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Review: Garmin Approach S1 Golf GPS Watch

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Garmin Approach S1 golf GPS watch review

The Garmin Approach S1 Golf GPS watch conveniently places key distance information on your wrist.


The Bottom Line

Garmin has long been the leader in GPS watches for runners and other athletes, and the company shows its knack for innovation and line expansion by introducing the Approach S1 golf GPS watch. Unlike the many-featured, color-screen golf GPS handhelds on the market (Garmin makes those too), the Approach S1 keeps things simple. Its monochrome display shows distance to the front, back, and center of the green from anywhere on the course, and has a few other features, such as a shot distance tracker and odometer. I grew to like what the Approach S1 offers. Read on for the full review.
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  • Convenient - distance information always with you on your wrist.
  • Reasonable cost ($249 - $255)
  • Free (with product lifetime updates) 16,500+ U.S. and Canadian golf course database.
  • Also serves as a normal watch (shows time and date).


  • Some golfers prefer not to wear a watch while they play.
  • Doesn't show hole overviews or distances to hazards.


  • Price: $249 - $255.
  • Free golf course database and updates, with 16,500+ U.S. and Canadian courses. No subscription required.
  • Shows distance to front, back, and center of the green from anywhere on the course.
  • Can measure individual shot distance.
  • Odometer measures walking distance.
  • Dimensions: 1.8" x 2.7" x 0.6" (4.5 x 6.9 x 1.4 cm). Weight - 1.8 ounces.
  • Display size: 1" x 1". Display - monochrome LCD.
  • Battery: rechargeable lithium-ion, with 8-hour life in GPS mode, 3-week life in watch mode.
  • Waterproof.
  • Legal under the rules of golf.

Guide Review - Review: Garmin Approach S1 Golf GPS Watch

In a world of GPS products with ever-larger color screens, and ever-more features, the Garmin Approach S1 GPS sports watch is a bit of an anomaly. Its 1"x1" monochrome screen gives you just the facts - distance to the front, center, and middle of the green from anywhere on the course. You may also measure individual shot distance, and the watch has an odometer.

The Approach S1 is also different in that it's a watch, rather than the much more common handheld, or smartphone golf GPS devices and apps.

I had the opportunity to test the Garmin Approach S1 for 18 holes on a local course, and came away impressed. Its most important feature is its convenience. No more maneuvering the golf cart near the ball to get an accurate reading from a cart display, or reaching for your handheld GPS every time you step out of the cart. With the Approach S1, the key distances are always right there on your wrist. This gives you extra time to concentrate on selecting the right club and setting up to make your best shot.

The Approach S1 is easy-to-use in other ways, as well, such as the course selection process. Just wear the watch to the course, and the specific course you're playing will appear in a list of local courses as determined by the GPS and its accompanying, free (with free product lifetime updates) 16,500-course database (U.S. and Canada only). Select the course and go. The watch automatically senses which hole you are going to play. In cases where two holes are close together, the watch may not "guess" the correct hole, but it is very easy to manually select the correct hole number using the watch's "up" and "down" buttons.

I don't typically wear a wristwatch, relying on my smartphone for time like so many others, but I became comfortable with the Approach S1 fairly quickly, and it didn't distract my swing. Other golfers are more particular about what they wear on their hands and wrists while they play, so factor this in if you're considering the Approach S1.

The Approach S1 charges and communicates with the computer via an included USB cable. It also comes with wall plug transformer/charger.

I found the Approach S1 to be accurate, according course markers and other known-accurate GPS devices carried for the round. Its four-button control setup is simple and easy to learn and use.

The watch's soft-plastic band is reasonably comfortable, and adjusts to a wide range of wrist sizes.

Overall, the Approach S1 GPS golf watch is terrific for the golfer who wants convenience, speed, and just the facts - distances. It is not for the golfer who enjoys hi-res color screens that preview holes, show hazards and distances to hazards.

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