Measures shot distances with Garmin Connect for post-game analysis. Metrics help your swing consistency and display steps taken, calories burned, hours of sleep in addition to golf stats.
Batteries may not hold charge well/may freeze. Software glitches at times without finding nearby courses.
Pre-loaded with over 35,000 courses in 30 countries. Comfortable band. Long battery life, distance calculator, and integrated step counter. 1-year limited warranty.
Software works with Windows XP but not Windows 10, creating compatibility issues. Band may break with repeated use.
A nice-looking watch with a slim design. Earns praise for its fast charging ability and long battery life. More than 40,000 pre-loaded courses around the world. Vivid screen is easy to read.
Some inaccuracies tracing various aspects of the game. Makes an annoying "buzzing" alarm that is difficult to turn off.
Thin and lightweight with touchscreen. Readable in sunlight. Comes with a variety of built-in apps. Battery lasts 3 weeks in watch mode/10 hours GPS. Customizable face. Water-resistant.
Some models stopped syncing. Inconsistency with GPS connection.
Pre-loaded with over 30,000 worldwide courses and free lifetime updates. Battery life is 3 weeks watch mode/up to 8 hours with GPS. Advanced GPS receiver for tracking under trees. Accurate yardage. Printable digital scorecard.
Short battery life (only 3 hours sometimes). GPS does not always hold charge, and software may glitch.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
For anyone who enjoys hitting the links, a game of golf is the perfect way to spend an afternoon, but it can be pretty frustrating, too. If your skills aren’t progressing as quickly as you’d like, a golf watch can help you improve your game while having a little more fun on the green.
Equipped with GPS, a golf watch can provide a wide variety of helpful readings that can shave strokes off your score. But there are so many models on the market that choosing the right one can be difficult.
At BestReviews, our goal is to take the stress out of shopping. We do all the product research, so you only have to focus on the key facts – and your golf game. If you’re ready to buy a golf watch, check out our top picks. If you want some general advice on choosing a golf watch, keep reading our shopping guide.
Like many modern fitness trackers, a golf watch is a piece of wearable technology. But unlike other trackers that provide general readings for sports and fitness activities, a golf watch is designed specifically to maximize performance on the links.
It does most of the things that any fitness tracker can do, such as alerting you about calls and messages on your phone, but it can also map out the course, alert you to possible obstacles, provide accurate distance measurements, and keep track of the score, all from the convenience of your wrist.
Stylish and effective
The Garmin Approach S20 isn’t just an impressive golf watch, its elegant design makes it stylish enough to wear every day. The S20 doesn’t skimp on the features you need on the course either. AutoShot automatically records shot distances, the TruSwing sensor measures your consistency to help improve your game, and the 41,000 preloaded courses from around the world take the guesswork out of hitting the links.
There are plenty of reasons why a golf watch is handy on the course.
Helps lower your handicap: Because a golf watch can help you improve your game, you’ll be able to shoot better scores.
Offers course distances: With GPS, a golf watch can provide accurate distances from your location on the course to the next green. That means you don’t have to guess before you take your shot.
Provides insight for hard-to-see shots: If you hit your ball into a spot that doesn’t provide a clear view of the green, a golf watch can help you figure out exactly where you need to aim.
Allows you to play more efficiently: A golf watch provides accurate course distances and insights about where to the hit the ball so you can play more quickly.
Helps you make the most of your clubs: Your golf watch can keep track of how far you hit the ball with each club, so you’ll always know the best club for a particular shot.
Some golf watch manufacturers charge a subscription fee for course updates on your watch, so make sure to take any extra fees into account when you’re considering the price of a watch.
The first thing to consider when choosing a golf watch is whether it works with your smartphone’s operating system. Nearly all golf watches work with both the Apple iOS and Android, but you’ll have fewer options if you have a phone that runs Windows OS. Read the product specifications carefully to make sure that the watch will work with your phone.
For the most comfort, you want a golf watch with a lightweight, flexible band or strap. Most watches feature rubberized bands that have a soft feel but provide just enough texture to keep the watch from moving around as you play. Some manufacturers offer bands in different sizes, so be sure to check the sizing chart to find the option that will be most comfortable for your wrist.
Nearly all golf watches are equipped with Bluetooth, so you can wirelessly transmit the data from the watch to your phone. Pay attention to the Bluetooth range of any watch that you’re considering, so you know how close your phone has to be to the watch to connect properly.
