Distance measuring devices have revolutionised golf over the past 10 years or so. Knowing the exact distance to the green or flag takes another variable out of what is already a complex enough game.
For amateurs a golf gps device can give confidence from the fairway and help drive your game to the next level.
Like all technology, they have advanced in more recent years. What were once clunky, expensive rangefinders have been revolutionised to slick smart wristbands that give you the data instantly.
However the choice can now be a little overwhelming and deciding which golf gps is right for you can be tough. So we created our guide to help you find your ideal device.
Considerations before buying
Before we go any further, it’s worth considering which type of device would be best for you. Golf GPS’s can be broken down into three main categories:
1. Handheld Golf GPS Devices
As the name suggests, these are handheld devices not wearables like the other two categories below. These are ideal for people (like me) who struggle to swing with a watch on. These days they are slim designed devices that fit into your pocket or small pockets on your golf bag. Some even clip onto your hat or belt. If you use a golf trolley you can also buy accessories that fix them to the handles so you can view them easily.
Whilst most handheld GPS devices will give you distances to the green, some have larger screens that can incorporate a full preview of a hole. These can give you distances to extra things such as bunkers, water hazards, the end of fairways etc. Some even allow you to touch anywhere on the hole preview and find the distance to that point.
2. Golf GPS Watches
Like most smart watches these days, golf GPS watches come in sleek designs that not only look great but perform great. The benefit of GPS watches is their ease of use. Unlike handheld devices there’s no need to dig them from your golf bag before each shot. You just simply need to glance at your wrist.
Basic level watches will offer you distances to the centre of the green whilst most will offer distances to the front, middle and back of the green too. Premium options will provide distances to hazards and even provide post round statistics on rounds such as driving accuracy, greens in regulation etc.
Some Golf GPS watches can be used as regular smartwatches too with heart rate monitors, notifications and other features. If you’re also in the market for a smartwatch you may be able to kill two birds with one stone!
3. Golf GPS Wristbands
Golf GPS Wristbands are similar to GPS watches but are more of a basic offering. Typically they have sleeker, more modern designs but basic functionality with a small screen or only LED lights. They are ideal for the golfer who wants a no nonsense option and isn’t too bothered about extra features.
Best Golf Handheld GPS Devices
- Intelligreen Technology (dynamic green previews)
- Intellipath technology
The Skycaddie SX500 packs a 5 inch full colour high definition screen making it one of the best displays on a golf GPS. Alongside Skycaddies famously highly accurate distances you’ll get an incredible visual experience thanks to Dynamic HoleVue (hole previews) and course maps which have been verified and measured by SkyCaddie on the ground.
The rugged design and automatic course, hole and zoom selection also means the SX500 is pretty much a touch-free experience and will serve you in any conditions. Throw in the premium features such as Intelligreen Technology (dynamic green previews), Intellipath technology and RangeVue (which gives club recommendations based on learnings of your club distances), the GPS experience is hard to beat.
- Easy to read F/M/B green and hazard distances
- Bluetooth to Bushnell mobile app
- 36 hole battery life
- Small design
The Bushnell Phantom is an entry level handheld GPS that offers basic F/M/B green alongside hazard yardages. Small in design the device can be clipped onto buggies and golf trolley handles thanks to the magnetic mount on the back.
Best of all, the GPS connects to the Bushnell app so from which you can see hole flyovers and full-colour aerial views for the 36,000+ preloaded courses.
GolfBuddy Tour VTX
- 15 hours battery life
- Full-colour touchable display
- Digital scorecard
- Slim, lightweight design
Smaller in price and smaller in size to the SkyCaddie SX500 the GolfBuddy Tour VTX is ideal for those who want more features than a basic handheld device, without the price tag of some of the more premium models.
The GPS comes loaded with the basic features such as F/M/B green and hazard yardages and 38,000+ courses visible on the 2.7 inch screen which make it easier to read than some smaller devices. Hole previews are available without the need to connect to a mobile app, but they are far from the detailed previews on more premium models.
Smart features such as voice audio yardages and digital scorecards are “nice to haves” for those who value such things.
Best Golf GPS Watches
Shot Scope V2 Tracker
- GPS and tour-level performance tracking
- No tagging or phone required
- 40,000+ courses available worldwide
- Distances to/over hazards
Winner of multiple industry awards, the Shot Scope V2 Tracker is one of the best golf watches on the market. Similar to other watches available, it comes loaded with distances for 40,000+ golf courses worldwide and offers highly accurate yardages to the front, middle and back of greens.
However, what sets this watch apart from the rest is the statistics it collects seamlessly in the background thanks to the smart club tags which fit in the bottom of each grip of your clubs. The fully automated data collection provides 100+ tour level statistics at the end of your round. And best of all, there’s no annual subscription required.
Check out our full review of the Shot Scope V2.
Garmin GPS S10 Approach Golf Watch
- Sleek modern design
- 12+ hours of battery life
- Records your score on the watch
A solid, reliable choice with an entry level price tag. The Garmin S10 comes with over 41,000 golf courses pre-programmed and offers distances to the F/M/B of greens alongside hazards and doglegs.
