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What do electronics have to do with golf? Why on earth would you need a GPS watch for example to play a round of 18 holes?
The answer is simple really in that every golfer who manages to get out and play at least once a week knows the frequent struggle of always knowing exactly how far you hit each club and how far your next shot to the flag is.
That’s where distance measuring devices – or DMDs as they are often known – come in.
They come in various forms nowadays, including compact handheld GPS units and fashionable GPS watches, each of which offers something a little different at different price points.
The main benefit you’ll get from them is quick, accurate distances which in turn will help you to address the ball with confidence that you have chosen the right club.
As a result you will be able to execute shots better.
Many of the GPS devices on the market today also have inbuilt hazard information, including overhead maps of the hole, which will help guide you when it comes to shot strategy and save shots, especially on golf courses you have never played before.
Having a brother who is a PGA professional, and past first-team All-American, does have its perks and one of these has been that it has allowed me to spend a good bit of time testing out a bunch of different GPS devices so that I finally can give a good recommendation.
So without wasting any more time here are a couple of GPS watch and handheld options that you can buy today and still be using many years from you.
Buy right, buy once as they say!
The GPS Watch I Personally Recommend
The Garmin Approach S62 does everything you need a GPS device to do.
It gives you wind direction and ‘play’ like distances while when you are away from the course you can also use the fitness functions. It will also let you get your emails and text messages on it!
In short the S62 leads the way in the Garmin range in my view.
It comes with a larger screen than its predecessor, the S60, it is easy to use and see specific hole elements clearly on the colour maps. It also has a caddie ‘built-in’ function that alters the strategy on clubbing given changing characteristics – a real next-level function!
Coming pre-loaded with over 40,000 courses around the world it is expensive no doubt but it is awesome!
Sky Caddie LX5 GPS Watch
A step down from the Garmin Approach S62 but still a great option is the Sky Caddie LX5 GPS watch.
The first thing that strikes you when using this watch is how bright and clear the touchscreen is making it easy to read in all conditions, unlike some other watches where you find yourself having to almost hold them right in front of your eyes to see them clearly.
From the main screen on the Sky Caddie LX5 you can see clear front, middle and back yardages after which you can then swipe in different directions to see the hole map, hazards, score entry or measure your shot distance.
Arc lines will also help you make better club and shot choices while you zoom in on the green and move the pin position for a more precise distance. Over 35,000 courses come preloaded on the device.
It’s also a good looking lightweight watch meaning that along with the fitness features it can easily double up as your normal watch away from the course.
Garmin Approach S20 GPS Watch is the Best Value Choice
With some golf electronics these days it can feel almost like you need to spend more than you do on your golf clubs but when it comes to GPS watches the Garmin Approach S20 represents great value for money in my view.
The watch is great for tracking your stats and helping you get an ever better picture of where you need to improve. It also comes loaded with around 42,000 courses on it.
It tracks your distances, fairways hit, greens in regulation and putts per round and gives you a tonne of information that you can use to work on your game.
Most importantly it will also give you the distance to the front, centre and back of the green as well as tell you how far away hazards are the distances to different layup spots.
If you need to help with your fitness also it again does that with its steps and calorie tracker.
It’s not a touchscreen – you navigate simply using the buttons on the side – nor does it have as many fancy features as many of the higher-end GPS watches on the market but it’s a robust and great value GPS watch for golf.
Simpler is sometimes just better on occasion and if you are not looking for anything too flash or expensive you will not go wrong with this device.
GARMIN APPROACH S20
GET IT NOW
GPS HANDHELD DEVICES
Garmin’s Approach G30 GPS Gets a Big Nod of Approval
As you may have guessed by now I am a bit of a fan of Garmin’s GPS golf range.
Ever since I bought my first Garmin Forerunner 110 when I was doing a lot of marathon running I have been a bit of a sucker for what they offer for the simple reason that I have found what they provide works really well and lasts.
And when it comes to handheld GPS golf devices as well as GPS watches I have consistently found the same thing and in this category the Garmin Approach G30 GPS tops the list for me.
It is quite simply an endlessly useful device.
It offers distance to the green, shot distances, a scorecard function and you can even sync it with your phone. The full-colour touch screen display is also one of the most appealing features of this unit in my view.
Hazard detection is another one of its key features and lets you see exactly where the hazards are in relation to your position on the hole.
But for me probably the best bit of this device is it is only 3 inches tall so you have all these features packed into an incredibly portable unit.
Bushnell Phantom 2 GPS
There are other brands out there when it comes to the world of golf and GPS and Bushnell is undoubtedly one of the top ones.
And if you are looking for an excellent handheld GPS device you will not go far wrong with the Bushnell Phantom 2 GPS.
The GPS displays easy-to-read front/centre/back of the green distance measurements, with up to 6 hazards per hole. It automatically locates which golf course you are playing and advances to the next hole.
Coming with over 40,000 golf courses from around the world loaded onto it, it is a great no nonsense device that does exactly what it is supposed to do via a simple to use interface.
The battery life is also great while the magnetic cart mount makes it tough even for someone like me to lose!
If you ask my golfing professional brother this is the biggest crowd favourite among the amateurs he has come across!
Small is Sometimes the Best – Check Out the GolfBuddy Voice 2
Golfbuddy is another big name in the world of GPS golf devices and the GolfBuddy Voice 2 Golf GPS is the new and improved version of the very popular GolfBuddy Voice.
It is a tiny device that can clip easily onto your belt or hat.
When you turn it on it will automatically detect your course – there are 38,000 on the database – and it again displays yardages to the front, centre and back of the green.
The very different but definitely cool feature of this little GPS unit is that you can tap the button and the yardages are called out to you so it almost feels like you have your own caddie standing alongside you!
A nice touch also is that it can double up as a watch as well if you add a watch strap as an additional extra which for people like me who often lose keys and devices etc after leaving them lying around is a big plus!
[Editor’s note – If you are still wondering whether a golf rangefinder is worth it or not we have written an extensive analysis on the subject which you can check out here.]