Somewhere along the first fairway at San Clemente Municipal Golf Course this week, I naturally glanced down at my wrist to see if we teed off on time. Instead of seeing my usual watch, though, I saw the distance to the green. Had already forgotten I was testing out Garmin’s brand-new Approach S40 GPS Golf watch.
For review purposes, I’ve tested several golf GPS watches over the past couple of years. And they’ve all been pretty decent — providing exact yardages to the front, center and back of the green in real time. So as you take each step toward the green, the distance on the watch goes down. The Garmin is no exception — it does its job and does it well. Three things really impressed me about it. First, when I stepped onto the property of this gorgeous municipal course, it took almost no time before it recognized where it was. Pulled up the first hole distance while I was still hitting pre-round range balls. There are 41,000 maps pre-loaded so you never need to hook it up to a computer to download maps. Secondly, it has a clever way of displaying which hole you’re on. The bevel around the watch display has slots numbered one through 18 — you guessed it, for each hole on the course. It lights up in bright orange a marker below the hole number you’re currently on. Subtle but effective. I love details like this that are well thought out. Thirdly, it also performs smartwatch-type functions. So it monitored my steps for me, showed me the time, and could even display the temperature and rain forecast while also buzzing my wrist quietly when someone texted me.
Yep, I paired it to my phone. Mind you, I never pulled the phone out of my pocket to check the sister Garmin Golf app that would have showed me hole maps, yardages to hazards, etc. I’m pretty simple like that — just needing yardages to the pin and nothing else. Speaking of, I also loved the watch’s touchscreen that let me tap each green map exactly where the pin location was, to give me updated distances. So easy and fast.
There are other things to like about this product. The band is lightweight, made of a non-pinching rubbery material, and has 19 notches for size adjustment. I honestly never felt it on my wrist during the round — a great thing. The display was also bright under the sun, so seeing it was never a problem. Plus, the watch had well over half its battery life remaining when I walked off the 18th green. In fact, battery life is listed as up to 15 hours in GPS mode (that should cover three rounds), and up to 10 days in smartwatch mode.
You can also buy separately Garmin’s club tracking sensors, and it will keep track of how far you hit each club in your bag. For me, this watch is plenty informative on its own. Just thinking ahead, at $300 it makes for a great Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift.