Can a golf watch change my game? That's the simple yet direct question we're going to tackle here, and it's important that we do because golf watches aren't cheap. In a sport where the amount of kit you can buy already totals a small fortune, it's wise to assess if yet another expense is actually justified.
Wearing one of the best golf watches is a way to not only track your score as you go but also to see the course ahead so you can plan your shots. But does all that amount to a better looking scorecard at the end of your round? Or is it just more kit to charge up, carry and spend money on that may end up adding more hassle to your game?
Spoiler alert: the golf watch did help me improve on the course. So whether you're a golf newb or you're playing off scratch, a golf watch could suit you down to a tee. We're afraid that won't be the last golf pun you'll read here, but we'll also list everything you need to know about using a golf watch on the course, and if it's for you, we'll give you some guidance on the best golf watches to buy right now.
See the course ahead
Imagine two players on a course; one has played it before and knows the lay of the land whereas the other is new. If they were evenly matched in terms of skill and kit, who would you expect to fare better? The experienced one. That is what a golf watch gets you closer to, even on a new course, by showing you every detail of what lays ahead for the hole. This allows you to play as if you're a regular, as you're better informed to pick the right club and play the line that will get you to the pin quickest.
Since a big part of golf is psychological, having a feeling that you're in control of what's coming can play a big part in relaxing you on the course. Relaxing is an important factor, as was found by a Korean study of pro golfers using smartphones. Those who used fun apps between games were more likely to play better as a result of the relaxing effects - just like knowing the course ahead can take some of the tension out of your play, putting you at ease to potentially play a better game.
A decent golf watch will tell you what the yardage is on the hole you're teeing off from, based on whichever tee you pick. It will let you know of any hazards ahead like water features or sand, as well as the distances to these. Many will even give you weather details to keep you better informed.
In the case of Garmin, you get a virtual caddie that can learn your club abilities and will recommend the best choice to suit the shot you're about to play. It's not infallible, but the more you use it, the more it learns and the better recommendations become. I certainly found the assistance useful, not only for club choices, but also to give a feeling of support which set me at ease more than usual on the round.
Carrying a pencil and scorecard which you fill out seems almost ancient after using a golf watch. These will track your swing and even give you the yardage of your shot right after you take it, with tremendous accuracy.
This is added to your virtual scorecard so you don't even have to tap a button, let alone dig out a tiny pencil and scorecard – doubly useful when playing in the wet.
While most golf watches can track your drive fine, you will need club tracker attachments to track chips and putting shots accurately. So that's a bit more to spend in some cases, whereas a few watches do come with these as a package – something worth thinking about when you buy.
If you don't have the club trackers, you'll have to input your shot count manually for chips and putts. I'd recommend them as this adds more to the game tracking while playing, letting you relax knowing it's done for you, but also offering you more data to work with after.
Fixing my game
So you have all this data, before you play and after you're finished. But how can that help your score, beyond showing you what's ahead? The metrics can be analysed with tremendous detail to help you work on your weak areas. These are clearly laid out. For example you can see, after the round, how many shots swung left or right of the green. You can get an average shot distance on your drives.
You can see which clubs worked and which didn't for each shot you were dealing with. This is all laid out clearly so that you can at-a-glance see where you need to improve.
So while a golf watch can help point out areas that need improving, it won't ultimately change your swing or physical ability. But, by giving you a focus on the way you need to change, it can allow you to more accurately hone your style and skills to affect the change needed to improve your game. All that should result in a lower handicap, presuming you put in the work.
So a golf watch does a lot of hard work number-crunching your game so that you're given the opportunity to improve. How you choose to use that information, on the course and off it, is up to you.
So if you do plan to invest in this game companion it's worth checking out the top end offering in the multi-talented Garmin Approach S62 as well as dedicated golf watches like the Shot Scope V3.
If, after all that reading, a golf watch doesn't feel right to you, then you might want to check out something a bit more manually controlled like a laser range finder which also helps you improve your game.