The modern magic of mobile GPS, bio-tracking and advanced analytics have converged into lightweight electronics you can wear on your wrist. For many people, the profiliferation of wearables and smart watches have assumed an essential part of their life. They can be especially useful in aiding their sporting lifestyle as well, however intense it may be.
When it comes to golf, there are myriad ways you can use a smartwatch or wearable device to elevate your experience. The question is, however, what exactly do you want out of the device? The more serious golfer will want fast and/or colorful GPS yardage and mapping, scoring and shot tracking. The more casual one may just need GPS. The health-conscious golfer may stick to a paper scorecard but rely on their wearable to track their heartrate, steps and more.
It's all possible with the right device. Some perform one or two functions well. Others perform many things sufficiently. So before you choose which golf smartwatch is right for you, ask yourself a few questions:
- Do I plan to wear this device all the time or just on the golf course?
- How detailed do I want my scoring or shot tracking?
- How detailed do I want my GPS and maps?
- How do I want to track my activity?
- What is the battery life?
- Am I okay with tethering to my phone or do I want phone-free?
Personally, I've been wearing a watch for all my rounds over the last several years. I like watches that auto-detect shots and measure the shot distance in realtime. Knowing exactly how far I've walked since my last shot helps me find balls when I hit them into the rough or deep hay. I really like the ease of scoring with a watch and getting yardage is faster than using a rangefinder, although it's not as accurate. You can't determine the exact distance to the flag, and at some courses, the satellites can go on the fritz and give you a bad number. Other courses that have been recently redesigned won't have the most up-to-date maps.
How much do golf smartwatches cost?
Your more basic golf GPS watches will run between $129-$150. Don't expect more than front-middle-back yardages and possibly a scoring function. Better options range from $300-$500. There are some premium models that will run over $1,000-$2,000. Tag Heuer makes a high-end golf watch that features premium materials and colorful maps for $2,550. Garmin's luxury MARQ line has a golf model for $1,550.
You certainly don't need to spend that for a solid smartwatch on the golf course. I've rounded up some of the most popular options and where they stand out.
Garmin Approach s62
Garmin is a favorite brand of fitness and outdoors buffs and is a leader for all things GPS. It has an impressive lineup of golf watches, with their Approach s62 being the most all-encompassing model for both golf and lifestyle. It has color maps, GPS, auto shot measuring and shot detection, so you can track your game using their Garmin Golf app. For even more accurate shot tracking and strokes gained data, you can add their CT10 club tags. If you assign clubs to shots tracked after the round (or use the CT10 sensors), Garmin's Virtual Caddie will provide A.I.-driven club recommendations on the course. The Approach s62 comes with a HR monitor and all your fitness tracking widgets so you can record bike rides, swimming and indoor cardio among many others. Its battery life is also very good. You can play 3-4 rounds of golf on one charge and if you're not using the GPS it can last for about two weeks.| GolfBalls.com recently dropped the price of the Garmin Approach s62 to $449.99. View here
Due to a wide range of features and connectivity to other devices, Apple Watch, whose latest models are the Apple Watch 6 and SE, dominates the wearables market. A big part of Apple Watch's success is its fitness and activity tracking, not to mention all the things you can do from your watch like respond to texts, take calls and control music. All of its golf apps are third-party providers. So once you buy your device, it's time to go shopping for the best Apple Watch golf app for you. There are scores of them and can run an additional $29.99-$59.99 annually (though there are some very basic, free Apple Watch app versions). Apple Watch is light, powerful and has a beautiful, bright display. A few limitations of the Apple Watch itself, however, are its lagging battery life and, with the potential for a lot of notifications, a distracting user experience on the course. Apple Watch golf apps must be started on the phone and tether to the watch, which might be a non-starter to some golfers. If you do use your phone during the round, there are some apps that work really well in tandem, like GolfShot, SwingU and The Grint.
For a golf-focused GPS watch with big, colorful, interactive maps, the SkyCaddie LX5 is a leader. The company boasts some of the most detailed mapping in golf using an on-the-ground mapping system instead of relying on aerial maps. Purchase of the LX5 and other SkyCaddie devices comes with a three -year subscription of SkyGolf 360, an advanced stats and analytics platform that uses scoring data from your watch (but does not have Strokes Gained). SkyCaddie lacks the fitness widgets of Garmin but does feature a heart-rate monitor and step counter. ($299)
Golf Buddy Aim 11
Golf Buddy makes affordable GPS watches with colorful touchscreen displays featuring detailed maps and recently unveiled their new Aim 11. Perhaps their standout perk is their heatmap greens display that shows the green's high and low points. You can also manually set the pin placement. This watch doesn't do much beyond golf and timekeeping, but does provide a pedometer for activity tracking. ($199.99)
Shot Scope V3
When it comes to modern-day golf statistics there is a divide: Traditional (like fairways & greens & putts) vs. Strokes Gained. In order for amateurs to easily apply strokes gained data to their game, a shot tracking device is needed. This is where the Shot Scope V3 comes in. The V3 features a watch with shot detection in tandem with club tags, as well as GPS. It records the location of the pin when you select how many putts you've hit. The watch is golf-focused with little more than simply keeping time. Fans of Shot Scope will remind you that tethering a smartphone is not required with Shot Scope. ($219) | Read my full Shot Scope V3 review
GPS maker Garmin recently got into producing rangefinders, and the iconic rangefinder maker Bushnell recently added a GPS watch to its lineup. The Ion is a light and athletic-looking watch with a simple display that just shows distances and also tracks shot distances. It performs better if you also use the Bluetooth function and play tethered to your phone, which provides full color map flyovers. It offers little in the form of lifestyle features but does have a step counter. ($199)
WHOOP Band 3.0
It's not technically a smartwatch, but WHOOP is growing in popularity among golfers. The WHOOP Band 3.0's insights are for the golfer who uses a rangefinder for their yardages and keeps score in other ways. (Or, the band is small and light enough, you can wear it on the opposite wrist with one of the golf-centric devices above.)
WHOOP measures your physiological state and tracks everything from exertion to sleep patterns to provide deep insights into your current state of health and provides recommendations on how high or low to go in exercise based on those figures. WHOOP wearers report better sleep and reduced resting heart rate (RHR) among other health gains. So this wearable won't keep advanced scoring stats or provide GPS, but better health and sleep may lead to lower scores.| Read our full WHOOP Review
GolfPass Members, we've teamed up with WHOOP to offer a WHOOP Band 3.0 to members along with the first month of membership free. You can access the WHOOP link from your benefits page here.
(Editor's Note: GolfPass may earn a commission on certain purchases made via links posted in our articles. GolfPass does not receive compensation for product reviews.)