Price: $370 - $449
- Easy-to-use touchscreen and menu system.
- Tough and waterproof.
- Touch-target for custom distances.
- Free course database and updates.
- Touch-target circle difficult to position precisely.
- Not all courses in database. Course list US-only so far.
Garmin Approach G5 Golf GPS: Tough Construction, Do-it-all Touchscreen
Garmin tees up for the Golf GPS market with its new-for-2009, high-end, color touchscreen Approach G5 model. Garmin has produced adaptations of its handheld GPS models for other golf brands in the past, but this is the company's first own-branded and marketed model. Its price tag puts it at the higher end of the range, but delivers value in a 10,000-plus course database that comes with the unit at no charge and includes lifetime free online course additions and updates. Those 10,000 courses sound like a lot, but there are many more courses than that in the US (database is US-only so far), so be sure to check the online, searchable course database list before you buy.
The Approach G5 shares a number of attributes with Garmin's outstanding Oregon model handheld GPS, including its tough, waterproof shell and large color touchscreen. Also shared with Oregon is the Approach G5's touchscreen-only user interface. The only button on the unit is for on-off. This works well if a device has a good, intuitive menu system, and the Approach G5 does. Also, like the Oregon, I was able to quickly find and use all of the G5's features without consulting the manual.
The Approach G5's feature set includes:
- Touch Targeting - measure target distance by touching anywhere on the screen.
- Green View - detailed view of the green that lets you touch-and-drag the pin location to fine-tune accuracy.
- Scorekeeping - touch to enter score.
- Measure shot distance.
- Preview a course - search courses "near you" or by city or course name search. Preview every hole.
You may preview any course in the database in the preview mode, by searching near you, by city, or by spelling the course name. When listed, courses also appear with their distance in miles from your current location, a nice touch. In preview mode, you can easily scroll to any hole on the course, as well as zoom in on each green, and use the touch-targeting feature to customize distances. Distances to major targets and hazards are already listed. A course info page also lists par for every hole on each course.
It's great to know precise distances out on the course. I'm not a fanatic about it, like some of my golfing buddies, who obsess over where the distance markers are positioned, and pace off yards to fine tune the read (guys, I'm bringing this GPS for you next time). Distance info speeds play, helps you make quick and accurate club decisions, and provides an ongoing education on which club and which type of stroke to make in every condition. Also, it's a big advantage to preview precise distances to targets and hazards from your current position as you advance on every hole. This is nice on the fairway, but even more appreciated when you're out in the rough and would typically be making only vague guesses about distances.
The Garmin G5 Approach excels at all of the above. The touchscreen is sharp and clear (though I'd appreciate a one-step up brightness setting). Course distance numerals are large and easy to read. The G5 uses a high-sensitivity receiver, and is WAAS-enabled for excellent accuracy, and all of the readings I got on the course correlated well with fixed distance markers.
My only beef with the Approach G5's interface is the touch-and-drag target/distance feature. Being able to touch and drag a little target circle anywhere on the hole to show distances is terrific, but the circle jumps around a bit as you move it, and can be difficult to position precisely. (Editor's Note: Garmin has corrected this problem with a free update. See version check/update instructions).
To measure shot distance, and for bragging rights in the clubhouse, simply tap on the upper left of the display and select the "measure shot" icon. Simply "begin measurement" where you struck the ball, and the display will give a readout all the way to where your ball rests. A big "reset" button resets the tool. Easy.
After the Approach G5 has hopefully helped you select the right club, avoid hazards, hit your targets, and measure your shots, you can zoom in on the green as you approach it. You may touch and drag the flag in the display to any point on the green for precision distance. This works well if you have a good view of the green, but introduces guesswork if you don't. This is one situation in which a laser-type range-finder might work better. By the way, the greens were sized and shaped correctly for every hole that I played.
The Garmin Approach G5 is sturdily built, is rated as waterproof, and it survived several intentional and accidental drops on the course, including one rough one that bounced onto an asphalt cart path. This is a device you could feel comfortable tossing to a friend out on the course.
How does the G5 compare with other golf GPS units on the market? See my comprehensive overview of the latest golf GPS receivers for the lowdown.
Overall, the Garmin Approach G5 golf GPS is a pleasure to use, and its simple touchscreen interface is non-distracting, and helps you get quick and accurate answers out on the course. I like the free database, just be sure your favorite courses are in it. See full specifications on the next page of this review.