The best golf watch has to do more than most specialist fitness watches. With specialization in golf comes a very specific set of software, as people need to track the distance to the green on any given course, your swing speed, map both your local and other courses using GPS and more.
This is why you can’t just use one of the best fitness trackers or best smartwatches if you’re really looking for smart technology to level up your golf game: these watches could give you a big advantage on the course that other conventional fitness trackers and smartwatches simply lack.
Being able to track your swing speed and compare it against your results allows you to adjust your game on the fly for better hole-by-hole results. Golf watches and other activity-tracking devices are now very effective at leveling up your golf game, and there are now for all budgets and skill levels.
Below, we’ve got some of the best golf watches around from top brands. Garmin occupies many of the watches on this list, but Shot Scope and Skycaddie also garner mentions here. Most of them have full reviews attached, but if your top choice doesn’t have a complete review just yet, check back soon, as we’ll be testing new golf watches across several courses to check out each unit’s full capabilities.
Some of these golf watches are aimed at those who teeing up for the first time, while others can help seasoned professionals correct the minor faults in their game. Just make sure before buying a golf watch that it's tournament-legal if you're planning on using it in competitive games.
The Garmin Approach S24, released in March, is our pick for the best golf watch of 2021. It sits in the middle of Garmin's golf watch lineup, in between the all-singing, all-dancing S62 and the pared-back S12.
Like all the best Garmin golf watches, it's pre-loaded with details of 42,000 courses worldwide, plus Garmin Autoshot to analyze and records shot distances. Green View allows you to position the pin manually using the large color touchscreen and shows you the green's true shape. Battery life is impressive too, lasting up to 10 days in smartwatch mode, or 15 hours with GPS enabled.
The Approach S42 is also smart enough for everyday wear. Whereas many golf watches focus on function above form, the Approach S42 has a metal bezel and buckle, plus a slim case that mean it won't look out of place off the course.
That's just as well because with all-day step tracking, sleep tracking, and workout profiles for both cycling and swimming, you might not want to take it off.
During our tests, we missed the Virtual Caddie feature of the Approach S62 but loved the AutoShot mode. It has fewer fitness tracking features for off the course, but strikes a good compromise and is a well-priced all-rounder.
Read our full Garmin Approach S42 review
The Garmin Approach S12 is an entry-level golf watch, and one of the best available in its price bracket. It design and features belie its modest price tag, and include detailed maps of 42,000 courses, plus GPS that proved super accurate in our tests.
The Approach S12 syncs with the same Garmin Golf app as the company's higher-end watches, putting a huge array of data at your fingertips and making it a particularly good value for money.
Although it lacks a color screen, which makes maps a little trickier to interpret, but it's easy to read in direct sunlight and further compensates with outstanding battery life, and we easily got several weeks' use out of it before needing to recharge.
The main disadvantage is the need to record shots manually, which more advanced players might find tedious, and isn't a concern with higher-end watches that offer automatic shot-tracking.
Read our full Garmin Approach S12 review
The Garmin Approach S62 offers everything you get from the S42 and more, if you can afford the extra cash.
Garmin's Virtual Caddie app suggests clubs based on wind speed and direction, and the distance you typically swing with each type. You can check out the wind before taking your shot, and there's a full vector map complete with touch targeting, which allows you to see the distance to any point by simply tapping the extra-large 1.3in screen.
Its larger battery means it can keep running for up to 14 days in smartwatch mode, or 20 hours with GPS enabled. It also boasts a wide range of everyday health tracking tools too, including all-day stress monitoring (based on changes in heart rate), relaxation reminders. There's a pulse-ox sensor for measuring blood oxygen saturation at night, and performing spot-checks during the day.
Garmin Pay allows you to make contactless payments (provided your bank is one of those supported), you can use it to control music on your smartphone, receive app notifications, check the weather forecast, and send text responses (if you have an Android phone).
Read our full Garmin Approach S62 review here
The SkyCaddie LX5 is essentially a wearable equivalent of the the SkyCaddie SX500 golf computer, and has the largest screen in this roundup, measuring a huge 1.39in. That means plenty of room to view maps and graphics, which you can pan and zoom with your fingertips, though golfers with smaller wrists may find it's simply too much.
It's pre-loaded with details of 35,000 courses around the world, and like the Garmin Approach S62, offers full vector maps so you can see the precise shape of the green. All its maps are also error-corrected for impressive precision. You can be confident that the yardages given are accurate, and everything is clearly presented.
It's an excellent golf watch, but its lack of general-purpose smartwatch features (other than a pedometer and heart rate monitor) mean it's not as handy off the course as Garmin's wearables. Your choice will simply be down to where your priorities lie,
The Shot Scope V3 is surprisingly slim at just 10mm thick, making it comfortable and convenient for all-day wear. Despite that slender profile, it's a very impressive device packed with thoughtful touches and handy features to help improve your game and save time. It boasts automatic shot detection, with every shot plotted on a map of the course. 36,000 course maps are pre-loaded, and GPS distances are quick to update.
It also comes bundled with 16 tracking tags, allowing the watch to identify your clubs automatically. These are usually sold separately, even with premium golf watches, so this is a real boon.
The only real downside is that the screen is relatively low resolution (just 176 x 176 pixels compared to 260 x 260 for the Garmin Approach S62), meaning less information can be displayed at once.
There are also no touch controls (the watch is operated using four physical buttons along the edges). On the plus side, this means you're less likely to activate anything accidentally, but it also means navigating maps is less intuitive.
Read our full Shot Scope V3 review here
How to choose the best golf watch for you
The best golf watch for you will depend on a variety of different factors. Firstly, it needs to be the right price for you, whether you’re after a high-end premium watch or a budget model. It needs to have the right features: if you’re a seasoned golfer, it’s no good buying a watch aimed at beginners, especially if you need features like Garmin’s virtual caddie, which is only available on its premium models. You might need more typical smartwatch features such as sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring and notification functions, or you might prefer a wristwatch with slimmed-down features to save money on the total price.
Below, we’ve answered a couple of your most-asked questions, as well as an insight into how we test each watch as we get them.
Golf watch FAQs
What is a golf rangefinder?
A rangefinder is a tool that helps you measure the distance between you and your target, using either GPS or a laser. GPS rangefinders (as found in golf watches) are faster to use, but laser ones are more accurate,
Does Fitbit make a golf watch?
Fitbit doesn't make a dedicated golf watch, but all of Fitbit's GPS-enabled watches have a golf-tracking mode that you can use to monitor calories burned during your game. This will only be accurate if you're walking though, not using a golf buggy.
How we test
We test each of the best golf watches comprehensively. We look at the watch’s tracking technology, battery life, and compatibility with different phones. Does it have the technology to track and calculate the distance of your shots? Can its GPS technology map your favorite courses?
We take each watch for several test-drives on real golf courses to test all their key features.
- Don't need it to be ready for golf? These are the best smartwatches available