Best GPS Watch Overall: Garmin Approach S20
“With a great display and terrific interactive information, the Approach S20 records stats and activity as you play. It will record everything from your shots (swing speed, yardage, location) to your health metrics (distance walked, calories burned). Add the slim & durable wristband, and this is the best golf GPS watch available today.“
Best For Advanced Golfers: Garmin Approach S60 Golf GPS Watch
“If you’re looking for more precision, the S60 hits a home-run: it is loaded with more features than S20 such as the drag and drop pin placement and yardage recalculation. Recommended if you want an advanced watch and can afford to pay a bit more for it.”
Best Handheld Device: Bushnell Phantom Golf GPS
“The Bushnell Phantom offers ease and convenience with its easy-to-read screen and magnetic mount installation – the Phantom’s simplicity makes it an excellent device for every golfer of all skill levels.”
In the modern era of golf, GPS wristwatches and handheld devices have revolutionized the game giving golfers of all skill levels the power to know exact distances to the pin from anywhere on the course.
As wonderful as the technology is for the amateur, the options can be confusing to sift through as golfers try to decide between watches and handheld units.
To clear that confusion, here’s a detailed guide to the 10 best golf GPS watches and handheld devices available to golfers.
Last updated on 2021-04-23. The links are affiliate links. Product images are served from Amazon Product Advertising API.
Table of Contents
- The Rundown:
- Featured Recommendations
- Best Golf GPS Devices
- Best Handheld Devices
- Testing Protocol & Criteria Used For Evaluation
- Questions & Answers
Best Golf GPS Devices
Here are the best golf GPS devices to buy today:
- Best GPS Watch Overall: Garmin Approach S20
- Best For Advanced Golfers: Garmin Approach S60 Golf GPS Watch
- Best Handheld Device: Bushnell Phantom Golf GPS
- Best For Mid-Level Golfers: Bushnell Neo Ion 2 Golf GPS Watch
- Best For Advanced Golfers: Garmin Approach X40 Golf GPS Watch
- Alternative Choice For Mid-Level Golfers: GolfBuddy GB9 WTX+ Smartwatch Golf GPS
- Best For High Handicappers: GolfBuddy Voice 2 Golf GPS
- Best for Senior Golfers: Garmin Approach G10 GPS Device
- Best For Mid-Level Golfers: IZZO Golf Swami 5000 Golf GPS Rangefinder
- Best For Beginners: Golf Buddy VoiceX Easy-to-Use Smart Talking Golf GPS
Garmin Approach S20 Golf GPS Watch
Best Golf GPS Device: Solid Watch for Novice & Advanced Golfers Who Love Statistics
Garmin has cornered the market on GPS watches for golfers. With a sophisticated display and terrific interactive information, the Approach S20 is one of the best GPS devices on the market today.
The S20 features a slim wristband that is durable and doesn’t suffocate your wrist as you play. It also features one of our favorite features, AutoShot, which actually auto-records the statistics from your round and uploads them automatically to your Garmin Connect account.
The Connect feature gives you a home to see all of your stats for instant feedback as to why your round did or did not go well.
A great package that is extremely affordable, the S20 is a multi-function watch that golfers will love.
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Garmin Approach S60 Golf GPS Watch
Best For Low-Handicappers: Multi-Featured Watch
The most elegant golf GPS watch on the market is the Garmin Approach S60. With a stunning display that gives almost 3D like images for the course you are playing, the watch does so many things it is hard to tell you which one is the best.
Not only does it work as a health tracker, but once you get on the course, the S60 excels with smartphone integration that updates courses wirelessly and works seamlessly with Garmin’s Connect online system for a statistical breakdown of your round.
What’s great about the S60 is that the watch gives you full-color maps of the green, fairway and complete hole so you’ll never be hungry for information. Innovative and stylish, the S60 is an incredible GPS watch that delivers stunning performance.
