This post was most recently updated on January 20th, 2022
A golf GPS is a great tool to have when trying to calculate yardages and what club you should hit. Instead of using an app on your phone and having to pull it out of your pocket, unlock it, then open the app, a golf GPS can give you an instant yardage in simpler fashion. There are a wide variety of golf GPS products on the market that can help improve your golf game.
The two most popular types of devices are watches and handheld. Both types are easy to use while on the course. This article will highlight the best golf GPS devices currently available.
Best Golf GPS
Short on Time? Here's A Quick Product Synopsis Of Best Golf GPS Technology
Are Golf GPS Devices Legal On The Course?
According to rule 4.3 of the USGA, distance measuring devices such as GPS’s or rangefinders are legal for tournament golf play.
The USGA stated that they decided to allow distance measuring devices for the following two reasons:
“Figuring out the distance to the hole or to another location on the course is not one of the decisions that the rules expect players to make using only their own skill and judgment or only with a caddie’s advice.”
The second reason is:
“Distance is public information a player may get from anyone; and on most courses, this information is found on sprinkler heads, markers, posts, etc.”
A local committee at a golf course can outlaw a rangefinder or GPS so be sure to double check and ask before entering a golf tournament or competitive match.
Do golf GPS watches work and how?
Golf GPS watches work by having satellites track your exact location on the golf course. By sending signals from the GPS to the satellites, the distance between a green and player can easily be given in terms of yardages or meters and displayed clearly on the clock face.
Key Features To Consider In A Golf GPS
Before you decide the best golf GPS device to buy, you should understand which features have the most impact on the game.
One of the most important features to look for in a golf GPS device is how accurate it is. A golfer needs to know the correct yardages when trying to score low or enjoy their round.
If a GPS is 5-10 yards off, a player’s golf score can definitely be affected negatively.
Some GPS’s will be accurate to plus or minus one yard. Others will be plus or minus two yards.
Having a GPS device that is less accurate than two yards could become problematic and you won’t always be getting a near-exact yardage.
For GPS’s that show a map of the hole, it’s also important that it shows the correct details such as the shape of the green and where the bunkers or hazards are at. Knowing these details is crucial to playing the correct shot.
It’s important for a golf GPS to clearly display the information and picture. Most devices put the main yardage in the center in large letters. The back and front of the green yardages usually appear in small letters above and below the main yardage.
If the number is too small it might be difficult to read. You want to be able to view and gather the course yardage quickly.
When displaying a green some GPS’s just have an outline of it. Others show a green in depth with a more realistic look. This comes down to preference, but if you want to weigh your options be sure to check one device out online, read golf gps reviews, or see one in person at your local golf store before purchasing.
Most high-end GPS’s feature displays that are clear and not blurry but that is another important factor to look for. Making sure the clarity of the display is easy to read makes a difference.
Many GPS’s are preloaded with 30-50,000 courses on them. If you play a small local golf course that is not well-known or could be new, make sure to see if it is on the GPS before buying it. You can also call the device company and ask them which courses are available.
A lot of GPS’s offer updates to load new courses or make yardage changes to existing ones. Some devices update on their own and others you have to plug into the computer.
It is definitely good to make sure you’re buying a GPS that allows course updates so you don’t miss a beat when playing golf on the links.
Having a durable golf GPS is key. The GPS should surely be ready to handle drops in the parking lot, on the cart path, or be ready to bump around while the golf cart is moving. Many devices have thick plastic surrounding them for protection.
Golfers who wear them as watches will surely knock them a few times while sticking their hand in the bag reaching for a club.
It’s important to see if the watch is water resistant or dust resistant as well. Playing a round of golf during a rainy day shouldn’t deter someone from pulling out their handheld GPS or wearing their GPS watch on their wrist.
Not letting dust particles into the watch screen is also important so the screen can be clearly seen at all times.
Be sure to check out the watch specs before you buy a GPS if you prefer to have a durable GPS that will last for years of golf.
It is also good to check out customer reviews to find out which GPS’s broke from minor accidents.
Ease of Use
Different GPS’s have different ways of navigating them such as touch screens or buttons on the sides. Scrolling through a bunch of different menus when trying to simply get a distance can be a hassle. The device should be easy to use.
Some of the more technical DMDs (distance measuring devices) will have a lot more options and provide golfers more information such as swing speed. Be sure to read the instructions or look up a YouTube video on how to use these before heading out to the range or course.
There is nothing worse than having your GPS die midround. There are many different battery lives for the devices available on the market. Some will say they last 2.5 rounds and others will say up to 15 hours battery life.
It’s crucial to understand how long the battery will last on the GPS golf device you buy. It all comes down to golfer preference and if the device has “must have” features and a shorter battery life it’s up to the golfer to decide among the pros and cons.
A good thing to do is carry a small electronic rechargeable port in your golf bag with multiple USB ports that can charge your device and phone.
Watch vs. Handheld Device: What Will Suit You and Your Golf Game
Wearing a watch GPS versus having a handheld device brings pros and cons for a golfer.
