch will automatically identify the course you’re playing using your GPS location.
The Approach S10 provides accurate yardages to the front, middle and back of the green, as well as hazards and doglegs. It knows when you’ve finished the hole and will automatically display information for the next hole, so you don’t need to press anything.
The Garmin S10 golf watch itself is sleek and lightweight, while the high-resolution display is easy to read in all conditions.
You can use the Garmin Approach S10 to keep score, and it automatically adds up the total distance you’ve covered and the time you’ve spent playing.
The Garmin Approach S10 has a battery life of up to 12 hours, so it’s easily good enough for two rounds. It may even do three rounds, but you’re probably taking a risk of it running out during the third, so we’d recommend charging the watch after every two rounds.
The Garmin Approach S10 doesn’t track your game the way some of the pricier golf watches do, but you can use it to keep score during your round and then upload each round you play to Garmin Express to keep track of your scores throughout the season. There’s no extra cost for doing that.
– You know you're getting quality with the Garmin name.
– Solid battery life won't let you down on the course.
– Lightweight and stylish package.
– Easy to use and lots of features for the price.
– Lacks the stat-tracking of some golf watches.
A GPS golf watch and stat-tracking device in one affordable and stylish package from ShotScope.
Price: V3 - £209.99 / G3 - £169.99 (just GPS yardages, no shot-tracking)
Battery life using GPS: 10+ hours
Number of courses: 35,000
The ShotScope V3 does everything you would expect of a standard GPS golf watch – it comes with 35,000 courses pre-loaded and shows yardages to the front, middle and back of the green – but it is so much more than that.
Shot Scope say thanks to using dual satellite technology both the V3 and G3 are the most accurate golf GPS system available, cutting the competitions standard accuracy from 3 - 5 metres down to just 30cm.
The Shot Scope V3 golf watch comes with 16 sensors. You screw one into the end of each of your clubs (the 16 means you've got one for each club and two spares) and this enables the watch to automatically detect every shot you hit. It can then map your entire round, shot-by-shot, and collect a huge amount of helpful data about your golf game. You won't notice the sensors at all, as they are so light and screw snugly into the grip of your club, and the new V3 version allow you to play without any user interaction on the golf course. You don't even need to tag where the flag is when putting out, Shot Scopes clever new system does everything for you.
The amount of analytics the ShotScope V3 offers is fantastic. It gives you over a 100 statistics, covering the kind of things you normally see on tour. Here are a few examples of what the ShotScope V3 can show you, but there's loads more:
– Approach shot proximity to the hole
– Greens in regulation
– Up and down percentage
– Driving distance
– Fairways hit / fairways missed left / fairways missed right
– Average yardage with each club, plus your longest shot with each club
– Putts per round
– Putts holed percentage from different distances
– Average holes per three-putt
The data is incredibly detailed. If you're into your golf stats, you could lose hours poring over every part of your game. But most importantly, the statistics from the ShotScope V3 can teach you things about your game that you wouldn't otherwise have realised. That will help you determine which parts of your game you need to work on, and help you make better decisions out on the course, saving you shots.
The V3 is also Shot Scope's most compact and stylish watch to date as the previous V2 was pretty bulky on the wrist.
– Tracks a huge number of different statistics.
– Competitively priced given the V3 is both a GPS golf watch and stat-tracker in one.
- A lovely stylish compact watch with inter-changeable straps allowing customisation.
– Ummmm, we're really struggling to find a downside to the V3 and G3.
Related: Shot Scope V3 golf watch review
Skymost powerful and accurate GPS golf watch available.
Price: £299.95 (including a three year subscription)
Battery life using GPS: Up to two rounds
Number of courses: 35,000
If you’re serious about accurate, up-to-date GPS yardages, SkyCaddie have stood out for years.
They insist on getting out there and measuring courses on foot – regularly – unlike most GPS suppliers who rely on measured distances from aerial photography and satellite information (which can be out of date).
But two years ago SkyCaddie took things to a new level of detail when they revealed the SX500 handheld GPS. It was similar in dimensions to a plus-size mobile phone, had a touch screen and happily calculated yardages to any point on the course all day long. But the feature that really sold it for us was how it showed how far was left behind a flag, and how much green there was to play with either side of the flag – features a laser could never compete with.
So in depth was the yardage information the system spat out that, for the first time ever, several high profile tour players adopted the system and ditched their yardage books forever. And when you’re playing for your livelihood and hundreds of thousands of pounds a season, that’s a really big deal.