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Bushnell Neo Ion 2 Golf GPS Watch
Best For Mid-Level Golfers: Stylish with an extensive display at an affordable price
The Bushnell Neo Ion 2 Golf GPS Watch is a well-designed accessory that is worth its very affordable price when you consider all of the essential features it presents to the golfer.
From distances to three areas on the green to the integration with the company’s excellent smartphone app, the Neo Ion 2 dazzles behind the power of its preloaded course count of over 36,000.
If there’s a negative worth noting, it is with the charger made from flimsy plastic. It is cumbersome and can be hard to center on the back of the watch for charging. It would be wise to make sure to reinforce the charger without letting a pet or child mishandle the device, or it could easily break.
If you are in the market for an outstanding GPS watch that can help on the golf course, the Bushnell Neo Ion 2 provides a host of useful features that will make your life easier on the links and help you improve your game.
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Garmin Approach X40 Golf GPS Watch
Best For Advanced Golfers: slim, accurate GPS watch
The Approach X40 is a more compact GPS wristwatch that provides plenty of detail during your round. With a slender, yet clear display, the X40 has many of the same features that golfers have been enjoying on the more traditional S20 and S60 watches from Garmin.
The X40 does have tremendous app integration with the beloved Garmin Connect system, so all of your drives, putts, and yardage are recorded for analysis at your convenience.
The watch also works very well as a health tracker, providing instant updates on your heart rate and reminds you when you need to move if you’ve been stationary for too long.
All the great golf features in the body of a first-rate health tracker, the X40 is a winner.
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GolfBuddy GB9 WTX+ Smartwatch Golf GPS
Alternative Choice For Mid-Level Golfers: Stylish with an extensive display, ideal for mid-level golfers
GolfBuddy has created a user-friendly watch that has a classic look yet provides advanced technology that rewards golfers on the course.
With a slick touchscreen that keeps the information moving, the GB9 GPS watch gives the golfer everything they could need when playing a round.
From shot distance to broad overviews of each hole, the GB9 has one of the more detailed screens we’ve seen in a wristwatch.
Although we were disappointed with GolfBuddy’s lack of a sophisticated app to integrate with the watch, the GB9 was still a useful gadget that delivered superior performance on the links.
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Best Handheld Devices
Bushnell Phantom Golf GPS
Best For Mid-Handicappers: Great handheld device
The Phantom from Bushnell is one of the most fun GPS handheld devices we’ve ever tested. Large and with a square shape, the well-designed readout makes the Phantom clear to read.
With minimal buttons, the Phantom’s simplicity shines through as an excellent option for golfers of all skill levels, including mid-handicappers looking to make the jump into single digits.
When using the Phantom alongside Bushnell Golf app, the golfer gets a complete overview of the hole and precise distances to clear hazards and navigate tough dog legs. The app gives the golfers a 3D view of the hole and layout, bringing the Phantom’s yardage readout to life.
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GolfBuddy Voice 2 Golf GPS/Rangefinder
Best For High Handicappers: Great compact device
The Voice 2 from Golf Buddy is another popular version of their petite yet highly capable line of voice-enabled GPS devices.
Golf Buddy has taken the Voice 2 and increased the battery life while keeping the same high contrast, large number display that gives users an exact yardage for their next shot.
Legal for tournament use, the Voice 2 is water resistant and comes with a battery that lasts up to 14 hours per charge, good for over two rounds of use. With eight languages pre-loaded, the Voice 2 delivers outstanding performance.
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Garmin Approach G10 GPS Device
Best for Senior Golfers: Accuracy matched with convenience
The Garmin Approach G10 GPS device is a stunner fueled by a large, bright screen for easy to read numbers. The G10 provides yardages to all areas of the hole from hazards to green.
The Approach G10 also updates automatically with the latest courses added to the Garmin system, so you don’t have to worry about heading to a new course without a map for your GPS.
Very portable with a clip that can attach to your bag or belt for quick access, the G10 is an absolute delight.
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IZZO Golf Swami 5000 Golf GPS Rangefinder
Best For Mid-Level Golfers: Fun handheld GPS
With over 38,000 courses preloaded onto the device, you can take the Swami 5000 just about anywhere in the world and be ready to go the moment you hit the links.
