The Best Golf Watches Tell a Lot More Than Time

Man with golf watch


Golf has an interesting history with watches. Many of its most prominent players have had sponsorship deals with luxury watch brands, although it was rare for professionals to actually wear the watches in competition. The common way of thinking is that a heavy metal watch slows down a swing, so most golfers throughout history have gone without them.

Now the golf industry is welcoming watches with open arms. Golf watches have fulfilled a need in the market for players to have access to valuable GPS information and other relevant data—without having to invest in or carry multiple devices. A golf watch is there whenever you need it and will become an integral part of your golf game, just like your favorite golf shoes, your trusty glove or your go-to golf shorts.. There is no more forgetting your rangefinder in the cart after walking to your ball. These watches are also made with your swing in mind, so weight or discomfort is far less of an issue than it ever was with bulkier watches in the past.

Below, the ACTIVE editorial team has selected the best golf watches in each category. Regardless of what level of golfer you are, a golf watch can be a significant boost for your game.

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The Best Golf Watches - Our Top Picks

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Best Overall - Garmin Approach S62 Watch

Garmin Approach S62 Watch

SPECS

  • Screen material: Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Face size: 1.3" diameter
  • Band size: 125-208mm wrist circumference
  • Weight: 2.2 oz.
  • Battery life: 20 hours in GPS mode, 14 days in smartwatch mode
  • Water rating: 5 ATM
  • Health monitoring: Yes
  • Special features: Personal caddie gives club suggestions

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The Garmin Approach S62 is a premium golf watch that goes several levels beyond other golf watches. It provides images of hole maps and yardages like other watches do, but there is a bevy of features that set this watch apart. For starters, it has a large display screen that is easier to read in the bright sunlight. There are also plenty of other golf-related functions like a wind gauge, virtual caddie, a "PlaysLike" distance that accounts for slope, an accurate “PinPointer” to help with blind shots, and green contour data to help you read greens.

The watch is also highly functional outside of golf. It offers a long list of health monitoring metrics, smart notifications, Bluetooth syncing with your phone, and contactless payment, among plenty of other features. The battery life is sensational for both uses — it can last up to 20 hours in GPS golf mode and up to 14 days in smartwatch mode. It's without a doubt the top golf watch for those wanting to also wear the watch off the course.

What We Like

  • Readable in sunlight
  • Up to 20 hours of battery life
  • Smartwatch capabilities, advanced health metrics
  • Caddie feature tells you which club to hit
  • Connects with Garmin Golf app for more analytics

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive
  • Charging cable doesn't last

BUY: Garmin Approach S62 Watch

Best Golf GPS Watch - SkyGolf SkyCaddie LX5 Ceramic Bezel Watch

SkyGolf SkyCaddie LX5 Ceramic Bezel Watch

SPECS

  • Screen material: Not listed
  • Face size: 1.39" diameter
  • Band size: Not listed
  • Weight: 2.3 oz.
  • Battery life: Up to 2 rounds
  • Water rating: 30 ATM
  • Health monitoring: Yes
  • Special features: Shot tracking

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In terms of pure golf data, GPS information, and map functionality, the SkyCaddie LX5 is highly impressive. There are a handful of features we are especially excited about: You can overlay yardage arcs on the map and images of the green rotate to match the angle of your approach shot. It's also simple to input pin sheet data for an entire course just by marking which zone the hole locations are in that day. This means that the SkyCaddie can tell you exactly how far away from the hole you are, whereas most golf watches can only tell you yardages to the front, middle, and back of the green. There is also intuitive shot tracking and score keeping, which is incredibly useful.

The part that impresses us the most about this watch is what SkyGolf refers to as intelligent automation. This is a fancy term for how intuitive and user-friendly all of the features are to use. The watch auto-populates the course and hole you are on and the display screen auto-zooms into your target area. There is very little to input manually when it comes to the GPS data. While this is a golf-specific watch that isn't really meant to be worn off the course, it does still provide health monitoring like step counts and heart rate. The watch itself is well-designed and has a scratch-resistant ceramic bezel to retain a fresh look over the long haul. This is really one of the most impressive pieces of golf tech on the market.

