Golf is and always has been a game of measurements. Knowing the distance between yourself and hazards on the course, the green, and knowing the distance you can hit the ball are all elements that are keys to success in the game of golf.
As a casual golfer, you probably don't have a personal caddy. Finding distances and selecting the right clubs can be an adventure itself. But that doesn't mean you can't play like the pros. Having a golf GPS is like having your own trusted caddy.
It used to be, years ago, that the best way to tell yardage while playing was the use of binoculars. However, this wasn't the best method as most of the golfers' games boiled down to just guesswork. But today, with advancements in technology, inaccurate guesswork is a thing of the past, with various devices helping golfers narrow down exact yardage like never before.
Best golf GPS devices, including golf watch and handheld devices, are now available. It gives you tips to shave off a few strokes, but more importantly, it helps you navigate the course well. Whether you golf alone or with your buddies, the best golf GPS devices will surely help you improve your game and impress your friends.
With tons of products in the market, we pick the best golf GPS watches and the best handheld golf GPS for you.
The Best Handheld GPS Devices
- Izzo Swami 6000 (Best Overall Handheld Golf GPS Device)
"The Swami is sitting perfectly in your hands and is like a little caddy that you can put in your pockets. It seems so obvious that knowing distances helps you pick the right clubs for your shots. You will still be shocked at how much better your game gets after getting one of these devices."
- GolfBuddy Voice 2 (Best on a Budget)
"Golf Buddy GPS Voice 2 also got the attention all over the world. It is simply very easy to use."
- SkyCaddie SX500 (Upgrade Pick)
"A relatively expensive handheld GPS device but also provides an abundance of information that is useful during rounds."
- Bushnell Phantom Golf GPS (Best Handheld Device for Beginners)
- Garmin Approach G8 (Most Featured Packed Handheld Device)
The Best Golf GPS Watches
- Garmin Approach S20 (Overall Best Golf GPS Watch)
"The S20 allows you to take your stats tracking to the next level and feels like you're always bringing your personal cheat sheet to the course. Treat yourself and enjoy your hobby a little more!"
- Garmin Approach S10 (Best GPS Watch on a Budget)
"Despite the simplicity of S10, it provides the features that you are looking for in a golf GPS device to help you come up with insights for your next shot."
- Garmin Approach S60 (Best GPS Watch for Upgrade)
"S60 may be expensive, but it is worth investing in. It offers plenty of course details and a lot of outstanding features."
- SkyCaddie LX5 (Best for Mid Handicappers)
- TecTecTec ULT-G (Most Simple Golf Watch)
- The Best Handheld GPS Devices
- The Best Golf GPS Watches
- Best Handheld Golf GPS
- Best GPS Watches
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- What is the difference between golf watches and golf handheld devices?
- What is a GPS Smartphone App?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of golf GPS?
- Does golf GPS devices need a subscription?
- Why Should I Get A GPS Watch?
- What Features Can I Expect From A Golf GPS?
- How Can A Golf GPS Watch Help Me With Choosing The Right Clubs For My Strokes?
- How Will My Game Improve With A Golf GPS?
- How Much Money Should I Expect To Spend On A Good Golf Watch?
- Testing Criteria used for evaluation
Best Handheld Golf GPS
Izzo Swami 6000
Best Golf GPS Handheld Device
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Do you remember those beepers that a lot of people carried back in the 90s before cell phones were popular? The Izzo Swami 6000 is similar in design to many of those devices but in the form of a Golf GPS and much, much cooler.
Much like much other golf GPS on the market, the Izzo Swami comes pre-loaded with over 38,000 of the world's golf courses. In contrast to many of the competitors, the Swami 6000 has a feature that allows the GPS to automatically detect which golf course you are on the second you step onto the tee-box. It gives golfers a reading of the course from the get-go.
The Swami also has an incredibly vibrant full-color screen. While the screen can, at times, seem cluttered due to its size, you are still able to see all the parts of the course. You can see and get accurate distances to the front, center, and back of the green accordingly.
While playing, the Izzo Swami 6000 can automatically update, giving you a precise course reading as you move along the course. If you ever find that something seems a bit off about the reading that the GPS is giving you, the device actually comes built with a course-map editor. It allows you to tweak the course's map as you see fit.