Water resistant and with an improved battery, the 5000 provides the standard auto course recognition and hole advancement seen on most GPS devices at this price point.
With a stylish interface, the lightweight Swami 5000 is a great device for intermediate golfers of all ages.
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Golf Buddy VoiceX Easy-to-Use Smart Talking Golf GPS
Best For Beginners: Solid clip-on GPS
The GolfBuddy VoiceX GPS handheld device is a compact gadget that packs a nice little punch on the golf course.
With a clear and easy to read display, the VoiceX provides golfers with an array of relevant information like pin placement, shot distance and yardage to various areas of the green.
The VoiceX updates wirelessly as you approach the golf course, preloading the most current version of the course to your device. If you don’t want to have to punch buttons all day, then the VoiceX earns its name by audibly reading the distances to you in your choice of male or female voice.
Insanely affordable and perfect for the beginning golfer in your family, the VoiceX is a solid GPS device.
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Testing Protocol & Criteria Used For Evaluation
GPS devices and wristwatches are handy tools that use a screen to convey yardage and other pertinent information. Since the display is essential for passing this information along, the quality of the display is a critical feature.
But not all devices convey those details equally. Wristwatches have far less area to give the golfer a full spectrum of the yardage to the front and back of the green.
The wrist-bound devices are different than handheld devices that could potentially give the golfer a fuller idea of what lies ahead on the fairway or green.
Handheld devices are known for having better display quality because the unit is larger for more screen room and the larger gadget can utilize better technology.
For golfers who want a handheld that displays the entire hole, then the display becomes even more critical.
One of the benefits of owning a GPS golf device is that the yardage shown is relatively precise to allow you to choose the right club for your shot and avoid imminent hazards as well.
Most companies that manufacture GPS devices state that their device provides an accurate measurement give or take a yard in any direction.
Whether it be a watch or device, knowing that the GPS will provide accurate readings for your next shot is quite essential to finding the right GPS unit.
So after purchase, it is not a bad idea to continue to test and see if your unit is giving you accurate readouts within the stated margin of error.
Accuracy on GPS devices for golf is also dependent on housing the correct coordinates within the company’s app or website.
If the course has recently undergone renovations, then the GPS devices may have old information causing it to display the wrong yardage on each hole.
Watches and handheld GPS devices must be durable to be worthy of purchase, but each gadget has its positives and negatives in this area.
Wristwatches do better with the stress of a round of golf. Since they are in a fixed position on the wrist, they tend to last longer than handheld devices.
Watches are more compact and lightweight, making them easy to carry and far more likely to stay out away from damage on the course or perhaps even getting lost during a round.
Handheld devices are more apt to being damaged during a round. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen to all golfers who own a handheld gadget, but it is a warning that the durability of the device over the lifetime of the unit will be tested.
Proper storage and finding a safe spot for the device to remain during driving or walking is crucial to keeping the unit secure.
One of the latest features that seem to be getting more publicity is how the GPS device integrates with your smartphone.
Whether it be on a website or a sophisticated app, finding a GPS that takes accurate readings on the course will open your post-round world into diving into the statistics that could give you insight on how to improve your game.
Perhaps your second shots are missing the green with a high frequency? Then the app will let you know as it takes into account the readings from your last several rounds.
For the GPS device for golf to achieve elite status, it must have a solid foundation that can be used in an app or through a reliable website.
Every GPS device comes with thousands of preloaded courses already installed on the unit.
Most companies vary in the sheer number of clubs featured on the device, but if you have a few courses that you primarily play, it would be wise to look ahead and see if those courses are present on the device.
If the device is consistently updated, then new courses that are popping up in your area will soon make their way onto your GPS watch or handheld unit.
Finding a device that comes preloaded with at least 25,000 courses won’t be difficult to find in the GPS market. Most have over 35,000 preloaded for immediate use.
However you go with your GPS device, make sure that it has the courses that are important to you already taken care of on the device.
