From a golfer's perspective, tech wearable options have generally fallen into two categories: golf-focused GPS watches that are pretty useless off the course, or smart watches with serviceable, but hardly satisfying golf apps.
The new Approach s62 Garmin golf watch seeks to bridge the gap. It puts golf first but comes with a host of activity and lifestyle features on the side. This is an ambitious device that is not just a golf course GPS but is also a shot tracker (more on that below).
I've used a handful of smart watches in recent years, including Apple Watch, which has a variety of third-party golf and scoring apps (full review of the device and apps here). The Garmin Approach s62 is the first golf watch that gets both the golf and the "other stuff" right. It is a premium wearable with a current MSRP of $499 - that's more than the Apple Watch 5 ($399 MSRP). I'm an Apple fanboy for Mac and iPhone but I can confidently say I prefer Garmin on my wrist every day. The Approach s62 is a golf-first activity watch you can and will want to wear all the time.
Garmin Approach s62: Golf GPS highlights
After previously using two older generations of Garmin's Vivoactive (the Vivoactive 4 currently retails for $349), I was looking forward to using a Garmin device that put golf at the forefront. The benefits are immediately obvious with the display and hole flyovers. But also, the s62 doesn't need to be tethered to your phone to work on the course. The device comes pre-loaded with 41,000 courses worldwide. Leave your phone and its distractions in the trunk.
The large 1.3-inch, touchscreen display (plus three large buttons on the right side) provides color hole overviews, and in addition to front-middle-back green distances, you can also view distances to the front and back of hazards like bunkers and greens, as well as drag target zone yardages to determine layup distances or dogleg landing zones.
Here's where it gets better: automatic shot tracking. This was the first time I've had shot-tracking capabilities on the course, and I have to admit, I'm hooked. The watch uses sensors to detect when you hit a shot (you can hit multiple shots from the same location and it will only chart one - and then chart the next shot once you swing from a different location). After your round you can view your shot history for the round and your historical shots on that course.
Garmin Approach s62 golf shortcomings
- There are a few times when the device might miss detecting a shot. You'll have to add it in the app after the round. If you don't have the CT10 club sensors (compatible and available for an extra $299), you will need to assign a club to each shot after the round (as well as assign putts to get your GIR numbers), so it'll take a few minutes.
- The s62 shot tracking function does not track chips and putts, and it doesn't know if you hit the green or not. In order to get this data, some of the most essential for game analysis, you either need to invest in the CT10 sensors or will want to take a few minutes after each round, whether on your mobile app or computer, and review your fairways and add putts, which will help with your greens in regulation.
- I also noticed that "fairways hit" from the shot tracker isn't always accurate. That makes sense since it's going to be impossible for GPS mapping to know current mowing lines, especially in the winter. You may want to adjust some of your shot locations after the round if you want credit for all fairways hit.
- Garmin promotes a Virtual Caddie that when tethered to your smart phone can help you with shot and club selection on the course. I have a hard time putting faith in a human caddie much less a virtual one. Has this feature helped you? Let me know in the comments.
- One last quick note: The first two times I tried to boot up the s62 on the first tee, the GPS didn't work. I had to sync it up and update with my computer's Garmin Connect app. It's been trouble-free since.
VIDEO: How golfers can track shots like the pros
Garmin Approach s62 activity and lifestyle features
- If you're used to Apple Watch, the first limitation you will notice in the Approach s62 is that while you can receive push notifications, texts and control music, you can't actually take a call on your watch, and there is no Siri-type feature.
- The Approach s62 battery life is excellent! Hallelujah! My Apple Watch 3 & 4s needed to be recharged every day no matter how much I was using the GPS. The Approach s62 can go about 14 days without a charge or about 20 hours of GPS time. You can go on a weekend golf trip and not even bring the charger.
- All the activity widgets you're used to with Garmin are here. Record swims (it is waterproof), bike rides, runs, stationary stuff, strength, paddleboarding and much more.
- The Approach s62 has a heart-rate monitor and pedometer (I love that it tells me how many steps I took during a round of golf). It also has a couple new health measuring features like "Body Battery" (as a dad, I'm running on 'E' quite often), Stress and Pulse OX measurements.
For the golfer who is active in a lot of other sports and indifferent to other lifestyle third-party wearable apps, this is your device.
My Garmin vs. The Grint golf app dilemma
All that said, I'm torn on what app to use as my golf game tracking's "source of truth." Garmin and The Grint both present very compelling cases. The Grint doesn't have its own hardware but has what is in my opinion the best Apple Watch Golf App and it also provides premium members with an Official World Handicap. It also has a more robust social and community component.
Garmin shines with a golf app that is much more intuitive and never bounced off the screen for other non-golf-watch alerts. The auto shot tracker is also great (you can track shots manually using your smart phone on The Grint). One recent development is that Garmin's app recently took off two features I really loved: Dream Round and hole average scores in Course Stats. Reps from Garmin say they weren't popular but may add it back at some point later. I hope they do.
For now, as a premium Grint member but also wearing Garmin over Apple, I am entering scores into both. It is a cluttered data existence at the moment and I will need to go with one or the other sooner than later.
Have any questions about Apple Watch golf apps or Garmin? Ask me in the comments below or on Twitter (@BrandonTucker) and I'll do my best to answer.