While it looks like a beeper in design, this device is far and away more useful than those little annoying things ever were. If you are looking for an accurate and relatively affordable Golf GPS handheld, we can fully recommend the Swami.
GolfBuddy GPS Voice 2
Best Handheld GPS on a Budget
While it doesn't have a colored screen or smartphone capabilities, the Golfbuddy Voice 2 golf has one important feature that other Golf GPS do not: audio readings of the course.
If you wear glasses or are getting a bit older, sometimes even the best of digital displays can come up a bit blurry and hard to read. The Voice 2 eliminates this issue almost entirely by literally telling the golfer, through a digital voice, about yardage distances between themselves and various objects on the course.
This feature alone can make this GPS an invaluable tool. It is the best GPS for many senior golfers, as it can help them with their golf game in ways that other GPS cannot. It can help golfers with various language preferences as well, thanks to the GPS' 8 different language options.
In addition to the voice capabilities for telling you the distance of various objects, the GolfBuddy can do the same for telling you the distance of your own shot distance, letting you know exactly how far your ball is flying. It provides astounding accuracy on golf units about the real distances to the front, back, and center of the green, thanks in part to being loaded with information on 38,000 golf courses.
Sure, there may be fancier devices available for purchase. Still, just for its prominent feature, the Voice 2 golf GPS is probably one of the excellent golf GPS that you can find, giving every golfer a chance to play better. Voice 2 is the best golf GPS unit and is a perfect addition to every golfer's golf accessories
If you're one of those who believes more information is always better, then the abundance of information and course detail the SkyCaddie SX500 offers will be right up your ally.
This handheld GPS has a lot of astounding features. It has a 5 inch HD touch screen. It has a clear screen, stunning resolution, and very responsive. You don't need to use your glasses when you want to read the yardage because it also has a big number mode. This handheld GPS device has different automated features like auto-course select, auto-zoom, and auto-hole advance. It is pre-loaded with over 35,000 ground verified courses.
If you are playing in a place with unpredictable weather, you have nothing to worry about as this GPS device is highly water-resistant. You don't have to worry when it starts drizzling while you are playing. The new IntelliPatch technology of SkyCaddie is indeed a great help for each player. It provides the distance to your target. You can save time trying to figure out the distance of the desired landing area.
The battery life of this handheld GPS is also quite impressive. It is a rechargeable battery that can last 12-14 hours of continuous use. It also has auto dim features that can be set for 30 seconds to 30 minutes if you want to save is battery life.
Like any other golf GPS, this also comes with a warranty but only six months. And it only comes with a free subscription for the first year. After that, you will be paying membership fees. The price depends on the plan that you wish to avail.
Bushnell Phantom Golf GPS
Best Handheld Device for Beginners
The next handheld device that comes on our list is the Bushnell Phantom golf GPS. It has almost the same look as the Garmin 10. It provides a simple interface and is easy to use. It can easily be slide on the pocket as this handheld device has a dimension of 0.4x3.1x5.16 inches only.
Bushnell Phantom is straightforward to use. This GPS handheld device has only a few buttons, and it is easy to read the front, center, and back of the green. It also has 36,000 pre-loaded courses in 30 countries. Forget about the cords connectivity if you want to update some courses as this app has Bluetooth features.
It is very convenient to carry this golf GPS to carry throughout the round. This handheld golf GPS features BITE magnetic mount technology in which you can attach it to cart or metal surfaces. The back of the magnet has a clip to stick to your cart, bag, or belt easily. You can also remove the magnet if you wish to slide and keep it inside your pocket. The purchase of this handheld device comes with free access to Bushnell Golf App.
With the simplicity of use and fair price, this Phantom GPS is the best golf GPS for beginners.
Garmin Approach G8
Most Featured Packed Handheld Device
This handheld device is relatively expensive than the other golf GPS on the list, but it is worth the price. It has 30,000 pre-loaded courses. Garmin 8 is one of the best golf GPS that stands out when it comes to design. It has a slim and sleek design. It is also lightweight and pretty sturdy.