Questions & Answers
Why do I need a GPS device on the golf course?
Easy to use, advanced GPS devices can give golfers a large amount of information in a small unit. GPS devices allow golfers to not only see the layout of the upcoming hole but assist in helping them choose a strategy for what clubs you’ll need on each shot.
With clear displays and colorful backdrops, GPS devices provide golfers with a full array of insight into each shot before it occurs.
Also, these devices not only show the golfer yardage and detailed maps but also have the capability of storing statistics on the round as the golfer plays all 18 holes.
For amateurs, detailed GPS devices can assist in helping them understand the yardage to the front, center, and back of the green. These devices can also give the golfer the precise distance to hazards such as water, sand and heavy rough.
What are the key characteristics I should look out for in a great golf GPS device?
There are five key features that golfers should look for in best golf GPS devices. Quality of display, accuracy of the readings, durability of the device, the app integration with your smartphone and how many pre-loaded courses come with the device are essential features that golfers must explore before buying a unit.
Since most GPS devices come in either a handheld device or wristwatch, the quality of the display is crucial to receiving all the information.
Some handheld devices give you a complete picture of the hole before you play, a terrific advantage for golfers playing a course for the first time. Wristwatches are more concise with the information they show on their display and less comprehensive.
Finding a GPS device that is well known for being accurate is also an essential feature to research. Most of the advanced devices give a precise reading to the hole within one yard of actual distance.
Finding a device that is durable is vital for making sure that you get value for your money. With the rigors of traveling and playing with a golf bag causing potential damage, you’ll want to make sure your GPS device is cared for during travel and play.
And then the last two features involve the sophistication of the device’s technology. Most GPS devices integrate via an app on your smartphone. The application can tally stats like total strokes, driving distance, and the number of putts.
Then this information is download to a website for a breakdown of your overall game. You’ll see where you need to improve to continue to shave strokes from your average.
Finally, each GPS device comes preloaded with courses from around the country. If you play one course the majority of the time, then you’ll need to make sure that the course’s layout comes preloaded onto your device.
Watch vs. Handheld: Which one should I pick?
In the debate between golf wristwatch devices versus handheld units, the answer comes down to preference.
For those who don’t want to carry around a handheld device, then the watch is a perfect alternative that gives accurate yardage while resting on your wrist.
The downside to a wristwatch is that the display is small, so the information provided will be focused on the distance to the flag and other limited measurements.
Golfers wanting a complete experience may be inclined to lean toward choosing the handheld device.
While some handheld units only give out yardage numbers, other devices provide a full layout of the upcoming hole, allowing the golfer to formulate a strategy that will dictate the correct club usage.
Which one is more convenient?
For convenience, it is hard to beat the wristwatch. The watch is compact, lightweight and doesn’t need attention. You just strap it to your wrist and then use it while you play.
The downside to the handheld device is that you must find a way to keep it handy while also not damaging it during play. Golfers who don’t like the handheld devices say maintenance is their number one complaint about the device.
Which one has more features?
Handheld devices win the battle on what device has more features. With a larger display and the ability to tally a host of statistics as you play, handheld GPS golf devices also work well with smartphone apps to give you a comprehensive overview of the layout and yardage to all areas of the course.
GPS watches are reasonably straightforward with the smaller display giving you yardage to the pin and possibly a couple of other areas of the green.
However, you could find yourself lost when trying to decide the distance to possible bunkers or water hazards.
Do I need to pay extra fees to use my device on the golf course?
No, users of GPS devices do not have to pay extra fees to use their unit on the golf course. That said, the thing that most GPS users need to be aware of, is how their use of a GPS device possibly affects the play of others.
For example, if you are using your device for long periods and not taking your shot when it is your turn to play, then the unit can become a source of frustration for other golfers.
GPS device owners need to take the time to learn their devices before they step foot on the course. By shrinking the learning curve and understanding how to use the device during the round’s downtime, you’ll save time, strokes and the patience of your fellow players.