Garmin Approach S42 review

A powerful golf GPS watch backed by lots of smarts and an expansive app

Garmin Approach S42
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The Garmin Approach S42 is a super powerful golf GPS watch that auto-tracks shots and offers valuable look ahead data that more than justifies the price.


  • +

    Great battery life

  • +

    AutoShot detection

  • +

    See features on the hole

  • +

    Comfortable and well sized


  • -

    Lacks other sport tracking of flagship model

  • -

    Putting tracking not an option

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The Approach S42 is Garmin's latest mid-range GPS golf watch. It follows on from the Garmin Approach S40, bringing it up to speed with all the latest tech to keep it in line with the flagship Approach S62.

The competition from smartwatches like the Apple Watch 6 and the Galaxy Watch 3, which can be equipped with golfing apps, is helping to push specialists like Garmin forward – hence this device, which really crams in the features.

You don't get Google’s Wear OS or Apple’s watchOS, and all the extra apps those watches offer, but if you want a dedicated golf GPS watch and you don't want to spend top-end money, this could be the watch for you.

With 15 hours battery life in GPS mode, a 1.2-inch color touchscreen display and over 42,000 golf courses logged on your wrist, the Approach S42 definitely justifies its price tag. You also get Garmin's step-counting smarts as well, so it doubles as a fitness track both on and off the course.

Garmin Approach S42

(Image credit: Future)

Unlike a smartwatch with a golfing app, the Approach S42 is built specifically for the course. The screen, for example, is built with a bright sunny day in mind. That means a clear colour display which can be read even in direct sunlight.

Battery life is another stand out feature here. You can expect fast drain on most watches with constant GPS use, but since the Approach S42 is specifically tracking your steps and shots, Garmin has been able to eke out 15 hours on a single charge, which should be more than enough for a day's play.

Garmin Approach S42 release date and price

  • Out now in the US, UK and Australia
  • Priced at $299.99 / £269.99 / AU$449

The Garmin Approach S42 launched in the UK, US and Australia in March 2021, and is available from the company direct with a shipping time of between one and three days.

The pricing, at time of publishing, is £269.99/$299.99/AU$449. As is typical with these types of watches you can expect the price to drop when a new model launches.

Garmin Approach S42

(Image credit: Future)

We'd also expect that price to drop during annual sales, so for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, for example, you may snap this up at a great price.

Out of season you may also find yourself better off as deals crop up when the weather gets less golf friendly. It's not a guarantee but if you're looking to save a bit and aren't in a rush to get this right away, you might want to wait and see how the price changes.

Garmin Approach S42 design

  • 1.2-inch color touchscreen display
  • Metal bezel and lightweight design
  • Quick release interchangeable bands

The Garmin Approach S42 is an undeniably good looking golf GPS watch. In fact, it's a great looking watch full stop.

The newer display style does away with a lot of the bezel for the most display in the smallest form factor. As a result the S42 offers a 1.2-inch colour touchscreen display with a 240 x 240 pixel resolution. That means great detail, which is useful when you're looking to adjust the tee on the green with your finger and every little movement counts for a yard.

The transflective memory-in-pixel, or MIP, display means this is clearly visible even in sunlight. While that's a great feature, it's the fact this remains that clear yet doesn't do so at the expense of battery life that's really clever. With GPS enabled, it pays to save power on the screen.

Garmin Approach S42

(Image credit: Future)

The watch case measures 43.4 x 43.4 x 11.7mm, and there are two different strap sizes to choose from. The small/medium strap is good for wrist circumferences between 106mm and 176mm, and comes in silver/white or rose gold/light sand.

The larger 'one size' strap is good for wrists measuring 125-202mm in circumference, and comes in black/gunmetal only.

The strap that comes with the watch is a comfortable silicone unit with easily adjustable sizing, but it's interchangeable so you can change up style for on and off the course, or to suit your look that day.

The watch is water rated to five meters, so you don't need to worry about falling in the water features, and (more realistically) you can play in the rain without giving it a thought.

Garmin Approach S42

(Image credit: Future)

Onboard sensors include GPS, gyroscope and accelerometer, all of which are used to track your steps but also to automatically count your shots as you play (more on that shortly).

The Approach S42 uses Bluetooth to connect to a smartphone, and works with both iOS and Android using the Garmin Golf app. That means you not only get a wealth of features in the app but you can have smartphone notifications for texts, calls, calendar, weather and more all on the watch without needing to reach for your phone.

The watch comes pre-loaded with over 42,000 courses, meaning you just need to get there and the GPS will offer up the local options so you can confirm where you are, which tee you're playing off, and then get started right away.

The watch is also compatible with other Garmin products like the Approach Z82 laser range finder, allowing you to pull in data clearly to use with your app.

Luke Edwards

Luke is a freelance writer and editor with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others he writes across Future titles covering health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. He also likes to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.