With G8, a golfer can adjust the uphill and the downhill shots distance target. It partly functions as a golf GPS rangefinder. It also remembers your clubs' shot distance and recommends what kinds of clubs are ideal for you based on your shots.
It is also easy to navigate using this handheld device. It has a 3" color touchscreen with a two-button at the lower part for easy access to score measure and a green view pin pointer. It also allows the golfer to see the shot distance with a colorful layout arch of yardage up to 250 yards. It helps you with activity tracking and stats because you can download and print the stats you have during your round. To see distances between the position and the pin, this golf GPS also features a green view mode.
One feature that G8 has and that other handheld devices are missing is its smart notification. Even if you are out there playing, you can receive an email, text, or alert on your phone. Therefore save you from worrying that you may miss some important news or even if you are at play. You can also connect this one with your iPhone.
It also updates automatically through wi-fi and also features the Garmin Connect, in which you can share and compare data with a fellow golf enthusiast like you through an online community.
Best GPS Watches
Garmin Approach S20
Overall Best Golf GPS Watch
If you took a peek at the list of GPS golf watches recommended by us, then you probably noticed right away that all three recommendations come from Garmin. They are dominating the GPS watch market for golfers, but for a good reason.
Garmin usually offers a smartwatch with all golf GPS features you could ask for. The S20 relies on a database of 40,000 golf courses and comes with free updates for those. It has never been easier to keep track of your round, compare, and analyze your data than with the S20.
It has a stunning display and offers all the information necessary to drastically improve your golf game. It comes with a comfortable wristband that allows for longer stretches of wearing it without becoming uncomfortable.
At the same time, you stay connected and will be notified about that email that you've been waiting for. The S20 syncs with your Garmin Connect account and makes it easy to keep all your stats and data in one place and access it from anywhere. You're going to wish you had gotten one of these sooner. Through Garmin Connect you can collect enough data overtime to get a really good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses - even on a per club level. 15 hours of battery life in GPS mode should also be plenty in case you forgot your charger for a weekend trip.
Garmin Approach S10
Best GPS Watch on a Budget
The slim design and the price of the Garmin S10 are great arguments to get one of these. It's a very smooth experience to keep track of your round of golf and improve your performance on one of the 41,000 pre-loaded golf courses. It has a high-resolution 1.3-inch screen with a sunlight-readable display and provides front, middle, and back distances.
The Garmin S10 shines on a level of simplicity. It is sleek and lightweight. It also has a rechargeable battery that can last up to 12 hours when in golf mode. However, if you are using it as a watch, it can last put to 14 weeks.
Its features are a little more basic compared to the S20, but it does those basics very well, and you won't regret getting it.
Garmin Approach S60
Best GPS Watch for Upgrade
The S60 offers all the functionality you would expect. At the same time, it comes with an outstanding touchscreen and full-blown fitness monitoring functionality.
With the Garmin golf watch, the Garmin S60 is packed with all the necessary features for golf GPS units. It has the largest LCD screen size among Garmin watches.
When not used in the course, you can use this as a timepiece. If you're curious about how long this watch can last, well, it can last up to 10 hours when in golf mode. If you set it to watch mode, it can last for ten days. S60 is the most versatile watch because aside from golfing, it can be used with your other activity like running, cycling and others.
If you want to see the maps' view on the green, this watch can show you in full-colors: the green, fairway, and even the complete hole for you. You can also drag and drop the pin if you want to recalculates the yardage to make sure you will be hitting the exact location.
Like the S20, you can also receive notifications for incoming calls, emails, or other alerts. The well-designed screen makes it a breeze to get all the information you want and need while still easily navigating between apps It is the best GPS for golfers. Garmin did it again. A masterpiece!
Most Versatile Watch
SkyCaddie introduces different kinds of golf devices in the market. The SkyCaddie LX5 is one of the best golf GPS watches when it comes to versatility. You can walk in the course looking fab with this watch. It is an excellent combination of a watch and GPS system.
The watch allows you to view multiple arch overlays on fairway landing areas and greens. You can easily zoom in if you wish for a better view. If you are having a hard time viewing the small number display, you can expand it by simply clicking it.
