There is no golf technology out there that can swing the club for you, but the best trackers and rangefinders can offer useful insight into both the course you’re playing on and your own game. All levels of player can benefit from using a tracker, which acts like a basic caddy in providing info that will help with club and shot selections as you plot your way around the course.
Below you’ll find our picks of the best golf watches and laser rangefinders, but first we thought it wise to get some expert advice on what to look out for when buying a golf watch, so we enlisted John Cheesbrough, senior category buyer at retailer American Golf.
Golf Watch Buyer’s Guide
What features do golf watches offer?
Originally they were focused on simple measurements, such as from the player’s position to the front, middle and back of the green. Watches can now tell you the distance to certain hazards on a hole, as well as providing a view of the entire hole.
What are the benefits of using them?
For the infrequent golfer, the basic watches are great just to give a general idea of distance which helps with club selection. For the golf enthusiast or lower handicap players, the more techy watches enable you to plot your way around the golf course in order to maximise your score. Some watches even give you feedback on your swing tempo which is a great feature when practising on the range.
How much should you expect to pay and what do you get if you spend more?
GPS watches can cost from £130 up to £400. As you spend more you typically get more features and a more aesthetically pleasing device. The top-of-the-range watches will give graphical views of holes with distances provided in the way that you typically see them on a course guide. Some brands are also introducing technology that links the GPS watch to golf club via sensors, providing even more feedback.
Who are the main golf watch brands and do they differ much in what they offer?
There are a few main brands in the GPS watch market, including Garmin, Bushnell and Golfbuddy. Brands typically differ through the look and feel. In terms of functionality, there is not much difference.
The Best Golf Watches
Hole19 app on the Apple Watch or Android Wear OS device
If you already own one of these smartwatches then your best option might be to download the Hole 19 app rather than buy a dedicated golf wearable. On the watch you get the distance to the front, middle and back of the green, and you can also log your scores on each hole, including extra info like how many putts you took and whether you hit the fairway with your drive. It’s not the most advanced offering, but it’s free and you get maps of each hole on the partner smartphone app. Hole 19 also has a premium app option which adds more features like a club recommendations for your shot. Free, premium £6.99 a month, £22.99 for six months, £39.99 for a year, App Store and Google Play, hole19golf.com
Garmin Approach S10
This easy-to-use watch does everything a beginner might need to help them through their round. There’s distance to the front, back and middle of the green given, as well as details on doglegs and hazards, plus you can track your score for the round on the watch itself. And if you nail one shot in particular, you can also track its exact distance to brag about it later. There are more than 41,000 courses preloaded on the watch, so you can be confident your local club is on there, and the 12-hour battery life should get you through two rounds. £139.99, buy on garmin.com, check price on amazon.co.uk
Callaway Golf GPSY Watch
As well as providing the distance to the green (front, middle and back), this watch will give the front and back of hazards and doglegs, helping you decide whether to take on that bunker or lay up. It will advance automatically as you move from hole to hole, and you can track your shot distance and round score on the watch. £179, buy on americangolf.co.uk, check price on amazon.co.uk
GolfBuddy WTX GPS Watch
Most golf watches have too sporty a design to wear off the course, but the GolfBuddy WTX is stylish enough to leave on once you leave the 19th hole and head for home, plus it has a pedometer, a sleep tracker and smart notifications. On the course you’ll appreciate the distance measurements (front, back and middle of green and hazards), which are displayed clearly along with a view of the hole on the colour screen. £199.99, buy on americangolf.co.uk, check price on amazon.co.uk
Garmin Approach S60
The crème de la crème of golf watches. The Approach S60 has a glorious 1.2in (30mm) colour screen that shows off a wealth of stats and data about your game and the course you’re on. You get all the usual distances (greens, hazards, doglegs) and maps of the hole, but the S60 will also automatically track your shot distances as you walk to your ball. Furthermore, the S60 will adjust for your position on the course to show the shape of the green from where you are, and despite the large screen it has a battery life of ten hours. Off the course, the stylish design means the watch can be worn anywhere, and you can also track other activities like running, swimming and cycling with it. £399.99, buy on garmin.com, check price on amazon.co.uk
The Best Laser Rangefinders
This is the best rangefinder you’ll find for under £300. The LR7 is light and has six-times magnification to make it easier to lock on to your target before pressing a button to get the exact distance to that point. The LR7 also has a scan mode where it scans the area targeted for ten seconds and give the distances of various points, which is handy when approaching a green ringed with bunkers or water hazards. £269.99, buy on americangolf.co.uk, check price on amazon.co.uk
Bushnell Hybrid V2
The small screen on the side of this rangefinder shows the distance to the green (front, back and middle) to help you make the right decision about your club even when you can’t see the flag to use the laser rangefinder. When you can, use the laser to get front, back and middle distances through the sight. It’s a winning combo of both GPS and laser – the Bushnell Hybrid was the most technologically advanced rangefinder out there until Garmin unleashed the Approach Z80. £399, buy on amazon.co.uk
Garmin Approach Z80
Peering through the sight of the Z80 opens up a whole new world for golfers, with unrivalled features that combines the best of a laser rangefinder and a GPS in one device. You can lock on to targets and get distances to the front, back and middle of the green and hazards, and on the left of the screen you also get a 2D colour map of the hole you’re on, including estimated distances for your drive as well as to various hazards. It’s a comprehensive package that takes a little getting used to, and the price is steep, but as the best combination of a rangefinder and a GPS available, the Z80 is worth the outlay. £579.99, buy on garmin.com, check price on amazon.co.uk