Wind the clock forward nearly two years and SkyCaddie have now rolled out the same kind of functionality and vivid graphics in the smaller SX400 and now in a watch, the LX5 GPS.
– Zoom and pan functions give yardages to any point on the golf course.
– Shows how much space there is infront, behind and to either side of the flag.
– Subscription required after initial 3 year membership.
Related: SkyCaddie LX5 golf watch review
A good-looking and incredibly accurate golf watch from Bushnell.
Battery life using GPS: 14 hours
Number of courses: 35,000+
The Bushnell Excel GPS watch is a very smart golf watch in its own right, offering all the yardages to the front, middle and back of the green you would expect, as well as distances to up to four hazards. It also lets you easily record shot distances and time your round.
But it's when paired with your mobile phone using the free Bushnell Golf App that things get really clever. Paired with your phone, you'll get full colour aerial hole layouts, 3D flyovers, swing analysis and you can even book tee times! It's a seriously smart piece of kit, especially given the competitive price.
The Bushnell Excel is also one of, if not the best-looking golf watches available.
– Very stylish watch.
– Huge amount of features when paired with the app.
– Excellent battery life and very quick to charge.
– Visible screen size is small, making up less than half of the watch face.
Related: Bushnell Excel golf watch review
Garmin's premium model is the ultimate golf watch for those who want it all.
Battery life using GPS: 20 hours
Number of courses: 41,000
The Garmin Approach S62 won't be the golf watch for everyone, purely due to the price. But, if you can afford it, The Garmin Approach S62 is quite simply the best golf watch money can buy.
For starters, the Garmin Approach S62 is probably the most stylish golf watch available. It looks good enough to wear all the time, not just on the golf course. And you can do that, as the Garmin Approach S62 battery life will last up to a fortnight when you're just using it as a normal watch. In golf mode, the Garmin S62 battery life is up to 20 hours, which is a lot longer than most golf GPS watches.
The Garmin Approach S62 has a full-colour display on a 1.3" screen, which is 17 per cent larger than the Garmin Approach S60 and readable even in bright sunlight.
The Garmin Approach S62's larger display comes in particularly handy when using the 'Green View' feature, which shows the true shape of the green and lets you zoom in and drag-and-drop the pin for greater accuracy.
If you've carved a shot way off into the woods and don't even know where the green is anymore, or if you're just playing a blind approach shot, the Garmin S62's 'PinPointer' will act like a compass to point you directly towards the hole.
The 'Hazard View' lets you quickly scroll through each hazard and get a yardage to the front and back, helping you decide whether to lay up or take on the carry distance.
The Garmin Approach S62 also collects stats. Pair it with the Garmin Golf app to get strokes gained information and lots more.
It can use this information to act as a caddie on your wrist, factoring in wind speed and direction to suggest a club based on the distance you typically hit with each of the clubs in your bag.
Even if you prefer to pick clubs for yourself, the Approach S62 makes that easier, offering adjusted distances to allow for uphill and downhill shots, and for wind speed and direction.
It is so helpful it almost feels like cheating. And, in a way, it is, as some of those features wouldn't be allowed in any normal golf competition. But you can turn them off and use the Garmin Approach S62 as a normal golf watch, which most amateur competitions will allow.
The Garmin Approach S62 is a lot more than just a fantastic golf watch. It monitors your heart rate and can even estimate blood oxygen levels. It can receive emails and texts. And it can also be used for running, cycling and swimming, as well as golf. You can even use it to make contactless payments via Garmin Pay.
– Has everything you could possibly want from a golf watch.
– Lots of features that will genuinely help you save shots on the course.
– Excellent battery life.
– Styish package.
– The volume of features will be needlessly complicated for some.
GolfBuddy offer fantastic golf watch functionality at a very reasonable price.
Battery life using GPS: 11 hours
Number of courses: 40,000
The GolfBuddy Aim W10 offers a full-colour touch screen display which is impressive at this mid-range price point. You can use it to zoom in and out around the green, place the pin in the right spot, and even see green undulations.
The GolfBuddy Aim W10 also offers slope-adjusted distances and can sync with your smartphone via the GolfBuddy app.
The GolfBuddy W10 comes pre-loaded with an impressive 40,000 courses and you get free updates.
The 11-hour battery life means the GolfBuddy Aim W10 golf watch will easily get you through two rounds between charges, or possibly three if you play relatively quickly!
– Touch screen is very impressive (and useful).
– Zoom in/out function is excellent.
– Some will prefer a more well-known brand like Garmin at the same price point.
Related: GolfBuddy Aim W10 golf watch review