What We Like

  • Intuitive GPS functionality
  • Ability to input pin locations to get exact distances
  • Shot tracking and score keeping ability
  • Intelligent automation shows relevant GPS data without hassle
  • Yardage arc maps can be overlaid on course map

What We Don't Like

  • Low battery life relative to cost
  • Not meant to be worn off the course
  • Less courses available than some golf watches

BUY: SkyGolf SkyCaddie LX5 Ceramic Bezel Watch 

Best Design Golf Watch - Garmin Approach S60 Watch

Garmin Approach S60 Watch

SPECS

  • Screen material: Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Face size: 1.2" diameter
  • Band size: 125-208mm wrist circumference
  • Weight: 1.8 oz. (standard), 2.2 oz. (premium)
  • Battery life: 10 hours in golf/GPS mode, up to 10 days in smartwatch mode
  • Water rating: 5 ATM
  • Health monitoring: Yes
  • Special features: Customizable watch faces

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The smaller and less expensive relative of the Garmin S62, the Garmin S60 offers many of the same features such as shot tracking, accurate GPS readings, and the functionality of a smartwatch off the course. The design is lightweight and comfortable. Compared to the S62, the display screen is on the smaller side, the battery life is more on the average side for a golf watch, and the graphics are more basic. However, at a significantly lower price point, the S60 provides relevant GPS data, green contour readings, and access to over 41,000 courses. You can also connect the watch to the Garmin Golf app where you can compete on leaderboards with friends.

The smartwatch functionality with iPhone and Android is a major bonus as well. You can customize the watch face and connect to relevant widgets and apps. The watch can also be used for a long list of sport activities, such as skiing, cycling, swimming, and rowing.

What We Like

  • Reasonable price for quality
  • More than 41,000 courses available
  • Shot tracking and post-game analysis
  • Customization of watchface
  • Smartwatch ability

What We Don't Like

  • Small display screen
  • Limited course map features

BUY: Garmin Approach S60 Watch

Best Rangefinder Golf Watch - Shot Scope V3 GPS & Performance Golf Watch

Shot Scope V3 GPS & Performance Golf Watch

SPECS

  • Screen material: Hardened Mineral Glass
  • Face size: 1.33" diameter
  • Band size: 135-200mm wrist circumference
  • Weight: 1.45 oz.
  • Battery life: Over 10 hours in GPS mode, over 10 days in watch mode
  • Water rating: 5 ATM
  • Health monitoring: No
  • Special features: Strokes gained analytics

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If your goal is to find a reliable watch that offers accurate rangefinder distances and advanced analytics, the Shot Scope V3 is our recommendation. The device comes with 16 tracking tags that are screwed into the end of each club; technology that has become popular the past handful of years. These tags record all of the data you need and provide strokes-gained metrics just like the pros use. You have the option to pause your round at any time and hit a few practice balls from any point on the course, which is a very helpful feature.

One distinguishing feature of the V3 is the PinCollect technology that can show exactly where the hole location is. Not many golf watches can do that and it really benefits a golfer looking for a dependable set of statistics on their game. Surprisingly, the golf watch is at a reasonable price point. It doesn't have the look or design of more expensive models, but if that isn't important to you, the V3 is a great selection.

What We Like

  • Offers strokes-gained analytics
  • Inexpensive
  • Has putting statistics
  • Can be used as everyday watch
  • 4 distinct band color options

What We Don't Like

  • Courses take a long time to load
  • May need to edit shots after round

BUY: Shot Scope V3 GPS & Performance Golf Watch

Best User-Friendly Golf Watch - Garmin Approach S12 Watch

Garmin Approach S12 Watch

SPECS

  • Screen material: Not listed
  • Face size: 0.9" diameter
  • Band size: 125-202mm wrist circumference
  • Weight: 1.2 oz.
  • Battery life: Up to 30 hours in GPS mode, up to 10 weeks in watch mode
  • Water rating: 5 ATM
  • Health monitoring: No
  • Special features: Great battery life

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The Garmin Approach S12 is more basic when compared to the S60 and S62 editions, but it's a user-friendly golf watch that is simple to use. It offers front, middle, and back of the green yardages, while also giving yardages to certain hazards. There is no real course map available on the watch and you won't find special features like shot tracking, but you will get yardages no matter where you are on the course.

One factor that separates the S12 from other competitors is the absurdly long battery life. The watch can continue in GPS mode for up to 30 hours, which is triple that of many competitors. While there is no smartwatch functionality, the S12 does serve as a basic watch off the course. The battery life is great in that instance as well, given that you can continue wearing it for up to 10 weeks at a time. Overall, if you are looking for a watch with basic yardage features at a lower price point, the S12 is a favorable option.

What We Like

  • Simple to use, sunlight-readable display
  • Scorecard tracking
  • Compatibility with Garmin Golf app
  • Incredible battery life
  • Over 42,000 preloaded courses

What We Don't Like

  • No course map on display
  • Basic set of features

BUY: Garmin Approach S12 Watch

Best Budget Golf Watch - Bushnell iON Edge Watch GPS

Bushnell iON Edge Watch GPS

SPECS

  • Screen material: Not listed
  • Face size: 1.08" diameter
  • Band size: 120-200mm wrist circumference
  • Weight: 1.7 oz.
  • Battery life: Over 15 hours
  • Water rating: IPX7
  • Health monitoring: No
  • Special features: Movable pin location

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Some golfers are interested in basic yardages and have no use for any added features. For those players, the Bushnell iON Edge watch is at the top of the list. At a very low price point, given what it costs to buy a traditional Bushnell rangefinder, this golf watch offers front, middle, and back yardages with a green map that allows the golfer to choose where the pin is located. This allows for a more accurate yardage. While there is no course map, the watch will give yardages to hazards and lay-up zones.