Check out our full review of the Garmin Approach S10 Watch
SkyCaddie Linx GT GPS Golf Watch
- Highly accurate yardages to green, hazards and doglegs
- Smart Tag ready
- Wireless synchronization with SkyCaddie Mobile app
The SkyCaddie Linx GT is a slightly bulkier device than some of the others but comes packed with performance. SkyCaddie are renowned for their highly accurate distances so with this watch you’re getting distances to greens and hazards that you can trust more than any other.
The watch comes Smart Tag ready meaning like the Shot Scope V2 you can add tags to each of your clubs and automatically track a number of statistics for each club. The downside is unlike the Shot Scope V2 these aren’t included with the watch. You’ll also need to pay an annual subscription for GPS data once the three year subscription that’s included has ended.
That aside, the watch is a high performance choice for the serious golfer.
Garmin Approach S62 GPS Golf Watch
- Premium smartwatch with notifications, heart rate monitor and Garmin Pay
- Track other activities such as running, swimming and cycling
- 14 day / 20 hours GPS battery life
- Virtual Caddie with premium features such as wind speed and direction and pin locator
New for 2020 the Garmin Approach S62 is an evolution of the S60. The S60 was Garmin’s flagship golf watch which the S62 builds on with a slightly larger screen, extended battery life (14 days / 20 hours with GPS activated) and Garmins Pulse OX and latest Heart Elevate heart rate monitor.
Under the hood, you can still expect premium features that the price tag commands such as; Virtual Caddie with wind speed, direction and plays like distances. Pinpointer which shows you where the pin is on a blind hole. And hole previews on a full colour screen with zoomed in green views and hazard views.
The modern design of the Approach S62 means it’s ideal for both on and off the course. The built-in smartwatch features (smart notifications, HR monitor, garmin pay etc.) means as well as a premium golf gps,you’re also getting a high tech smartwatch for everyday use. And the changeable faces and watch straps means you’ll have a look for whatever the occasion.
Golf Buddy aim W10
- 40,000 courses worldwide included
- No annual service fees
- Advanced information such as green undulation and slope-adjusted distances
The Golf Buddy Aim W10 is an advanced golf gps watch with a lower price tag compared to similar watches in the market. Featuring a 1.3 inch full colour touch screen, the aim W10 is provides all the info you require with zoomable in depth hole previews including green undulations and distances to targets and hazards.
The watch packs some neat little features such as slope-adjusted distances and has a smart design with a battery life of 13 hours meaning it’s an ideal companion on the course.
Best Golf GPS Wristbands
Garmin Approach X10
- Distances to F/M/B of greens, hazards and doglegs
- Green previews with touch screen display
- Free course updated – no subscriptions required
- 12 hours battery life in GPS mode
The Approach X10 is a simple and intuitive GPS golf wristband. The slim, lightweight design more resembles something like a FitBit, but features a larger screen that’s easy to read.
Similar to the more premium Garmin options, the wristband comes with 41,000 preloaded courses and distances to the F/M/B of greens, hazards and doglegs. You can even get green previews and manually select pin locations.
It’s best suited for the golfer who wants simplicity. You won’t get all the features of a premium watch (neither the price tag) but what you are getting is a solid, simple GPS that will more than serve its purpose.
Golf GPS Watch vs Handheld device – which is best?
This is generally a personal preference. If you’re just after a simple yardage and don’t care too much for hole previews and features on handheld devices then a watch is probably your best option. However, if you struggle to swing with a watch on, you may find GPS watches a little distracting.
It’s also worth considering whether you carry your bag regularly, use a trolley or drive in a buggy. Handheld devices can be clipped to buggies and golf trolleys making them as convenient as a watch but with the added benefit of the larger screen. If you’re carrying your bag and don’t want to be in and out of your pockets then maybe a GPS watch is the best option.
To make it more complicated, you may not have considered a rangefinder. If that’s the case then check out our comprehensive guide on golf GPS devices vs rangefinders before deciding.
GPS App Integration
A number of devices will now integrate with smartphones to provide more data and a better experience. Some GPS watches work seamlessly with an app that means you can get the benefit of hole previews, green previews, smart tracking, digital scoring etc. whilst you play (as you would from handheld devices but from a watch).
Other devices collect data throughout the round and can provide some pretty detailed statistics and analysis of your game post round.
If you’re interested in the data and additional features it’s worth reading jnto what’s on offer before commiting to buy.
Most devices come with around 35,000 – 41,000 courses pre loaded. Chances are that most courses you’ll want to play are covered within this.
However, some brands will only offer the data for a couple of years, included within the purchase of a device. This means after 24 months or so you may have to fork out for a subscription to the data, otherwise your GPS will be pretty useless.
Skycaddie operate this way which can be a little frustrating if you’ve bought without realising. What you usually get though is the best data possible. Skycaddie will walk courses and update their GPS regularly including course updates, new hazards etc. (which is why they charge a fee). Prices also start from around £15 a year so it’s not the end of the world but definitely a factor to consider.
If you don’t want to shell out for the extra subscription fees, keep an eye out for brands that don’t operate with subscriptions with a keen eye on the brands that offer free updates so you get the best of both worlds.