The watch can also be customized. You can set it in analog or digital view. Aside from using it as an everyday watch and your golf buddy, this watch still has a lot to offer. It can help you monitor your heart rate, current step count, and step goal. With LX5, you don't have just a watch with you and but also a fitness monitor tracker.
This golf watch also comes with three years subscription that needs to be renewed after. It will cost you around $50 in the 4th year for another two-year subscription.
Most Simple Golf Watch
Like the Garmin S10, the TecTecTec ULT-G prides itself to be a very simple yet one of the best and effective tool. It's beautiful to take the ULT-G out of the box and be ready to hit the golf course only a couple of minutes later. The 38,000 pre-loaded courses are automatically detected This is literally how easy it is to use this amazing gadget.
TecTecTec Ult-G has minimal buttons and does not need a smartphone. It tells you the time and the distance on the green. This measures exact distances to help line up your shots. If you are wearing polarized sunglasses, you don't need to take them off. You can read it just fine, even with the sunglasses on.
Aside from it does not need any subscription, this can be used as an everyday watch. It can display the current time, day, and date.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the difference between golf watches and golf handheld devices?
GPS golf watches are smaller, lighter, and easier to carry around. Even when not on your wrist, they can be attached to belts, pockets, or other apparel with clips. Because they do not have a big screen, GPS golf watches provide more barebones data.
However, with advancements in technology, golf watches now come with many features dog-legs, hazards, shot tracking, and statistics. On top of that, the latest GPS golf watches look seriously slick and cool, best for showing off to your friends.
Handheld devices, on the other hand, are favored by the more serious golfers. Handheld GPS units have big and colorful screens that are not available in smaller GPS watches. As a result, they provide more precise details for readings and analysis of the course and your shots.
They allow golfers to see the hole view from above and to find the center of the green with their approaches. They are also useful for blind spots and pack a bunch of features like scorecards and advance stat tracking.
What is a GPS Smartphone App?
These are much cheaper than GPS watches or handheld devices and provide an alternative if you prefer to stick to your phone. They provide hole views and basically do what a GPS should do, but they can be less accurate than the other golf GPS devices. Additionally, they drain your smartphone battery life fast.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of golf GPS?
Golf GPS provides many benefits on the course, but there are inherent limitations, especially when compared to Laser Rangefinders. Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of golf GPS.
- Provides accurate distances within inches to target
- Doesn’t need to be in sight with the target
- Quick and easy distance readings
- Readings not affected by light conditions
- Ability to sync with other devices to update course information and notifications
- Assists players on unfamiliar courses
- Score and statistics tracking (some models)
- Club recommendation (some models)
- Stroke execution recommendation (some models)
- Accuracy of device and number of distances is dependent on manufacturers
- Not as accurate as laser rangefinders for clear line-of-sight measurements
- Possible additional membership or subscription fees
Does golf GPS devices need a subscription?
Not all GPS need subscription. Most of the golf GPS on the list does not require a monthly or annual subscription. However, there are golf GPS that although comes with a free subscription upon purchase, need to be renewed after. The cost of a subscription depends on the type of plan you wish to upgrade.
Why Should I Get A GPS Watch?
The game of golf has changed significantly over the last few decades. Gone are the days when your main objective on the course was to simply hit the ball as hard and as close to the hole as you possibly can.
Today’s game is as physical as it is strategic. Instead of trying to outdrive the competition at the tee, most golfers nowadays would look at their second shot first and choose to just hit the center of the green on their first shot.
But how are they able to estimate the distance to the green so accurately? The answer is right there, strapped around their wrists.
What Features Can I Expect From A Golf GPS?
These watches are devices that project a map display that includes hazards and distance to the green, as well as other vital information for the golfer, all in the form of a convenient wristwatch. Some of them can even tell the time!
Over the years, watches have become an integral part of any self-respecting golfer’s arsenal. Not only do they help golfers make better shot decisions, but they also eliminate the need for lengthy information gathering.
If you are looking to improve your golf game, but are still on the fence about whether you should be getting a GPS watch or not, then maybe these reasons can help persuade you.