Pros for a watch:
- More portable device since it is on your wrist.
- Easier and quicker to access a yardage.
- Can match clothing and be worn as a fashion accessory.
- Harder to misplace.
Cons for a watch:
- Can get in the way at times and bothers some golfers who don’t like anything on their wrist while they swing.
- Has a smaller screen display so it can be harder to read course details.
- Adds extra weight to your arm during your swing.
- If the watch is loose it can hurt when making impact if the metal bounces off against your wrist.
Pros for a handheld GPS:
- Handheld GPS’s usually have larger screens than watches so some display the entire layout of the hole.
- Won’t get in the way of your swing on your wrist.
- Some handheld devices have integrated launch monitors that allow you to see your swing speed and distance of your shot.
Cons for a handheld GPS:
- Easier to lose than a watch.
- Most devices are larger and clunkier.
- Larger handheld devices are not as portable compared to a watch.
- Takes longer to get the yardage of a shot since you have to reach in your pocket to retrieve the device or walk back to the cart to get it.
The type of golfer who wants an immediate yardage and who likes wearing a watch or bracelet during a round should consider buying a watch GPS.
The kind of golfer who doesn’t mind carrying a device in their pocket and likes to get a more visual view of the layout should consider purchasing a handheld gps.
Which Has Better Features: Rangefinder or Golf GPS
Both rangefinders and golf GPS’s are handy tools for golfers to figure out yardages on the golf course. It comes down to player preference at the end of the day. Below is a list of pros and cons between the best golf rangefinders and golf GPS’s. Both are usually accurate to within a yard or two of exact yardage.
- It’s easy to point and shoot at a location and get the yardage.
- Many pins have a reflector that allows you to shoot at and get the exact distance to the pin.
- Rangefinders usually have better battery lives than GPS’s.
- Sometimes it is hard to focus on a target on the course.
- If you focus on the target but accidentally lock in on something before you’ll get a wrong measurement.
- Some golf rangefinders do not measure beyond 250-300 yards.
- It’s difficult to get a good reading when shooting at a target far away.
- If you’re behind a hill you won’t be able to see everything in front of you. If you have a golf GPS with a display of the entire hole you can know if there are bunkers in the front or a hazard in the back.
Golf GPS pros:
- You can view the entire layout of the hole on many unlike a rangefinder.
- You can wear one as a watch and they are usually smaller and less bulky than rangefinders.
- Instead of pointing at the front, center and back of the green with a rangefinder, the GPS will tell you all three distances immediately.
Golf GPS cons:
- Most golf GPS’s tell you the distance to the center, back and front of the green rather than the exact pin location like a rangefinder.
- Golf GPS’s usually have shorter battery lives than rangefinders.
- Golf GPS’s can have their yardages affected by weather and trees.
How far off can a Golf GPS be?
A golf GPS can be over a couple yards off depending on the device model. Since it isn’t using a laser, factors like weather, course maps and trees can play a role in affecting the correct yardage.
Why does my Golf GPS give false reading?
As stated in the previous section, one of the major reasons golf GPS’s give false readings are due to course maps.
If a golf course lengthens a hole by moving tee boxes or adding to the green a golfer will need to update his or her course maps on the GPS.
Can Golf Pros Use GPS?
The PGA Tour does not allow its professional players to use a golf GPS or rangefinder during competitive rounds. They are permitted to use them during practice rounds to help create a yardage book though.
Our Picks For Golf GPS Devices
We have done the hard work for you and narrowed down what we consider to be the best golf GPS devices on the market today.
Below we provide our top picks in several categories along with a brief description of their features and pros and cons of the device.
Whether you are looking for a watch or handheld device, like to splurge on high end products or look for good deals, we feel confident this list of the best GPS devices for golfers will help you find the right product to improve your golf game.
The Garmin S20 golf watch was our selection for editor’s choice as the best overall option thanks to its many enhanced features that lets you enjoy it during your round and after.
The GPS features an autoshot round analyzer that measures your shot distances. It records them so after your round you can go look at the layout of the hole and see where you hit each of your shots on your Garmin Connect account.
The S20 GPS watch features a TruSwing golf swing sensor that gives metrics to help you improve your swing consistency to play your best golf.
Stat tracking is another great addition to the GPS. It keeps records of greens in regulation, fairways hit and putts per round.
Keeping you healthy is another attribute included with the S20. It has alerts to remind you to stay active both on and off the course. The GPS does this by monitoring how long you sleep, telling you how many steps you had and the number of calories you burned.
It also comes with a comfortable adjustable silicone watch band.
On the view display it shows three yardage options to the front, back and center of the green. There is also a drawing of how the green looks. It also can provide recommendations for what club to hit based on the yardage.
Find out more in our Garmin Approach S20 review.
We picked the TecTecTec ULT-G golf gps watch as our best budget choice due to its many capabilities with its affordable price tag.
The TecTecTec watch is easy to use while playing golf thanks to its four buttons used to make selections on the screen.