This is a lightweight golf watch with great battery life, which is an added bonus for long days at the course. Although it doesn't have much in the way of special features, it's a convenient alternative to carrying around a rangefinder all day.

What We Like

  • Very inexpensive
  • GreenView with movable pin placement
  • Dynamic green yardages based on angle
  • Hazard and lay-up distances
  • Excellent battery life

What We Don't Like

  • Sensitive touchscreen
  • Limited information

BUY: Bushnell iON Edge Watch GPS

Best Golf Watch with Large Screen - Garmin Approach S42 Watch

Garmin Approach S42 Watch

SPECS

  • Screen material: Chemically Strengthened Glass
  • Face size: 1.2" diameter
  • Band size: Small/Medium fits 106-176mm wrist circumference, One Size fits 125-202mm
  • Weight: 1.5 oz.
  • Battery life: Up to 15 hours in GPS mode, up to 10 days in smartwatch mode
  • Water rating: 5 ATM
  • Health monitoring: Yes
  • Special features: AutoShot detection

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While the S42 shares a lot of overlap with the other Garmin Approach golf watches, golfers laud this edition for its accuracy, sharp graphics, and large, responsive touchscreen. There isn't a detailed course map until you reach the green, but the S42 provides yardage to hazards and has no issues with hitting precise numbers for the front, middle, and back of the green. It has tremendous battery life as well, so you can play the entire day without any worries. The AutoShot detection will tell you an approximation of where your ball landed after its hit and connecting to the Garmin Golf app can unlock strokes-gained data.

Unlike most golf watches, there are two sizes and multiple colors available for the S42. It also has smartwatch compatibility, so you can receive all of your normal notifications right to the watch. This is a great option for those looking to have accurate yardages on a nice display screen without splurging for too many added golf features.

What We Like

  • Large touchscreen with color
  • Sharp graphics
  • Smart notifications
  • Built-in tracking for other sports
  • AutoShot detection tells you where your shot landed

What We Don't Like

  • Does not perform well in rainy conditions
  • Difficult set-up experience

BUY: Garmin Approach S42 Watch

Most Compact Golf Watch - Izzo Swami Watch GPS

Izzo Swami Watch GPS

SPECS

  • Screen material: Not listed
  • Face size: Not listed
  • Band size: Not listed
  • Weight: 3.53 oz.
  • Battery life: Up to 10 hours
  • Water rating: Water resistant
  • Health monitoring: No
  • Special features: Magnetic charger

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The Izzo Swami has a loyal following of golfers who swear that this golf watch performs just as well as more expensive options. It's a small, lightweight, and compact watch with a small screen that provides just the basics. It provides distances to greens, hazards, and doglegs, in addition to a basic digital scorecard. There isn't much more available beyond that. The battery life isn’t very long, but a clever magnetic charger is easy to use when you get home from your round.

If you want added features, this is not your watch. However, if you are looking for the bare necessities out of a golf watch and you want something that won't take up much room on your wrist, the Izzo Swami is absolutely worth a shot.

What We Like

  • Inexpensive
  • Auto course recognition
  • Easy-to-read display screen with basic yardages
  • Effective magnetic charger
  • Water resistant

What We Don't Like

  • Below average battery life
  • No added features

BUY: Izzo Swami Watch GPS

Best High-Quality Golf Watch - Garmin MARQ Golfer

Garmin MARQ Golfer

SPECS

  • Screen material: Domed sapphire crystal
  • Face size: 1.2" diameter
  • Band size: Nylon strap fits 135-205mm wrist circumference, silicone rubber strap fits 135-213mm wrist circumference
  • Weight: 3.1 oz.
  • Battery life: Up to 28 hours in GPS mode, 48 hours in UltraTrac mode, 9 hours in GPS mode with music, up to 12 days in smartwatch mode
  • Water rating: 10 ATM
  • Health monitoring: Yes
  • Special features: Advanced health monitoring

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The Garmin MARQ Golfer is perhaps the only golf watch to combine elegant style with top-of-the-line technology. With this luxury watch, you will get all of the best features available in a golf watch—precise distance measurements, a virtual caddie, wind and speed gauge, advanced club tracking, and more—while it also monitors your health well beyond what other golf watches can. This includes a stress score, a Pulse Ox sensor, respiration and hydration tracking, and a variety of performance metrics for other sports. It's also unique in how apps can be used right from the watch. The MARQ Golfer can store up to 2,000 songs from music streaming services, has contactless payment abilities, and will help you keep track of your favorite stocks. In terms of features, it goes above and beyond what any other golf watch can do.