Golf GPS watches measure distances easily and accurately. If you play the game often, you will have learned by now that the distance markers on many golf courses today are surprisingly inaccurate.
How often have you come up a few meters short of your target just because you based your calculations on them? GPS watches use satellite technology in order to measure the distance from where you tee off to where the ball rolls to a stop, with a certain degree of accuracy.
In today’s game, knowing just how far you are from the hole is a definite advantage. Having a golf GPS watch lets you play to your strengths. Because your GPS watch gives you fairly accurate distance readings, course management becomes easy.
Consider this example: Assume that the club that you are most comfortable with is your trusty 6-iron. You know that you can hit that ball and send it flying a good 150 to 160 meters with it, nine out of ten times. According to the preloaded course map on your GPS golf watch, you are about 382 meters from the hole. If you plan to use your 6-iron on your second shot, you will need to hit your tee shot to a distance of about 222 meters. You take out your 3-wood instead of your driver, and you set yourself up for a second shot that you’ve only done successfully nine out of ten times.
How Can A Golf GPS Watch Help Me With Choosing The Right Clubs For My Strokes?
Your GPS watch can tell you how far you hit with each club. If you’ve been struggling with your game lately, or you’re just learning to play golf for the first time, knowing how far you can send the ball with each club in your bag will help you a lot.
GPS watches have a “shot distance” feature that, with a press of a button, allows you to mark where you took the shot and where the ball goes. It can then tell you the distance between the two marks. With enough practice, you will soon learn how far you can accurately hit the ball with each club. This is an important part of shot management because it can help you decide whether you want to be playing your next shot with a 5-iron or a 4-iron.
How Will My Game Improve With A Golf GPS?
You can play faster and more efficiently without sacrificing the quality of your game. Many of the golf GPS watches and handheld devices available in the market today already come pre-loaded with course maps and distance measurements, which means you no longer need to look at brochures, read books, or refer to inaccurate distance markers. Doing away with information gathering allows you to focus on your game so that you can get to the hole with as few shots as possible.
Should you happen to be playing on a course whose map isn’t pre-loaded, you can always upload the course map to your golf watch before you tee off.
How Much Money Should I Expect To Spend On A Good Golf Watch?
There is a golf GPS watch for you, regardless of your budget or skill level. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional golfer, there is bound to be a golf GPS watch that will improve your game. Because manufacturers continually try to improve their design and incorporate as many various features on their devices as possible.
GPS watches go for around $100 to more than $400. Times have changed, and golfers today have become far more strategic with their game than ever before. If you want to lower your handicap and be the star of the fairway, getting a golf GPS watch is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
You may be wondering what makes these watches any better than other golf tools, such as laser rangefinders and phone apps.
Well, to start, these devices give you a convenient option for course measurement, detailing vital course information right from your wrist, and without the need for updates and subscription fees like you would need with a phone app. These watches even have the capability to measure speed and playtime, and a few of them are even able to keep track of scores for you, making them even more convenient.
Testing Criteria used for evaluation
There are a ton of these GPS handheld devices, and golf watches are available on the market today. Many of these watches come with a variety of different prices and extra features. It is essential to know what to look for before buying any of the products.
For a more comprehensive list of buying factors, check this buying guide for the best golf watch and handheld devices for golf.
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of a GPS device is its accuracy. Otherwise, what's the point of getting one? There are two types of accuracy — device, and mapping.
Device accuracy is the device's ability to pick up satellite information in order to determine its current location. Mapping accuracy, on the other hand, make sure all the information on the course is properly mapped. The accuracy really depends on the manufactures; hence go for a trusted brand. Whenever you make a purchase, they always offer a warranty in case you will encounter technical issues and difficulties.
Either it's a golf watch or handheld devices, it is also vital to consider its display. Is the screen big and bright enough for you? Are the colors vibrant? Do the figures contrast with the background?
These are some of the questions that you should ask when checking the display. There are watches and handheld devices with big number features that allow you to read data numbers even without glasses. It should also be readable even under the sunlight.