It measures the yardages to the middle, front and back of the green. The accuracy is plus or minus one yard to the exact location. The GPS also gives distances to hazards on the course such as ponds or creeks.
TecTecTec made sure to make the GPS watch extremely durable. It is both water and dust resistant. It also comes with a one year warranty if you register the product online through their website.
The battery life for the device lasts around 2.5 rounds of golf before needing to be charged.
The watch can also be used as a clock and gives GPS access to more than 38,000 preloaded golf courses worldwide.
This GPS watch is available in a sleek black design and is USGA compliant.
The Garmin S62 watch is packed with different features including a touchscreen display that is large and simple to read.
The design is fancy and appears as if it is a dressy watch. It is strongly built with a scratch-resistant ceramic bezel display. The watch bands are also changeable so buyers can wear the style and colour they prefer.
A virtual caddie feature of this GPS watch feature tells you what club to hit based on how far you hit it and where on the map to hit. The caddie also takes into consideration wind direction and speed when giving a recommendation.
An entire display of the hole is shown on the watch and with a tap you can measure a distance to anywhere including hazards and bunkers. Slope is also accounted for with its “PlaysLike Distance” so if there is an uphill or downhill shot you’ll know the adjusted yardage.
There is a hazard view feature that allows players to quickly see all the hazards on the hole when they’re teeing off or in the fairway.
If you’re facing a blind shot, the pin pointer feature indicates which direction to hit so you don’t end up out of bounds or with an unsatisfactory result.
The watch comes in black or white and has over 41,000 loaded courses on the gps. Downloadable golf course updates are available.
The Bushnell Phantom is a tiny square handheld golf yardage gps that is extremely portable. The device can easily fit inside small pockets and not be a nuisance.
Bushnell includes a clip holder so the handheld device can be attached to your belt or golf bag. The GPS has a BITE magnetic mount in it that allows it to stick to metal so it won’t be hard to lose. You can attach it to a golf cart to view distances for you or your golf partner.
Features for the Phantom device include auto course recognition and it is preloaded with 36,000 golf courses from all over the world.
The display shows the hole on the top left and indicates what par it is on the right side. In the center in large numbers is the main distance to the center of the green with front and back distances underneath.
The battery lasts up to two rounds on the golf course.
Course distance updates are done wirelessly by bluetooth so you don’t always have to plug it into your computer and manually update it.
The Garmin Approach G80 is one of the top rated handheld golf GPS’s on the market.
Not only does the Garmin Approach device provide distance, but it also has an integrated launch monitor built in. The launch monitor records ball speed, clubhead speed, swing tempo, smash factor and gives an estimated distance. The clubhead speed accuracy is within plus or minus 5 miles per hour.
Garmin equipped the GPS with a large 3.5 inch display screen that doesn’t glare and is easily readable in high sunlight. The yardage is provided in large numbers at the top of the screen with the front and back readings on the side.
In the center of the Garmin Approach screen is a colored layout of the entire hole with different distances to the fairway, hazards, bunkers and green.
You can touch anywhere on the hole layout and get an exact distance to a location from where you are.
The Garmin Approach G80 also features a PlaysLike distance for yardages that calculate slope. This function can be turned off for tournament play if not allowed.
The Garmin Approach battery lasts for 15 hours and the device is preloaded with over 41,000 courses.
This handheld golf distance device is tiny with dimensions of 1.76″ × 1.78″ × 0.49″. What makes it so unique is it has a voice that tells you the distance you are from the green.
There is a button on the bottom right of the handheld GPS that you click for it to tell you the distance. This saves time and allows you to not have to unclip it from your hat or belt and look at it.
GolfBuddy added the option to the GPS to turn off the voice if you prefer to look at the distances yourself.
This handheld device is very versatile since it can easily be clipped onto a hat, belt or worn as a watch as a golfer.
GolfBuddy added a water resistant feature so if you try and grab your ball from a pond while wearing it nothing will happen.
The view display shows the distance to the center of the green in a large number with smaller numbers on the right indicating the yardage to the front and back.
The GPS device has a battery life of 14 hours and can speak in both a woman or man’s voice.
It comes in five different colors and is preloaded with eight different languages. The handheld device can speak up to 11 languages if added.
Golf GPS Conclusion
Having a golf yardage GPS can be extremely helpful for a golfer and aid in lowering scores on the course. The six devices we reviewed all have their perks and can be used by a golfer in many different ways. Whether it be on your wrist, hat, stick to your golf cart or sit in your pocket. You are sure to find the best device for your game.
Our editor’s top choice, the Garmin S20 watch, was our pick for best golf GPS unit thanks to enhanced features that are found in many handheld larger devices such as the swing sensor and shot tracking ability. Moreover, it has a sleek design and is easy to use and read.
The Editorial Staff at Golfible is a team of golfing geeks and enthusiasts led by founder Alec Rose. All have the same obsession with golf tech, equipment updates and avoiding rain on the course.