I usually play the same 5-10 golf courses in my area, so I’ve gotten pretty good and knowing what kind of yardage I’m playing when I’m on those courses. I also have access to a golf rangefinder or two, when I’m playing with my friends. And I’ve seen golf GPS watches, but have always wondered how accurate the golf GPS watches are. Or at least how accurate they are compared to my golf rangefinder.
I decided to do a bit of research in the golf GPS watch world and below is what I’ve learned from my research.
I’m just going to tell you right out of the gates, the accuracy of golf GPS watches is surprisingly good. The average mid to high-level golf GPS watch is accurate to within about 4 yards. The quality of the golf GPS watch combined with access to satellite reception is the biggest x-factor that you’ll deal with, should you decide to get a golf GPS watch.
Personally, if I can hit all my drives and irons within consistent yardage with a variance of 4 yards, I would be ecstatic. Unfortunately, I can hit a good drive (for me is about 250 yards) and shank a drive on the very next hole.
So, having a golf GPS watch with an accuracy of 4 yards is very acceptable. If I was a single-digit handicap, then I might want to know within a high degree of accuracy if my chip is 20 yards or 16-24 yards.
The margin of error of only 4 yards is so minimal that even if it told me my chip was 20 yards and my rangefinder said 24 yards, I would still use the same club. If the results were widely different only then would it cause me to switch clubs.
When it comes to golf GPS watches there are a few other important aspects to consider if you’re going to be using a golf watch.
The accuracy of golf GPS watches can be influenced by a few things. The brand seems to be a big factor. When it comes to golf GPS watches, you really do get what you pay for.
The bigger name brands have higher quality components that make for good reception of satellite signals. If you find a cheaper golf watch, it might be because the craftsmanship or the quality of the watch is inferior to the bigger name brands.
Another key element will be receiving a satellite signal. As you can imagine if you’re in a metal building or under a tree canopy, it might be difficult to get satellite signals. Even poor weather could influence the accuracy of the satellite signal. If any of these obstacles interfere with reception, you could get error messages, inaccurate readings, or no information at all.
How Does a Golf Watch Work?
So, this seems like a pretty simple question, and it really isn’t difficult to understand. Just like your smartphone GPS tracking, the golf watches utilize the satellites and give a precise location of where you’re at. The top-of-the-line golf watches have golf courses pre-loaded so that at any given time the satellites can tell you how far away you are from the green, using the pre-programmed data of the course. The watches typically give you front, center, and back distances to the flag. Some will even give hazard distances.
So, this begs the question, what if they change the course? Well, it seems the bigger and more popular brands will most likely keep their data current. Also, some golf watches have a feature that shows you the shape of the green. From there you can place the pin, which would result in a more accurate golf GPS reading.
Again, any changes to courses are usually minor like pin placement, and hazards are usually the same, so even without this feature, it might not be a deal-breaker.
Who Should Use a Golf GPS Watch?
Just about anyone that doesn’t use a golf rangefinder or anyone that loves to use the latest tech would be interested in using a golf GPS watch. Some of the watches have a feature that allows you to track your shots too.
If you’re new to golf or using new clubs a golf watch that features the tracker would be helpful. This way you can track how far you’re hitting your clubs and will allow you to choose the best club for the distance, moving forward. It’s important to note that to use some of the features you have to wear the watch on the correct wrist.
Per the software developers, you need to have the wrist on the leading hand. This isn’t a big deal for most people, since most people wear their watch on their non-dominant hand. However, in golf, it’s not uncommon for left-handers to still golf right-handed (and vice-versa). If you don’t switch the watch over to your dominant hand, it might not track all your shots accurately.
Do You Need to Download an App?
Some of the watches come with a ton of features. Some of the higher-end models can track swing speed, scores, clubs used, and a variety of fitness activities with their app. If tracking your steps or mileage is important to you, these are features you might want to consider.
What Is The Best Golf GPS Watch?
Again, I don’t use a golf watch but have been lucky enough to play with others that use them and fiddle around with them myself. From the research I’ve done, it looks like if you want an accurate golf watch you have to go with one of the bigger name brands. Additionally, I looked at what’s available on the market along with the reviews of current users and it appears Garmin is the way to go.
The Garmin S60 Golf Watch seems to be the cream of the crop.
Granted it is at a higher price point, but as mentioned above, you get what you pay for. Some would say that Garmin has the market cornered when it comes to golf watches. And after looking at what’s available on the market, they definitely have a few that would work. Current users of the Garmin S60 say “the golf functions are flawless”, and “great battery life, for how much it tracks.”
The Garmin Approach S60 golf watch gives you the critical information you need for your round — displayed on a large 240×240 pixel, 1.2-inch sunlight-readable color touchscreen — so you can master your game. With up to 10 hours of battery life while golfing — or up to 10 days in watch mode — your Garmin is sure to keep you informed.
More Benefits and Features
- Compatible with smartphones for access to more personalized golf info.
- Over 100 watch faces to choose from, even pics on your smartphone *app needed
- Very quick yardage display
- Automatically displays yardage without pushing buttons
- Over 40,000 pre-loaded golf courses
- Takes elevation into account for yardage
- 50-meter water ATM rating
- Swing Tempo and Tempo Training helps improve your swing
- Shows hazard yardage and potential layup yardage
Wrapping up Accuracy of Golf GPS Watches
I don’t wear a watch but have found the idea of getting a golf watch intriguing. The accuracy of prominent golf GPS watches seems to be improving from year to year. If I do get one it will be because I plan on playing more courses I’m unfamiliar with. I can see how someone that plays a ton of different courses and doesn’t consistently carry a golf rangefinder around, could benefit from one. The higher-end ones offer more than just yardage. The post-round analysis information can really help you review your round and learn where you can perform better, and lower that score.