The Masters takes place at Augusta National this weekend, and with lockdown restrictions lifting and the weather improving, there has been no better time to up your golf game. Key to lowering your handicap – as well as the right clubs and technique, of course – is a GPS golf watch. These smartwatches are purpose-built to help you out on the golf course, precisely measuring distances and showing detailed maps of every hole and hazard.
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Garmin is a popular manufacturer in this wearable category, with its Approach range containing several golf watches to help improve your game. Bushnell is another company to look out for, while some golf wearables even analyze your swing as well as distance to the hole. Lastly, there are applications for loading onto your regular Android Wear or Apple smartwatch, and a luxury option from Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer.
Here are some of the top options to consider in 2021:
Garmin Approach S62 – $500
A golf watch packed full of features, the S62 is the current flagship of the Garmin Approach range. It has a 1.3-inch color display that is bright enough to read in sunlight, is loaded with the maps of over 41,000 golf courses, and has a battery life of 20 hours with GPS enabled.
A virtual caddie system factors in wind speed and direction, as well as your position on the hole, to help suggest the right club for your next shot. There is also a system for seeing the exact distance to the front, middle and back of the green, and the ability to clearly see the exact shape of the green as you approach. Hazards like sand bunkers and water features are also detailed on every map.
When taking a blind shot from beyond sight of the green, the watch can help show you the direction and distance to the hole. The watch also has an app for keeping score on your round, plus regular smartwatch features like customizable watch faces, contactless payments with Garmin Pay, heart rate monitoring and interchangeable straps.
Finally, the watch can be paired with Garmin's Approach CT10 device. These coin-sized sensors fit to the end of your golf clubs to provide shot analysis after every stroke. A full set of sensors is priced at $300, or the S62 can be bought with three sensors for $550.
Garmin Approach S42 – $300
A more affordable option from Garmin is the Approach S42. This golf watch is a new model, available in three colors, and also contains maps of over 40,000 courses worldwide. It has GPS for precise distance measuring, up to 15 hours of battery life and a 1.2-inch display designed to cope with bright sunlight.
There's also an app to keep score on your round, detailed green views and distance measurements to the front, middle and back of the green. Like other models of Approach, the S42 functions as a regular smartwatch too, with step and exercise tracking, email and text notifications, and sleep tracking.
Garmin Approach S12 – $200
Garmin Approach S12 golf watchGarmin
Lastly from Garmin we have the Approach S12. This watch has the same mapping data as the previous two models, along with precise green mapping, an app for keeping score, and up to 30 hours of battery life – a stat made possible due to the screen being monochrome instead of color.
The Approach S12 also connects to Garmin's club trackers for swing analysis, and there are stats for showing the exact location of hazards like sand bunkers.
Bushnell Ion2 – $200
Next up, and also at the $200 level, is the Bushnell Ion2 GPS watch. This wearable has over 36,000 golf courses stored onboard, with distance stats shown on the watch itself and more detailed maps displayed on a companion smartphone app for iOS and Android.
The battery life is claimed to last for three rounds of golf and it automatically recognizes which course you are at, and even when you move onto the next hole. The watch shows the distance to hazards on each hole and features a shot distance calculator to help you pick the right club.
SkyCaddie LX5 – $249
The LX5 by SkyCaddie takes a similar form to the Garmin Approach series. This golf watch includes detailed color maps of over 35,000 courses worldwide, a 1.39-inch touchscreen that lets you zoom in for extra detail, and a battery life designed to last for two full rounds of an 18-hole course.
The display lets you pan around and zoom in to see the exact distance to hazards, carries and layups on every hole, plus detailed safe zones and hazards on the fairway.
There is also an app for keeping score, step counting and a heart rate tracker, plus a range of watch faces to pick from when you aren't on the course.
Golf Buddy Aim W10 – $189
One of the most affordable golf watches available in 2021, the Aim W10 by Golf Buddy has a color 1.3-inch touchscreen display and is preloaded with the maps of over 40,000 golf courses. Green undulations are also included, further helping you make the perfect approach shot.
Like other golf watches, the Aim W10 includes information on hazards, plus distances to the front, middle and back of every green, and the exact location of the pin. Battery life is lower than others, but 10 hours with GPS enabled should still be plenty for most users.
The watch automatically recognizes which course and hole you are on, and there's a digital scorecard app, plus step tracking too.
Hole 19 – from free
The Hole 19 app is available for iOS, Android and smartwatchesHole19
Hole 19 is an app for iOS and Android that works on smartphones and regular smartwatches. Like the watches featured above, the app displays the distance the green and pin using your phone's GPS signal, and has data for more than 43,000 golf courses.
There is also a digital scorecard and a system for sharing your scores with friends who also use the app. The basic app is free, while a $7.49 monthly or $49.99 annual subscription unlocks Premium Pro, which uses augmented reality on your phone to provide more detailed information, real-time club recommendation and higher-quality maps.
Tag Heuer Connected Golf Edition – $2,550
Tag Heuer Connected Golf Edition smartwatchTag Heuer
Finally, a golf watch for those with a much larger budget. The Golf Edition is a special version of the Tag Heuer Connected smartwatch, which runs Google's Android Wear operating system and works with iPhones and Android handsets. As well as being a fully-fledged smartwatch, and one of the most enduring to come from Switzerland, the Tag Heuer features GPS-guided maps of over 40,000 golf courses worldwide, a digital scorecard and comes in a special box with Tag Heuer-branded golf balls and tees.
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