Is the device small and light for you to easily carry around? Having a GPS watch ticks this criterion. Handheld devices have different sizes. Some are small enough to fit into your pocket, just like your smartphone. Some have a clipped so that you can clip it to your cart or belt or hat if you like. And lastly, there are also lightweight watches and handheld devices, light enough not to affect your golf swing.
Ease of Use
Sure, having multiple features is really great, but what use is it if you have to fiddle through multiple buttons and menus to get what you want?
It should be simple to start and navigate, especially on new courses. You will also need a GPS device that is easy to use, so you are not fiddling around with various switches and other things while in the middle of play. You do not want a device that is so hard to use; you give up and leave it to dust.
If you have to stop dead during your game just so you can figure out its configuration, you may waste your time. It can also affect the mood of your game if you are having a hard time trying to measure the distance shots.
What are the features that these golf GPS devices come with?
Besides basic distance measurement, what other features does the device provide?
How does it distinguish itself from the other GPS devices?
Some to consider: stats tracking scorekeeping, rotating greens, aerial flyovers, green points mapped, club recommendation, and waterproof capability. And for those who are having a hard time reading small numbers, big number features would be very helpful.
Golf GPS devices in the market usually come with pre-loaded courses. Manufactures claim there are thousands of courses loaded into their GPS device, but how many of these courses are ones you play? Manufacturers differ on the number of courses uploaded to the device; however, to make the most out of it, you must also check whether it includes the course you usually play.
Of all these courses, do they include the features that were advertised?
Course Detail and Mapping
How much information about the course you're playing does the device provide you?
How many hazards and bunkers are displayed?
What about views, distances to various marked points, including trees, creeks, bunkers, the end of the fairway on a dogleg, and even lay-up points?
Can you add additional hazards to the course you're playing?
Can you map your own course if it's not available?
Maps for courses should come pre-loaded on your GPS devices, but seeing as you never know what course you'll be playing on next, you will want a watch that has as many courses loaded as possible. This way, no matter where you play, your watch can likely provide you with an accurate representation of the course you are on.
How quickly can you get up and running with the device? Does it require software installation or updates? Do you need to connect it to your computer? Can a non-technical person do it without pulling his hair out?
Nowadays, the best golf GPS devices that a golfer is looking for can also be integrated with their smartphone. It is one of the popular trends these days. There are golf GPS that also has advanced features. However, if you are not that techy person, you don't have to worry because some of the best golf GPS devices keep it simple in navigation and use yet still providing you the basic need that a GPS device should have.
If you're using a GPS device, it can quickly run out of battery depending on how long you use it.
Do you have to bring a charger or additional batteries along?
What is the manufacturer's claimed operating time, and how much buffer should you include?
It probably is a given, but when you check for GPS devices, you will want one that has good battery life. Nothing would be worse than being in the middle of the game and having your watch go out on you, so you will want a device with a battery that can last you from the first tee to the eighteenth hole.
Value for Money
What is your intended budget? Golf GPS devices range from $100 to $400. Do you need all the features or just some of it? Some of the golf GPS devices require a membership fee. How does the manufacturer charge for the courses? Unlimited or pay-per-course?
You must also consider these factors, especially if you're on your budget and don't want an additional cost for your golf GPS. You can go with a trusted brand. They usually offer a wide array of golf devices, and you can pick one that is in line with your budget.
Do you have to pay additional fees for future updates or download additional courses?
Are the fees one-time payment or recurring?
Are you prepared to pay the additional fees?
Like what we mentioned above, some golf GPS devices require a subscription fee. If you are fine with the additional costs, you can go with devices with a subscription fee. The payment depends upon the plan you wish to avail.
For watches, be wary of watches that make you pay a subscription fee to use them. These watches should come with all their features and unlimited use at the time of purchase, so you should never have to pay monthly to use them.
As we can see from the features and benefits Golf GPS gives us, these little navigation devices have become essential training aids, just like their counterparts in vehicles have become an essential device for bringing us around.
If you want to get a GPS watch or handheld device and retire your smartphone or rangefinder, then we hope that the above GPS device and the buying guide helps you come up with a sound decision about the next GPS device that you will be adding to your bag. Thanks for taking the time to join us today, and we'll see you on the links!