Golf watches usually run on a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery that can last for over a week before needing to be recharged. However, the battery drains more quickly when you enable the watch’s GPS mode to receive information about the course you’re on, meaning it will likely last only 10 to 15 hours on a charge. That’s usually enough time for a weekend full of golf games, but make sure to choose a watch with a battery that can last through your usual golfing schedule.
Many golf watches have a basic digital or LCD screen with buttons that enable you to control the watch and scan through the menus. Higher-end models usually have a color touchscreen for even easier navigation. If you opt for a touchscreen golf watch, look for one that can be used even if you’re wearing gloves.
Sunny days are great for golf, so it’s important to find a watch with an anti-glare screen so you can read it even if the sun is particularly bright.
While you obviously won’t be swimming while wearing your golf watch, it’s a good idea to choose a model that offers some water resistance. It enables you to play in inclement weather without worrying about your watch getting damaged.
The Garmin Vivoactive watch is a technological powerhouse that enables you to keep track of activities from swimming to biking to help increase your fitness. The high-resolution color touchscreen is easy to read even in bright sunlight. But what sets the Vivoactive apart from other fitness watches is the golf-specific tracking data, including over 38,000 course maps, stroke scorecard, and shot distance. Improve your health and your golf game with the help of one nifty device.
Preloaded courses and updates
Most golf watches come preloaded with over 30,000 course maps from around the world, so you’ll always know the layout no matter where you play. Check that any watch you’re considering features the courses you play most often.
Many golf watches also enable you to get free updates on the courses loaded on your watch to make sure that you always have the most up-to-date course information when you play.
A golf watch can provide the distances for the front, middle, and/or back of the green for the course that you’re playing to help you select the proper club for each shot. Look for a model that offers the most complete information possible to help you improve your game.
To verify the accuracy of the distances the watch provides, look for a model with an accelerometer to measure the speed of your swing. It helps the watch calculate distance even if there are issues with the GPS.
In addition to distance information, some golf watches offer a view of the green on the screen. This allows you to get a better sense of the layout, so you know what type of shot to take on each hole.
Most golf watches include a hazard detection feature that alerts you to water hazards and sand traps on the course, with the distance to them, so you can avoid them more easily.
Many golf watches feature automatic scoring to make it easier to keep track of your game. The watch records how far you’ve hit the ball and how many shots you’ve taken, so you don’t have to manually keep score with pencil and paper.
Most golf watches come with a coordinating smartphone app that stores your game and play data. This enables you to study your previous games to see how well you played and determine what areas need improvement.
Some golf watches are equipped with smart notifications that alert you when you receive a text, email, or call on your phone. This feature enables you to stay in touch with friends and family when you’re on the course without having to take your phone out of your bag.
Most golf watches are water resistant to a depth of 50 meters, so you’ll have no issue wearing yours when you play in the rain.
A golf watch is especially handy when playing on a new course; you can get familiar with the layout before you begin your game.
Golf watches typically range in price based on the type of display and features they offer. In most cases, you’ll pay between $100 and $300 for a golf watch.
A golf watch with an LCD or digital screen that provides basic features like GPS, course maps, and hazard detection usually costs between $100 and $150.
A golf watch with a touchscreen that provides all the basic features, as well as some advanced features like a green view and accelerometer, usually costs between $150 and $225.
A golf watch with a touchscreen that provides all the basic features, as well as a full range of advanced features like a green view, accelerometer, automatic scoring, and performance analysis, usually costs between $225 and $300.
Q. What’s the difference between a golf watch and a fitness tracker?
A. Fitness trackers are designed to track multiple sports, so one can certainly be used to track your golf game. However, it doesn’t offer all the same features as a dedicated golf watch, such as an automatic scoring system. Golf watches may include a pedometer to count steps, but they don’t keep track of advanced statistics for other sports. If you play multiple sports, a fitness tracker may be the best option, but if you only play golf, opt for a watch specifically designed for the sport.
Q. Can a golf watch distinguish between practice shots and game shots?
A. Some golf watches may mistakenly count a practice shot in your game score, but most models are able to use GPS to determine where you take your swing. If you take multiple shots in the same spot, the watch usually only records the most recent swing to keep an accurate score.
Q. Will a golf watch fit a woman’s wrist?
A. Most golf watches have adjustable bands that allow you to loosen or tighten the watch as necessary. Women or anyone with a smaller wrist can comfortably wear a golf watch, though they might have to wear the band on the tightest or smallest setting.
BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.