Golfers who buy this watch are usually very interested in the non-golf functionality of it and the luxury design. If you are purely looking for golf data, it will be best to look elsewhere. Another concern is that this is the heaviest of all golf watches. That can affect golfers differently, but it may be a hindrance to some. Overall, it's a tremendous watch that does more than most of us could ever imagine.

What We Like

  • Look and feel of a luxury watch
  • Among the best battery life of any golf watch
  • Virtual caddie for help with club selection
  • Wind and speed direction gauge
  • Advanced club tracking

What We Don't Like

  • Ultra-expensive
  • Heavy watch could affect swing

BUY: Garmin MARQ Golfer

How To Choose a Golf Watch


Features

Arguably the most important factor in choosing a golf watch is the features it has. The most basic among those features is the ability to provide yardage data throughout the course regardless of where you are standing. This often features accompanying hole maps, but some watches will just provide the yardage itself. Having a hole map is very beneficial, but it often won't be a dealbreaker to a casual golfer just looking for approximate yardages.

Other features include keeping score and shot tracking through the watch, syncing with your smartphone to show notifications, Bluetooth capabilities, doubling as a running stopwatch, providing health and step data, and feeding you strategic advice such as alignment and club selection. These are non-essential, yet exciting, features for most. Accurate yardage information is by far the most crucial element.

Battery Life

Pretty much all golf watches have plenty of battery life to get through even the longest round of golf. However, if you are someone who enjoys playing 36 holes in one day and you know this purchase will test a watch's battery life, that is certainly something to consider. If you play on a consistent basis and aren't interested in remembering to charge the battery every time, that could be another reason to look for a longer battery life in your golf watch.

Utility

At the end of the day, this golf watch is a piece of equipment. No matter what features a golf watch has, you shouldn't tolerate any discomfort. A golf watch should feel secure and athletic, providing confidence that it won't negatively impact your swing.

Multiple variables play into a watch's comfort. The size of the face and the width of the band are two critical ones. The overall weight and material—just the feeling of it on your wrist—is everything when selecting a golf watch. Also, a watch's ability to handle water is important if you play a lot of golf in all weather conditions.

Budget

The entry into the golf watch market is a reasonable one. If you are just looking for GPS data in its most basic form, you will spend the least. It's on par, and often slighter cheaper, than equivalents in the rangefinder space. Having course maps and add-on features is where the price goes up slightly, but golf watches are still one of the more affordable pieces of golf technology on the market today.

Spending more money can also get you a more stylish golf watch with more smartphone compatibility, so your watch could replace one you've been using outside of golf. If that's an important variable for you, it could be a strong reason to go up a tier in price.

FAQs About Golf Watches


Is a golf watch worth it?

A golf watch is one of the most convenient and effective pieces of golf technology that can benefit players of all abilities. The GPS data allows a golfer access to yardages no matter where they are, and many golf watches offer features like shot tracking or score keeping.

Many golf watches also double as smartwatches, so you can wear it off the course as well. Compared to other golf technology, golf watches are among the cheapest options to get access to important information. If you are already in the market for a smartwatch or if you are more than a casual golfer, a golf watch is definitely worth the investment.

Do any golf watches have slope?

Several golf watches offer slope while calculating total distance. The Garmin Approach S60 and S62 models are among the more popular watches that offer the slope function. They both have a “PlaysLike” distance feature that accounts for uphill or downhill approaches.

Is an Apple Watch good for golf?

An Apple Watch can be very useful for golfers, especially if it is linked with some of the best shot-tracking apps available. Many of the apps are free, although some of the features may have to be purchased. When using apps like Arccos, VPAR, or Golfshot, the Apple Watch can provide GPS data and high-level analytics of a golfer's game.

The Apple Watch also has many health-monitoring features that could be relevant to golfers looking to track their steps, sleep, blood-oxygen levels, and more.

Do golf watches work on all courses?

Golf watches will work on the vast majority of courses. Most golf watches come with at least 35,000 courses available, which accounts for most golf courses in the world. However, some remote courses, especially in countries that don't have many courses, have not been mapped yet. If you play in a remote part of the world, it is worth checking beforehand to see if the golf watch you want has mapped out the courses you play.

Are GPS golf watches accurate?

While most golf watches don't offer the exact precision of a premium rangefinder, the readings are typically within one or two yards of the actual yardage. However, not many golf watches offer accurate readings to the actual hole location. Instead, there will be readings for the front, center, and back of the green.

For some golfers, that may be sufficient information. Others may want to know the exact yardage to the hole location.

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